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Author Archives: Gail Eastwood

About Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood is the author of seven Regencies that were originally published by Signet/Penguin. After taking ten years off for family matters, she has wobbled between contemporary romantic suspense and more Regency stories, wondering what century she's really in and trying to work the rust off her writing skills. Her backlist is gradually coming out in ebook format, and some are now available in new print editions as well. She is working on the start of a Regency-set series and other new projects. Stay tuned!

How do you feel about epilogues? Does it seem to anyone else that there’s a “current trend” going on to include them at the end of every story? I think every recent book I’ve picked up lately has had one. Is it a fad, or a change in readers’ tastes and expectations? Or is having that extra glimpse into the characters’ happy-ever-after ending something readers have always wanted all along? Do romances always need to have one?

TCD Cover-FinalI have been noticing and thinking about this, because I decided to add an epilogue to The Captain’s Dilemma while re-editing that book for reissue. TCD (my third book, published in 1995) is out now, I’m excited to report, on Amazon for Kindle and B&N for Nook, and also for Kobo and other formats through Smashwords. This is my “prisoner-of-war” romance. Read on below for details on the giveaway!

Meanwhile, back to our topic. I used to feel that a good romance that ended properly shouldn’t need an epilogue. If all the obstacles were overcome, the loose ends were tied up, and the hero and heroine finally figured out they were in love, admitted it to each other, and committed to a future together, that certainly seemed very satisfying to me! “Trail off into the sunset” endings were considered bad form.

Yet I think we all enjoy thinking of the characters we come to know and love during a good story as continuing on with lives that last beyond the pages of the book. So the question becomes, do you want the author’s view of it, or would you rather imagine it for yourself? And has this changed over time?

I used to call the lovely but inaccurate Allan Kass cover for my second book, The Persistent Earl, a “visual epilogue”, explaining that it showed the artist’s vision of the hero and heroine together after the story was over. (The heroine, a young widow, wears half-mourning throughout the book, but as you see here, on the cover she is in a beautiful gold satin gown.) Readers always thought that made perfect sense! Can you imagine the rest of this scene without having the words? I consider reading a collaborative process, and even though as an author I give the reader the specifics of my story, each reader brings some of her own imagination into the mix as she reads. I think that’s one of the great pleasures of reading, and one of the (many) reasons movie adaptations of our favorite books don’t always succeed –one director’s view of the story may not match up well with the personal version we have envisioned in our own heads. Ah, but that’s another entire topic.

My decision to write the Captain’s Dilemma epilogue was fairly easy –I never felt the book quite ended with all the loose ends tied up. More information about how the future was going to work for my French hero and English heroine was needed, but for the old Signet Regencies we had some strict length restrictions, and I had no room to add more back then. It has been great fun revisiting my characters and adding the extra scene they so deserved!

So what do you think? Are we seeing a “trend” for epilogues in romance now? Do you like them? If you are a fan of story epilogues, have you always been one? Is the abundance a recent phenomenon, or have I just become more aware of it lately? I’m going to give away a copy of The Captain’s Dilemma to someone randomly chosen among those who comment, and if we get a lot of comments, I’ll give away a second one! Keeping it simple. Please jump in. I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts!

And if you want to know more about TCD, you can click here to see it on my web site. Or you can click here to see it on Amazon.

Having finally finished the clean-up from Thanksgiving (the wedding crystal goblets I have to wash by hand tend to decorate the kitchen counter for days), I am now looking ahead to the next holidays, and more meals to be planned in celebration. Special occasions and special food always go together. Do you have a traditional holiday food you make or fondly remember? For Christians, this past Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, and in some parts of England, is also known as “stir-up day” –the day you are supposed to stir-up the batter for your Christmas cake or pudding so it will have enough time to age properly. (The day can also be the last Sunday before the start of Advent.) There’s a double meaning to the name, as one of the old texts used by the church for the start of Advent begins “Stir up , we beseech thee O Lord” and one site claims “this activity of stirring-up the ingredients symbolizes our hearts that must be stirred in preparation for Christ’s birth.” Christmas cakes (aka fruitcakes) have a pedigree as long as the technique of using rum or brandy to preserve food. “Plum Pudding” was also around long before the Victorians popularized it as “Christmas pudding”. Either one could include meat with the dried fruit in their early forms, but one is baked and the other was boiled –steamed in later times.

For someone who’s not a great cook, maybe it’s ironic that I’ve always been interested in period food, but it comes honestly from my interest in the daily life of other times. The Regency isn’t my only pet period –I’m a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and indulge in medieval interests, too. I collect cookbooks on period food, and recently added Dinner with Tom Jones: Eighteenth Century Cookery Adapted for the Modern Kitchen, by Lorna Sass (1977, the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Sass also wrote To the King’s Taste (Richard II) and To the Queen’s Taste (Elizabeth I).

Cover-Dinner with Tom Jones.jpgI can’t believe I found this treasure in my church yard sale!! I recommend it as a research gold-mine; it has notes about menus, how dishes should be arranged on the table, and all sorts of extra goodies besides the recipes, and while it covers a period slightly earlier than our beloved Regency, back then things did not change as rapidly as they do now. Casting about for what to feed our characters, a ragoo of asparagus or heavens, yes, a chocolate tart(!) might be just the thing we need to serve them. And the book is illustrated with delightful sketches of county life by Thomas Rowlandson (behaving properly for a change).

Cover-Dinner with Mr DarcyOn my Christmas list is another cookbook just released last month which should also be of great interest to us all —Dinner with Mr Darcy by Pen Vogler, a new addition to the existing canon related to food in Jane Austen’s books and life. Besides recipes inspired by Jane’s novels and letters, it also promises notes about table arrangements, kitchens and gardens, changing mealtimes, and servants and service, etc.

Both of these books use Hannah Glasse’s first cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747), as a chief source. A reviewer of Vogler’s book (http://tinyurl.com/mlrxl6j) says this was “one of the first commercial cookbooks to capture the public imagination and was used by middle-class families like the Austens well into the 19th century.” Does food history interest you? Do you care about what our story characters eat? (The book I’m editing now for reissue, The Captain’s Dilemma, has a running joke about the family’s inventive but not very good cook.) What are some of your favorite resources?

I wish you all very happy holidays and some memorable meals with friends and family, whatever you celebrate!

P&P Dinner Scene

Mr Collins (Tom Hollander) distracts Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley) from her meal in the 2005 ‘Pride and Prejudice’ -Photo Credit: Rex Features/Everett Collection

scharf-london-marketWhen you are in the middle of some current activity, do you ever stop and wonder about the Regency equivalent of what you are doing? I do. Maybe it’s just a sign of what a hopeless addict I am! Last month one of my most consuming activities was the annual yard sale conducted by my church. Regency people didn’t have “yard sales.” They could burn their trash and give the ashes to the dustman, and they could give their ruined clothing to the ragman, but what about the useable clothing, furniture, bric-abrac and household items that were no longer fashionable, or a little too worn, or just no longer wanted? What about closing the household of someone who died?

Our church sale was the biggest we’ve ever had, mostly thanks to the donation of tons of items from the home of a woman who had died during the summer. Have you ever had to clean out the home of a relative or friend? The very wealthy in the Regency made sure they had continuing generations of family to carry on, and often had large homes with attics or storerooms stuffed full of the furniture and belongings of the previous generations. Not everyone was so fortunate. Remember the scene from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol where the scavenging neighbors are hovering by old Scrooge’s deathbed just waiting to grab everything they could get?

People in the Regency, like those from other historical times, would be shocked by how wasteful we are today, even with the growing popularity (not to mention importance) of recycling. Life then demanded that people be practical and frugal, and nothing was wasted. Used goods, if not donated to charity, would be sold to the second-hand shops, pawn shops and street vendors, and might end up –like a giant yard sale–in the street markets, especially in London.

Street markets were and still are an essential and colorful part of London, like their rural counterparts. The city still offers plenty of them today, some dating back well before the Regency, although many more were established later, serving the needs of a growing city. The population of London was just under one million in 1800, and by the 1870s had tripled! All those people needed to be fed and clothed. In 2008 a London study counted 180 markets (including both goods and food markets), but the traditional pressures of changing neighborhoods and changing times are taking a toll, just as they have for centuries.

Some of the venerable old markets aren’t old enough to be Regency: Portobello Road Market (1860s), Berwick Market (1830’s), Inverness (1900). Other markets date all the way back to medieval times, such as the market at Romford (east of London) which was chartered in 1287, or the great wholesale food markets like Billingsgate (fish), and Smithfield (live cattle). Borough Market in Southwark is documented to 1276, but claims to have existed since 1014. Leadenhall (game & poultry) dates from 1445 with portions rebuilt in 1730, and Spitalfields (fruit, vegetables, meat and poultry, and also live songbirds during the Regency) was started in 1682. Covent Garden (fruit, vegetables, and flowers) was chartered in 1670. Brick Lane Market is also said to date from the 1600s, when it was a Sunday farmer’s market catering to the surrounding Jewish community. Leather Lane –near Hatton Garden –started when in the late 16th century(?) Sir Christopher Hatton asked permission for people to sell outside his gates, supposedly to recover funds for his gambling debts. A large Jewish community developed near there, with many who were merchants.

1746 Fleet Market Map (Roque)

1746 Fleet Market Map (Roque)

Petticoat Lane (Middlesex Street, near Bishopsgate Institute) began in the 1750’s. Church Street Market began as Portman Market off the New Road (c 1800), once people moved out into the area (which also brought the formation of the first bus service!!) Some of the markets that served the vendors and household servants in our period are gone: Fleet Market (1736–1829), Shepherd Market in Mayfair (1735-?) and others.

These markets took all sorts of forms, from open-air (mostly food markets) to enclosed buildings (such as Shepherd’s Market, with a theater on the second floor). The Fleet Market was described as two rows of open single-story shops linked by a covered walkway. These markets were the forerunners of our present day shopping malls!

As usual, when I dipped into this topic, I discovered it was huge. It’s hard to just brush the surface and stop. Please jump in and join the conversation in our comments section. Have you ever visited one of London’s street markets? Had to dispose of your family’s used goods? Had a character in a story go to one of these markets? Let’s talk!

Here are some links in case you want to look further:

2008 London survey of street markets

A list of street markets currently operating in London and environs, from Wikipedia

Four fascinating short video documentaries made about local street markets: Brixton (1870s), Portobello Road (1860s), Leather Lane (1710s), and Church Street (1801)
http://www.stallstories.org.uk/

Ackermann images of Smithfield Market and Covent Garden 1811 (copyrighted by Museum of London):

Also, Mary Cathcart Borer’s book, An Illustrated Guide to London 1800, has an entire chapter about the markets, although it mostly covers the big food wholesale sites.

Do you love the beach? I do. I’m addicted! Who could not enjoy a walk on an ocean beach, with a cooling breeze and the green thundering waves dashing down into foam and then washing gently up by your feet? You walk between the wide expanse of blue sky above and the blue reflection in the smooth wet sand beneath you. Then lured into the water, you float enveloped in its clear green invigorating coolness, coming out utterly refreshed.

calm

I’m certain that throughout human history, people who lived near beaches enjoyed them. I am lucky enough to live in a state with plentiful ocean beaches very nearby, and at this time of year I try to juggle my work schedules to find one day a week when I can go. But did you know that it was only as recently as the 18th century that people who didn’t live near beaches began to come to visit them as tourists? Dr Richard Russell’s 1752 publication A Dissertation: Concerning the Use of Sea Water in Diseases of the Glands, about the health benefits of sea-bathing and even drinking sea water is credited with helping create what became a thriving industry, but certainly improvements in transportation in this period and the Regency also were a big factor in the development of sea-side resorts.

Just as guides to the great houses were published for tourists, guides to the beach resorts such as John Fletham’s A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1803) also became available. Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Sanditon, is set in a small town trying to become the next popular resort, and Jane visited Brighton, made popular by the Prince Regent, as well as Worthing in Sussex and spent time in Southhampton. Competition between resorts was fierce. Jane would have heard all about Sandown on the Isle of Wight, and Bognor, and Eastbourne. Margate was famous and by 1816 so popular they had more than 40 bathing machines, and four bathhouses where patrons could relax while awaiting their turn. For an interesting discussion about whether or not Worthing stood as Jane’s model for Sanditon, check http://austenonly.com/2010/03/19/austenprose-group-read-of-sanditon-worthing-the-model-for-mr-palmer%E2%80%99s-town/.

ramble5Whether Regency people visited the shore for pleasure or for health reasons, the activities they pursued did not differ greatly –they walked on the sand, and enjoyed watching the waves and ships offshore and each other. They “dipped” in the sea (only men actually engaged in swimming). The way they dressed at the seaside is an entire fashion topic in itself. I highly recommend that you check out (or reread if you have been following our Risky blog for a while) posts from past summers made by Elena and Myretta and others here –just type “beach” into our search box and they will come up. Myretta wrote about Brighton. Elena did a terrific post that explains about the bathing machines with attendants that made it possible to be “dipped” into the ocean while preserving modesty at all costs!!

This line about sea-bathing at Ramsgate in 1811 from Memoirs of a Highland Lady by Elizabeth Grant makes me glad I am not limited by the old system they used, for once I am in, I am always reluctant to get out of the water until I am blue with cold: “The shock of a dip was always an agony: that over, we would have ducked about much longer than the woman let us.” I found this in a great article by Andrea Richards of the Jane Austen Society of Australia (http://www.jasa.net.au/seaside/Bathing.htm).

If you can’t get to the modern-day beach, perhaps you can make a vicarious trip, and go back in time as well! Besides the above, I recommend the following: http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/category/sea-bathing-during-the-regency-era/

http://www.isabellegoddard.com/sea-bathing-regency-period.html

http://austenprose.com/2010/03/19/by-the-seaside-with-sanditon-guest-blog-with-mandy-n-on-regency-era-seaside-fashions/

Are you a beach-lover? If you had lived in the Regency, would you have traveled to one of the many resorts to try the water? Have you read any Regency stories that use this setting? Jump into the comments and share!

 

www.gaileastwoodauthor.com

Boxing_1811_Crib_&_MolineauxI’m so happy to be back again, blogging with the Riskies!! Thank you, gracious friends! I’ve been thinking about the subject of manly pastimes a lot recently as I work on my new book. (Yes, I am finally back working on it!) As I write this, my husband is downstairs watching the Bruins play hockey on the TV, providing a very fitting background of excited man-crowd sounds, punctuated by his own loud exclamations. Our Regency gentlemen had a wide range of diversions to amuse themselves and test their mettle, and just like men today, especially enjoyed the chance to compete with one another. In our beloved fictional Regency world, our romance heroes indulge in all sorts of activities, from gaming and watching horse races to the more athletic pastimes –riding, hunting, shooting, driving, fencing, wrestling, archery, rowing, skating, and, of course, fighting. I did one hero whose passion was sailing. I’m sure you can think of more.

What I wonder is, and I hope you’ll jump into the conversation, are any of these pastimes problematic for you as a reader formulating an image of the coolly elegant, romantic Regency man? The hero in my current work-in-progress is known to be one of the better card players in London, a big man who dresses well and does not make waves. He has another side to him, however –he excels at bare-knuckle fighting and is a member of a private fighting club made up of five aristocratic fellows who essentially have surpassed what Gentleman Jackson’s establishment can offer them. He is a character who first showed his face in one of my books ten years ago, but at that time I hadn’t realized he would someday claim his own story.

Boxing-Cribb_vs_Molineaux_1811The vivid brutality of the fighting contrasts so sharply with the elegance that was also so admired in this era, I find sometimes I can’t wrap my brain around it. Is it too violent to be in a Regency romance? We know that historically, fighting, or “pugilism”, was extremely popular in the Regency period. But in our fantasized version of the Regency, is there room for both “bucks” and “bruisers” among our heroes? Would a hero who is both work for you?

As so often happens, there suddenly seem to be a number of authors who are all going in this direction.

Delilah Marvelle created quite a stir with her trailer for Forever a Lord (January 2013). If you didn’t see it, here it is:

I haven’t read it yet –looking forward to it, so discussion is fine but no spoilers please!

Sara MacLean –just mentioned at a workshop I attended last week that her upcoming book –I think it’s No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (coming November? 2013) –is about a hero who does bare-knuckle fighting.

(Sigh.) But we know they will all be quite different from each other. Have you read others? Or written them? Let’s get a conversation going in the comments. I’d really love to know what you think!

rakesmistakeI will give away (by mail) a mint paperback copy of my 2002 release, The Rake’s Mistake, to one lucky poster. To be entered in the giveaway, you must give your email address and let me know you want to be entered! I’ll contact the winner to get a mailing address.

Gail
www.gaileastwoodauthor.com

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