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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!

LadyVengeance-330I apologize for the delay in announcing the winner of Lady Vengeance, the giveaway book by Sarah Eagle offered in her two-part post about the Waterloo Anniversary at the end of last month. The delay is entirely my fault, not hers –August has been crazy-busy!! I am happy to announce that the winner of her book, chosen at random, is faithful reader bn100. I will be emailing her to arrange the book delivery. Thank you to everyone who commented on Sally’s posts!

 

Old, Old Fairy TalesAre you a fan of fairytales? Do you watch the mash-up Once Upon a Time on TV? Or the more horror-oriented show Grimm? I’ve been working with a writing student whose project is focused on the life of Charles Perrault, so I’ve been thinking about fairytales a lot lately.

This enduring, and endearing, form of storytelling goes back in time well before our Regency period to the late the 17th century. That’s when Perrault published “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” as part of his collection, Tales and Stories of Times Past with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose in 1697. (The English translation was published in 1729.) Actually, it goes back much further into the mists of time, depending on how you define fairytale vs folktale. Many of the stories are ancient, and of course there are some very ancient story traditions in the non-western cultures. But did you know that the Brothers Grimm Early ed of grimmpublished their first three German collections of tales in 1812, 1815, and 1822? Their first English edition was published in London in 1824, illustrated by Cruikshank.

Recasting some fairytales into romances has been a popular strategy for some authors within the romance genre. Turning them back into tales for adults is ironic in some cases, as some of the stories started out as strictly adult fare. But in addition to offering us plot ideas and possible story arcs, fairytales can serve in our stories exactly as they are, as part of the cultural background for our characters.

It’s good to know that if you want a character to read fairytales to children in a Regency story, any of those collected by Charles Perrault would be authentic. That includes such favorites as Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood.200px-Dore_ridinghood However, the late date of the Grimm Brothers’ English edition means some other best-loved stories, such as Snow White or Rumpelstiltskin, were not familiar in most Regency nurseries.

It’s possible, however, that some of the stories Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had collected up to 1815 could have been retold in England by returned soldiers or statesmen who encountered Jacob Grimm in Paris or particularly in Vienna. That is how Devenham, the rakish hero of my 2nd Regency, The Persistent Earl, knows the story of the frog prince and recounts a cleaned-up version of it to the children in that book. (Some of this blogpost is taken from the Author’s Note I wrote for that book, a time-saving step for which I beg your indulgence!)

Jacob Grimm worked for his government during the closing years of the Napoleonic Wars. Brueder_GrimmIn 1814-15 he served at the Congress of Vienna in addition to making two trips to Paris to recover important German paintings and books stolen by the French army. In Vienna he was the nucleus of a small literary salon whose members entertained each other with the telling and retelling of folk tales and fairytales. wilhelm_grimm_250(Side note: apparently Wilhelm was struggling in the meanwhile back in their homeland. A novel just released in July, The Wild Girl, by Kate Forsyth,  tells the story of the woman who loved Wilhelm and waited ten years to marry him!) Dorchen Wild-349

Many of these stories were not originally intended for children, and were only made suitable after the Grimms modified, edited, and in some cases embellished them for publication. (a Regency precedence for Disney!) Jacob’s store of tales in Vienna would have included those already published in the 1812 German Nursery and Household Tales, plus others like “The Frog Prince” about to make their appearance in the second volume.

Here is an excerpt from TPE where my naughty hero (still recovering from wounds received at Waterloo) explains about the story my heroine, Phoebe, has just overheard him tell:

“I spent a few weeks on furlough in Vienna last winter, and that is where I chanced to hear the story. In fact, if I can remember them, I heard several others I could tell the children besides that one. There was a scholarly fellow there for the Congress, part of the Hessian delegation, who collects these kinds of stories, and he had formed a little group in Vienna who delighted in exchanging them to pass the time.”

Phoebe saw the wicked light that she had learned to recognize so well come into his eyes, and she quickly turned away to fluff his pillows. What could possibly be wicked about fairytales? And where was Mullins? She realized suddenly that both he and the tea tray had disappeared.

“I must add that many of these stories had more than one version,” Devenham continued. “I saw ladies far less reputable than you put to the blush. Some of the French and Italian stories I heard were enough to curl even my hair. Of course, I would never repeat those to children.”

Over time, the Grimm brothers published some 200 tales. However, the edition we know today as Grimms’ Fairytales was not published until 1857.Perrault's Tales -late illustration

What are your favorite fairytales? Have you ever used one in a story? Have you read (or written) any romances based on one? Let me know in the comments!

(P.S. If you were wondering, The Persistent Earl is one of my backlist books that has been reissued as an ebook by Penguin Intermix. The original paperback version is out of print.)

Charity to the BlindI have a “wish list’ of charities I’d like to support if I ever won the lottery. Do you? What kinds of causes do you like to support? I’m gearing up to host a fund-raising event (on Facebook) for a friend who is on the national kidney transplant waiting list (more about that later), and it made me think about subscriptions and charitable associations and fund-raising events the way they worked in the Regency. The concept of computers, the Internet, and a place called Facebook where people from all over the country –the world– could gather “virtually” for a pretend party would really blow the mind of someone from our favorite era!

Naturally, as soon as I started to delve into this topic, I realized how huge it was. So many different threads, so much information. Where even to start the conversation? So I thought about our stories, the ones we love to read and write. How often have you read (or written) characters who were engaged in supporting or championing some charitable cause? Have you come across, or written, characters who are attending events for charity as part of their London season? Or attending meetings of a philanthropical association? I certainly have read books where this is the case, but I don’t feel as though I see it often.

I think in very general terms modern society has shifted away from the kind of “giving” mindset that prevailed in Regency times, and that philanthropy is not as fundamental to our daily lives as it was then. We have higher expectations of what our tax dollars should accomplish through the government, we have “lost the religious underpinnings of society”, as one scholar put it, that helped make charity a priority, and we have a society now where a majority of women work at jobs outside the home, which robs them of the time to be actively involved in charitable works. Does that make it harder for us to imagine a world where this was not the case? Charity-Covereth-A-Multitude-Of-Sins,-Published-By-Hannah-Humphrey-In-1781

I’m talking in broad generalities, of course. But in the Regency, supporting charitable causes was much more personal, more “hands-on”, if you will. The mail was too expensive to be used to send out appeals, and of course there weren’t any telemarketers badgering people to give. (Hmm, think of that!) But there were a variety of other ways one’s generosity would be solicited.

Your local church (or I assume, the synagogues as well) would present you with causes and solicit your support. I’ve been reading Woodforde’s Diary of a Country Parson and was impressed, as he was, by the generosity of even his poor parishioners who dutifully would contribute pence whenever he put forward a need during the Sunday sermon. You might be accosted on the streets by beggars, although by the Regency there were more institutions in place to help or relocate them. And of course, your friends might beg you to support whatever cause had caught their attention, through a subscription or attendance at an event. (Getting back onto more familiar ground!)

RolwandsonSelectVestryBesides these types of what is called “casual charity”, there was organized giving. This includes giving of alms, paying the poor rate tax (set up by the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601, administered by the parishes and based on land and buildings, it funded the workhouses –“indoor charity”—and “outdoor charity” such as the dole, clothing, and food, among other things), or supporting any number of philanthropic organizations and associations. Bequest charities administered by parishes and guilds had a long history, but “associational charity” began to grow in the middle of the 18th century after it became illegal to establish charitable trusts through a will at death.

Foundling_HospitalThe famous Foundling Hospital was the first of these new kinds of socially active charitable foundations. The Marine Society (which placed poor adolescent boys into careers at sea), and The Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitutes soon followed, and then many more, focused on particular social problems, and dependent on public support. Annual subscriptions, publicity campaigns through pamphleteering, and charity events including concerts and balls were all employed. Some societies levied a weekly fee on members to support their work. Medical charity took on a new approach, too, with the establishment of charity hospitals, dispensaries, and asylums. As we see so often, these changes were the beginning of a more modern way of thinking and doing, well established by the Regency period. There’s a great article here.

I tackled this topic because on October 30 I am hosting a “virtual” Halloween Party on Facebook, and any of you who are reading this (and are Facebook members) are invited! It’s going to run 4pm-midnight (Eastern) so you can drop in at any time. It is a fund-raising event, so I am asking people to donate $15 –or whatever amount they wish – to my friend’s fund at the Help Hope Live Foundation. (Her name is Joyce Bourque). If you would like to come to the party, you can send me a “friend” request (Gail Eastwood-Author) or drop me an email, or I think you can just find the event page I will be setting up and ask to be invited in. (I think we’re calling it “Virtual Halloween Party for Joyce Bourque’s Kidney Fund” and I hope to have it set up this weekend!) I am also going to set up a dedicated email address where non-FB folks can leave Joyce a message of support or Halloween wishes. As you may –or may not—know, people who are on transplant waiting lists are required to do fund-raising while they wait, every year. These folks have to show that they can cover their part of the cost to save their lives, or be dropped from the list. Foundations like Help Hope Live are designed to hold and manage the funds until they are needed. Here’s a link to the foundation: https://helphopelive.org and here’s a link to Joyce’s page there, if you’d like to “meet” her! If you like, you can pretend her page is a handbill that I passed to you when I stopped in for tea! J

Meanwhile, let’s chat about whether charity giving belongs in Regency romances or not. What do you think? Please comment below.

Halloween-Hero-1-HDo you love Halloween? Are you celebrating? I’m doing this extra blogpost today partly to remind you that I’m hosting a Virtual Halloween Party today on Facebook (4pm to midnight), and if any of you are on FB and enjoy the virtual parties to be found there, I hope you’ll come! It’s a fund-raiser for my friend Joyce, who needs to raise funds to stay on the kidney transplant waiting list, but it’s also a celebration of Halloween –what better time for a party? We have a number of nice gift giveaways planned, and we’ll be posting pictures and having conversations, playing games and doing mini-contests.

Would you drink this at a "real" party

Would you drink this at a “real” party

The party is by-invitation-only, so if we aren’t already “friends” on Facebook, send a friend request to me (Gail Eastwood-author) –or message me– and I’ll friend and invite you! (Or let me know if you want to know how to give a donation, even if you can’t come to the party!)

In my area of the U.S. the practice of trick-or-treating has really diminished in favor of FIREWORKSparties. Safer, I’m sure, but there was always a kind of thrill to roaming in the dark and going door-to-door. Halloween isn’t anything our Regency characters would have participated in. And in Great Britain, even now I would venture to say it is overshadowed by Guy Fawkes Day.

Demonstrators with Guy Fawkes masks march to the Portuguese parliament in LisbonBonfires! Fireworks! Those are fun, but do they get to dress up in costumes? Do they have Guy Fawkes Day parties? Oh, wait. Yes, yes they do. But I still say I’d rather have candy than gunpowder.

The roots of Halloween are very ancient, as most people know. The name comes from All Hallows Eve, the night before the Christian observance of All Saints Day (November 1, Hallowmass), established by Pope Gregory in the 8th century. But the Celtic celebration of Samhain (“summer’s end”) on October 31 is much older. Samhain was the night before the Celtic new year began, when it was believed the boundary between the living and the spirit worlds grew thin. The Celts may have believed the living could commune with the dead at such a time, see into the future, or even that spirits could return to earth. halloween-bonfire Bonfires, the wearing of costumes to confuse the walking spirits, and the telling of fortunes may have been part of the Celtic traditions.

Some sources also throw in two Roman celebrations, the festivals of Feralia, honoring the passing of the dead, and of Pomona, a goddess of fruit and the harvest, also held at the time of the change in seasons. Mix in the medieval practice of “souling”, when the poor would go door-to-door on All Hallows asking for handouts in exchange for saying prayers for the dead, and you can see a lot of the ingredients for the evolution of Halloween.

My fellow Riskies have already written some posts you might like to revisit this weekend. Elena did a lovely one about jack o’lanterns all the way back in 2008 (posted Oct 29). Amanda talked about the holiday origins in 2011 (Oct 25), and back in 2009 she did a Halloween post about the ghosts in the Tower of London. For more ghosts plus witches in the UK, revisit Elena’s post from last year (Oct 31, 2014).

In case those aren’t enough to occupy you, here are a few more articles you may enjoy:

“Slutty Halloween Costumes: a Cultural History”, which makes a case that Halloween has always been about sex: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665320/slutty-halloween-costumes-a-cultural-history

And in defense of those who follow the Wiccan religion, “What’s Witchcraft? Six Misconceptions about Wiccans”: http://www.livescience.com/39119-myths-about-witches-wiccans.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=more-from-livescience

For the candy-lovers among us: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/10/how-candy-and-halloween-became-best-friends/64895/

And finally, I couldn’t resist including “Top Five Halloween Myths Debunked”: http://www.livescience.com/5148-top-5-halloween-myths-debunked.html

Happy Halloween!

beauty&beast-vintageCan we talk about #tropes? Romance fiction is full of them, and some are specific to Regency romance. Do you have favorite tropes that always draw you to a story? Or some that guarantee you won’t pick up a book? I got a poor Amazon review for my book An Unlikely Hero mostly because it was a “house party” story and the reader was sick of those. I do wonder why she bought it!

Elena talked about a few she dislikes back in January here when she was judging Rita books –and oh, boy, that task is coming up again all too soon! But the reason tropes are on my mind today is because in my “other” little Regency author group, the Bluestocking League, we are working on a website where we intend to include what may amount to a small encyclopedia of Regency romance tropes –a list, with descriptions of each and perhaps a few words about their appeal– and we have been compiling the list to start with. Not as easy as you might think, despite the existing lists already out there!

Want a peek at our list-in-progress? Have any you think we should add? Here it is in no particular order:

Loveable Rogue/Rogues in love

Agents of the Crown secret-agent-man

Childhood Friend Romance

Protectors

Dukes

Scandal

Beauty & the Beast

Ugly Duckling/Makeoveri_love_being_estranged_mug-re330ccf88ac348ad8b2b7575bfeb37a8_x7jsm_8byvr_324

Estranged Lovers reunited

Friends to Lovers

Marriage of Convenience

Compromised

Governesses Governess

(other) Boss/Employee

Rakes

Mistaken Identity

(kidnapping) –almost always mistaken identity?

Rags to Riches

Wounded Hero/Caretaker Heroine

House Party Chatsworth-House

Masquerades (including Secret/Hidden Identity)

Road Trip/Runaways

Amnesia

Wagers/bets

my-guardian-angel-85701 Ghosts/guardian angels/magic locket–i.e. Something paranormal outside of self influencing the romance.

Soldier

Thief/highwayman/con artist  (are there any gypsy Regencies–and if so, would they fit here or as own trope?)

Hidden treasure

Murder(s)

Spies (not just Agents of the Crown–could be a soldier, a French spy, etc.)

Wills (tricky provisions and/or inheritances that play a major role in the plot)

Marrying out of one’s class (not sure how to say that more simply)

Demi-monde/light skirts

Spinsters

Widows/Widowers

InventorsMusicians 1817

Artists/Musicians/Writers

Heroes who have a profession

Naval/Sea faring

Smuggling

Politics/Parliament

Handicapped (could be hero or heroine or secondary character whose handicap is an issue)

Social Issues (including slavery, abuse of children, etc.)

Farming/Raising Horses/Animals?

Waterloo (since this seems of particular interest to some readers)

Christmas (and perhaps other  holidays)

India/Other foreign travel?

Children (stories where a child or children play a significant role in bringing the hero and heroine together)

Lots of books include more than one, and some overlap. Which books that you’ve read (or written), leap to mind when you look at these tropes?

We could talk about which favorite tropes appear in which favorite authors’ books. Or we could get into a discussion about where some of these tropes originated (besides the history of the period itself) –Austen? Heyer? Some of the early Regency writers like Cartland?

Sadly, I’ll have to leave that to you in the comments –I am really short on time this week! But I would love to hear what you all have to say about some of these tropes, or even about the list itself!

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