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As I’ve probably posted here before, I love movies. I’m by no means a Cinema Expert, like a friend of mine who was a Film Studies major. I don’t much like going to the movies with him because afterwards he always wants to talk about camera angles and filters and other techie stuff I don’t understand. I just want to talk about the characters. And the dialogue. And the costumes. All much too amateur for him. 🙂

Anyway, I do enjoy movies. So, I’ve been following the news out of Cannes this week. I love Cannes, too, for being so goofball and overblown and, well, so French. Who else boos movies? Not the Canadians, I bet. Toronto is probably far more civilized and not nearly as much fun. I’d like to know what all those actresses are thinking when it comes to their gowns, though. Kirsten Dunst, who I like because she’s usually so quirky and cute, gets herself up to look like Fraulein Maria at the abbey for her big premiere??? Monica Belluci in a Christmas tree skirt trimmed with feather dusters??? This is France, people! FRANCE! (Sofia Coppola sure had some great shoes, though).

But I digress. Fashion will always do that to me. I’m here to talk about movies. I think. One movie in particular–Marie Antoinette, the one reportedly just booed at Cannes by moviegoing members of the “petit bourgeois” (according to one French critic). Now, I haven’t seen this film–it doesn’t open here until October. I’ve only seen a trailer, and I don’t know why it was booed (though I’d dearly like to find out). I will definitely see it, for the elaborate costumes, Versailles, the reported neo-punk soundtrack, and because I’m always a sucker for overblown, pre-Revolutionary shenanigans. But I have some reservations, mostly about the casting. As I said, I do like Kirsten Dunst. But does “quirky” equal “Austrian princess in powdered wigs”? Just not sure. I also don’t know who I would cast instead, if it was MY movie. Maybe Anne Hathaway? Or Emmy Rossum, if she wasn’t so tall?

Anyway, here is your task, if you choose to accept it. Let’s imagine we’re making a film about, say, the life of Byron (forget the one from the BBC a couple years ago–ours will be better!). Who would you cast in the lead parts? As Byron? (I would vote for Johnny Depp, I think. Or Keanu Reeves, if he had the acting skills to equal his looks, darn it). Caro Lamb? (Now there would be a part for Kirsten Dunst!). The Shelleys? Annabelle Milbanke? Lady Melbourne?

Serious and/or goofy answers all happily accepted! As are suggestions for Marie Antoinette. Or any other movie you choose to make. YOU are the director now! I may even give away a free book to the most, er, creative ideas…

November 2 marks the birthday of Marie Antoinette! She was born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna in 1755, the 15th child and last daughter of Empress Marie Theresa, and was described as “a small but completely healthy Archduchess.”

The details of her life are well-known, thanks to myriad biographies and several films, and we still seem drawn to her tragic story today. It’s amazing the variety of merchandise out there! Here is just a few I found on a Very Important Research Trip through the Internet…

Marie Antoinette t-shirts (this one is from Cafe Press!)

Action figures (with Ejector Head Action)

Paper dolls

Barbie as Marie Antoinette (she is kind of pricey, but I would totally buy one right now if I could!)

If you go to Etsy and type in “Marie Antoinette” (but be careful! I quickly found myself spending hours on Etsy…) you will find all sorts of items. There’s jewelry:

Like this ring

Cards and stationery

And costumes

Ebay (another classic time and money suck!) has lots to choose from as well! Like this antique Sevres figurine (going for a mere $22,000!)

The official Versailles website has all kinds of pretty to look at! (And I can personally attest that their gift shop is marvelous! These are just a few of the items they carry)

What items would you get if you needed a Marie Antoinette collection in a hurry? Whose birthday would you like to celebrate? (This one seems ideal for, well, cake…) Do you like Barbies? (and if anyone really wants to get me a Christmas gift, I would totally accept that MA Barbie!!). What kind of cake would you order for Marie Antoinette? (I vote for strawberry cake with white icing and pink roses)

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Last night I watched a Netflix/History Channel documentary on the French Revolution .

The French Revolution must have impacted “our” time period. The English aristrocracy must have looked with horror upon the events of the Revolution, especially the Reign of Terror during which 16,000 to 40,000 people were guillotined.

Knowing what happened during the French Revolution helps me understand the draconian measures the British Parliament invoked during the social unrest after the Napoleonic Wars–suspension of habeas corpus, the Seditious Meetings Act, the restrictions on newspapers, etc.

(The conflict between social justice and social stability was essentially the conflict between my heroine and hero in Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress, by the way.)

Random thoughts after watching the documentary:

1. Something had to give. The disparity between the suffering of the poor and the excesses of the monarchy were too great. Desperate people do desperate acts. I cannot blame the French people for the revolt, nor the French people’s pride in seizing control of their fates.

2. Helping to fund the American Revolution helped to bankrupt France and led to the suffering of the French poor. How ironic is that?

3. There was a mix of altruism and fanaticism in the Revolution. Marat seemed to always have been a fanatic, spurred on by his own internal rage, having little to do with reality. Robespierre seems to have been an idealist who was corrupted by his own power.

4. I don’t like Marat. He gratified his need to be important by stirring up the people with plots and conspiracies which did not exist. Ironically, his murderer, Charlotte Corday who only wanted to stop Marat’s influence, made him a Revolutionary icon.

5. How did the Revolutionary heroes like Robespierre justify the Reign of Terror? Even 16,000 people executed is a massive number. And how could he justify killing men who were once allies, just because they disagreed with him? (of course, he wasn’t the only one in history to do this…)

6. How scary it must have been for even ordinary people at the height of the Reign of Terror. It seemed like almost anyone could get a person guillotined just by saying they were against the Revolution.

7. Robespierre sealed his own fate. When those close to you fear that they are next on your list, you rise to number one on their list!

8. I feel sorry for Marie Antoinette. Surely she had no power and no understanding of what the lives of the poor were like.

Do you have any random thoughts about the French Revolution? What do you think was its affect on the Regency?

Remember. I’m blogging at Diane’s Blog on Thursdays.

And be sure to visit the new Harlequin Historical blog on eHarlequin.

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I’m delighted to welcome my friend, Christine Trent, to Risky Regencies. Christine is debuting in Historical Fiction, trade paperback-size, with a wonderful book about Marie Antoinette’s dollmaker, The Queen’s Doll Maker. When she first told me about this book I just knew we’d see it in print and it’s out now!

Trent’s debut follows the fortunes of an intrepid heroine who triumphs over numerous obstacles. Her portrait of the world of a dollmaker places her in Rosalind Laker’s league; she takes an unusual profession, actual historical personages, a fascinating backdrop and places her heroine in a world of wealth, fame, intrigue and danger.– Kathe Robin, RT Book Reviews

“Winningly original. . .glittering with atmospheric detail!”–Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Affairs

“Unique, imaginative. . .replete with delightful details and astounding characters, both real and imagined.” –Donna Russo Morin, author of The Courtier’s Secret

We’ll be giving away a signed copy of The Queen’s Dollmaker to one lucky commenter, selected at random.

Welcome, Christine!

Tell us about your book.
THE QUEEN’S DOLLMAKER is the story of a young woman falsely accused of smuggling money and jewels inside fashion dolls destined for the imprisoned Queen Marie Antoinette.

On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil – as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home…Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France’s most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen’s dollmaker will face the ultimate test.

We love to hear “The Call” stories. Tell us yours.
Oh my. I suppose it was really The E-mail. Except I was too naïve to understand what it was. On a Wednesday, Audrey LaFehr from Kensington Books e-mailed me in response to a full manuscript I had sent to her. She said something like, “We really like your manuscript. When can I call you to talk to you about it?”

Any halfway intelligent writer would understand that this was the equivalent of The Call. Alas, it was me receiving this e-mail. So I ended up calling my friend Delilah Marvelle, who was too kind to tell me I was an idiot, and convinced me that, indeed, I was being offered a contract for publication.

Two agonizing days passed, and then that Friday afternoon, around 5pm, I was in the Staples parking lot in the middle of the pouring rain, carrying several packages to my car. My cell phone rang, and when I saw it was from a New York area code, I had enough presence of mind to realize that it must be Audrey. So I dropped my packages onto the soaked pavement and answered. I remember very little about that call, except that Audrey told me to think it over and get back to her the following week.

We’re all about being risky here. What is risky about your book?
I decided that if I was going to get the attention of an editor, I’d have to do something different with my heroine. Yet I wanted to do something that familiar to me. I’d just finished reading a biography of Marie Antoinette and was thinking on it while doing some organizing of my doll collection, when I thought, “What if Marie Antoinette had a favorite dollmaker?” My second thought was, “Uh oh, can I even find out anything about 18th century dollmaking?” Most dolls from that era are long gone, and the antique wax, china, and composition dolls that collectors buy today date from the early 19th century.

What interesting piece of research did you discover while writing the book?
First, that dollmaking was really a man’s job, because dolls of that period were made of wood and therefore carved by carpenters. And, of course, carpenters were men. Second, I learned that in the 18th century, cheap dolls made of rags or dried fruit were what children had for play. Carved wooden dolls, dressed in fancy fabrics, were primarily used to display current fashions for the wealthy (although some became playthings). It was also fascinating to learn that Marie Antoinette really did like dolls. After she had moved to France from Austria, she would send dolls to her mother and sister as gifts.

You have devised a unique way of promoting the book. Tell us about it.
I’ve done a little bit of community theatre, and I must confess to being a total ham, so I had a couple of authentic Marie Antoinette costumes made (panniers, crinoline, the works). I’m attending library events, book signings, book parties, and so on, in costume. I’ve been surprised by the fact that kids just love having their picture taken with “The Queen.”

But I was even more surprised to realize that there is a very good reason why a wealthy woman needed a lady’s maid back then: it is completely impossible to dress yourself. And the clothing is ridiculously heavy. Between the tight bindings of those weighty gowns and the extravagant, padded hairstyles, I don’t know how women of the French court remained upright!

What’s next for you?
I’ve just wrapped up a sequel, which follows the adventures of the dollmaker’s protégé, Marguerite. Marguerite goes on to become an apprentice to the great waxworker, Madame Tussaud, but her new career nearly melts down when the English Crown embroils her in a dangerous scheme against Napoleon. I’m still waiting for final word on the book’s title, but it is scheduled for release in early 2011.

Does anyone still have a favorite doll from childhood? Or the memory of a doll you loved? I’d love to hear about it!

(Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of The Queen’s Dollmaker.)
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