Tag Archives: history

Review: Love and other Perils – A Regency Novella Duet by Emily Larkin and Grace Burrowes

It’s always delightful to have a new Emily Larkin story to read, and when Ms Larkin announced this duet novella with Grace Burrowes, both stories with a prompt to include cats, I (naturally) pounced.

Given both novellas contain Regency era manners, cats and a love story, they’re very different while both being very charming!

Lieutenant Mayhew’s Catastrophe by Emily Larkin

Lieutenant Mayhew’s Catastrophe doesn’t contain any of the fantasy elements of the Baleful Godmother series, but it does trip along with all the vivacity and wit I’d expect.

Willemina Culpepper, who grew up around army camps with her family and father, Colonel Culpepper, is on her own now but determined to get back to having an adventurous life, which she’s definitely not getting in the quiet village where she lives with her aunt. She’s meant to be going to Twyford to become a companion for an ambassador’s children, but when she helps a fellow passenger – Lieutenant Mayhew – find the wayward kittens he’s taking as gifts for his niece and nephew, they both miss the coach.

A series of mishaps keeps them in strife as they try to meet the coach, find new modes of passage or just keep from falling in the mud on their way to Twyford. Willemina – Willie to her friends – has an absolute delight in the unpredictable, and Mayhew’s honour, good humour and chivalry make all their trials more of a friendly adventure than anything dangerous.

The escalating ridiculousness of their predicaments and shared laughter are comical, and a final disaster turns out to be perfectly timed for the happy ending. It’s all a confection of fun and fluff, and an adorable read on any day when you need something light and uplifting.

Catnip and Kisses by Grace Burrowes

The courtship of Antonia the prim librarian and Max the unkempt scientist commences when Max brings an unsolicited cat to the library to act as a mouser. But there’s a lot more to Antonia than her perceived spinster primness, just as there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes for Max Haddonfield.

Max, mostly raised by his sisters, is as big as a bear and gentle as a lamb, fostering stray cats and a stray pickpocket as well, as he carries out scientific studies he hopes will improve the lot of his fellow human beings. Antonia is not as isolated a bluestocking as she appears, and is plagued with a cousin who thinks their ‘inevitable marriage’ will keep the money in the family, and seems incapable of seeing that this is not, perhaps, the way to woo.

These two unusual people who defy stereotypes set about falling in love in their own distinctive way, with obstacles (largely but not solely in the shape of the obnoxious cousin) to overcome and wider lessons to be learned.

Their unexpected journey is witnessed by a lively supporting cast, including the two elderly Barclay sisters who haunt the library. Max’s young, thieving protege, Dagger, is a fabulous too, and the scene where he reveals the fears stoking his behaviour is one of my favourites.

Catnip and Kisses contains a lot of both cats and kisses, which is as it should be, made fun and light with a pair eccentric characters whom you can’t help loving, and cheering for.

Buy Love and Other Perils

My Library: New Acquisitions

3 books acquired for my research

I really need to stop buying books faster than I can read them.

*pause for mad laughter*

Yeah, we know that’s never going to happen. So while we’re recovering from our hysterical mirth, let’s have a look at three of my most recent acquisitions!

The Outcasts of Melbourne

ed. Graeme Davison, David Dunstan and Chris McConville

The Outcasts of Melbourne

In February, I attended the “Marvellous Smellbourne: early Melbourne’s noxious trades” talk at Docklands Library, presented by John Lack of the Docklands History Group. He spoke about the tanneries, abattoirs and glue factories that gave Melbourne its unflattering epithet, and how the city cleaned up its filthy air and waterways. He also spoke about this book, for which he’d written about the noxious trades.

I’m reading as much as I can about 19th century Melbourne, particularly about the working classes and the era’s social history as well as contemporaneous attitudes towards queerness (rather than what we *think* went on from a 21st century perspective).

The Outcasts of Melbourne offers insights on Chinatown, crime, poverty, disease and “low life” so it should be a rich source of period detail and plot ideas!

Inventing the Victorians

Matthew Sweet

Inventing the Victorians

I found out about this book during the recent broo-haha when author Naomi Wolf discovered she’d misinterpreted data about the death sentences for men convicted of homosexual sex in the 19th century. The radio host and author who highlighted the error live on air was Matthew Sweet, an expert in the era.

I’d been considering getting Wolf’s book, Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love , partly because its claims of the number of men executed for sodomy seemed at odds with some of my other reading (notably Graham Robb’s Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century).

I’ll still get Outrages in due course – a later edition with the corrections Wolf is said to be making, having found out that ‘Death recorded’ in the old records actually didn’t mean an execution took place. However, the whole thing introduced me to Matthew Sweet, so I’ve picked up his Inventing the Victorians to see what he has to say about what the Victorians were actually like instead of what we only *think* they were like. I’m looking forward to reading what the Literary Review says “overturns cliche after cliche”.

(One thing I keep discovering in my reading is that what people think the Victorians were like has a lot more to do with film and television and narrow interpretations through current social lenses than actual social history.)

Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914

ed. Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt

Pages Passed from Hand to Hand

I don’t now recall where I read of this title, but it came up in relation to all the commentary on the Matthew Sweet/Naomi Wolf commentary.

Among the things that interest me (or agitates me) is how some people like to insist that if two men or two women in the historical past had an intense relationship that ‘they were just good friends and stop trying to make everything gay you’re spoiling it la la la la I can’t hear you!’. I mean. Maybe it was intense friendship and hello, maybe they were lovers negotiating their love in a difficult time when they couldn’t openly acknowledge it, and either is a reasonable view maybe, but statistically a good number of those relationships were in fact deeper bonds and all my reading suggests quite a lot of them were, in fact, and so shush now, and stop pretending gayness never existed before people started labelling it. Shush now.

Ahem.

Pages Passed from Hand to Hand is an anthology of stories published before E.M. Forster’s seminal Maurice that contains the rich coding by which queerness was explored, hinted at, subliminally supported or otherwise threaded into writing during periods where same-sex sexual practices (and by association, same-sex affections, desires and hopes for established relationships) were under the shadow of the law.

The anthology contains stories and extracts by Herman Melville, Ambrose Bierce, Henry James, Kenneth Grahame and many others.

If nothing else, I’ll know which tomes to put subtly into the hands of my 19th century queer characters – from my interpretations of Holmes and Watson to other inhabitants of my historical fiction.

Now out: Grant Me the Carving of My Name

This collection of short stories is now available, raising money for the Scoliosis Association UK and full of wonderful tales of King Richard III.

Yes, that King Richard.

Among the many fantastic stories, Grant Me the Carving of My Name (the title used with permission of the poet who first wrote them, Carole Ann Duffy), are two stories by me – ‘Long Live the King’, a flash fiction about a possible alternative history, and ‘Myth and Man’, where Shakespeare’s Richard meets history’s Richard, at the moment of their making and undoing.

RIII on the radio!

I’m delighted to announce that I will be talking to Lucille Hughes on her Readings and Writings show on Inner FM on Wednesday 5 December.

Listen to 96.5 Inner FM live here.

Grant Me the Carving of My Name

I’m very proud to be included in this collection of stories about Richard III. The subject gives scope to a lot of storytelling approaches – ghost stories and the metaphysical; slices of history from Richard’s first battle or his happier years as Duke of Gloucester; even a little science fiction slips into the mix.

The book’s proceeds go to the excellent cause of Scoliosis Association UK, but it stands on its own merits too, as a series of glimpses into Richard’s true history, the history that was written for him by the victors of Bosworth and the new, kinder histories being invented for him by those trying to create a balance between the two.

Buy Grant Me the Carving of My Name

Pre-Order: Grant me the Carving of My Name – A Collection of short stories inspired by Richard III

I am so excited to announce that pre-orders are now available for the ebook of Grant Me the Carving of My Name – a book of short stories inspired by Richard III.

The book contains two stories by me – ‘Long Live the King’, a flash fiction about a possible alternative history, and ‘Myth and Man’, where Shakespeare’s Richard meets history’s Richard, at the moment of their making and undoing.

A paperback is also coming – I’ll update with those details as they become available.

Pre-order Grant Me the Carving of My Name

Press Release

An international group of authors who have all been inspired by England’s last Plantagenet King, Richard III, are working together to raise funds in support of Scoliosis Association UK through sales of a collection of their work.

Grant Me the Carving of My Name is an anthology of 15 short stories by a dozen authors from the UK, Ireland, the USA and Australia. It takes its title (with her permission) from a poem by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy which was read by Benedict Cumberbatch at the king’s reburial in Leicester in 2015.

The collection also features a Foreword by acclaimed historical novelist Philippa Gregory, author of The White Queen, which was dramatized by the BBC in 2013 and featured a rare positive portrayal of King Richard, by Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk, War and Peace).

The book

As Philippa Gregory states in her Foreword, ‘This collection has come about – as so many good things do – from a dream and a joke’ – when editor Alex Marchant and Wendy Johnson, a key member of the Looking for Richard Project responsible for rediscovering the king’s grave, joked about getting together to publish short stories they had written about this most controversial king. The enthusiasm of the other authors approached to contribute led to the dream becoming a reality.

The collected stories offer an alternative view of this often-maligned king and range from glimpses of his childhood and domestic life, through battles and rebellions, to explorations of the afterlife and his historical reputation. By turns elegiac, mystical, brutal, light-hearted, uplifting, there’s something for everyone within these pages.

The charity

King Richard himself suffered from scoliosis – a lateral curvature of the spine that would have become increasingly disabling and painful as he aged, and was only revealed during examination of his skeleton after his grave was excavated in 2012. Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK) supports children and adults with the same condition throughout the UK today and was the obvious charity to support with proceeds from this book.

The contributors