I’m very excited to welcome the lovely Marguerite Kaye to my humble blog this week in order to celebrate the release of her latest book – Rumours that Ruined a Lady.
We’re often talking about books and historical research, so what better subject to have a natter about here! Take it away Marguerite…
Hi there, and thank you so much for inviting me to talk about one of my favourite subjects, historical research.
I read a LOT, though what I don’t read a lot of are traditional ‘history’ type books. I do have those so I can check up on dates and times and key events, but it’s the detail of history I enjoy most, and the gossip, and for those two things, you can’t beat letters and diaries.
I first came across Lady Hester Stanhope in The Oxford Book of Letters (ed Frank Kermode and Anita Kermode). Lady Hester acted as her uncle, Pitt the Younger’s political hostess, before heading off to a colourful and ultimately tragic life in Arabia. It was many years later that I returned to her letters for inspiration when I was writing an Arabian-set romance, but that goes to show that nothing is wasted. The Oxford Book of Letters is one of those anthologies that are perfect for dipping into when you have a spare half hour. There is a letter from Fanny Burney to her sister which describes her mastectomy in a great deal of blood-curdling detail. What struck me though, was the strength of Burney’s personality that shone through, and the depth of the bond between the siblings that allowed her to be so frank. And that’s what I really love about this book. The letters are intimate. They not only give a real sense of the personalities involved, but they give a real sense of time and place, and for me, that’s what makes the history embedded in them memorable.
Historically, marriage is much more about property than love. I first came across Lawrence Stone’s books on marriage at university, little thinking that they would be of use so many years later. My much-thumbed copy of Uncertain Unions and Broken Lives is a fabulous source of material. Lawrence covers the full range of courtship, marriage, divorce and separation in England (which is quite different to Scotland). There are endless permutations of clandestine marriage, for example, that would make endless variations on plots for a romance. What has always struck me, particularly from reading some of the case studies he uses, is how relatively easy it is to get married, and how very, very difficult it is to get divorced – particularly for women, and particularly with the freedom to marry again. In fact, so difficult that I almost had to give my latest hero and heroine an unhappy-ever-after because I couldn’t find a historically-accurate way of getting her out of her first marriage.
I do like a good scurrilous history, and Julie Peakman’s Lascivious Bodies is just that. If you want to know the tricks of the trade employed by courtesans in the Eighteenth Century, or if you’re interested in finding out the range of specialist brothels Covent Garden had to offer, then this is your book. Molly Boys, cross-dressers, sexual toys and contraception, it’s all here, in bawdy yet authentic detail – some of which I included in my short, Behind the Courtesan’s Mask.
For ‘straight’ research, my current favourite was recommended by the very person who hosts this blog. Scotland’s Lost Houses by Ian Gow is a beautiful glossy produced by the National Trust for Scotland, of just some of the stately homes that are now lost to us forever. I ‘borrowed’ Hamilton Palace, exterior and interior, for Crag Hall, my hero’s home in Rumours that Ruined a Lady. The lush illustrations in Gow’s book inspired me to have my hero and heroine tour the house, and the photograph of the Golden Bed of Brahan (from Brahan Castle) inspired another scene in my book – though I added a mirror!
As usual, I have a huge ‘tbr’ list, but two books are top of the heap. First off, Antonia Fraser’s Perilous Question, on the drama surrounding the 1832 Reform Bill. It’s a subject I know little about, and I know, because I think I’ve read everything else Antonia Fraser has written, that she’ll bring not just the history but the characters to vivid life. It also helps that I am honoured to have managed to get my hands on a signed copy. Since I’m immersing myself in the 1920s for my next couple of stories, the other book is Mary S Lovell’s The Mitford Girls. I adored Lovell’s biography of Lady Jane Digby, so I don’t doubt I’ll enjoy this, and that it will give me loads of ideas.
But no matter how big my ‘tbr’ pile may be, I am of the very firm belief that you can never have enough books. So if you have any recommendations, do share them with me, I’d love to hear them.
You can see all my reviews, fiction and non-fiction, on my Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/MargueriteKaye. There’s more about my books, their inspiration and lots of other stuff on my website: http://www.margueritekaye.com. Or why not just come and chat to me about books and life in general on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/margueritekayepage
SPOTTED: LONDON’S FAVOURITE FALLEN HEIRESS, TAKING UP WITH THE ROGUE MARQUIS!
Amongst the gossip-hungry ton no name has become more synonymous with sin than that of Lady Caroline Rider, cast out by her husband and disowned by her family. Rumour has it that the infamous ‘Caro’ is now seeking oblivion in the opium dens of London!
There’s only one man who can save her – notorious rake Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow. Soon Caro is installed in his country home, warming his bed, but their passion may not be enough to protect them once news of their scandalous arrangement breaks out…
Thank you again for popping by Marguerite, and as a special treat, there is also a chance to win a print copy of Rumours that Ruined a Lady. All you have to do is tell us about your favourite book in the comments section, and then Marguerite will pick her favourite answer.
My own review will be appearing on the blog very soon, and why this book is particularly special to me
I also can’t resist adding that I’ve just been to my local bookshop and purchased Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England by Sarah Wise (I loved her book on grave-robbing) and The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones (I’m a massive Richard III fan). All this in my very own Yeadon’s bookshop Books Are My Bag…bag! I think you’d like the Wise one, Marguerite!