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Monthly Archives: April 2010

‘s “My Same”:

You said I’m stubborn and I never give in
I think you’re stubborn ‘cept you’re always softening
You say I’m selfish, I agree with you on that
I think you’re giving out in way too much in fact
I say we’ve only known each other a year
You say I’ve known you longer my dear
You like to be so close, I like to be alone
I like to sit on chairs and you prefer the floor
Walking with each other, think we’ll never match at all, but we do
But we do, but we do, but we do

I thought I knew myself, somehow you know me more
I’ve never known this, never before
You’re the first to make up whenever we argue
I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t know you
You’re so provocative, I’m so conservative
You’re so adventurous, I’m so very cautious, combining
You think we would and we do, but we do, but we do, but we do

Adele says it better than I, but the point of this song, and therefore this post, is that some couples work, even though it seems like they shouldn’t, and some don’t, even though it seems like they should.

Some of the best books, in my opinion, are where the author is able to convince you–and her characters–that even though there are distinct differences in personality, a true HEA is, indeed, possible. And watching the hero and heroine mash out their conflict during the course of the book is the most fun of all.

Take, for example, almost any of Loretta Chase‘s books: In Lord of Scoundrels, for example, it seems as though Dain and Jessica are the least likely pair EVER to fall in love. But she figures out that there’s depth behind the big lummox, and he realizes he is, indeed, worthy of such a lovely creature as Jessica (and that she likes him), and their HEA is totally and completely believable.

Or, for a more extreme example, Anne Stuart‘s books; often, the hero or the heroine’s stated goal at the outset of the book is to kill the other. You can’t find an action further away from falling in love than that. But, eventually, they put aside their initial goal because they have gotten to know each other and usually been forced to work together for some greater good (or bad).

I thought of this because (and Diane, you might want to look away), just based on the ads, I don’t at all buy the idea of Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston as a couple in The Bounty Hunter. And that kind of believability happens in the gut: There’s no way to figure out what combination of folks will make us believe in the HEA, worse luck for Hollywood.

In plotting and writing my books, I have to cast actors in the roles, or I don’t believe what I’m writing. So I’ve thought a lot about combinations that work, despite themselves–for example, even though they seem very comfortable together, I don’t think Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were a particularly sizzling pair. That is opposed to Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who sizzled all over the place, despite the Hays Code (restrictions on film content, following such films as Barbara Stanwyck‘s Baby Face and Mae West‘s I’m No Angel).

In modern film, one of the sexiest pairings is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. And Mrs. Smith. Whoa. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out Of Sight? Also totally buy it, and they obviously never had an off-screen romance. Pride & Prejudice convinced me as to the pairings of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle and Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Even Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier were believable in the much maligned 1940 version.

Who are your favorite ‘shouldn’t work but they do’ couples, either in books or film? What pairing absolutely did not work for you?


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Other than Heyer’s casual, racist (but probably historically accurate) references to moneylenders and Nita Abram‘s brilliant Courier Series about an Anglo-Jewish family during the Napoleonic wars, I didn’t know much about the Jewish population of Regency London. I still don’t. But I’ll share what I have.

First, a great overview of Jewish history in England from the terrific which mentions the significance of the Bevis Marks synagogue, in continual use for almost three centuries. Also on the same site, there’s a map (Horwood’s map of London, 1792) showing the areas of settlement for various ethnic groups.

By 1800 there were about 20,000 – 25,000 Jewish inhabitants of England, predominantly from Holland and Germany, three-fifths of whom lived in London. They were widely differentiated in wealth and social strata and formed different communities which expressed themselves strongly in terms of education, charity, and religious practice. However, the decade of the 1790s had seen a great increase in paranoia and fear of foreigners, including the Jewish community. Yet Jews proclaimed their patriotism, and enlisted in the army and navy.

It is said that on one occasion, when a general review of the newly-enrolled force was held in Hyde Park, George III was very much struck at the number of animal names (Bear, Wolf, Lion, and so on) in one of the East End regiments, largely Jewish in composition. At the time of their enrolment, however, there had been a certain difficulty. On October 19th, a solemn fast had been observed, large numbers of volunteers paraded the City, and ten regiments went to Church for Divine service. The corps who had not already taken the oath did so now, and three hundred Jews, of good family, were among their number. A contemporary news-sheet gives an account of their difficulty:

By an order from their High Priest they were prohibited from attending in our churches during the time of Divine Service. The High Priest, however, expressed his highest concurrence to their taking the oaths of fidelity and allegiance to our king and country. These gentlemen accordingly took the oaths, either upon the drilling-grounds of their respective corps, or in the vestry-room of the churches, as circumstances required. They were sworn upon the Book of Leviticus instead of the New Testament.

The call for service continued: and on August 15th, 1803, Rabbi Hirschell–not long since arrived in England–preached in the Great Synagogue [Bevis Marks] on the duty of taking up arms in defence of the country, though insisting at the same time that the ritual precepts of Judaism (such as the observance of the Sabbath) should not be neglected save in emergency. More.

A Royal visit was made to the Synagogue in 1809 by the Dukes of Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge, a very big deal indeed (and a grand opportunity for cartoonists):

Yesterday, at half past six o’clock, the Dukes of Cumberland, Sussex and Cambridge attended the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place to witness the Hebrew form of worship. The preparation made to receive the princes evidenced the loyalty of the Jewish people, and the spectacle was magnificent and most solemn. The Synagogue was most suitably decorated on the occasion. The seats on each side were raised and the pulpit in the centre was adorned by crimson and gold. A space between the pulpit and the ark was appropriated to the Royal Dukes and the Nobility, who stood on a rich platform with four beautiful Egyptian chairs and stands for their books, flowers, etc. The Synagogue was brilliantly illuminated by chandeliers. The High Priest, Rabbi Hirschell, in his sacerdotal habit displayed unusual magnificence: he was dressed in a robe of white satin of considerable value and ordered expressly for him by Abraham Goldsmid, Esq. The Royal Dukes arrived in the carriage of Mr. Goldsmid, and their own carriages followed with several ladies of distinction. The singing was excellent and the Royal Dukes appeared much gratified by the Choruses. When the Ark was opened to take out the Five Books of Moses the Princes were conducted by Mr. Goldsmid to view the interior, at which they expressed great satisfaction, the structure being grand and beautiful. The galleries were crowded with beautiful Jewesses who attracted much the attention of the Royal Party. After the service, the Royal Dukes drove to the mansion of Mr. A. Goldsmid, where a sumptuous entertainment was provided, which was followed by a grand concert.

But it wasn’t until 1855 that London had its first Jewish Lord Mayor, David Salomons, and the following year Jews were declared eligible to run for Parliament. Benjamin Disraeli dandy and novelist turned politician (1804-1881), was the first Jewish prime minister of England (although he’d converted to Christianity at his father’s request. Wasn’t he a hot young thing. But I digress).

There’s a lot more to find out. Here are some interesting sources other than the ones I’ve quoted. The Jewish Museum of London has a great site and looks like a terrific place to visit.

Another historic site is 19 Princelet Street in Spitalfields, originally built as a Huguenot silk weaver’s home and workplace. The Huguenots moved on, and the mid-nineteenth century wave of Jewish immigrants moved into Spitalfields, when a synagogue was added to the house. It’s untouched, but badly in need of restoration and funding. More on the East End of London and later Jewish immigration at

I’m interested in Jewish history because of my own family history; my grandfather came to England in the great Ashkenazi Jewish wave of immigration at the end of the nineteenth century. The family archivist/genealogist is still finding out about him and his many siblings. More on that some other time. Do you have a niche of history that fascinates you, family-inspired or otherwise?

The three winners (randomly chosen from among the commenters) are:

  • Jane Holland — surprise prize winner
  • Judy (from Bag End) — surprise prize winner
  • Louisa Cornell  — Winner of a copy of Frederika

If I could locate your email, I’ve sent an email to you, otherwise, email me your mailing address so we can get your prize on the way.  carolyn AT

Nifty!  Thanks so much for joining in, everyone!

I completely want to do this again.

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Today, April 13, marks the anniversary of the debut of one of the best-known works in classical music, Handel’s Messiah! It was composed in London during the summer of 1741 in just 24 (!!!) days and was premiered in Dublin April 13, 1742. It was afterward revised numerous times by Handel (often to the specifics required by the performing orchestras) and reached its now most-familiar form at a performance to benefit the Foundling Hospital in 1754. It’s still often performed at Christmas and Easter, with the world record for an unbroken sequence of performances held by the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, which has performed it annually since 1853!

Messiah is divided into 3 parts which interpret the life of Christ, the birth, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, concluding with Christ’s final victory over death and sin. It was premiered as part of a series of charity concerts in Neal’s Music Hall in Fishamble Street near Dublin’s Temple Bar. Right up to the very date of the premiere the performance was plagued by technical difficulties, and the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Jonathan Swift (under whose aegis the premiere was to be held) cancelled it for a time. He demanded that the revenue from the concert be promised to local asylums for the mentally ill. The performance was finally held on April 13, and was completely sold out–the managers had to ask ladies not to wear their largest hoops for fear there would be no room for everyone in the hall! Handel led the performance from the harpsichord while his frequent collaborator Matthew Dubourg conducted the orchestra from the podium.

The soprano aria I know that my Redeemer liveth is often heard today at funerals, and over Handel’s grave in Westminster Abbey his statue holds a score of this very aria. The most popular section heard today is the Hallelujah chorus, which concludes the second of the three parts. In some performances it’s standard for the audience to rise for this piece, which is said to come from its first London performance on March 23, 1743. King George II rose, and so of course the rest of the audience had to follow! Another tale (which may or may not be true) says an assistant found Handel in tears as he was working on the composition and asked him what was wrong. Handel held up the score to this chorus and said “I thought I saw the face of God!”

What are some of your favorite pieces of music from this period (Handel or otherwise!)? Have you heard any memorable performances of Messiah? And do you think it is really possible to write such a thing in 24 days??? (I wish I could write a book in 24 days!)

How coincidental that I featured my anthology mate, Louise Allen, on Diane’s Blog last week, because her UNDONE story, Disrobed and Dishonored, in Pleasurably Undone (in bookstores now!) is about a highwayman in disguise, always a popular hero in Regency Romance.

What is the coincidence? Last week, April 7 to be exact, marked the anniversary of the death of one of England’s legendary highwaymen, Dick Turpin. Turpin was hanged at York raceway April 7, 1739:

On this date in 1739, famed desperado Richard “Dick” Turpin rode through York on
an open cart, saluting his admirers, then sat upon his gallows at the York
raceway for half an hour, chatting with spectators and executioners, until he
“with undaunted courage looked about him, and after speaking a few words to the
topsman, he threw himself off the ladder and expired in about five minutes.”

Dick Turpin was not quite the gallant highwayman legend depicts him. He and his men relied on brutality and cruelty and often preyed upon the weak and stole from the poor. In one account, Turpin and his gang held a widow woman over the fire in her fireplace until she told where her money was hidden. In another, they beat a man’s wife and daughter until he gave up his money. Turpin teamed up with another renowned and more clever highwayman of the period, Tom King. When the two of them came upon two maids who had sold some livestock, King thought them “too pretty” to take their money. Turpin robbed them anyway.

Later Turpin stole a valuable horse for which Tom King was arrested. Turpin tried to rescue King, but, never being a good shot, he hit and killed King instead of the constables guarding him. Turpin escaped into Yorkshire and lived under an assumed name. After hunting with friends one day, he impulsively shot his landlord’s cock (a bird, Janet!!). He was hauled before the magistrate and ultimately discovered to be Dick Turpin.

So how did this brutal and not-always-bright highwayman become such a legend? Why, he was popularized in fiction! The highwayman Dick Turpin was a secondary character in Harrison Ainsworth’s novel Rookwood, which became a best seller. Ainsworth’s description of Turpin’s famous ride from Westminster to York captured the public’s imagination and the legend was secured.

Except that legendary ride was made by a 17th century highwayman, Nick Nevins….

The romanticism of Turpin continues with a movie made in 1925, starring Tom Mix, and a television series in the late 1970’s.

Can you think of any other legends created in fiction? What’s your favorite highwayman character in a romance?

Remember to visit my blog on Wednesday and Friday when I’ll be All Undone and giving prizes.
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