Sunday, August 19, 2012

Picture Perfect

Admiral Nelson's mistress, Emma, Lady Hamilton, first came to public notice after agreeing to do it several times. When Oliver Cromwell did it, he didn’t even hope to conceal his warts. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage while doing it.

Though a care-worn Marie Antoinette sat for artist Alexander Kucharsky in 1791, only her head was completed, while her clothing remains unfinished.

I’m talking about sitting for a portrait.

In the days before photography—and even after it, in Roosevelt’s case—it was customary to “sit” for an artist. Since only people of consequence could afford to have their portraits painted by artists of note, both the subject and the artist tried to keep the sitting time to a minimum. It was customary for artists to sketch or paint a subject’s face from life, but to use a body double when painting in the rest of the body—or just to hand the work off to an apprentice once the head was finished. (Many studios employed artists who specialized in "drapery," or painting the lavish folds of a subject's clothes.) Even with this concession to practicality, however, subjects were required to sit for hours at a time over a period of days or even weeks.

Bad skin, spindly calves, wrinkles, a bald spot? Any artist who hoped to enjoy the patronage of the great knew enough to overlook such flaws. Occasionally this artistic license could cause problems.

Though Oliver Cromwell insisted on having his warts painted by artist Peter Lely, his one concession to vanity was choosing to be painted in the armor of a military leader.

Contemplating marriage to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII sent the artist Hans Holbein to paint her portrait. After seeing the finished likeness, Henry agreed to the wedding—but when the real Anne presented herself, Henry was so bitterly disappointed, he dubbed her “The Flanders Mare” and quickly had the marriage annulled.

(Though it was common practice for artists to flatter their subjects, one notable exception occurred when Oliver Cromwell had his portrait painted by the artist Peter Lely. As a good Puritan, Cromwell eschewed vanity. He was famous for instructing Lely, “use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it”—an instruction that has come down to us in the more colloquial expression “warts and all.”)

George Romney's 1785 Emma Hart in a Straw Hat was among the many portraits of the beauty that helped to make her famous.

But a good portrait painter and the right subject could make magic together. In 1782, Charles Greville sent his mistress, then using the name Emma Hart, to sit for the artist George Romney. By all accounts Emma was both beautiful and charming, and Romney was so taken with her that she became his muse. He developed a lasting obsession with her, continuing to sketch and paint her all his life. Romney's paintings made Emma so famous that when Greville needed to distance himself from her in order to marry a young heiress, he had no trouble convincing his uncle, the British envoy to Naples, to take Emma on. The uncle not only made the cast-off Emma his hostess, he made her his wife. She married Sir William Hamilton in 1791, and it was as Lady Hamilton that Emma nursed Admiral Horatio Nelson back to health seven years later after the Battle of the Nile, kicking off one of history's great love affairs.

Nowadays, thanks to photography it takes only seconds to create a perfect likeness. But while sitting for a portrait took far longer in the past, the hours involved meant that the artist often came to know his subject far better than most modern photographers do. While the best portrait artists painted out superficial flaws, they managed at the same time to capture the essence of their subjects' personalities.

Alyssa EverettAlyssa Everett's debut regency romance, Ruined by Rumor, is currently available from Carina Press, and her second regency will be out in March of 2013. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easy Fruit Salad Recipe

The end of summer is coming, but I still love fruit salad.  Here is one of the easiest recipes for a tasty fruit salad. Trust me, if you like fruit, you'll love it! This is a great dish for parties.

Fruit Salad:

Mix the following in a large bowl and chill

1 can peach pie filling
2 bananas
1 large can pineapple tidbits drained
1 can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 package frozen strawberries

By:  Patricia Ann Preston
Author of Amazon Best Sellers: The Yard Sale,  Laid to Rest
Carina Press: Almost an Outlaw

Thursday, August 09, 2012

RWA National Conference

I attended my first Romance Writers of American national conference in 1990.  Fate stepped in.  I had just started writing a few months before the conference took place just across San Francicso Bay from my home.  Those few days definitely changed my life.  I found myself surrounded by over a thousand people who wrote and loved "those books" and who gave me permission to be proud of what I was doing.  I also, suddenly, had people I could talk to about my writing.  My husband didn't get what I was talking about, and neither did my friends.  Later on, of course, I'd join my local RWA chapter, find a critique group, and when the internet became popular, made dozens of on-line writing friends.  In the summer of 1990, I was totally isolated in my writing.  RWA national was the first time someone treated me like a real writer.

I haven't attended every conference since then, but I have gone to many, and I always make sure to get to the ones on the West Coast.  Of course, I was going to go to Anaheim this year.  Even getting clobbered by my own cane dropping out of the overhead bin, courtesy of a flight attendant who was trying to secure it at the time, couldn't stop me.  They took me off that plane but put me on a later one.  If you saw me wearing a floppy-brimmed, brown hat, I was hiding the boo-boo on the top of my head.

Boo-boo notwithstanding, I was also determined to get a new publicity picture.  The old one was nice, but it didn't show me in all my 63-year-old glory.  Plus, I knew this photographer would capture my Attitude -- that age is no reason to cut and die your hair or to stop grinning.

There are people I only see at RWA national, like my friend and amazing writer, Pamela Clare.  I also got a hug from my editor at another publisher from back in the day.  I haven't written for him since 2001, but we've remained cordial.  Never burn your bridges in this business.  It's a small world, and editors move around.  As the delightful Robyn Carr said in her lunchtime address, you may have heard that the squeaky wheel gets the grease but sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets replaced.

Then, there were the parties.  As a Carina author, I was invited to the Carina cocktail party and the Harlequin party afterward.  The staff had created a special cocktail for the Carina party that was so good, I didn't dare have a second for fear that I'd end up having a third and a fourth.  The Harlequin party, well, that's notorious.

All this sounds like a writer's dream...hobnobbing with your editors, having a publicity picture taken, going to publisher parties.  It is fun, and I indulge myself whenever I can.  Honestly, though, that fun only lasts for a few weeks, and then you return to the real joy.  The writing.

The truth is, all those other things are trappings.  The creation is its own joy.  It has to be, or you could never survive the hours and hours of pounding on keys and revising, revising, revising.  When an editor tells you she loves your book (once you've revised it again, of course) and she sends it to production you know you've done something wonderful.  When it comes out, either in print or e-book format, and readers tell you they love it, that really is the greatest reward.

I know that some of you reading this have always wondered if you could write a book and get it published.  I'm here to tell you you need to try.  Set your feet on that path.  Write words every day or every week...whatever amount it takes you to get to "the end" before you've forgotten what the beginning was.  Then submit and submit.  Maybe next year, I'll see you at the Harlequin party!

Monday, August 06, 2012

The brief life of Past!Susanna

History geek that I am, I've been known to daydream that the TARDIS shows up in my back yard, and the Doctor (preferably Nine, yum!) invites me to go on a little research trip to the past. I'd love to visit 1812 (or 1787, or 480 BCE, or any number of other years). But I've never wanted to live there. I'm too fond of voting and owning property, for starters. I also like electricity and all the wonderful things it makes possible, like air conditioning and the internet.

You know what else I like? Antibiotics. A few years ago I came down with a vicious strep infection.  It started with a few days of sore throat and low-grade fever that didn't much worry me, but then one morning I woke up with a fever of 102. I somehow staggered in to see my doctor, who did a rapid strep test and gave me a prescription for powerful antibiotics. My fever broke within 24 hours, and I felt healthy and energetic again within 48.

It got me to wondering how long I would've lived, had I been born 200 years earlier but otherwise had a broadly similar medical history. I'm almost certain I wouldn't have made it to my current age. I was a very healthy child--some of which, no doubt, was thanks to immunization and the public health efforts that eradicated smallpox, but we'll assume for the moment that Past!Susanna also survived her childhood unscathed. (There's a chance she would've been inoculated for smallpox, come to think of it, though it wasn't universally done.)

My 20's were healthy, too. But when I was 7 months pregnant (and just turned 33), I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension and put on medication and bedrest for the remainder of the pregnancy. I managed to make it to full-term, only to have a forceps delivery after Miss Fraser got stuck. Everything ended well, but 200 years earlier? Probably NSM. The blood pressure issue might've been survivable if I'd had a doctor who bled me--since hypertension is just about the only condition bleeding actually helped. As for the rest, well, forceps were around, but rarely used, and there's a good chance nothing of the sort would've been tried until it was too late for Miss Fraser, if not for me.

And if by some odd chance I'd survived childbirth? Well, then the strep infection probably would've gotten me. All things considered, I'll take 2012.

What about you? If you'd been born 200 years earlier, would you have reached your current age?


Susanna Fraser enjoys 21st century comforts in the Pacific Northwest. She has two historical romances out with Carina, The Sergeant's Lady and A Marriage of Inconvenience. Her next book, An Infamous Marriage, releases November 5.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Scandal in Cleveland Street

By Erastes

This scandal has lost a lot of its fame due to another homosexual scandal that emerged a year or so later, about a certain Irish poet and a peer of the realm...

But in 1889, there existed a male brothel in Cleveland Street, London. It was a higher class of brothel, set in Fitzrovia, Central London, and attracted a higher range of clients. It was likely that the brothel would have continued unimpeded, for it's very probable that the constabulary were well aware of its existence had it not been for a spate of thefts at the Central Telegraph Office.

Whilst investigating these thefts, Police Constable Luke Hanks was interviewing and searching the staff. Telegraph boys were forbidden to carry personal money on them, as they had to handle money in the course of their business, and Hanks found one young man having the sum of fourteen shillings on him. A sum that was, in that time, the equivalent of many weeks work at the Telegraph Office and one that is worth around £400 in today's money.

When pressed, the telegraph boy, one Charles Thomas Swinscow, admitted that he hadn't stolen it, but had earned it as a prostitute at 19 Cleveland Street, employed by a man called Charles Hammond. He said he'd been introduced to Hammond by others in the Telegraph Office. It transpired that several young men worked for Hammond and statements were taken from them all.

Hanks realised that this matter needed to go further up the chain of command and the case was delegated to Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline. Abberline went to arrest Hammond but he'd fled--one of the young men, Henry Newlove, had tipped him off, but Newlove himself hadn't been able to get away and was taken to the police station. Once in custody, he named names--notable names--and the scandal began to leak out.

He named Henry FitzRoy, Earl of Euston, (who later successfully sued the newspapers for naming him as a client of Cleveland Street), Colonel Henry Jervois, and worst of all Lord Arthur Somerset, Equerry to the Prince of Wales. The police and government were reluctant to act due to the sensitive nature of the business and the high profile accused clients. They continued to search for other clients of the brothel, which of course had been closed down.

Then in August they went to arrest George Veck--a man who posed as a clergyman (an offence in itself) and a close friend of Hammond. A rentboy found in Veck's rooms told the police where to find him, and upon his arrest he was found to be holding incriminating letters from one Algernon Allies. When questioned, Allies said that he'd been working at Cleveland Street--and he confirmed that he'd been in a relationship with Somerset, and had been receiving money for sexual favours. After the police interviewed him, Somerset left the country for Germany.

Shortly afterward, Veck and Henry Newlove went to trial. But guess who their lawyer was? None other than Lord Somerset's own solicitor, Arthur Newton! And guess who paid the legal fees? Yep. Lord Somerset. As you can imagine, the press was having a field day by this point. NOBS NOB RENT BOYS!!! would be the headlines in the press today. The press were vitriolic about the aristocracy indulging in vice.

Due to the fact that Newlove and Veck both pled guilty to indecency, their sentences were "lenient." They were sentenced to four and nine months' hard labour. Other telegraph boys also caught up in the trial were dealt with leniently. Hammond was never extradited and the charges were eventually dropped.

As for Somerset himself--his life was never the same. He attempted several times to return to England, but risk of arrest kept him having to leave again. He eventually spent his life in France.

The trial, with its intermittent flare ups thereafter in the press, which reinforced negative attitudes about homosexuality as an aristocratic vice, kept homosexuality high in the public eye. Details had been available to the public in a way it never had been before. This didn't help Oscar Wilde when, a few years later, he was tried for gross indecency.

Despite the fact that Prince Albert Victor (pictured) had never been mentioned in the press (this was not allowed as he had not been brought into the trial--oh, HOW things have changed, eh?), speculation rumbles on from that day to this as to whether the second-in-line to the throne had ever been a customer of the notorious 19 Cleveland Street. The American press certainly seemed to have no such scruples on the matter:

Erastes lives in Norfolk UK and writes primarily gay historical fiction. She has two novellas out with Carina: Muffled Drum and A Brush with Darkness and is working on another Regency. You can find out about her many books on 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Gentleman's World

Readers of regency romance can’t help being aware that the gentlemen’s clubs were enthusiastically patronised by the elite in society. The represented a female-free haven from the stresses and strains of the social season, an environment in which a little male bonding went a long way. 

Each club epitomised common interests – political, artistic, sporting and military, for example. They were exclusive, sophisticated and seeped in tradition. Most were a collection of several rooms that afforded their members elegant dining, plenty of space to relax and, most importantly of all, gambling—the scourge of the Regency age and beyond.

The most famous club of all is White’s. It started life in 1693 as a public coffee house but after being burned down in 1753, it moved to St. James Street, where it still exists today. Beau Brummel immortalised the place when he sat in the famous bow-windows and passed judgement on the fashion sense of the passing gentry. 

Boodles established itself as a political club but Brooks was far more popular during the Regency years since it was best known for its gambling. Charles Fox is reputed to have played for twenty-two hours straight, losing 11,000 guineas – a fortune. Overcome by debt, he was apparently so popular that his fellow members helped him out.

It’s a testament to the bond between members that even as recently as 1973, when Lord Lucan allegedly killed his nanny in mistake for his wife, the members of his elite gaming club closed ranks to shield him from the full force of the law. Perhaps they succeeded because he’d never been seen since. Well, not officially anyway.