Fashion Friday: Victorian Carriages

Victorian Carriages

Carriages for the rich and famous. Via Daily Mail

Carriage love scenes are some of the best. Close quarters? Check. Lush fabrics and textiles? Check. Chance of getting caught and forced into matrimony? Double check!

When you think about it, it’s really quite amazing just what physical feats can be accomplished in a carriage. And for those you (who like me) may have trouble visualizing such luxary or simply are curious as to what Victorian Carriages looked like…here you go!

The Daily Mail posted this fabulous article about a Victorian Carriage(s) auction and it includes some gorgeous photography to really paint the picture of traveling in the Victorian and Regency eras.

I don’t know about you, but that purple and fushia woven pattern is to die for. As someone who gravitates towards neutrals and little pops of color, this is a wonderful first hand example of how we’ve embraced color and patterns historically!

Victorian Carriage Interior

Gorgeous interior of a Victorian Carriage up for auction via Daily Mail.

 

 

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Review: The Tempting of Thomas Carrick by Stephanie Laurens

The Tempting of Thomas Carrick - Stephanie Laurens - Review

It’s been a while since I’ve been back in the world of the Cynster Clan. I’ve missed them. A big fan of the original series (and you can read all about THAT here), I was so thrilled to hear that Stephanie Laurens was fulfilling every fan’s wish by writing the next generation of Cynster stories. I love even more than she started with Lucilla, Richard and Catriona’s daughter.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I was so enamored by the original family that I wasn’t sure how I’d feel moving onto the love stories of grown their children. However, when I read By Winter’s Light, Stephanie’s holiday novella, I knew that I was going to really enjoy reading Thomas and Lucilla fall in love.

Below is the book description (albeit a shortened version) and my review follows!

Book Description via Amazon:

Thomas Carrick is a gentleman driven to control all aspects of his life. As the wealthy owner of Carrick Enterprises, located in bustling Glasgow, he is one of that city’s most eligible bachelors and fully intends to select an appropriate wife from the many young ladies paraded before him. He wants to take that necessary next step along his self-determined path, yet no young lady captures his eye, much less his attention…not in the way Lucilla Cynster had, and still did, even though she lives miles away.

For over two years, Thomas has avoided his clan’s estate because it borders Lucilla’s home, but disturbing reports from his clansmen force him to return to the countryside. Duty to the clan leaves Thomas no choice but to seek help from the last woman he wants to face.

Strong-willed and passionate, Lucilla has been waiting—increasingly impatiently—for Thomas to return and claim his rightful place by her side. She knows he is hers—her fated lover, husband, protector, and mate. 

Lucilla sees that Thomas has yet to accept the inevitability of their union and, despite all, he can refuse her and walk away. But how can he ignore a bond such as theirs—one so much stronger than reason? 

Review

I remember being a young tween and wishing I could look into a crystal ball and see what life had in store for me. As someone who likes to plan and organize I would have felt reassured to know that good things awaited me in the future. Alas, while I did not have that luxury, our heroine, Lucilla Cynster, does. Since she met Thomas, and perhaps for a time before that, she has always know he is hers. Never wavering in her confidence, Lucilla takes advantage of the close proximity and unfortunate situations that bring Thomas back to his homelands and his clan in Scotland. Although resistant to Lucilla and his growing feelings, Thomas quickly recognizes the immediate chemistry and continues to tempt them both while bonding over trying to solve the unexplained and slightly bizarre happenings plaguing the Carrick clan. Of course, working together gives the couple ample opportunities to resist (and then to relent) to temptation, both physically and emotionally.

What I found so intriguing about this particular story is the confidence Lucilla has that Thomas is her one and only and that she is responsible for helping lead him (and them) down their destined path. This, of course, backfires, because who their right mind (man or woman) wants their life to be picked out for them without a say in the matter? But what was truly interesting was the difference between Lucilla and Thomas’ feelings. For example, with her unshakeable confidence and inner knowledge telling her Thomas is “it”, Lucilla’s path to love seems a bit easier from the outside. She’s open to falling in love and fully expects a partnership like the one her parents share. She is more concerned with how to help Thomas come to that realization than about examining whether or not he really feels the same way (or could feel the same way). It of course leads for a great plot as Lucilla has travelled so far down the road of love only to look back and see Thomas several paces behind. Thomas, on the other hand, has a long way to go before admitting he’s in love or even in like. Traumatized by his parents death at a young age, Thomas doesn’t expect, nor want, to fall in love with his wife. It’s an absurd idea. His fears are the main block between recognizing and accepting that the chemistry he shares with Lucilla is only an indication of so much more. With so many heroines and heroes across the romance genre doubting themselves and their feelings, it was a refreshing change to see a heroine who absolutely knew what she wanted, what was destined, and what would make her happy…

…Of course the fall for Lucilla when things don’t work out the way she intended (at least at first) is that much harder…and make the love shared between them that much sweeter.

I also have to say – that this book included some of the longest steamy scenes I’ve read in a while. So if you enjoy the steamy, this is definitely a book for you!

Personally, Marcus, Lucilla’s twin brother, stole the show for me. He is such an interesting and contemplative character and I can’t imagine spending all this time investing in a space and in a community and knowing that it’s not your final place – and he handles it with such grace – as far as we know! I’m also dying to know who is really behind all the attacks within the Carrick clan. Stephanie is letting that mystery linger until the next book, which is out in April.

Also – if you haven’t take the time to appreciate the cover art work – please do! I really loved the cover and inside artwork for this book.

Overall, Stephanie does a great job reintroducing us to the Cynster clan, while still letting us know that the next generation is going to be vastly different than the last. She breathes life into these characters and their stories. Considering we’ve moved from the Regency to the Victorian era, I’m really interested to see how these stories evolve for the London cousins and the rules by which they live and love.

Historical Resources: Romance, Customs, and Marriage

Historical Accuracy Romance Customs Marriage

I just finished reading “A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey” – a wonderful book that I received for Christmas from the hubby. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to Sunday nights now that Downton is back on. For fans, this book outlines the year (both above and below stairs) based on the calendar month and includes great character spotlights, recipes, and customs. It’s a quick and fun read and the photography is beautiful. What’s also interesting are the tidbits from Julian Fellows talking about his inspiration for the show and how his aristocratic relatives were key figures in developing some of our favorite characters including Violet and Robert.

Additionally, I wanted to share a great article published by the Library of Congress. The article, From Dollars to Distinction, talks about the historical accuracy of the show and romance of the time period. A “Year In the Life of Downtown Abbey” also goes into the historical detail and features interviews and comments from both producers as well as hair, make-up, and costume crew. Also Alaisdair Bruce, the historical consultant for the show, is featured. It’s really amazing how much research and historical knowledge go into making the show.

Finally, if you’re intrigued by this topic (both romantic customs and American heiress such as Cora from Downton), I highly recommend “How to Marry an English Lord.” It’s a wonderful book that outlines all the American wealth and their most eligible female representatives crossing the pond to marry titles. It talks about courting, how marriages worked (and didn’t work), as well as spends some time addressing how the traditional “English Roses” felt about the increased competition (the marriage mart was already difficult as is!). Overall, a wonderful read and resource should you be inclined.

 

Review: Wallflowers Series by Maya Rodale

Wallflowers

I just finished reading Maya Rodale’s Wallflowers trilogy – a historical series set (mostly) in 1820s. I love a great historical trilogy and these hit the spot. What’s interesting about this series is there is a contemporary element as Rodale has three modern day novels about the “author” of the historical Wallflowers series. I haven’t read those yet, but the concept is really interesting and also has a touch of transmedia storytelling to it (more on that below). But first, the reviews!

The Wicked Wallflower

The Wicked Wallflower - Maya RodaleThis might have been my favorite book. The series starts out as three friends, Ladies Emma, Olivia, and Prudence despair of being the only three graduates from Lady Penelope’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Fine Families to not have wed by their fourth season. Adding to their panic is the school’s 100th anniversary ball that is only a few weeks away. Determined to not be the outcasts on their way to securing (the most) unflattering school history record, the girls scheme and plot to land husbands. The problem? They’re known as notorious wallflowers and are labeled as London’s Least Likely.

In this first book, we watch Lady Emma announce her marriage to the Duke of Ashbrooke in the popular The London Weekly newspaper. Of course, this all comes as a surprise to Duke Ashbrooke who has never met Lady Emma nor proposed marriage. Thanks to a bit of too much sherry and her devious friends, Lady Emma faces the decision of utter humiliation when the Duke denies the marriage or of even larger humiliation of attending the school ball husband-less. To Emma’s delight (or maybe horror), the Duke plays along with Emma’s scheme for reasons of his own.

Redeemed rakes are some of my favorite heroes, and this book doesn’t disappoint. Reading Emma and Ashbrooke fall in love (and the hilarious ways they go about it) is pure entertainment and quite a delight. What I really enjoyed about Emma is that despite (or perhaps because of) being a wallflower, not only does she believe in true love, but she also has a strong mind and wit. I enjoyed her kind nature, her spirit, and her unshakeable belief in HEA for her and her friends. Additionally, I love when the hero has a purpose and passion outside of the heroine (multi-dimensional characters for the win!),which Ashbrooke does with an invention that will change the world.

This book puts the series off to a great start and builds a wonderful cast of characters that soon are the stars of their very own love stories.

Wallflower Gone Wild

Wallflower Gone Wild Maya RodaleShortly after Emma’s story wraps with a HEA, we see Olivia have her chance at marital bliss…to Lord Radcliffe, otherwise known as the Mad Baron. Rumors swirl that the Viscount murdered his first wife and has now returned to town to claim a second victim. To put off her would-be-husband, Olivia and her friends scheme once more and come up with deplorable and completely unladylike scenes to assure Lord Radcliffe that Olivia is certainly not the biddable, docile, and perfect English wife he thinks her to be.

The only problem? Lord Radcliffe is not only innocent (sort of) in his first wife’s murder, but he’s put up with far worse than Olivia’s attempts to dissuade him from the match. What we come to realize is that Lord Radcliffe feels an instant spark for Olivia, which soon ignites to full passion which is quickly followed by full-blown love. Despite not getting what he thought he had bargained for, Lord Radcliffe couldn’t imagine a more suitable wife. Which of course completely terrifies Olivia. But as Olivia roams about town wearing too much make-up, drinking too much wine, and causing tongues to wag amongst the ton, she starts to question everything she really knows about the Mad Baron…and if he is truly mad at all.

I really enjoyed Olivia’s antics because as a young lady myself once, who doesn’t want to break the rules and shake things up (even if we don’t really want to break the rules, right?).

What a Wallflower Wants

What a Wallflower Wants Maya RodaleA slightly darker turn than the previous books, as the last wallflower, Prudence gets ready to attend her school’s ball… alone…and as the only unwed lady in the school’s history. We learn quickly that there is a reason behind why Prudence so readily embraces being a wallflower…a secret that no lady should ever have to keep. However, her burden is slowly lifted and trust in men quietly repaired by Lord Castleton, who Prue meets while stranded due to a unflinchingly long storm outside of London. (How did she get there? You’ll have to read to find out!) Slowly, Lord Castleton and Prue develop feelings as he helps reclaim not only her body, but her soul. However, Lord Castleton has a secret of his own (as many of the best heroes do). One that could destroy himself and most definitely bring harm to Lady Prudence…for Lord Castleton is not who he says he is.

I applaud Rodale for taking on such a serious topic that many ladies of the time faced and for having Prue learn to love herself and another despite over coming a terrible thing in her young life. It was delightful to watch Prue grow and conquer her fears because fighting for love is the worthiest fight of them all.

I really enjoyed this entire series and was a little sad to have them end…the good news? Rodale has expanded her story world through the use of transmedia storytelling, which I teased at the beginning of this post. Stay tuned because a full exploration of The Wallflowers as a transmedia experience is coming soon!

Review: Love by the Numbers (Sarah MacLean)

It has been a while since I’ve done a romance review, but I just finished a new series (new to me anyways) and thought I’d share!

I was fortunate enough to actually take a romance writing course with the author, Sarah MacLean, and not only was it a super fun class (how could writing romance NOT be fun?!) but it was so incredibly insightful in how authors bring to life such amazing stories.

What I really love about MacLean’s books is they are full of incredible writing and storytelling. We’ve all read the romance novel that while we might love the story and love the characters, we know (and gladly accept) that it is not the most eloquent prose. Personally, as a romance reader, as long as the story hooks me and I’m invested in the relationship I can usually overlook everything else. But the best romance novels are those that not only feature a unique story, but are so well written you feel almost scholarly (a sexy scholar, obviously), which is exactly what you get with this series!

9780061852053The Love By Numbers trilogy follows three siblings of the Ralston House as they find love. The first book, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, is the tale of Callie and Gabriel, Marquess of Ralston. What makes this first book so fun is Callie is not your typical heroine. Labeled a wallflower (a title she has all too willingly accepted), Callie is spurred into taking control of her own life upon the engagement of her younger sister. Overhearing a conversation regarding what to do with her and her spinsterhood, Callie decides if she’s going to be put on the shelf she might as well live life to the fullest. Her adventures ultimately lead her to partnering with the Marquess of Ralston, Callie’s long term crush and ultimate male fantasy. One kiss is all is takes for their own adventure to begin. This was by far my favorite of the three books. There is something so relatable to Callie that makes you want to be her best friend.

9780061852060The second book, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, was my second favorite book. Following Nick St. John, Gabriel’s twin brother, we trade in the London season for the Yorkshire country side where we meet Lady Isabel Townsend. Lady Isabel is used to shouldering burdens, both of her family and beyond. Never the one to ask for help, you can imagine her surprise when London’s “Lord to Land” shows up on her door step ready to assist her in assessing her marble collection. Although wary of her secrets getting out, Isabel rolls the dice and allows Nick into her life (Best.Decision.Ever). We all know that ladies with secrets make for some of the best heroines (and stories), which is why this was such a great read (believe me, Isabel has plenty of secrets!).  This tale has a more dramatic flair to it and pairs a strong willed heroine with a caring and compassionate hero. It’s a delightful read through and through.

9780061852077The final book, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, took a while to grow on me. I found the heroine, Juliette, entirely unlikeable at the beginning of the book. Additionally, the story’s hero, the Duke of Leighton, isn’t exactly full of the warm and fuzzies either. However, about 10 chapters in I began to become fully invested. I will say that even though it was hard to immerse myself immediately in this book, both of these characters probably underwent the largest transformation of the entire Love By Numbers series (which is pretty awesome). Additionally, one of the best surprises of the book is that Penelope Marbury makes an appearance! For the longest time I couldn’t place where I had read Duke of Leighton until Penelope came into the picture. It was then I realized she is the heroine in MacLean’s current series The Rules of Scoundrels (which I am completely obsessed with). There is an even BIGGER surprise at the end of this book (especially if you have read the Scoundrel books, including Temple’s story) that was such a brilliant connection that I am giddy with anticipation for the final Scoundrel book release this November.

For fans of the Scoundrel series looking for something to read before Chase’s book comes out, I highly recommend Love By Numbers. And if you haven’t read either series – you can’t go wrong – but if you read fast like I do, go ahead and plunge into Love By Numbers so that when you move onto Scoundrel’s you won’t have to endure the agonizing wait for the final book!

Enjoy!