The engagement scene in Suzan Lauder’s bestselling Letter from Ramsgate

dsc_0134-2The inspiration for using the Royal Menagerie at Exeter Exchange for the final chapter in Letter from Ramsgate came from my dear friend Maria (defiantfalcon at the Meryton Literary Society’s A Happy Assembly), the plot beta for the story and a zoo fanatic. In fact, Maria’s best meditative, self-indulgent, de-stressing moments come from hauling out a humongous zoom lens at her local zoo. She’s an avid supporter of the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA), and her photos of the extremely rare Amur leopards at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, LA have been used in their promotional material. Though there were no Amur Leopards in the Menagerie at the Exeter Exchange, they had a pair of adult leopards. Based on the artwork by Jacques-Laurent Agasse, they were most likely from Africa or Indonesia. I love this painting, and a scene is based on it!

Click on thumbnail for larger view.

Click on thumbnail for larger view.

The inspiration for other details within the chapter came from reading about the animals of the menagerie, finding the handbills that advertised them, and particularly, from two blog posts.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge photo.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge photo.

Also known as Polito’s Menagerie after its original owner, the Menagerie at Exeter ‘Change was situated in the upper levels of the Exeter Exchange building on the Strand from 1773 to 1829, and housed a “grand assembly of living curiosities” literally from every corner of the globe. Handbills and artwork from the Regency era indicate “majestic” and “noble” lions, “elegant” leopards, a rhinoceros, and “hundreds of other rare and interesting quadrupeds, and birds of the most exquisite plumage, all in fine health and condition, and so perfectly clean and secured, that the most timorous and delicate may approach them without fear or being annoyed.”

rachel-knowles-a-perfect-match-coverRachel Knowles’ article in Regency History: Researching Regency and Late­ Georgian History helped me to imagine the scene better. The author, costumer, and blogger’s Georgian novel, A Perfect Match, was a lovely read. If you like sweet historical romance novels with a subtle Christian back story, you should try this one. She has an upcoming non-fiction release called What Regency Women Did For Us due to be published by Pen & Sword in April 2017 that should prove a valuable resource for historical fiction authors like me.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge.

The second article was about a particularly important resident of the menagerie at the time Elizabeth and Darcy would have visited. Chunee, a “Fine, Large Male Elephant” from India, was the star attraction of the menagerie, as well as a performer at the Covent Garden, and was often paraded in the street outside the menagerie. The coin trick in the engagement scene was described by Lord Byron in 1813: “The elephant took and gave me my money again – took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler.”

Chunee had a history of violent “paroxysms” likely brought on by inhumane treatment. While in pain with an infected tusk, Chunee became extremely violent, and the methods used in an attempt to calm him were bizarre. A decision was made to put him down, and the difficulties encountered in the attempt to end his life have become one of the most horrifying stories in the history of zoos.

marie-antoinettes-confidante-by-geri-walton-coverThe above and the ability to feel so much for this elephant that I wanted him in my story is thanks to author, blogger, and historian Geri Walton, who blogs about fascinating tidbits of the 18th and 19th century. She’s released a non-fiction book in the UK about the Princesse de Lamballe, the confidante of Marie Antoinette. It will be available in the US in January 2018. Watch for it, because if it’s anything like Geri’s blog, it will be a fun and fascinating approach to history!

The non-historical part of the story is that of the three-toed sloth, Noëlle. Her scene was based on a real life incident witnessed by my beta friend. Because of her helpful photo logs of the animals, defiantfalcon gets behind-the-scenes visits at the Audubon Zoo once in a while, and she got to hold and pet a three toed sloth. She said the fur is the softest she’s ever felt. I’m so jealous!

Thanks to these three women for their generosity in sharing their passion in their own unique ways. Their stories became the basis for one of my favourite scenes in all of my writing.

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vertical-blog-tour-bannerThanks to everyone who followed me around on the blog tour. Thanks so much to each blogger who hosted and each reader who commented. I had a great deal of fun thanks to their willingness to try something a little different, and readers say this has been one of the most fun blog tours they’ve ever seen. Thanks to Rita, Loren, Tina, and Anna for your generous reviews, and thanks to the Meryton Press team for helping me share links. The most special thanks go out to Janet B. Taylor for organizing everything as the blog tour host.

While we were gallivanting around the blogging world with our parasols, readers were voting with their “buy now with one click” fingers, and Letter from Ramsgate enjoyed a short period as a #1 Bestselling Novel in two Amazon categories: Historical Classics and Romance Classics. It also climbed to #8 in Regency Romance. The latter is the big coup, as the competition is fierce from famous authors with dozens of great reviews!

The blog tour may be over, but the giveaway is not. Because we had a problem with Rafflecopter at first, the Letter from Ramsgate blog tour giveaway has been extended to November 3, 2016. If you commented on a post but didn’t get to include it to get your extra entries, now you can enter the name of the blog you commented on. One comment counts per blog site, and only one comment entry per day!

Rafflecopter Link

I’d love comments from readers here on my blog. They won’t count as a blog tour stop, though. Use the other sites for that purpose, and to show those bloggers how helpful they were to my Letter from Ramsgate blog tour.

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Update: Who or what is on the LfR cover?

Remember Imagining Mr. Darcy: The Faceless Man and the Book Cover from May 2016? Suffice it to say that Mr. Darcy is never a “given” on a book cover, and many surprises are in store for a writer who has no idea what their book cover will look like.

Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou was the cover designer for Letter from Ramsgate, and she does a strategic-type analysis with an author to discover the true themes of the novel in order to know where to start looking for cover ideas. Friendship, trust, and romance figured high for my latest novel, and I was stunned with happiness when I saw her cover design for my book!

On Wednesday, you’ll get to see why! The cover reveal for Letter from Ramsgate will be on Austenesque Reviews on September 28, 2016!

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American artist George Catlin (1796-1872) Self-portrait, 1824.

American artist George Catlin (1796-1872) Self-portrait, 1824.

 

 

Sadly, our handsome Mr. George Catlin from the May post is not on the LfR cover. Don’t be dismayed! We can still admire him as we sit by the fire! Click on the thumbnail for the larger version!

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Imagining #MrDarcy: The Faceless Man and the Book Cover

When other authors mention the name of someone they had in mind as Mr. Darcy while writing their Austen-inspired fiction, once in a while, I’m able to visualize their version of the hero while reading. It’s not easy. Otherwise, the closest Mr. Darcy image that comes to my mind for Mr. Darcy is that of a Disney hero.

Disney Princes (from The Disney Wiki http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Prince)

Disney Princes (from The Disney Wiki http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Disney_Prince)

The odd time, glimpses of a faceless man similar to the rear view of Colin Firth in the 1995 A&E/BBC adaptation occur. Of course, there have been other actors in other adaptations, and I like some better than others.

From the BBC/A&E 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy walks along the gallery at Pemberley.

From the BBC/A&E 1995 mini-series Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth, as Mr. Darcy, walks along the gallery at Pemberley.

Austen herself is no help. She just said he was tall and handsome, with a noble mien and fine figure. He could be bald! Of course, the costume people would put a dark, curly wig on him. Is it a wonder dreamy-eyed JAFF authors persist in mentioning those slightly unruly curls?

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy in BBC's 1980 mini-series "Pride and Prejudice." Mr. Rintoul wore a hairpiece for the role.

David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy in BBC’s 1980 mini-series “Pride and Prejudice.” Mr. Rintoul wore a hairpiece for the role.

I try very hard to imagine Mr. Darcy as eye-candy actor Henry Cavill (before the Superman bulk), even if he’s almost too pretty. A story I posted on Jane Austen fan fiction mega-site A Happy Assembly (Studio 54) “cast” the inimitable Christopher Reeve as Darcy, since he was the right age for the story’s era. I like the late Gregory Peck in mid-20th century stories. But none of their faces come to mind when I’m writing.

As part of my addiction to Pinterest since the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, I’ve pinned some portraits of terribly handsome real Regency gentlemen, and maybe… but try as I might, no Darcy. I look at book covers that supposedly have Mr. Darcy on them, and to me, none of those gentlemen are quite right.

This is a problem when you want Mr. Darcy on your own book cover.

New Letter from Ramsgate character, Lady Edwina Moore, is easy to imagine. Georgiana Darcy can be a young Caroline Murat. And there’s sneaky Mr. Wickham bothering her, and Elizabeth Bennet in the background with her dizzy parasol. But where’s my Mr. Darcy for Letter from Ramsgate‘s cover?

Lady Edwina Moore from Suzan Lauder's "Letter from Ramsgate" (artwork: Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait of a Young Lady in a White Dress, from Sotheby's)

Lady Edwina Moore from Suzan Lauder’s “Letter from Ramsgate” (artwork: Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait of a Young Lady in a White Dress, from Sotheby’s)

Miss Georgiana Darcy from Suzan Lauder's "Letter from Ramsgate" (Artwork: François-Pascal-Simon Gérard's painting "Caroline Murat walking in the gardens of Château de Neuilly," 1807, from Versailles)

Miss Georgiana Darcy from Suzan Lauder’s “Letter from Ramsgate” (Artwork: François-Pascal-Simon, Baron Gérard’s painting “Caroline Murat walking in the gardens of Château de Neuilly,” 1807, from Versailles)

Mr. Wickham from Suzan Lauder's "Letter from Ramsgate" attempts to woo Miss Georgiana Darcy, while Miss Elizabeth Bennet wanders around in the distance, spinning her parasol. (Artwork: Debucourt, Modes et Manières du Jour no. 34)

Mr. Wickham from Suzan Lauder’s “Letter from Ramsgate” attempts to woo Miss Georgiana Darcy while Miss Elizabeth Bennet wanders around in the distance, spinning her parasol. (Artwork: Debucourt, Modes et Manières du Jour no. 34)

I suppose one could have a worse dilemma than having to peruse artwork in search of Mr. Darcy! In any case, the wonderful Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou is the cover designer for Letter from Ramsgate, and whether or not Mr. Darcy’s face appears, I love her covers, so I know it will be fantastic.

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Suzan Lauder’s latest novel, Letter from Ramsgate, will be published by Meryton Press in the autumn of 2016.

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2016 May 17 Edited to add a note: For some reason, readers have flocked to my blog for this post, yet none have left comments on my blog, road trips with the redhead! I wonder if you all saw the hot Regency guy and clicked to discover who the heck he is! If someone asked, I’d tell, but I’m not sure that’s the reason this post is so extremely popular! Can anyone give me a hint?

Thanks! Suzan

The Regency Gentleman and his Cravat

The Regency neck-cloth could never be called humble, even if its life begins as a simple strip of cloth. Instead, it’s an embellishment that can add drama and interest to the gentleman’s costume.

tsrce cravatThe cravat, or neck-cloth, was described in the popular post, Regency men were not sissies, even in blouses and scarves, along with the shirt (which was considered an undergarment) and the Regency man’s hat. The post was part of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment blog series. There, we noted I. E. Scottsdale’s Necklothitania, a satire on the elaborate styles used by Beau Brummel and his followers, and H. LeBlanc’s The Art of Tying a Cravat, as Regency documents that showed some of the many different tie styles possible.

mr suze cravatMy husband, Mr. Suze, used the simplest arrangement when he dressed for October’s JASNA AGM dinner and ball with a 52 inch long neck cloth. Recall that this is on the short side for the cloth, which is 4-10″ wide and 50-100″ long. Elaborate styles tend to require longer fabric.

To accomplish this simple style of cravat tie, the following steps are taken by the gentleman:

  • Fold the centre 12-18″ of the length of the fabric as needed so the width is equal to the length of the man’s neck.
  • Hold this section of the cloth in front of you draw the neck cloth across the front of the neck.
  • Wrap the two halves round the sides of your neck and slide your hands along it to cross over each other at the centre back, then pull the ends forward again.
  • Tug the ends snug around your neck.
  • Tie a simple half knot (one end around the other once) in front to hold in place so it’s comfortable with no gaps. A good test is for size is just snug enough that you can just barely slip two fingers under the top edge.
  • Adjust the fabric all around with gentle folds so it’s neck height at the crossover and has no bunching or drooping along the sides.
  • Straighten the lay of the tied part so the top of the half knot is parallel to the edges of the wrapped cravat, and arrange the ends to the wearer’s preference.
  • Secure the ends in a neat position using a pin of some sort.

Mr. Suze commandeered my “ruby” Swarovski crystal stick pin, which is a bit hard to see because the conference lanyard has messed with the tie ends. The pin looked fantastic. A similar style of tying the cravat, with no ruffles on the shirt front, is seen below.regency cravatI would guess this example uses a longer or wider cloth due to the folds. With a longer cloth, the ends can be tucked as seen for this style, and if very long, the gentleman will start wrapping from behind rather than in front.

For a lovely array of neck cloth tie styles, not just Regency, you can enjoy a video with nearly 10 minutes of styles from movies and mini-series period dramas: The Cravat in Period Drama. The handsome actors will please you as well as the costumes!

Please check out the link, as I guarantee it’s well done and striking.

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A reminder that my latest Austen-inspired Regency story, Letter from Ramsgate #XPressLetter, is posting at #AHA (free, no ads), with a new chapter each Wednesday afternoon.

Soon, posting frequency will doubled! The second day each week will be either Monday or Saturday, whichever has the least other stories posting. Readers can elect to follow the topic on the upper right-hand corner of the story page, which sets up an automatic email for each new chapter, saving the trouble of remembering the schedule or watching and waiting for each post. This story is rated PG for implied off-screen sexual situations.

LfR has no violence, but it does have some chapters with extra dramatic tension.

The comments thread can be just as interesting as the story, so join in the fun reader reactions as our protagonists misunderstand each other, aided by well-meaning characters as well as slightly shady ones.

Graphic art for signature design by L.L. Diamond using an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer: "A Lady Writing."

Graphic art for signature design by L.L. Diamond using an oil painting by Johannes Vermeer: “A Lady Writing.”

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Feedback on this post will be appreciated as well, so let me know how you feel about men in cravats by replying below!

 

New Story Fun: A #Regency beach story excerpt and a book launch party!

Everyone loves to go to the beach for a few weeks in summer. Of course, they like it in winter, too, dependent upon where the beach is–somewhere warm, perhaps?

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Those who are interested in Regency history and Jane Austen’s novels would believe it would be fun to spend time at Ramsgate.

What if Elizabeth Bennet had an opportunity to to just that? If she and her Aunt Gardiner are invited to join Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood friend at her home in Ramsgate for a few weeks in the midsummer of 1811?

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael's Bookshop.

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael’s Bookshop.

You may recognize the time as just prior to the start of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and note that a significant event took place at Ramsgate at that time: the near-elopement of Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham, with the assistance of Georgiana’s companion, Mrs. Younge. It would be interesting if the two young women were introduced by Mrs. Gardiner’s friend Lady Edwina Baverstock, and they became fast friends. But what of Mr. Wickham and Mrs. Younge?

My interpretation of the summer romance that Austen never completely explained, and how Elizabeth Bennet’s presence at Ramsgate influences the events we know about in Pride and Prejudice, is available for your reading pleasure! Today, I’m sharing the opening scenes of Letter from Ramsgate!

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Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 - 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Excerpt from
LETTER FROM RAMSGATE
by redhead (Suzan Lauder) © 2013

April 1812
Hunsford, Kent

Elizabeth stared as Mr. Darcy stalked towards the door, his broad shoulders stiff and tense. Each step created a measured, hollow tattoo in contrast to the staccato beat of her heart, accentuating their disparate states and a divergence impossible to resolve.

He paused as his hand touched the doorknob, and then he turned back so slowly it might have been a dream. As his eyes set upon her, a host of emotions played across his face. Were disappointment and regret mingling with the resentment he expressed so eloquently moments before? Could she hope his feelings would budge, just a bit?

Her fingers clutched her gown in mimicry of the grip around her heart, clenched so tight in her chest it might never return to its natural state, and although it fought hard, the struggle for its sense of equilibrium was out of reach.

He gave her one more contemptuous glance before he quit the room, closing the door so decidedly behind him, the sound made her shudder. The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it.

That Mr. Darcy thought her such a dishonourable person was beyond anything she ever imagined. The anger in his voice, the almost menacing countenance as he rounded on her and accused her of such actions—these were indelibly imprinted in her mind. How, after their mutual exclamations of love, had he contrived to misunderstand the situation so egregiously?

Her mind searched past memories. It was near unfathomable how many unfortunate obstacles had served to pave the way to this final quarrel! Regret was her companion now, but she must own those uncomfortable feelings—it had been her choice to express herself with such malice when she could easily have disclosed the confidences that would have vindicated her. But she would stand by her promise.

So this was her fate. To have Fitzwilliam Darcy somewhere in the world thinking ill of her was almost too much for her to bear, yet it was so.

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One Year Earlier
April 1811
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Your uncle has been prevented by business from accompanying me, and given that you and I enjoy one another’s company so well, he obliged me and suggested you would be as good a replacement for him as any body.” Mrs. Gardiner’s eyes sparkled as she said it.

If she and her parents agreed, Elizabeth would spend a significant part of the summer at the home of her aunt’s good friend in Ramsgate, and she had never been to the seaside. Her aunt became more and more animated as the details of the plan were described, and tickly sensations of excitement traversed her spine.

She accepted swiftly and with great appreciation. “The intimacy we share as niece and aunt, along with likeness of mind and spirit, will prove to make for great felicity!”

By this time, her aunt had a firm grasp upon her hands. “We shall have a fine time of it, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth shared her aunt’s pleasure. “We shall not be like other travellers and merely take in the promenades and sea air; no, we shall seek adventure, and our minds shall be so full upon our return that we will have plenty to relate without relying on our imaginations.”

Her aunt offered no objection to such a scheme, and a date was fixed for Elizabeth to journey to London and join her for the trip. There were three months in which to plan, and three months to suffer her mother’s ideas of preparations.

Finally, she waved away her family and set out for her adventure.

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I hope this snippet made you curious enough to join us to read about Elizabeth’s adventure! Letter from Ramsgate is currently posting in serial format at A Happy Assembly. Readers interact with the author by commenting on each chapter as it’s posted weekly on Wednesday afternoons. Currently, chapter 1-4 are up, so it’s easy to catch up with the others. Membership to AHA is required, but there are no ads at this free Jane Austen literary club web site. Your private information remains as private as you choose.

If now isn’t the best time for you to read, I plan to publish Letter from Ramsgate in 2016.

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GREAT NEWS!:

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

A short, modern romance I wrote last summer will be featured in Meryton Press’s soon-to-be-released holiday anthology, Then Comes Winter, edited by Christina Boyd. W00t! Christina also edited the successful Meryton Press summer anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, which is available at booksellers’ now.

My short story in the winter anthology is called Delivery Boy; it’s about mistaken first impressions, admiration from afar, and a rather heavy mustache!

Join us for the Merry, Merry Book Launch party on November 16-20 on Facebook, with fun games and give-aways! We’ll follow that with a blog tour; dates and times will be announced at Meryton Press!

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A Lady in Summer Dress with sea bathing in backgroundThe prizewinners from the online portion of the Louisville JASNA give-aways for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are jenred and daria! Congratulations, and thanks for commenting on the blog! Each will get a copy of the upcoming youth-and-up-rated Then Comes Winter, with my signature on my short modern romance, Delivery Boy, and one of my original design cushion cover reticules (I plan to line the two unlined ones I made before sending them off to these two). Each reticule contains an embroidered handkerchief and paper cocktail parasol, and is signed by me!