Filed under: Authors, Decadence, Marie Antoinette | Tags: Amazon, Bal a Versailles, book, diary, Fragrance, Fragrantica, iPhone, Kindle, lulu, Marie Antoinette, Melanie Clegg, Novel, Ormonde Woman, Perfume, scent, The Secret Diary ofd a Princess
If you only do yourself one favour today, let it be you snapping up the brilliant must-read historical novel The Secret Diary of a Princess by Melanie Clegg (Kindle edition) for the bargain price of £2.30 from Amazon UK or $3.69 from Amazon US.
If you’d like to read an excerpt – the moment when Marie Antoinette meets Madam du Barry for the first time – head on over to Melanie’s blog, and read it there.
Now, you may well raise up your skirts and be ready to squeal that you don’t have a Kindle, well neither do I, but I downloaded the free Kindle App for iPhone (I believe you can also get them for other brands of smartphone, anti-apple people ;p) for just such occasions as this (snapping up copies of favourite books for delayed travel emergencies & moments when you simply must have a bit of historical fiction to read, in order to escape from dreadful reality).
You’ll also be happy to hear that it’s published in the usual book format, too, for £7.99. All reassuringly papery and everything. So, that’s all bases covered and everyone’s happy. 🙂
The secret diary of the title belongs to the young Marie Antoinette, and in it we discover her innermost thoughts whilst viewing the turbulent events that shape her life. It’s immediately engaging, incredibly well researched and yet wears that research lightly, almost incidentally, because we become friends with her, we hold her hand and gaze – as she does – in wonder at the overwhelming brilliance and the spectacular world she becomes part of. This is history with a distinctly personal touch, and as a reader you are genuinely saddened when it comes to an end – you feel you have lost touch with that friend and are desperate to hear from her.
I wasn’t quoting “brilliant must-read” by rote from anywhere, by the way. I happen to know it’s brilliant and a must-read firsthand, being lucky enough to have read it previously, before it was properly published. However, I am so excited about the fact it’s now available for Kindle (and at such a reasonable price), that I have purchased it and mean to re-read it again very soon – the perfect antidote to tedious train journeys or vapid lunch-hours.
As an avid perfume fan, I was entranced to read Melanie’s descriptions of the heavy musk and jasmine in the air – indeed, the whole book is a sensory delight, with descriptions of food, drink and perfumes working together to create an intoxicating, heady experience for the reader entering this world. One stumbles out of it all slightly dizzy, wishing for the swish of taffeta and the smell of beeswax and hot chocolate all over again. I happen to match perfumes to my moods – depending on what I am reading and how I feel generally. Some may think that slightly peculiar, but I assure you it’s not at all uncommon in the world of us perfume-obsessives! 😉
For this book, the first time I read it I chose the beautiful Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez® – because, really, you couldn’t not, could you? I still love this perfume though haven’t worn it for a while – I must re-visit it soon! I first fell in love with it at quite an inappropriately young age (it’s a fragrance of… experience, shall we say) and just the thing for a book such as this. You can read my review of Bal a Versaille at Fragrantica, by the way, in which I wax lyrical about the scent and describe it in greater detail (scroll down, my username there is Miss_Nightingale – and many more excited fans of the perfume have added their reviews since mine, I’m glad to see!)
Today I am also wearing a suitable perfume (I think, anyway) for the era and ambiance this fictionalised account of Marie Antoinette’s early years creates. Although it’s distinctly a modern fragrance, Ormonde Woman, by Ormonde Jayne perfumes, begins in a heady puff of Black Hemlock absolute (usually associated as a poison!) infused with cardamom, violet, jasmine, vetiver and a woody-amber drydown that’s all powdery, soft and veritably dripping with sensuality. I was lucky to be treated to a bottle of this by my fiance, recently, and it’s simply sublime! I certainly feel as though I should be wafting about a candlelit ballroom with it on, or applying rouge and carefully placed patches whilst a maid powders your hair.
Whether it’s a totally wonderful historical novel, or a decadent new perfume to try whilst reading it, I do hope you’ll enjoy it – I know I did!
Filed under: Antique, Authors, Bawdy Couture, Costume Dramas, Etsy, Fashion, Modern Victorian, Painted Ladies, Victorian, Victoriana, Vintage | Tags: Adaptation, BBC2, British, Drama, Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White, TV, UK
Last week I breathlessly began watching the BBC’s four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s epic novel, The Crimson Petal and the White.
I had been concerned that, for want of a better expression, they would bugger it up, and wrote in my last post about the unique type of fear that ripples through you when you discover they’re filming a book you’ve really enjoyed. I know not everyone feels the same, but I happen to think they’ve made a pretty good stab at adapting a novel which mainly consists of richly detailed descriptive passages of narrative – surely a difficult task by anyone’s standards.
(By the way, if you missed the first episode of The Crimson Petal and the White, catch-up by watching it here)
In the first episode we spend more time at Mrs Castaway’s house of ill repute, learning about the inhabitants and their various vices. We meet Sugar, just as the narrator introduces us to the cast of characters in the novel, and we know just as surely we’re in the wrong side of town.
In my previous post, I squealed about how gorgeous the pictures of the costumes and sets were; having watched the first two episodes, I’m here to tell you the pictures don’t do them justice. I could gaze for simply ages at the way the sets have been dressed, that overarching Gothic gloom that shrouds both the worlds of the velvet-clad upper classes and the ghastly wretches in tatters.
Even the filth and mire of the notorious St. Giles Rookery area of Victorian London is lovingly realised, with the raucous dens of iniquity thrown into sharp relief against the lusciously opulent interiors of the upper echelons of society.
In the second episode we see the two worlds colliding, the velvet besmirched as the rot sets in. It’s wonderfully vivid stuff and, despite critics’ fears (hopes?) that it would be wall-to-wall rumpy pumpy; it’s really not that filthy, considering the subject matter and how salaciously titillating it could well have been!
I think Romola Garai makes a wonderful Sugar – I especially liked the way she kept her facial expressions entirely free of emotion – except perhaps of sheer boredom – as she, um, welcomed her clients. So to speak. Until she knew they could see her face again, at which point it lit up like an overly decorated Christmas tree.
All of this is nectar to me, as you may imagine, and very inspiring. Even before the first episode, I began building a collection of seedy Victorian items for use in an Etsy Treasury. The layout of that treasury may be seen at the start of this post.
I hadn’t had time to finish that before posting previously, but it’s now been published (linked above), and I thought I’d share its contents with you here.
Pictures from my treasury are scattered throughout this post, or click the link to go to the full-sized treasury list, and browse from there if you prefer.
Anyway, yes. It’s right up my street (or St. Giles alleyway), really, this tickling of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London. A look right up the lacy petticoats at the seething moral dichotomy which Victorian society so loved to wrestle with. Wonderful stuff.
If you read my previous post on The Crimson Petal and the White adaptation, you will have seen that some people got all hot under the collar, they felt it was “gaudily over-painted” and full of “Victorian Gothic Melodrama” – as though they’re BAD things. Well, anyone who thinks that would put me off obviously hasn’t cast an eye over the rest of this blog, and we doubtless wouldn’t see eye-to-eye. The gaudier and more melodramatic the better, if you ask me!
I find it rather amusing that sniffy people peering over the tops of their glasses are declaring it rather declassé, and in doing so, have completely and utterly missed the point. The Victorian public adored high Gothic melodrama, and both the book and the television adaptation are tipping the wink to this era in the form of an affectionate pastiche. As for gaudy, well, the Victorians could hardly be called minimalist, and thank the Lord for that.
Indeed, you could say it’s the decadence and the “pantomime characters” that serve as an attraction for me, in this austere age of dowdy realism and dull, lifeless, clumsy ‘re-imaginings’ of novels. I dare say that if you loathed the novel, you wont enjoy the BBC adaptation – just as if you detest mandarins, you should probably steer clear of mandarin flavoured sorbet. My advice is: Go for the lemon, old bean! Don’t put yourself through hours of torture on anyone’s behalf. I loathe Hollyoaks. I watched it once and hated it, and decided never to watch it again as it wasn’t at all my thing, but I shouldn’t dream of saying it should be banned, or criticising others for liking it.
I am here to tell you that television producers very rarely have my taste in mind when they make programmes. They practically never consult me before spending millions on their latest project. But neither should they, because I do not consider my taste (or lack of) is more or less important than anyone else’s. If I dislike a programme I may give it another go, or I may choose to switch it off and never let it darken my life again.
One thing I will never do, is apologise for liking gaudy melodrama. Never. I’m really quite awfully proud of it, as you can possibly tell by the merest glance at the rest of my blog! I rather suspect that persons who are troubled by things being too over-the-top and showy will have found their entire (albeit fleeting) visit to my blog to have been jolly upsetting…
Nurse! The smelling salts!
I do hope you make a full recovery, dearhearts. Don’t forget to loosen a few stays, put your head between your knees and breathe deeply into a paper bag.
If all else fails, have some gin!
Until next time,poppets
Filed under: Authors, Etsy, Victorian, Writers | Tags: Dark Road to Darjeerling, Deanna Raybourn, Etsy Treasury, Novel
Last night, Deanna Raybourn made me cry.
I was going to say “not deliberately, of course”, but it was deliberate! Quite purposefully done, indeed. Disgraceful behaviour.
I finally got to finish reading Dark Road to Darjeerling – Raybourn’s fourth book in the Lady Julia series, which, to date, has been the most gripping series of novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I say ‘finally’ finished, as it’s been sitting beside my bed, looking at me in a disappointed manner, for the last few weeks. Tsk.
It certainly hasn’t been lack of interest keeping me from reading it – I’ve practically been slavering to get my hands on it since finishing the third one – but I’ve had so much work reading to do (for various articles hither & thither) that I’ve had no time for pleasure-reading. For shame!
For the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve had a trapped nerve in my back, and that has forcibly slowed me down & given me time to catch-up with some old friends.
I don’t want to say too much about Lady Julia Grey, Brisbane, Plum, Portia, Jane and the host of eccentric family members, friends and enemies that dog their every step, other than to say they are some of my favourite people to spend time with (in print). 🙂
You don’t have to have read the others books in the series to enjoy Dark Road to Darjeerling, but I would say it vastly improves (obviously) your understanding of the nuances between the various relationships, and merely for your own bring-out-the-smelling-salts swoonsome enjoyment of following the romance between Julia and Brisbane. Just go and read them all.
Dark Road to Darjeerling was certainly worth waiting for. All the elements were there – murder, mystery, murky family secrets, all in a wonderfully realised exotic location and laced with Raybourn’s eye for detail and that great balance of darkness and light I love so much.
Some writers really struggle with one voice or the other, Funny v Serious, but Deanna Raybourn seems to glide effortlessly from one to the other, with great fistfuls of breathtaking plot along the way.
Oh, okay. About the crying, then.
Again, I cannot go into details for fear of spoiling the dénouement, but there is a particular scene in which Something Happens, and a short speech one of the leading characters gives in order to help another leading character deal with the aftermath [please forgive such convoluted ways of avoiding spoilering!] – and it was at this point I cried. The whole scene was handled with such overwhelming tenderness it just broke my heart.
After reading the third in the series – Silent on the Moor – I was inspired to write a post in which I breathlessly exclaimed how much I loved the novel; and went on to specially create an Etsy Treasury based on it (a themed selection of items currently available from sellers on the shopping site, Etsy).
I really enjoyed putting that collection together, and thought I’d like to do the same for Dark Road to Darjeerling. So I did. If you click on that link, it will whisk you to the full-sized Treasury, which is a bit easier to browse through at your leisure.
Hope you enjoy my selection of goodies, which are scattered throughout this post, as you may have seen, and which are presented as the full Treasury, below. Do have a good ol’ rummage through the rest of the items the shops have to offer- I was quite spoiled for choice! 🙂
Filed under: 18th Century, Agatha Christie, Authors, Books, Georgette Heyer, Marie Antoinette | Tags: Agatha Christie, ebooks, Elizabeth Von Arnim, Fanny Burney, free books, Georgette Heyer, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, Madam Campan, Maria Edgeworth, Marie Antoinette, Poirot
GirlEbooks is a brilliant website which “aims to make classic and contemporary works by female writers available to a large audience through the ebook medium.” It’s mainly the work of Laura McDonald and her mum, Joyce, with other contributing bloggers, and I happen to think it’s utterly wonderful.
Yes, there are many websites with free ebook downloads, but I particularly like the selections on offer here – they sort the wheat from the chaff, as it were.
You can get ebooks in lots of places on the internet, but our ebooks are hand-crafted and professionally formatted. Each ebook has a linked table of contents and text reflow for small reading devices. We create covers, correct errors introduced by digital conversion, and offer the ebooks in multiple formats to accommodate most ebook reading devices. All of our ebooks, even the ones in the ebook store, are DRM free (no digital rights management). This means that once you download the ebook, it is yours forever.
Here are some of my favourites, which you should probably all go and download immediately…
If you have ever heard me warbling on about one of my favourite ever authors – Georgette Heyer – and wondered what all the fuss was about, well, now you can find out for free by downloading The Black Moth (her first novel, published in 1921). It was also the first book of hers I read, a mere whipper-snapper myself, and I fell completely head-over-heels in love with her wit, sense of drama and the devastatingly attractive pictures she paints of complete cads and utter bounders. Heady stuff for a young gal and gave me a taste for very clever, sarcastic men. Oh dear.
First published in 1823, these memoirs were written by the first lady-in-waiting to Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Madame Campan became close to the Queen during her 18 years in service. Her memoirs divulge details of the daily life at the royal court as well as recount the events of the Revolution from the royal family’s perspective.
I’m reading this one at the moment, and it’s absolutely fascinating. Click the picture to be whisked to the download page. Highly recommended!
The Duchess of Devonshire’s second book, first published in 1778, chronicles the life of a young, newly married lady of high society not unlike its author. Written in epistolary format, the story follows Julia from her idyllic country life to her marriage to a rich aristocrat. She soon discovers her husband is nothing other than a rake, spending all his and her money on gambling and mistresses. An anonymous guardian, in the guise of The Sylph, writes to her, giving her guidance through her troubles…but will it be enough?
Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress, was Fanny Burney’s second novel and was first published in 1782. It is the story of Cecilia Beverly, a young and beautiful heiress whose army of suitors is made up of gentlemen, scoundrels, and many who are not what they seem. Admired by Jane Austen and many other contemporaries, it is said that the title for Pride and Prejudice is taken from the last pages of Cecilia.
Belinda, first published in 1801, is the story of a young woman who comes of age amid the distractions and dangers of London society. Belinda stays with both the extravagant, aristocratic Delacours and the sober, rational Percivals and molds her views on love and marriage from both. Admired by her contemporary, Jane Austen, Edgeworth tackles issues of gender and race in a comic and entertaining novel of manners.
Comedies of manners don’t always time-travel well, but in Belinda (for the most part) the comedy still remains fresh, I think, which is something that can be a bit lost in some older novels. Lavish descriptions of costumes, too, which is always a boon.
Four women, all strangers, escape the dismal English weather for a month-long retreat in an Italian villa. Once there, the company of the other women along with the “wisteria and sunshine” brings each character to a heartening realizaion about herself. First published in 1922, The Enchanted April was a best-seller in both England
Oh I still love this one – an especially good choice if you’re feeling under the weather and just want to curl up in bed with a heart-warming story that will definitely bring a smile to your lips.
You can’t beat a bit of Agatha Christie – another good choice for when you’re feeling poorly, I think. This is her first novel, published in 1920, and introduces us to the enigma that is Hercule Poirot, who went on to appear in 33 of her novels and 54 of the short stories.
Anyway, this is a mere glimpse, a veritable smattering of my favourites, but you should go and explore for yourself – GirlEbooks is a treasure-trove of good reads, and perfect for dipping your toes into the works of authors you have always wanted to try, those books you always meant to read, and some you’d never heard of!
Filed under: Authors, Books, Decadence, History, Marie Antoinette, Paris, Writers | Tags: Historical novels
Melanie Clegg – author, history buff, blog-writer and all-round good egg – has just published her second historical novel, Blood Sisters. What’s more, it is completely FREE to download until midnight tomorrow (June 15th)!
Click HERE to be whisked to the download page.
A stirring, dramatic and romantic tale of three aristocratic sisters, Lucrèce, Cassandre and Adélaïde that carries the reader from the splendours of Versailles to the bloodsoaked dangers of Revolutionary Paris, while all the while the guillotine looms overhead…
So, what are you waiting for? Go and get it, immediately, I compel you, dear hearts. You wont be sorry, and I am convinced you’ll be back for more from this author. Her first published novel, The Secret Diary of a Princess, was one of my favourite histroical reads of last year.
Filed under: Art, Authors, Bags, Brooches, Christmas, Cupcakes, Etsy, Fripperies, Gift Ideas, My Chemical Romance, Necklaces, Paris, Peacocks, Pearls, Trinkets, Vintage
It is often around this time of year that we hear the phrase “It’s the thought that counts” bandied about. It usually takes the form of a cringing hand-over of shoddy gifts with seemingly no thought behind them whatsoever.
Here, then, I hope to include some gift ideas (last-minute, I grant you!) into which I have put a lot of thought… but as my revoltingly swingeing pay check currently restricts gift buying to immediate family this year; they must, alas, remain a lasting thought.
I have been inspired by particular people for this series of gift guides, and they are particularly inspiring!
The first in the series is for my dear friend Hester – a lady blessed with immaculate taste, a bawdy sense of humour, and the ability to make people swoon with her notoriously wicked chocolate cupcakes (AKA: “dirty, dirty porn cakes” *cough* – because of the sounds people make when eating them!)
Direct links to items shown, left to right:
Hope you enjoy. 🙂
Until later, cupcakes,
Filed under: Art, Authors, Etsy, Fonts, Fripperies, Newspapers, Press, Print, Trinkets, Writers
My dad told me this riddle when I was a little girl. It cracked me up. I appreciated the play on words and I am sure it went some way to starting the fire below my burning passion for typewriters, newspapers and, particularly, the beauty of fonts.
For a little while, I was the sub-editor for a local magazine in Brighton, here in the UK. It’s probably the happiest I have ever been at work.
I got to circle other people’s copy in red pen, I got to play with fonts and buy fonts and introduce other people to fonts… glorious! For a while, I couldn’t read any other magazines, though, as I saw with a creeping sickness the old familiar press releases used word-for-word in place of an actual interview, I saw glaring mistakes that should never have made it past the subs.
Took me years to get over.
I used to proudly reel off all the fonts used in any publication you cared to mention. I couldn’t do that now. I kind of miss being a font nerd!
In praise of font nerds and writers everywhere, then, a selection of goodies I heart:
Direct links to items shown, left-to-right:
Until next time, dear hearts,