Saturday, November 17, 2012

Never Expected to be a Royal Bride...








She wasn't the type you'd expect to be considered as a royal bride. As a matter of fact, she herself---May---never expected the summons from Queen Victoria. May's mother was a cousin of the Queen's...and she had met the formidable Queen many times...but...why was the Queen asking her to come to Balmoral? There was no point in speculating. May packed for the trip and her brother, Dolly, would accompany her.

Once at Balmoral, Queen Victoria's favorite Scottish retreat, May was summoned to meet the Queen. The elderly Queen proposed that May agree to marry Prince Eddy, her eldest grandson. May listened, quiet. Eddie was odd in his ways, but a decent boy. She kept her eyes fixed on the Queens, knowing that she must say YES....she could not say no. And in agreeing to this, she would one day be Queen of England herself. She did not think about Eddy as a man.....no, she thought about her duty. She did not think about producing heirs, again, she thought about her duty to England. What a priviledge this was...having an audience with the Queen herself and being asked to agree to this arranged marriage. Certainly the Queen had thought it all out. May, the Queen said, had the bearing and countenance to be Eddy's wife and she would quite suitable in all ways. Yes, May was in shock. She thought ...in the back of her head...Dolly was right, she has asked me to agree to be a royal bride....May---Princess Mary of Teck, hid her smile. But even though she supressed her smile, she could feel anxieties mounting within her. She was told a secret. Prince Eddy would propose to her over or near the Christmas holidays, and she should accept the invitation to Sandringham for the holidays from the Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Eddy's parents. The Queen kissed her hands, and May bowed deeply.

"Your Majesty, I will do as you wish," she said.

"Good Child, you are the sweetest of girls, brought up so very well. I have told my eldest daughter of my feelings for you...I feel you are perfection for our dear Eddy...."

Back in her room at Balmoral, she realized she was cold. There was always a draft in the castle, no matter what the time of year. She covered herself in a blanket. Wasn't it true that there were whispsers that Eddy, her Eddy, was the Jack the Ripper? Oh, it just couldn't be. He couldnt do such things. They must be all wrong -- it was all rumours. No, she thought...Cant be true. Although these rumours were meant to be kept from her, she had managed to hear a bit about it. Eddy is a bit odd, but a sweet gentleman...loving and caring, she thought firmly. He had never been anything other than proper with her, displaying the very best manners. Both of the Prince and Princess of Wales son's had been nothing than extremely pleasant to her and her family. She pushed her uneasy thoughts aside. All would be well. Soon she would see Dolly and tell him in confidence of the news....for now she would take a brief nap....

Near Christmas, she was summonded to Sandringham with her parents. There was much excitement. May remained composed, while her plump mother, Mary Adelaide, cooed with her excitement than was really inappropriate.

"Mama, let's wait until he asks for my hand. He may or may not," said May, in a tone which was made her seem older than her years.

"May, dear, he will ask. Why else are we being summoned? The Queen told you to expect as much."

May leanned into her mother and whispered, "Eddy may have changed his mind. Perhaps he doesnt agree with his Grandmamma....."

But later, Eddy asked May to follow him to a boudoir. He took her warm hand in hers, and May knew what was coming next. It felt so wonderful to have him hold her hand so very softly. His hand was large, but his skin was rougher than hers. She trembled. Eddy asked if she would agree to become his wife. May agreed quickly, saying, "Yes!! Yes!!" Eddy then took both of her hands and kissed them.. He smiled broadly and May---who did not smile often---returned his smile warmly and broadly. He squeezed her hands.

"May, dearest, I will make you the happiest of women. I promise to do my best. We shall keep this between ourselves until we get the Queen's blessing. Is that all right with you, my dear?" he asked.

May looked at the Duke of Clarence, heir to the Throne of England. "Yes, Sir, anything you wish."

"Dearest, do not call me Sir when we are alone. Eddy or Edward is allright."

"Thank you Eddy. We will do as you wish."

Eddy kissed her hands again. May was enjoying this far too much. She loved the way he held her hands She was caught up in the moment. She was not quite sure she loved him, yet, none of that mattered now.

"Darling, I hope you dream of us tonight. It is late. Let me have them escort you to your room and we shall speak tomorrow?"

"Yes, Eddy, I think I should retire. As you wish,"

Eddy let go of her hands. "Sleep well."

Back in her room, for the first time in her life, May danced around her room. It was true! He loved her enough to marry her! The wedding would need to be planned---she would finally have a real home of her own--- and there would be no money worries. Her family was always in arrears.....never having quite enough and soon that would change when she was the third most important lady in the land....

The engagement was announced on December 7th, the day that May returned to London. There were cheers, for her!! She could feel the change in the air. Oh, there had been cheers for her and her family in the past...but not like this! People were screaming her name, wishing her luck, Everyone wanted to see their future princess. Later that day there was a lunch at Marlborough House, the home of the Prince and Princess of Wales...and later, the Queen made a trip to London. Everyone was offering her congratulations....the lights were on at Marlborough House and there was much activity and visitors. All of this was for May and Eddie. May was supremely happy.

The wedding day was chosen----February 27, 1892. They would reside in apartments in St. James Palace in London, after their marriage. There was so much to be done, and May and her family were filled with excitement. Not everything was perfect---there were issues with the family and some jealousies and not everyone was happy about the betrothal----yet, May took all this in stride, remaining stoid, focused, and deeply excited.

During the cold winter of 1982, in the beginning of January, May traveled to Sandringham, having a very bad cold. Once she arrived, she realized that practically everyone was sick there. Prince George, Eddy's brother, was getting over thypoid, and, like most of Britian, influenza was rampant.  The Princess of Wales had sniffles and her daughter was tucked away in bed, ill. Eddy's 28th birthday was coming up...on January 8th. Right before his birthday, he felt unwell. Clearly, May could see his was not well. His brother took his temperature and sent him to bed. May sat in his room. But in the days ahead he became worse. Dr's were called and they said his lungs were inflamed. Soon he became delirious. Messages were sent to the Queen, who was profusely worried, but her son Bertie forbade her to make the trip to visit. George and May watched Eddy, from behind a screen in his room..

In the days to come, he shouted, thrashed.... and his fingernails turned blue. The dr's feared the worst, and the family was summonded....May stood behind the screen and took turns leaving so that other relatives could visit. If....If.....Eddy died....what would become of her?? Oh, she shouldnt be thinking of herself. Chastising herself, she began to pray. The Dr's were doing everything they could....he would survive....wouldn't he?

He was Heir Presumptive to the Throne of England....God would protect him....she felt sure of that. But, what if she was wrong?

For...M

Friday, May 01, 2009

What happened that cold winter....

Part II of A Queens Mother...
And...as I was saying on the post below...what happened when they got to Sidmouth was so terrible that... WELL, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Victoria's mother and father, The Duke and Duchess of Kent, arrived at Sidmouth on Christmas Day during quite a snowstorm. Here they would spend their holiday at the sea. The "cottage" was very close to the sea...only about 150 yards from it. The Duke had just gotten over a gastric upset but was feeling better. Little did they know that it was to be one of the coldest and severest winters anyone could remember.

A few days after Christmas, the Duchess of Kent was sitting in the drawing room. It was a quiet afternoon and baby Princess Victoria was with her.The quiet was literally shattered as a bullet blast through the drawing room windows. It turned out to be a local boy shooting birds...and he'd misfired. The royal couple did not want him punished, however, it must be prevented from ever happening again.

The days were sunny and cold, but the nights were bitter. The Duke wrote that the nights were "rather canadian." During the day the Duchess walked near the sea with Princess Feodora (Victoria's half-older sister) and worked hard on her English lessons. She was still speaking fluent German, and had a hard time conversing in English. The Duchess took some sea baths and the Duke spent time writing letters.

About January 7th, the Duchess began to worry. Baby 'Vickelchen' was restless and she feared the baby wasn't feeling well. The Duke also caught a cold. However, he insisted on going outside with Captain Conroy--his equerry--to look after the horses. He returned later chilled to the bone and wet. The next day his cold got worse--quite. He couldn't even walk outside with the Duchess. He rested but was not better the next day. They were expecting company and the Duke would not hear of cancelling. He wanted his guests to come that evening. As a wife and mother, the Duchess must have worried.

That night, his fever rose. Alarmed, the Duchess summoned the doctor the very next day. The doctor didn't like the way the patient looked at all and was concerned. The Duchess was determined to take care of him and nurse him back to health. She worried, though, about his cold room. It had such a draft. Even with the fireplaces lit it wasn't sufficiently warm. She wrote to a confidant that her beloved husband was very ill but that she was nursing him to the best of her ability. Feodora also caught a chill but the baby Victoria seemed better.

But then the doctor decided that he needed to bring in the dreaded leeches. They believed that blood letting would bring down the fever and so they were applied to his chest. On the 12th of January, the Duchess had the Duke's bed moved to a warmer room. It was really imperative to keep him as warm as possible. His fever has risen, he had pains in his chest and other symptoms. The doctor decided to blood let him again when he became delirious. And when that didn't help him, he needed to be bled again.

He was being tormented...couldn't anyone see that? the Duchess thought. It anguished her deeply to watch him suffer through this...with all these blisters on his chest. He wasn't getting better...he was getting weaker. She sent for the royal physician--begging for him to come.

The doctor that was there urged her to rest but she couldn't. She stayed by her husbands side and hand fed him all his medication herself. She tried to comfort him and reassure him. She spent a few minutes when she could with Victoria, but was upset and inconsolable. Here they were in this place--this frozen place at the sea--and all alone. They were so far from help...so secluded. It was more than she could bear. Oh, why had they come?

But there was more to bear. The doctor decided that the Duke should be cupped, which was another form of blood letting, but this one more painful. The Duchess would barely watch the scene as this went on hour after hour. Her dear husband was near delirium and in great pain.

Soon though, one of the royal doctors arrived. It wasn't the one she had hoped for, as he was tending to the King. The new doctor decided that more blood letting needed to be done. They had already taken 6 pints of blood from him. But...he was a strong man. He had always been one of the very strongest of the Princes. He would pull through. If any of the King's sons could, it would be him.

The Duchess of Kent wrung her hands in misery as she watched this blood letting go on ---for days. It was so painful for the Duke that at one point he cried when they told him they needed to do it again. His wife felt it was weakening him---yet, no one listened to her. Anyway, she had trouble communicating with the doctors.

Word was sent to the Duchess's brother---Prince Leopold. Leopold had been married to the Prince Regents daughter, but unfortunately, she had died in childbirth. The Prince and some others headed to Sidmouth in the frigid cold. It was an icy cold that Leopold would never forget. They arrived to find the Duke in a terribly weakened state. Soon after they arrived he used the last of his strength to sign his will. His wife remained at his side--she would not leave him-- and was holding his hand tightly as he took his last breath and passed away.

They had cherished each other and the Duke had shielded her in all ways. What would she do without him? Here she was in a foreign country, barely able to speak English. Yet...baby Princess Victoria was in line for the Throne and as much as she wanted to FLEE---she could not. Prince Leopold reminded his german sister that she had a destiny to fulfill. Victoria must stay in England. Yet, she couldn't believe that her husband was...gone. He had protected her...he had been her dearest friend and confidante. And...the royals did not like her.

It was then that she found out that since the Duke was in terrible debt, there was not even enough money to pay for the trip back to London. Victoria was only 9 months old...and Leopold felt sure they (the royals) wanted to drive the Duchess from the continent.

In late January they left the cottage, never to return. Leopold took his sister and the children back to....well...actually...they didnt know where she was to go. The Prince Regent wasn't fond of the Duchess and it wasnt known if he would allow her to return to her home at Kensington Palace. They couldnt go to Claremont (Leopold's home) because there had been an outbreak of measles.

Not knowing what to do, Leopold begged Princess Mary, the Prince Regents favorite sister to help him. She interceded and permission was granted for the widow to return to Kensington, and a letter was dispatched to Leopold as they journeyed back.Thank goodness! After all, the Prince Regent couldn't throw a widow out in the cold, could he? But when they arrived home, there was more bad news. The creditors wanted to be paid, and the Duchess had nothing. Not only was she coping with being a widow, she had no source of income and the creditors wouldn't leave her alone.

Several requests were sent to the Prince Regent to help. Here she was---a widow with children, and one in line to the Throne of England---certainly, something should be done to help her. She deserved some pity. And the Prince Regent said...NO! He wouldnt throw her a pence. He would give her nothing. The creditors took everything--furniture, glasses, linens, horses and carriages. They took anything that wasnt nailed down and was worth anything at all. The Duchess was left with nothing. Nothing. Can you imagine her thoughts and anxiety as she watched her possessions being carried out?

No husband. No money. No things. And she had a baby.

So much has been said of Victoria's mother. I wonder, though, if that happened to you...what you would have done? And, this reads like fiction. Sometimes the real thing is crazier than any fiction one could imagine.

And thats how Queen Victoria's mother started out... in that, oh, so wonderful year of 1820....


Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Queen's Mother

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You may have noticed that I've neglected the blog, but I do have a good reason and I'm getting back to it now---and have stacks of to be read Queen biographies piled high. First off, I decided to go back to work full time and also got a promotion and so the job needed my undivided attention, as you can imagine. And you know how that is. There was much to learn and it's been exhausting. I was also offered a contract for "Royal Watercolors" which is a romantic historical--with many true details of the life of Young Queen Victoria in it-- and I've been busy working on that. Edits, edits and more edits. But it came out beautifully...and will be released soon in A DANCE OF MANNERS, by Highland Press. It's a Regency Romance Anthology. The cover is up at the top right, and it came out lovely. There will be four other regency romances in the anthology by some very talented authors. If you haven't heard the term regency, it simply refers to a period of time in England from about 1800 to 1830 approximately (that's the long regency period).

It came as a shock to me---this whole book thing!---but, as you know some of the best things in life come unexpectedly.

You may have heard that the movie "Young Victoria" was released in England this month. I've been following this closely. Queen Elizabeth seemed a bit disappointed in some of the details of the movie, but overall I think she liked it. Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York, was instrumental in getting this movie made due in part to her fascination with Queen Victoria---alas---I am fascinated with her too. I've got a copy of the screenplay which I hold dear. And I've even dashed off some emails to some VIP's involved with the movie. The United States hasn't yet announced a release date, if any, but I hear there are negotiations underway. No one has ever done a movie on her young life. I think people will be surprised when they see that Victoria had a thrilling young life and she isn't the Queen in black widow's weeds as they'd been lead to believe. That's only part of her life.

In my novella, you'll get a feeling of what it was like for her living in Kensington Palace---alone, with only her governess and her "Mamma" for company. She was shielded, lonely---and many of her relatives simply couldn't bear to be near her German mother. And did you know that Victoria was conceived in a race to have a new heir for the Crown after her cousin Princess Charlotte died unexpectedly during childbirth? It was a terrible shock to the nation. It threw the royal family into a tizzy, and quite frankly things were never the same.

Much has been said and written about Victoria's mother---the Duchess of Kent. She was a minor royal in Germany when she was introduced to the King's son, the Duke of Kent. He was looking for a wife in the race to produce an heir. She had two other children from her first marriage---a girl, Feodora and a boy, Charles. She was a widow. She took to the Duke of Kent. He was kind to her...very kind. He took care of many of the details and worries which concerned her. She genuinely cared for him and he genuinely cared for her too. The Duke had given up his long time mistress---which hurt him---but he knew that he must produce an heir. In order to do that he needed to marry and have any future child on English soil.

Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as all of that. His brother, the Prince Regent who had recently lost his own daughter Charlotte, didn't care for his brother at all. He wouldn't lend a hand to help his brother establish a residence in England for his future wife or help him with his mountain of debts. He didn't care less that his brother had married this minor German royal and that she was soon expecting a baby. The Duke of Kent reminded his brother that his wife might be carrying the future sovereign of England. The Prince Regent couldn't care less.

The reason the Prince Regent was called "Regent" was because his father, the King of England, was locked away in Windsor Castle and had been declared insane. Therefore, the King needed a regent, someone to make the decisions for the crown. The Kings eldest son did that and was therefore known as the Prince Regent...and that's where you get the term "regency" from. From the time the King went insane until the time the Prince Regent became King was known as the "regency" period. (Actually, the time until the death of the Prince Regent who was King at the time of his death is known as the long regency period.)

Enough of that. Here we have the poor Duchess of Kent....expecting. She has two other young children and she needs to leave her beloved home in Germany...and travel to England which was an uncomfortable and long trip for someone in her condition. And did anyone care? Did anyone help her? No. And she didn't even know how to speak English.

Some of the Duke of Kent's sisters intervened and spoke to the Prince Regent about preparing a place for the new couple who would be arriving in England, but the Prince was simply not interested. Did he hate the fact that his own daughter had died and that someone else would be succeeding him as sovereign?

Many letters flew back and forth from Germany and England. The Duke and Duchess of Kent knew they weren't being welcomed with open arms. It must have hurt the Duchess to know that. She had done nothing wrong. Her whole life was being turned upside down with this move to England and she was even having a baby. No one would give her husband the respect he was due, as one of the King's sons. The baby was due in May. The Duke and Duchess of Kent knew they needed to set off well in advance of that date so that the baby was born in England. It had to be. They could not take a chance that if the baby was born early they were not in England.

It was a long and tiring journey and one of the Duke's most trusted servants came with them. His name was Sir John Conroy, and he was very helpful to the Duke and Duchess. But one day...none of them could have known...Sir Conroy would be involved in a bitter dispute with Victoria and the cause of much misery. But, none of that had come about yet.

When they arrived in England, they were given apartments in Kensington Palace. The Duke of Kent was appalled. The apartments were in a total state of disrepair. (OH, and let me say that these apartments are not what WE would think as apartments....several bedrooms, a small drawing room...a library.....NO. They were massive apartments with at least two floors. There were servants rooms, a kitchen, libraries, bedrooms and sitting rooms, drawing rooms...even small ballrooms in some....) Still though, there were terrible drafts coming in through the windows, much of the wood was rotted in the window frames, it smelled damp, the rugs were threadbare, paint peeling and it was generally run down. Although the Duke of Kent was stretched for money, he somehow made arrangements for the interiors to be fixed adequately and he and the Duchess ordered furniture---even nursery furniture. Although ignored by the royal family by the most part, they were supremely happy when they moved into the apartments only several days before Princess Victoria was born in the middle of May.

The Duke of Kent was simply overjoyed! He doted on his wife and the baby Princess and spent much time in his new library which had been decorated elaborately. It was a happy time for the couple, although the Prince Regent treated them terribly on the day of Victoria's christening. He treated them so harshly that the Duchess of Kent was forced to hold back her tears. The Regent would not even agree to the parents choices of names for their child. She was to be known as Alexandrina.

Several months later, the family traveled to Sidmouth, near the sea. It was to be their Christmas holiday. It was the coldest winter there in many years...at least as far as anyone could remember. They were excited to be there, but I suspect that with the wind, the terrible cold and snow they were hesitant to stay... and what happened there not only will chill you to the bone...you will never forget it as long as you live.

And I'll write about that next time.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Many thanks


Cinderella from the World of Royalty kindly awarded me the Proximate Award which is given to "friendly bloggers"...and so I thank her for that. I refer to the World of Royalty often. I now have the luxury of awarding it to eight other friendly bloggers--and all excellent blogs as well, and I daresay far better than mine!

Tea at Trianon

Scandalous Women

Medieval Woman (Reading, Ranting and Raving)

Enchanted by Josephine

Sandra Gulland Ink

Writing the Renaissance

Passages to the Past

Jane Austen's World

Reading the Past

Versailles and More

You might notice I chose ten--forgive me---I couldn't help myself. They're all fabulous and unique. (I'm pretty sure that some of them have already won this award and some other awards as well.) Pssst...I won't say anything if you don't. And if you have the time, you won't be sorry if you browse through any of the above. You'll get lost in them, I'm sure.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not Queen, but Mistress




Yesterday, Sandra Gulland's new book titled Mistress of the Sun was released in the United States. For those of you who aren't familiar with her, she is the critically acclaimed author of the trilogy of novels about Josephine Barnoparte. I've mentioned the trilogy before on my blog because I enjoyed them so much and Sandra really brought the Empress Josephine to life. And because I love QUEENS so much---well, of course I loved that. Her new book is about the life of Louise de la Valliere who was the much beloved mistress of the famous Louis XIV of France.
I'm amazed at her work, really. I was lucky enough to chat with her recently online in a royalty group and she graciously agreed to tell me about the process of writing the book. Right now she is on a publicity tour throughout the U.S. If you have a chance to read the book, please do so. I can highly recommend it. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy and I can tell you that I was immersed in the court life which took place centuries ago in France. Louise was not a Queen...but, if things had been just a little different, she might have been.
Here's the interview:
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Sandra, one of the reviews for your new book really caught my eye...."No one gets more deeply into the heart and mind of a historical character than Sandra Gulland. In Mistress of the Sun, the joys and sorrows of Louise de la Vallière are so real and immediate that I now feel as if Louis XIV's first mistress was a dear friend." -- Susanne Dunlap, author of Lizst's Kiss
How do you manage to give your characters such depth and such soul?
It comes down to imagining what it was truly like for a character — but this is not something that comes naturally or easily. It takes countless drafts to reveal a character's emotional reality: What was it really like for her? How did she really feel? Creating multi-dimensional characters is also something that develops over time, over many drafts. A character may be wooden and one-dimensional in early drafts, and then slowly begin to round out, to flower. Details make a difference.
Please tell us about your new book, Mistress of the Sun.
Set in 17th century France, Mistress of the Sun is a novel about Louise de la Vallière, a name that will likely be unfamiliar to people outside of France. As mistress to Louis XIV, the Sun King, she was, in effect, the "real" wife to one of the most powerful and charismatic kings in history.It's a remarkable period, at the early stages of modernism, yet with strong elements of the Middle Ages. Witchcraft was no longer punishable by death, for example, but that didn't mean it wasn't practiced: and with dire results. What interested me most was the use of "bone magic," a type of witchcraft practiced on horses.
Why did you choose 'The Mistress' ? What was it about Louise de la Valliere that appealed to you?
Louise was reported to be shy and timid, yet she was something of a tomboy, extraordinarily daring on horseback. She was sincerely devout, yet she became France's official "fallen woman." Like Josephine, she was an unlikely young woman to rise to such a prominent position. She was of relatively modest birth, an unambitious and, although cultured and intellectual, a somewhat unsophisticated young woman. It was the contradiction of all these elements that drew me to her ... but most of all, it was her amazing horsemanship. Clearly, this was a young woman who was spending most her her time on the back of a horse. She was not at all typical of the women of the period.
You seem to be drawn to royal figures. What intrigues you about them?
On a practical level, I’m interested in the lives of real people, and royal lives are documented. I will read a biography and get interested — so visibility is part of it. With both Josephine and Louise, however, what interested me is that they were not born into that royal world ... so it’s not hard to identify with them. They are like strangers in a foreign land, and we make that journey with them.
Could you tell us a little about your writing process for "The Mistress of the Sun?"
I started to write about Louise after I finished The Last Great Dance on Earth, the first of the Josephine B. Trilogy. I thought I would take a year off from Josephine’s story and sketch out the rough draft of a novel about Louise before returning to Josephine. (An unrealistic plan!) I was about six months into a novel about Louise, and quite caught up in it, when I was offered a contract for the Trilogy. At that point I had to drop everything and jump back into Josephine’s world. I put my notes and pages about Louise in a box: I told myself I would get back to this novel after I finished the Trilogy. Of course, it was many years! In 2000, after the publication of The Last Great Dance on Earth, the last of the Trilogy, I opened that box. By that time, I had three novels published, and I knew a bit more about what it took to write a historical novel. For one, I needed to do considerable research. It took time for me to collect resources and become comfortable in a 17th century setting. In particular, I also understood what a challenging story Louise’s would be to tell, that it would be hard to make work, impossible! After writing a (flat) first draft, I decided to write about La Grande Mademoiselle instead. That didn’t work either. So I thought I’d add Athénaïs, Marquise de Montespan, into the mix: that didn’t work. You have to understand that each of these dead-ends took a year. Then I tried mixing the three stories together: what a mess. Ultimately, after many years, I sent a draft that told the stories of both Louise and La Grande Mademoiselle to my agent. She reported back that she really liked Louise’s story. I was so relieved! Later she mentioned, over lunch, as if in passing, that La Grande Mademoiselle didn’t really come to life for her. I returned home pleased with the feedback—until I realized that the part that didn’t work was well over half of the manuscript. At that point I decided that I was just going to have to brave it and tell Louise’s story. I went back to my original notes and started again. It was a long, arduous process: many, many drafts, and many up-to-the wire additions and deletions. It wasn’t until the very last that I knew how it would end, for example.
I know it is now available in Canada. When will the book be released in the USA?
Mistress of the Sun is officially out in the U.S. June 3.
Before you wrote your current book, you were very busy with your Josephine Bonaparte trilogy, which is so widely popular. Could you tell us a little about what you loved about Josephine and the process of writing about her?
Josephine was a lovely person to spend a decade with. She was savvy and sympathetic, loyal — a really good people-person — but the most amazing thing about her from a writing perspective is that she was right at the center of what was happening in France through many changes in government. She had the best view, you might say, of anyone. Through her eyes, you could see it all unfolding. There aren’t many people in history with such a dramatic life story, both on the personal and political levels. For a novelist, Josephine’s life was like a treasure chest of riches. I was astonished that more hadn’t been written about her.
Do you miss Josephine? Was it hard putting her books away and preparing for a new subject?
It was quite hard to finish the Trilogy, knowing that that would be the end of my close involvement with Josephine and her world. I felt numb for a period of time. After about six months, I made the bold decision to sell my collection of Napoleonic books: on a practical level I needed room for books on my new subjects, but also, I think I needed to draw a line for myself, make it clear that I wasn’t going back to that period in history. I kept a small shelf of my favorites, my treasures, but let the others go: hundreds of titles. It was wrenching, but the right thing to do.
Now that you have finished Mistress of the Sun, do you miss Louise?
I’m very fond of Louise; there is still a strong connection for me. I think if I had to chose between Josephine and Louise (and it’s impossible, of course), I would prefer to have Josephine as a friend, but I would prefer to be Louise — not to have her life, which was so hard, but to have her ardent passion. What I will miss most in moving on from Mistress of the Sun is researching 17th century horsemanship, which was a significant and fascinating part of all my years working on Louise’s story.
Personally, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. I'm sure many readers feel that way. Is there anything you'd like your fellow royal lovers to know about Louise de la Valliere?
The French translator of the Josephine B. Trilogy recently read Mistress of the Sun and reported back that he liked that I wrote about, in his words, “women of silent power.” I like that. Women of the past were often silent—and silenced—but that didn’t mean that they were without power.Can we look forward to another book in the future about a royal subject? No doubt! I’ve been thinking about a member of the royal family, La Grande Mademoiselle, the Sun King’s cousin — an early feminist, an eccentric, the wealthiest person in Europe. If I do write about her, it will be a departure for me, for she was born and raised with the expectation that she would be a queen.
******
Sandra is the ultimate "Queen Writer" !!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Coming Full Circle


What does this have to do with a Queen?

(Oh, and by the way---The Abdication Part II is below...)

You're thinking--well, what is this western picture all about? And what does it have to do with Queens, or royals? Well, I'll tell you.

Even though I have a firm grasp on my royal studies--I still need help. I need someone to look over my royal fiction and give me good boot when I use too many adverbs, use the wrong pov...and someone to tell me the truth. Luckily for me, several years ago I met a lovely girl from Britain who doesn’t live that far from Windsor Castle. She was a writer too, and a good one. We started swapping work. I was in New Jersey, reading of her heroines in New York or Arizona or Alaska...and she was in England reading about the English royals in London or at Windsor. It was sort of odd, but I suppose I wanted what she had...and she had a hankering for the US. She helped me with my Americanisms and I'd tell her if something wouldn’t ring true with us Americans. We systematically went though many manuscripts--mostly hers, I have to say...because she was more prolific than me. I'd try systematically to do several Chapters every week and send them to her at 9pm or 10pm my time so when she was waking up in England she'd have them waiting for her. I guess we complimented each other...because I gained confidence as a royal writer...and I remember when she told me "I felt a chill go down my spine" after she read one of my royal pieces. And I guess I did something good for her, because she was pounding out the work and taking my suggestions....and her hard work's been recognized. Resplendence Publishing offered her a contract for one of her manuscripts---called Circle Star—and that's the cover for it. It's just out this week. She is a wonderful author if I do say so myself. And her name is

Tatiana March....

I've been so excited about this. She's a published author. The book kept my interest from the minute I read the first scene on a ranch in Arizona until the end. The heroines name was Susanna Talbot, which was almost my name! My mom's maiden name is Talbot, and she almost named me Susanna or Sue-Ann Talbot, so I wrote Tatiana about that, and we giggled over the coincidence. What’s the chances of that? And I also told her to hurry it up and write more because I was curious about Susanna and Connor.

Tatiana and I worked very hard on several manuscripts and I came to love all her heroines. We talk about them as if they were family. And her hero....ooh, especially Connor, in Circle Star...is especially sexy and has a sort of animal magnetism. And Susanna ruins his life...and then years later, in a twist of fate---can only keep the ranch which is rightfully hers if she marries Connor...that is what her father decreed in his will. Well, she has no idea where he is ...and, even if she finds him by some miracle... will he even speak to her, much less marry her?? It's a page turner, for sure.

Sometimes in life you do well because of the people you've met in your life...they enrich your life...and make you a better person, and a better writer. And that's why I wanted to pay tribute to Tatiana today, and announce her first book, because she has worked so hard--as hard as anyone I've known, and she's enriched my life---the other side of my life that I don't talk about on here much...except to casually mention my CP or the fact that I've critted quite a few chapters. But she is a real person who has an extraordinary talent I think. She is very proud of me, and I am very proud of her. And if it wasn't for her praise of my royal knowledge and writing ability...I probably wouldn’t have ventured into the blog world or had the confidence to send proposals to agents, and sit and type away at my fiction. She's the one that tells me I have guts and talent when I feel like throwing in the towel.

Here's just a wee bit from the book...AND, I must say, she gave me a sensational excerpt!

The sensitive boy was gone, replaced by a hard man. The amber color of his eyes was exactly as she remembered, but instead of the gaze that had been gentle, sometimes a little shy, their expression was flat, almost dead. Even in repose the full lips conveyed bitterness. When he turned his head toward her, she cried out again. A thin white scar ran along the left side of his face, from cheekbone down to the jaw.
“Little Susanna, all grown up.” His voice rang deeper and a little slurred. “You took your time.”
Her lips began to tremble, and she couldn’t speak.
“You’ve finally succeeded in tracking me down. Are you just going to stand there and say nothing?” Connor lifted a hand to the bartender. When his glass was filled, he picked it up, but didn’t drink.
“You knew I was looking for you?” Susanna forced out the words. Her knees buckled, and she clung to the edge of the counter for support. The storm inside her mind blew with a thousand winds, all whistling different needs and wants. More than anything, she ached to reach out and touch his face, make it come alive again, the way it used to be.
“I can read,” Connor said. “I saw it in the newspaper.”
“But you didn’t come, or telegraph, or write.”
“Why should I?”
Susanna shrugged, feeling helpless against the hard barrier around him. “Curiosity?” she offered.
“I mind my own business and expect others to mind theirs.”
This time there was a flinch. She wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for the glass of whiskey in his hand, full to the brim. Some spilled over the edge, onto his fingers. Connor raised his hand and tossed back the rest in two gulps. “What’s that got to do with me?” he asked as he propped the empty glass on the counter.
“My father had you in his will.” Susanna lifted her chin and fixed her gaze upon his hard face. “That’s what he wanted to tell you that day, when you ran away. That he was leaving Circle Star to both of us together.”
Nothing changed in that stony expression. Not one flicker.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Susanna demanded, suddenly furious. “I hadn’t told him about … about that other thing. You ran off like a fool, when he was offering to make you his heir.”
“So? I ran off. That’s all in the past.” She could sense a decade of emotion packed into those few words – regret, anger, pain. She was fairly certain that if Connor hadn’t been drunk, his voice would have revealed nothing.
“No, it’s not all in the past,” she told him. “My father never changed his will. You can still have half of Circle Star.”
“Can have? Is there something I have to do first?”
“Yes.” Susanna lowered her eyes to her clenched hands. She uncurled her fingers and tilted her face up to him. “You’ve got to marry me.”
She could feel him stiffen by her side. Then, with an exaggerated casualness, he reached into his pocket and tossed down a few coins. “Get the lady a shot of brandy,” he called out to the bartender. “She looks a little shaken.” Picking up his hat, he turned and weaved his way across the room to the front door, while Susanna remained by the counter and watched him go.

Ooooh!

I tend to be picky with my fiction because my head is usually in biographies or history books. But Tatiana's fiction satisfies my cravings. Sometimes I wonder how she thinks up some of this stuff. If you'd like to check out her new book, Circle Star, just go to Resplendence Publishing at
http://www.resplendencepublishing.com/
You can also say hello to her on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/tmromance


So, you see… this doesn’t really have to do with royalty…but yet it does.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Abdication, Part II




So here’s Part II….

Wallis is in Wonderland---or so her husband Ernest says. Wallis has the security of her marriage, but also the security of knowing the Prince of Wales can arrange things just so...and much of their relationship can be kept under wraps. The British well-to-do are aware of the affair...their friendship, but the royal subjects have no idea. And anyway, the Prince will soon tire of her...won't he?

Wallis found herself overwhelmed by the Prince's attention. He began calling the flat, demanding her help at the Fort and at his residence in London. He wanted her and Ernest for weekends, and he wanted her to be a guest at Ascot. He loved her meals and the way she planned them and he thought she was a wonderful decorator. He couldn’t get enough of her.

The Prince gave orders to Osborne---the head man at the Fort---that he should take orders directly from Mrs. Simpson. Well, that was never done. It just wasn't. Mrs. Simpson flew into Osborne’s life and turned it upside down. His job was to draw up the menus but suddenly she did them personally. And she was rearranging furniture, taking down curtains, deciding what should stay and what should go into storage. To Osborne's horror, not only did he have to watch this American woman change life at the Fort, she decided that he should personally take over the daily flower arranging that was done by the maid. Osborne was horrified. Even more terrifying, she entered the sanctuary of his pantry and decided a card table should be set up. Osborne hated the no-good stupid, flimsy thing, but…it’s what the Prince wanted...

Wallis relished all these new projects and enjoyed seeing the Prince's enthusiasm at her results.

And then there was Mr. Finch at York House in London. He had been with the Prince of Wales since the Prince was a boy. Naturally, Mr. Fitch knew how the royal households should be run, and was treated with the utmost respect. Athough Mr Fitch never stepped over the line, if he felt the Prince had gone too far, he did not hesitate to tell him so. And not only that, he oversaw everything at the London residence. Well, at least he thought he did until Mrs. Simpson arrived. She began making purchases for York house and demanded Mr. Fitch be the one to serve and mix the cocktails when there were guests. Fitch thought the woman was ghastly! He did at times mix the drinks...and this silly routine had started when Thelma Furness was around. But now Wallis felt that in his own home, the Prince should never mix drinks for his guests and it was beneath him, thus giving the duty to Fitch. He did do his best to mix and serve, but then Wallis told him that ice must be served in the cocktails. The British never used ice in their cocktails. Just wasn't done. In Fitch's mind, she had gone too far. Ice? Was she mad? He refused to do it. There would be no ice. And soon thereafter he was pensioned off.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the servants remained quiet and did what they were told. Wallis took over the kitchens, told the cooks and the maids how she wanted things to be done. The servants were shocked and upset when Wallis and HRH would arrive back at 2 or 3am, interrupting their sleep and demanding something to eat. Again, that just wasn’t done to the servants. Meals came at scheduled times. Even their Majesties ate at scheduled times and would never think of rousing them from their sleep, lest there was some kind of royal emergency.

The Princes "set" or friends were equally horrified. Wallis was so common and so typically American. Her voice was brash, and they found her quite pushy. Certainly, she didn’t know her place. They were horrified at how she took charge of things, and ordered the Prince around. She'd say whatever she felt like—ordered him back and forth and to make matters worse—he seemed to actually enjoy it! It was a spectacle, to be sure. No one had ever seen anything like it. Wallis was far, far too familiar with him. It was simply—well—scandalous!

The well to do and the aristocrats whispered under their breaths. Was the Prince crazy? Had he lost his mind? He would be King one day! How could he allow this to go on? Did he have no dignity? They found Wallis to be crude and abrasive. They were forced to be polite to her face, for His Royal Highness’s sake…but the whole thing was rubbish.

Wallis may seem like a monster. She did come in like firestorm, to be sure. But you have to remember that she was doing this because it was what the Prince asked of her. He wanted someone to take charge and make decisions. Everything she did was unusual, different, stimulating, at least from his point of view. The Prince felt free. In his life---made up of rigid royal rules---there was not much freedom to be found. But Wallis, to him, was a breath of fresh air. He hung on her words. He enjoyed seeing her ways to prepare food, to entertain. She was lively and innovative. And she did much good. She got him to eat better, drink less and keep to his timetable and be prompt. For all the negatives, there were positives. And perhaps he enjoyed the shock on people’s faces. And also, let’s face it, she took care of him. In her own Wallis sort of way, she watched out for him…at least he felt like she did.


Wallis's mother had passed away after her marriage to Ernest Simpson, and her Aunt Bessie became her most trusted confidante. Here is a sample of one of her letters to her Aunt during this time:

"I haven’t had a party here for well over a month. Have a lousy temporary cook and still the curtains are away. Can't get PW (Prince of Wales) to ask the Grants--not his type. Still eating but can't gain too much----worry combined with excitement and never a chance to relax. It all takes a certain amount of tact handling another swan song before 40. Let me know when to expect you. I would like one or two country dresses, 1 linen, 1 wool--and Mary will have two pairs of shoes for you. Both dresses blue I think on printed linen for that one or white trimmed blue. If asked to Ascot I haven’t an idea what I could wear there and then there is the rest of the time I have the pale blue and brown from last year for one day and I suppose a print for the other. He demands one look chic. I know you’ll be tired of hearing all this but it is rather thrilling for me."

Shortly thereafter, she wrote this to Aunt Bessie: "After writing to you from the Fort, I have had an invitation to the Prince’s Ascot house party which starts on the 19th and ends on the 25th. He is giving me the ticket and the party doesn’t go until after lunch and you only go the 2 big days so my best number from last year and the other thing will do. I can’t resist going so it would be better (for you) to come before Ascot, or after as I wouldn’t want to rush off just as you arrived unless you wouldn’t mind being here those days without me. Ernest can’t go---(1) the ticket (2) the time from the city (3) clothes. Trying to get this on the boat tonight. All love"

As you can sense, Wallis was busy, excited and had a lot on her mind. There was much she did not tell Aunt Bessie...but Bessie wrote her very sternly soon after that. And Wallis replied, "Darling,---You did gave me a lecture and I quite agree with all you say regarding HRH and if Ernest raises any objections to the situation I shall give up the Prince at once. So far things are going along beautifully and the 3 of us are always together in the little spare time PW has this time of year. Don’t pay attention to the gossip"… and also…“Mentally I'm quite sane about it all but I am not given much time to do things. Also, I am going over some of his 2 houses for him which fills up my days so much. Hurry over to see me and then you'll realize that everything is OK."

You have to wonder...what she was thinking?

Aunt Bessie did arrive in England, and that summer, the Prince decided that he'd plan a summer holiday. He rented a villa near Biarritz. Conveniently, Ernest had to work, but Aunt Bessie would accompany Wallis as a chaperone. No one was fooled however. Five other people accompanied the Prince, Wallis and Aunt Bessie---mostly his aides and one of the aide's wives.

The newspapers in England kept this hush-hush, but the other papers around the world did not. One afternoon as Wallis and the prince enjoyed a drink at the ocean; there was a commotion---a drowning boy. The Prince dove into the waters, rescued the boy and as a result of that, news spread like rapid fire that the Prince was there. And then...it happened. Pictures were taken of the Prince, with this woman. The story, with pictures, appeared throughout the world the next day. The pair stayed in seclusion for the next week. Soon after, they departed by boat to Cannes, and other visitors joined them. They encountered some storms, rough seas and enjoyed some stops during this long, summer journey. At one point, they blatantly stayed in the Hotel Miramar together. During that stay, he secretly bought jewelry for Wallis, and once safely back on the boat, surprised her with a gift.

In September, the boat docked in Genoa and Nice and Wallis and the Prince spent some quiet time together, boating, on the clear blue waters. They motored to different places with their group, but also managed to go off together, alone. It was at about this time that photographs were taken of the Prince, with just his shorts on. Never before had the Prince of Wales been photographed so...well, relaxed.

One has to wonder what Aunt Bessie thought of all this, and what their friends thought as well--and also, what they saw. It certainly wasn’t all as innocent as it appeared. I often wonder what Aunt Bessie really said to Wallis. Bessie was not shy in her letters.

In her Memoirs, called the Heart Has Its Reasons, Wallis says of this trip, "Searching my mind, I could find no good reason why this most glamorous of men should be seriously attracted to me. I certainly was no beauty, and he had the pick of the beautiful women of the world. In fact, in my own county, I would have been considered securely on the shelf. The only reason I could ascribe his interest in me, such as it was, was perhaps my American independent of spirit, my directness, what I would like to think is a sense of humour and of fun, and, well, my breezy curiosity about him and everything concerning him...Then, too, he was lonely and perhaps I had been one of the first persons to penetrate his inner loneliness."

Obviously by now it was crystal clear to everyone on the trip-- including Aunt Bessie --that the man was attracted to her. Still, she was a married woman.

Back in London, the summer turned into a crisp fall. Aunt Bessie went home to the U.S. by steamship and by now the Prince was giving her money…for clothes at least. Wallis was beginning to have some power, and her company was coveted. Her phone was ringing. She was also arranging for her friends to stay at the Fort. The papers in the US were filled with stories about her. Wallis had read some and seemed rather proud of herself. In her letters to Aunt Bessie, she actually explained that things were just fine between her and Ernest and told her Aunt to ignore the gossip—there would be no divorce. She and Ernest had had a long talk, she explained, and things would just go on as usual…the three of them being the best of friends.

The best of friends? Wallis had to be lying to herself. Its doubtful Ernest really believed that. Certainly, Aunt Bessie had seen enough to know that things would not be able to go on as usual …at least for long.

By the end of the year, Wallis was enjoying a wonderful respite from the Prince and happily told Aunt Bessie that he was at Sandringham for Christmas. She rested, after buying 250 gifts for the Prince’s servants. She positively glowed remembering her introduction to the King and Queen, at the Prince’s brothers wedding the month prior, and made note of the jealous eyes of the Brits, as she and Ernest were introduced to their Majesties. The Prince had arranged it. (And a little secret for you---Their Majesties were not happy about it.)

The Prince gave Wallis a Cairn puppy that holiday whom they named Mr. Loo. And then it was 1935. In hindsight, we know that 1935 was the most turbulent year of her life, but also the most thrilling. But Wallis had no idea of what was to come.

Winston Churchill said, that the Prince, “Delighted in her company and found in her qualities that were as necessary to his happiness as the air he breathed. Those who knew him well and watched him closely noticed that many little tricks and fidgeting of nervousness fell away from him.” His closest aide in the year to come, Walter Monckton said, “No one will really understand the story of the Kings life…who does not appreciate…the intensity and depth of his devotion to Mrs. Simpson. To him she was the perfect woman. She insisted that he be at his best and do his best at all times, and he regarded her as his inspiration. It is a great mistake to assume that he was merely in love with her in the ordinary physical sense of the term. There was an intellectual companionship, and there is no doubt that his lonely nature found in her a spiritual comradeship. …He felt that he and Mrs. Simpson were made for each other and there was no other honest way of meeting the situation than marrying her.”

Marrying her? Impossible. She was divorced, and he would be the Head of the Church of England. The church didn’t believe in divorce. He could not marry a divorced woman—especially an American one at that. And anyway—even if somehow he was free to marry her—she was already married. Still though, the Prince was thinking…planning…dreaming…

In January, Wallis noticed that Ernest wasn’t as interested in hearing the latest news of the Prince, and at times did not make it home for dinner. If the Prince made a suggestion to visit—say the Dorchester, for a little fun---Ernest would plead an early morning and decline. And when Wallis excitedly told him they were invited skiing with the Prince, he told her he had no interest in going. Wallis did mention though, that Ernest thought she might accompany him on a trip to New York instead. Was Ernest trying in his own way to win his wife back? In her memoirs Wallis was clear that her heart was set on going skiing in Austria. She noted that shortly after she told Ernest she wouldn’t dream of missing the skiing trip, she heard the door to his room slam.

And she went skiing. And she knew she was wrong.

Things got progressively worse. Although Wallis did not admit this to her Aunt, the Prince was really upsetting the apple cart. By now, he tended to overstay his visits and keep Wallis occupied far, far too much. Wallis would make a promise to Ernest that she would be home on a certain day at a certain time, and something that the Prince wanted to do would take precedence over Wallis’s need to get home. I have a book by Michael Bloch, of their intimate correspondence. In one of their first letters to each other that has survived, she lashed out at him:

“David Dear—
I was and still am most terribly upset. You see dear one can’t go through life stepping on other people. I know that you aren’t really selfish or thoughtless of heart but your life has been such that you have been the one considered so that quite naturally you only think of what you want and take it too without the slightest thought of others. One can arrive at the same result in a kinder way. I had a long quiet talk with E. last night and I felt very eanum (their made up for very much or very emotional) at the end. Everything he said was so true. The evening was difficult as you did stay much too late. Doesn’t your love for me reach to the heights of wanting to make things a little easier for me. The lovely things you say to me aren’t of much value unless they are backed up by equal actions…”

By this time, Wallis was struggling to keep control of her life, as it began to unravel. “David” clearly wanted her by now, and knew that Ernest was getting upset. They had invented their own private language and even Wallis admitted that he was saying lovely things. The Prince was used to getting what he wanted. But then again, he had never met the likes of anyone like Wallis…had he?

I think this may run into a three parter.




Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Little Announcement



I promise I'll do part 2 of The Abdication soon, but I did want to say that I've started a brand new blog, and its called:

Queen

Victoria

Revealed

I'm busy at work on it, and to be honest, there are many sites on the internet where you will find information on Queen Victoria and her family, but as of now, I've YET to find one exclusively devoted just to her. Since she reigned from 1837 to 1901 she deserves some more attention. So many people have written about her, but how many people really understand her? Since I have been studying her since 1988, and have read almost every biography available and countless diaries and letters and other information and I simply can't get the woman off my mind, I decided, Ah, what the heck, I'll start the blog. And maybe later I'll do a website. I also write more about her than any other Queen, and so she deserves her own blog. It wont only be about her---it will be about her delicious love affair with her beloved Albert, her children , their homes and her personal life. There is SO much to be told, and I believe in the years to come there will be a new interest in her life...especially the younger years. Anyway, the site will be ready SOON---there will be movies on there, wonderful links, links to on-line biographies, and honest to goodness peeks into her real life. I think you'll enjoy it.

And, if Queen Victoria has never been your cup of tea, please stay here to read about other Queens. But I think you'll see a different side to Queen Victoria that the one that is generally discussed.

I hope you'll enjoy my new "sister" blog Queen Victoria Revealed, which should be ready in the next week or two.

~~Cheerio!

Okay, back to the Abdication...part 2.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Abdication




The Abdication...have you heard of it?
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In 1936, King Edward gave up his throne for the woman he loved. If she couldn’t be crowned with him, at his coronation, then he would not be crowned either.
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And that was that. And there would be no arguments about it.
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He was determined to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson and have her by his side. He couldn’t live without her--he really couldn’t. She was as necessary to his existence in 1936 as was food to living. And he said he would not be crowned with a lie on his lips.
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As you may know, there has been endless speculation, and there still is...what was it about her that captured the Kings heart? But I wonder...did she want to be Queen? Or be kept as the Kings favourite? Yes, I think so—to both questions—at least for a time.
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As events heated up in their relationship, the Prince’s brother Bertie, who was next in line, was in shock. His wife Elizabeth was not only in shock, she was angry. Her husband had never been reared to be King. He had not been trained for it. His personality wasn’t suited for it and he relished their private life together, and his time with their young daughters. This couldn’t be happening. WHO was this American, divorced woman? Well, The Duchess of York hadn’t cared for Wallis for quite some time! One reason for that was... one afternoon as she was leaving a room, Elizabeth suddenly turned back to look, and found Wallis making fun of her while there were others in the room. It hurt Elizabeth deeply. There was no love lost between she and Wallis. But she cared for David. Why would he throw it all away? No one in the family could believe that he would dare do it. It was just desperation speaking. Queen Mary, the King's mother, paced back and forth at Marlborough House. To even hear the word 'abdicate' mentioned...or to think of it, however fleetingly, was more than the Queen could bear.
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As you can see, she wasn't a raving beauty, but she did have fashion sense and dressed rather smartly. And because she was southern and born in America, she had grown up with a sort of southern charm in her genes and she had the ability to make guests feel very comfortable and relaxed, when she felt like it.
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She really didn’t like England. At least when she first moved there, she didn’t. Oh, the dirt that came through the flat windows…especially when there was fog. Everything would have to be cleaned, even the drapes. And it rained. And she missed her Aunt and mother.
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So...let's continue with the Abdication story---so I dont confuse you. We'll start at what happened before the crisis. I'm doing this from memory because I really don't feel like reading at the moment. Maybe later I'll get their love letters and add in a little of them.
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Wallis, a young American woman, was divorced after a turbulent marriage with Win Spencer. He was quite abusive. Not many women left their husbands in the 1920's and 1930's –so it shows what kind of a woman she was. She wanted to live. She wanted to enjoy her life. But...she also worried often about stability and money. There never seemed to be enough, and she had anxieties about it…quite a bit of anxiety.
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After her separation and divorce, she enjoyed herself and spent many evenings with the young political people of the day near Washington DC, and the up and coming in society that associated with them. She attended parties, dinners and was always in demand. For quite awhile it amused her. But eventually she got tired of it all. Time was passing by. She was young now, but what would she do later on? How would she support herself? She needed to protect herself. So, when she met Mr. Ernest Simpson at a party and he took a liking to her, she was sort of thrilled...in a quiet sort of way. He was a businessman, and his prospects looked good. Most of all, he was kind and polite and the two of them got along well. He looked after her welfare.
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Well, she did it. She married him and settled herself in a London flat. Ernest worked for the family business and he worked very hard. Wallis stayed home and took care of the house, except in those days...couples who made "enough" money hired a cook and housekeeper. So Wallis did that, and kept herself busy with letter writing, shopping, consulting with the cook and watching to make sure there were no dust bunnies under the couch. And I mean it. She would not tolerate that. She worked fastidiously to decorate the flat. Everything had to be just so. Everything was placed in the rooms to look its best. She wasn't rich, but her flat was comfortable and rather pretty. She had good taste. She arranged flowers very beautifully, and often there was a bouquet on the piano. Her favorite bric-a-brac was stragetically placed on tables in her drawing room. Not only was she good at decorating, she enjoyed it.
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She was bored though. One of her friends in England---Consuelo Thaw---was the eldest sister of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and her twin sister Thelma Furness. Consuelo's husband was a diplomat that Wallis had known in the States. So there were luncheons and introductions to new friends in Consuelo’s circle….and there was always a friend or two passing through England to keep Wallis busy. And Consuelo's sisters were famous---Gloria was famous, obviously, because she married a Vanderbilt, and Thelma...well, she was the Mistress of the Prince of Wales.
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Wallis kept busy interviewing cooks and housekeepers because they seemed to come and go quite often. It was hard to get good help. As her circle of friends grew, she found that she enjoyed going out for evenings at the theater. Just as importantly, she was becoming a good hostess as well. Her dinner parties were fabulous, the food delicious, the conversation exciting. Wallis had a knack for that. She'd give a lot of thought to her parties...who to invite...who should sit where...what couples would mix well… what would be appropriate to eat and what was in season...nothing was left to chance and and best of all, she loved surprising her British friends and Ernest's business associates with southern dishes that they'd never had...such as crispy fried chicken or ribs. Her party invitations began to be coveted.
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As her friendship grew with Thelma little by little, she implemented something else...the cocktail hour! For an hour or two her door would be open, and everyone was welcome to drop by for a cocktail and some chit-chat. This was something done in America, but not in England. Society was curious. And Wallis enjoyed the fact that she was climbing up the ladder. Ernest was happy to see her happy. Wallis continued to write home to her mother and her (rich) Aunt Bessie about these events in her life. Often Wallis mixed the cocktails herself in shakers. She'd also serve hot and cold canapes--grapes stuffed with cottage cheese and biscuits with meat. What she served was different...unusual. And she didn't mind spending time in the kitchen making sure things were being done properly. The well to do English housewives of the day would never consider doing such a thing. But Wallis knew what she wanted and eagerly watched over the preparatons by the cook. Her guests noticed that.
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And then IT happened. Wallis and Ernest were invited to spend the weekend with the Prince of Wales and his other guests, at Fort Belvedere, which was the Prince's favorite residence. It was usual for him to have weekend get-togethers with select friends and couples . Depending on the time of year there would be gardening (his favourite!) , swimming, hikes, card games, bag-pipe playing by the Prince and delicious, hearty meals in the evening, sometimes followed by bridge or dancing. (He also loved needlepoint--Queen Mary had taught him that. Many a guest walked in and their jaw dropped.) The Prince wasn't a big lunch person--dinner was the big deal. It just so happened that a couple needed to drop out at the very last minute on that particular weekend, and so the invitation (or summons) was extended to Wallis and Ernest. They were thrilled, to say the least.
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Over time...the visits became more frequent. It took some time for that to evolve. It evolved naturally and slowly over a period of time...well over a year's time. The King liked Wallis and Ernest, and even came to their flat for dinner. And more time passed...while Wallis just soaked in the excitement of it all, sharing her news home in letters. She was becoming closer friends with Thelma Furness, who was the Prince's girlfriend. She hob-knobbed with aristocracy and some of society's best. She shopped for the best deals on clothes and food.
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You have to realize that the Prince of Wales, in 1934 to 1936 was a handsome man, with boyish good looks, and golden hair. Women loved him from afar. He had traveled the world. There was a charisma about him—an excitement. He was dashing—and a daredevil. His parents were never too happy with him. King George and Queen Mary wished he would settle down and stop his night life...and they didn't approve of some of his "fast" friends, which were called the "Prince's set". He was known as David in the family, and David knew that his parents disapproved of much of his lifestyle. The King said privately, “That boy will ruin himself within a year once I am gone.” However, the Prince was extremely popular with his subjects.
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One day as Thelma and Wallis were having lunch, Thelma asked Wallis to do her a favor. Since Thelma was taking a steamship to the states soon, to be with her sister Gloria, she asked Wallis if she would "take care of the little man," and "make sure he doesn't get into any mischief." Wallis said yes.
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I can't tell you if it was her "southern hospitality" or openness---or if she had something else in mind---but within days of Thelma's departure, the Prince was a fixture at the Simpson's Bryanston Court flat. Wallis and the cook were pulling their hair out. It was costly to have him there. Everything needed to be perfect and clean—and add in flowers, good food, new dresses---and cook always had to prepare something extra. Wallis never knew if His Royal Highness would be stopping by just for a cocktail, or if he would agree to take pot luck supper with them. Often HRH jumped at the chance to share their "pot luck" dinners. (Obviously Wallis told the prince they were 'pot luck" but in reality Wallis knew exactly what was being served and there was plenty made!) Ernest was often tired when going to work the next day, due to many of the late hours they were suddenly keeping. Wallis's nerves were on edge--this pace was maddening. She had to oversee each and every detail, and take care of her appearance.
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It was obvious that the Prince enjoyed Wallis's company. She talked to him---actually conversed with him and gave him her opinions. Usually, he got responses from most people such as "How wonderful for you, sir " or "Very nice, sir." But Wallis was different. She'd ask him about his day. She listened to him and would ask him questions. She could see he was attentive to her and instinctively she knew he needed attention. Was it her that he wanted, or what she gave him...which seemed to be genuine understanding? On occasions, she spoke her mind, too, if she thought he was wrong. He enjoyed it. He wasn't used to being told he might be wrong. This was new and stimulating. And this was new to her too and very thrilling. Who wouldn’t be thrilled by such attention?
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While Thelma was gone, Wallis became his unofficial hostess, and she and Ernest accompanied him to nightclubs or the theatre in London. Sometimes Wallis went by herself due to Ernest's schedule. After awhile, it become customary that when the Prince was at the flat, at a certain time, Ernest would excuse himself and say that he had work to attend to, or he needed to go to bed because of an early day ahead. What was Ernest thinking as he left them alone? As a subject, we know that he was devoted to his future King. As a husband, I fear he was uneasy.
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There was also an uneasiness in society. As they got to know Wallis better—or rather, as Wallis was thrust in their face—they found her voice and laugh irritating and grating, and they felt she was brash and genuinely unsuitable to have such access to the future King. "Typically American," they whispered. What could His Royal Highness see in such a person? At this point the whispers were just among the well to do.
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And Thelma...well, she did come home. There was a suitor, the Aly Khan, who had been attentive to her while she was away, and the Prince had heard about it. You have to wonder...did he really care? Clearly, he was besotted with Wallis, laughing at her jokes, watching her closely, loving her American ways and enjoying being near her. When Thelma returned to England, and she saw the Prince again at The Fort, she reported that he was rather aloof. He wasn't rude to her...he just wasn't the same. Her instinct told her something was not right. Later that evening during dinner she watched a scene which must have made her heart fall to her stomach. Wallis was leaning in to the Prince and laughing, and when the Prince picked up a piece of lettuce with his fingers, she playfully smacked his hand. In shock, Thelma saw this and knew that you did not take those sort of liberties with royalty. And then Thelma says Wallis looked in her direction, and looked at her intently and Thelma has said in her memoirs that it was then that she "knew Wallis had taken very good care of the little man."
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Wallis always maintained that was simply untrue. Wallis claimed that she never did anything but try to be kind and friendly during a time when the Prince was lonely. But by now, even Wallis knew there was more to "David's" feelings than just being a little lonely...she knew he was attached to her...even needed her.
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Her Aunt warned her in her letters to be careful, saying that nothing good could come of this. Aunt Bessie warned her that someone would be very hurt. Wallis dismissed it. Ernest Simpson called the whole thing "Wallis in Wonderland." Up until now, Ernest was usually by her side in public, but how long would he be able to do it? How long would this go on? People were talking. And what would happen to Wallis once she was discarded? She would be discarded, wouldn't she? After all, she was a married woman. Ernest worried about Wallis’s state of mind and what would happen to her once the “fairytale” ended. He didn’t want her to be hurt, yet he didn’t want to stop her from enjoying this once in a lifetime thrill.
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Wallis was excited, yet nervous and loosing weight and having stomach problems. The Prince called everyday, and he was demanding her attention. He wanted her at the Fort and at Ascot. He wanted her opinion on his households and her help. But she was married, and couldn’t just give the Prince all her time. She was married, after all. She could tell Ernest was edgy. Was he upset with her? She vowed to herself that somehow…somehow…she would try to give each man the attention they craved. Sooner or later, the Prince would tire of her. Shouldn't she try to enjoy it while she had the chance?
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And then…
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This writer of queens got tired, and so I will finish the story another day…

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Bit of Royal Austria...


...A stunning picture of the inside of Schonbrunn Palace in Austria. You can almost feel the coolness of the marble and if you're quiet, you may even hear the echo of heels as ladies in waiting hurry down the corridor. Imagine a grand ball taking place in one of the great rooms, walking up one of the ornate staircases or peeking into the private imperial apartments. The Schonbrunn is magnificent and not unlike Versailles in France. For centuries the Austrian Royals---the Hapsburgs---lived there and played there. There is a room that is named after Marie Antoinette. Yes, she lived there for part of her life. After all, her mother was the Empress Marie Theresa. Generations later, Emperor Franz Joseph met his future Bavarian bride, Elisabeth, as she entered the country before their marriage. Elisabeth, also known to us as Sisi or Sissi, was taken to the Schonbrunn Palace.
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The Austrian Royals are very interesting to read about. Lucky for us there are many generations of them to choose from. There's Empress Marie Theresa who adored her husband and her many children--it was a real love match---and she was bereft when her dear husband died. Later, there was Sissi. She had everything—almost everything—that could make a woman happy. Well, almost. Yet, she was never fulfilled; her marriage was never what it could have been. Although she was magnificently beautiful, her mother in law Sophie ran her life, took her children and did not allow her to assume her rightful place. Or was it her husband, Franz Joseph that allowed it to happen? If he had intervened on behalf of his wife, how different would their life have been?
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About a year ago I met a writer who was busy studying the Hapsburgs, and had become consumed by their rich history. She was knee deep in a novel at the time, and we emailed each other back and forth, discussing the Hapsburgs, their personalities and the etiquette of the Austrian Court. I really do this in my spare time and it’s great to meet other royal lovers and writers. Her novel is now done. Her name is Jennifer Linforth, and the finished novel is called:
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Adelrune
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What Jennifer found during her study was very interesting. She read about the mental illness that ran through their genes and became curious about a female family member who was kept hidden from the public and spent her days in the secluded rooms of the Schonbrunn palace. This got Jennifer thinking, and she came up with a brilliant story. The heroines name is Adelrune, but Adelrune is different from other women. She has a form of autism. Jennifer explains the condition below for us:
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Hans Asperger once said the difference between those with Asperger’s Syndrome and those not on the autism spectrum was as fine as a line drawn in the sand. His claim was we are all in some ways a bit ‘Aspergerish’. He first published his definition of this syndrome in 1944, bringing to light the traits of social isolation, intense obsession with one interest, awkward movements and mannerisms and a difficulty forming friendships. Prior to his work with autistic children in Vienna, many suffered asylums and were left to die. He viewed his patients as ‘little Einstein’s’ children who, despite their social development disorder, would possess great talent come adulthood. Asperger died before his findings and work with children became wildly noticed. It was not until the early 90’s that Asperger’s Syndrome became a recognized condition on the autism spectrum. Today, one out of 150 children and one in eighty boys suffer from autism. I wanted bring to light what life might have been like for an autistic young woman in 1866. She was far from the imbecile she would have been labeled as during this time period.
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Jennifer wrote her story against the backdrop of the Austrian royal family. Adelrune, who has a form of autism, tries to do her best as she is thrust into the mayhem of the extended imperial family. Now, how awesome is that? The hero, a grand duke, is not what he seems and keeps Adelrune comfortably in the dark about his true identity as a royal. I asked her for a bit of the novel to post on my blog, and she was kind enough to give me something. Here is an excerpt featuring Adelrune and the confusion surrounding a most royal hero….
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“Are you seeking your escort, Fraulein? Pardon my impropriety, but I cannot help but notice you seem as nervous as frightened rabbit. May I assist you?”
Adelrune spun and stammered at a rather handsome gentleman. “I am not a rabbit. And yes… my escort… that would be proper... but no, I am not looking for him.” She fussed with her gown too anxious to stand still. What did she know of balls?
The man followed her scans of the crowd. “If you are searching for the Kaiser, he never dances until the cotillion.”
“I care not for the Kaiser.” She pulled on a bone of a hoop. “I am looking for Duke Algrasser—my escort—so I can be certain to avoid him and the grand duke of Styria, so I can be sure I do not.”
A servant walked by balancing a silver tray.
“Champagne?” The gentleman lifted two flutes and handed one to her.
Adelrune jerked back. Champagne? Yes… she heard of this curious drink. Hesitantly, she accepted the thin crystal glass. Pale yellow liquid bubbled and shimmered in the light. She could not tear her eyes away from how it sparkled. Lifting it to her nose, the bubbles shot straight behind her eyes, making her ears tickle. The gentleman laughed and touched the flute to his lips.
“The Grand Duke?” The man sipped. “You are acquainted with his imperial highness?”
“No, I am acquainted wit his royal highness and I am rather fond of him. I know no one of imperial rank.”
Adelrune sipped as well, avoiding the man’s skewed expression and raised brow. The sweet champagne made her curl her lips into her mouth. No wonder the aristocracy enjoyed life. She took another taste.
The din of the ball fell away as Adelrune relaxed. Small glances over her flute allowed her to observe the ladies and gentlemen around her. Hardly as regal as them, she felt a bit insignificant in such opulence. She lifted her shoulder. What did it matter? She was in Kaiservilla, by the command of the grand duke!
“Shall I have the pleasure? Is your dance card full already?”
Adelrune took another sip of champagne. And to think Becca did not believe her when she said Klaus would love her openly. The gentleman to her side leaned it to her, jolting Adelrune out of her inspection.
“My what?”
“Your dance card.” He indicated the small book and lead dangling from her wrist.
Adelrune stared at it. She wondered what such an accessory was; the letters on the front were foreign to her. The man gestured for it again and with a bit of hesitation she handed it to him. He scrawled in it.
“Tell me, what are your favorite flowers?”
Adelrune blinked. What did that have to do with dancing? More champagne met her lips.
“Edelweiss.”
“Rather lofty for a cotillion bouquet, don’t you think? You will have to settle with roses from me for that dance. No man can gather enough edelweiss for a bouquet.”
“The grand duke of Styria can.”
“His imperial highness? Gathering edelweiss?” His laughed bounced across the marble.
“No. His royal highness. Truly sir, I suggest you keep things straight lest you look like a fool.”

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Okay, okay...back to the blog. Great huh? Don't you feel like you were there with her? And doesn't Adelrune have a will of her own? I'm happy to say that right now Jennifer's manuscript is being seriously considered for publication. Nothing is definite, but I have no doubt Adelrune will find a publisher. The story is unusual but compelling. I think Jennifer Linforth's name is soon going to become much more recognizable to the public. Not only will Adelrune certainly be snapped up shortly, she has recently sold another novel to Highland Press. It's called Madrigal, and it’s the continuation of Phantom of the Opera—so the girl is no novice. I don't have any other details about Madrigal, (you can find them on her blog and website) but I'm sure when it's released it will do very well... and I wouldn't be surprised if Adelrune was published at about the same time.
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Jennifer has explained to me why she loves the Austria of the mid 1800's. I can totally understand her fascination because I, too, love anything royal. I asked Jennifer to write down for us what fascinates her so much about the time period. Here is what she said:
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The world is growing weary of that most costly of all luxuries, hereditary kings.
—George Bancroft
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It was the softly seductive voice of Uwe Kröger, a star of the German stage crooning out “Die Letzt Tanz” (The Last Dance) that lured me to Austria. Kröger played the role of Der Tod (Death) in the musical sensation, Elisabeth, as beloved in Germany and Austria as Phantom of the Opera is in the United States. While it was a story of Sisi that whet my curiosity about Austrian history, it was the life of sadly retarded Kaiser Ferdinand I of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary and the last crowned King of Bohemia that sealed my fate…
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Susan asked me to blog about why I am drawn to Austrian history. I’d love to say it is the sexy allure of the Hussar uniform. I simply cannot resist a man in tight red pants with a fraternal sash strapped tightly against a well sculpted chest, but it goes deeper than that. The Habsburg history is as proud as it is shameful, as glorious as it is humble, as sane as it is insane—literally.
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Many identify with Elisabeth of Witteslbach the Kaiserin of Austria. She never anticipated the crown of Austria —that right belonged to her sister Helena, but who was to refuse the Kaiser? Ruled by an overbearing mother in law, she was the picture of sympathy. But Sisi’s history was troubling and disturbed. Many novels and movies I stumbled across depicted a sweeping romance between her and Franz-Josef. But the more I studied Franz-Josef, the more I sympathized with him over Sisi. Here was a man who had no choice but to grow into an emperor. Follow his life to that of his son—a man drawn to the plight of the commoner, determined to see Austria move forward into the 20th century, but repressed by an ancient duty that bound him to his bloodline, the Catholic church, and the thoughts of 600 Habsburgs before him.
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The passion for their family name and such divided views for the future of their country, drew me to the Habsburg family. And sitting on the throne during one of Austria’s most bloody times was a man of little brain, but apparently great heart. Reading about Ferdinand and the history of mental illness and epilepsy in the Habsburg family made stories roll through my mind. I stumbled upon the history of an archduchess severely retarded and condemned to live in the secluded areas of the Schonbrunn palace. I was already a ‘branded’ author with a pending series depicting the life of a madman. Music was a theme in all my works as well. I could set fascinating stories in the backdrop of The City of Music and center them on a royal family begging to be brought to the foreground. Mention Austria/German history to someone of my generation (I am 36) and we instantly blurt, WWII. But what of WWI? What of Sarajevo? What of the Prussian War? What of the Habsburg curse…
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I grew up learning about the English monarchy. As an author I am surrounded by fellow writers who set historicals in England and Scotland. Face it— England and Scotland sell. But it is not the ISBN that lures me to be an author, it is the history. And since I always colored outside the lines, I am proud to be a writer bringing to life the Habsburg history--tragic, romantic, adventurous, proud, and unrivaled in its resilience.
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…I think she described her fascination well. She's really got me thinking about the Hapsburgs...and perhaps she has stirred something in you too. There are many, many wonderful authors...but I find it unusual to find one who truly loves the royals in such a way. When you love something, you make it come alive. The love you have for the subject shines through. For those of us who adore the royals and dream about them, I think we have something to look forward to...now that Jennifer is on the scene. I have no doubt that her work will be very entertaining. I'll keep you posted as to when Adelrune will be available and perhaps sometime in the future she'll give us a longer teaser. I hope so, because I just loved it. Sorry folks, I can’t ask her to give away all her secrets now.
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And a little about Jennifer Linforth. She lives off the brisk coast of Maine with her husband and daughter Abigail, who is only 15 months old. Besides finding the time to write with a toddler around, she also teaches environmental education at a local museum and is also a ranger—yes, a ranger!—at Acadia National Park. Her weblink is
http://www.jenniferlinforth.com and her blog: http://jenniferlinforth.blogspot.com Her primary blog—From Idea to Publisher is found on her Live Journal: http://madrigalist.livejournal.com. She can also be reached via myspace at http://www.myspace.com/jenniferlinforthauthor.
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I wish I could tell you that Adelrune will be available next month for purchase...but, I can't. Sadly, we royal lovers will have to wait a little longer to read her rich story of love and mental illness in the secret world of the Hapsburgs... Personally, I can’t wait. Oh, and if you have any questions for Jennifer about her novel or about Austrian royalty, just ask…and we’ll get the answers posted promptly.