Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lord Byron's Scandal

Meet a real Regency Rake in the Romantic Era of England: 



Lord Byron as a young man

"So beautiful a countenance ... his eyes the open portals of the sun--things of light and for light."  Coleridge describing Lord Byron's physical appeal.

As a young man, he was considered extraordinarily handsome (see image above) by women of the Romantic era. Think Johnny Depp, but in Regency times. He had sex appeal, and he had a serious brood factor.  (And Johnny Depp played a main character in a movie based one of his literary creations, more on that later!)

A Real Regency Rake? 

Lady Caroline
It is said that this Regency Rake was not a pursuer of women, but rather, they pursued him. He entered into a series of secret liaisons with ladies of the Ton, to the point where he married to get away from one desperate lover. Lady Carolyn Lamb was an eccentric, lovely yet flamboyant woman who caused him incredible stress and scandal with her public tantrums when they met at social gatherings. So, he married a woman who would be his former lover's opposite in temperament, Annabella Milbanke. His wife was a quiet, shy intellectual with a passion for mathematics, not the movements of Regency society. Of course, this would be a doomed marriage because George was a very social creature--also eccentric and a little flamboyant, much like his former lover, Lady Caroline. Lady Caroline Lamb was known to behave in odd ways, such as dressing up as a footman to go out and meet her lover. She was one of those drama queens who feed on creating a scene in public, and actually began stalking our Regency hero after he tired of her.

Scandalous Desires

Byron had money problems, even being a wealthy lord. He spent as much as he was worth and so in his domestic life he behaved so frantically his wife is said to have feared for his sanity. The union lasted only a year before it was ended by a legal separation. (Yes, dear readers, people with money and power could dissolve a marriage in this time period. Wasn't easy, and happened rarely due to the social burden of keeping up appearances, but it could be done.)

Johnny Lee Miller as Byron from BBC Film
The kicker for this legal separation has a real Eeewww factor!  Turns out, Annabella found out her husband was having a secret love affair with his half-sister. Even to the jaded palates of the Regency era, this was just too much to bear. It was a succulent scandal, but it was crossing a firm line in society. People could and did have secret affairs, both men and married women. As long as the lovers in question were discreet, an affair would be ignored by indulgent spouses. In the case of the woman, she had to be married, and once she produced an heir for her husband (so he knew the child was actually his) she might be given her freedom by an indulgent spouse. I know it sounds harsh and cold in our modern eyes but as many marriages were based on business transactions and convenience, not love, there were bargains made with spouses behind closed doors. 

Sorry, getting back to George, his wife and his half-sister lover...... in Byron's defense, it is possible he did not know his half-sister as they were raised separately and never truly met face to face until they were adults--and it is likely to assume he didn't realize they were related when they had their affair. It really didn't matter, as George Gordon, Lord Byron, was ostracized by the society who once adored him. He fled England forever, somewhat by force, it's rumored, on April 25th, 1816. 

"She walks in beauty, like the night . . . "  


                                             I bet you thought Shakespeare wrote that, it was Lord Byron. 


And so, Lord Byron traveled, a lot. And he wrote..... a lot. 
He may not seem like a romance hero to you but rather a womanizing rake, however, Lord Byron, our man George, has given us some incredible literature that stands the test of time. He was a romantic. And he rubbed elbows with the best literary figures of the times: Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), John Keats to name a few. His influence is everywhere. Many European poets struck what is called a 'Byronic Attitude', the solemn, serious brood factor. He created that in the sense of poets striking an attitude. He is also the inspiration for the term Byronic Hero

His longtime friend, Mary Shelley said of him: "Our Lord Byron is fascinating, faulty, childish, philosophical, daring to the world but docile to a private circle--impetuous and indolent--gloomy and yet more gay (happy & pleasant) than any other.

Lord Byron's Most Popular Works: 

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published in 4 installments called cantos, from 1812-1818, is a travelogue sort of poem. It is narrated by a passionate, well-read, slightly melancholy tourist. The term Childe is an ancient term used to describe a young noble awaiting knighthood. This journal is an accurate record of places in Europe seen during his travels, and it is written as a dramatic experience full of a passionate and sometimes volatile sensibility that depicts a new phenomenon in literature--The Romantic Man of Feeling. 

Don Juan, again, published in serial form as cantos 1 and 2 from 1818 to 1819. This is a famous story of an amiable young man who has charm, wit and a compliant spirit. (is it George in disguise?) He is pursued and loved by many women, one who keeps him in her harem and dresses him as a woman to hide him from her husband. And here is where Johnny Depp comes in  [smile]. 



Few of you will remember an obscure film in the 1990's staring Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway and a new star on the scene in 1994, Johnny Depp. Depp plays Don Juan de Marco, a modern man who believes he is the real life character of Lord Byron's famous story. I watched it back then, and had never heard of Johnny Depp before seeing this film. If you are looking for a romantic film in his early years, you'll love this. And, if you want to see the story of Don Juan in film, this is a good modernized version.  Don Juan de Marco Trailer




And if you would like a few more movies about Byron or featuring Byron's character, here is short list for you to search out: 




Richard Chamberlain as Lord Byron
This film (above) is called Lady Caroline Lamb, and was produced in 1973. I haven't seen it but if you like older movies, it might be worth looking up. No, it isn't black and white, it's in color.

And lastly, with a little embarrassment and chagrin, I'll share a movie from my shelf:
GOTHIC, made in 1986.

It's quirky, corny, and tries to be both a historical and a horror story. So, if you can tolerate some melodrama in a Regency era movie based on actual events that took place in Byron's life, go for it. Just know it's a little over the top and is good for laughs and entertainment rather than a bio film. It stars Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron. The story is based on events that supposedly took place at Lord Byron's retreat in Lake Geneva, where he invited friends Percy and Mary Shelley and his lover, Claire Clairmont. They came up with an idea to try to create a ghost, and their results create psychological horror in the group as a result. It is said to be one of the reasons Mary Shelley came up with her story, Frankenstein, at least rumored. Watch it if you dare. The characterization of Byron is done well and Byrne is handsome and dashing in this. Beware, however, that there are some sexual scenes, and some disturbing scenes in it as it has chosen to be a horror flick first and a Regency second. 

Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron in GOTHIC

Fun facts about Lord Byron's Life: 

  • His mother was Scottish; Catherine Gordon of Gight was the last descendant of a line of Lawless Scottish Lords. 
  • His father, Captain John Byron, was a rake and fortune hunter. 
  • His grandfather was an admiral nicknamed "Foulweather Jack"
  • His great uncle, the fifth Baron Byron, was known as the 'Wicked Lord" who killed his kinsman in a drunken duel. He was tried by his peers for the crime. 
  • Despite his stunning looks, George, Lord Byron, was born with a deformed foot that was made worse by a surgery gone wrong that caused him to be lame. This also brought him much embarrassment socially. 
  • He endeavored to be athletic instead of pathetic, became an expert boxer, fencer (something hard to become good at with a lame foot!), horseman and a strong swimmer. Kudos to George for not becoming an invalid or a victim. 
  • George was sexually precocious at a young age
  • He had two daughters, one by his wife, Lady Byron, named Augusta Ada (1815?)  and one through a lover, Claire Clairmont, named Allegra (1817)
  • In his brief time in the House of Lords, he showed himself to be an extreme  liberal in the Whig party by supporting liberal measures. He supported Catholic Emancipation and rights for the Nottingham Weavers, who had taken to smashing the recently invented textile machines that threw them out of work. In politics, he was a progressive liberal. 
  • George loved to travel, his adventurous spirit took him on a two year tour of Portugal, Spain, Malta, little known Albania, Greece and Asia Minor. 

Cheers to George Gordon, Lord Byron, a true Regency Rake, and an excellent wit from the Romantic Era of English Literature!



"But whom can view the ripened rose, nor seek to wear it? 
Who can curiously behold the smoothness and the sheen on beauty's cheek, 
Nor feel the heart can never all grow old?" 
From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Love and Sorcery; An Irish Historical Romance

©  | Dreamstime.com
I just love Ireland, and Irish heroes. I love the mystical landscape, the lore and legends. One of my favorite heroes from my own stories is Kieran O'Flaherty. He's an Irishman, and has the powers of sorcery.  In this excerpt, he rescues the woman he loves using magic, not brawn.

Excerpt from Bright Scoundrel, copyright Lily Silver 2013
       As he walked the perimeter of the castle inspecting the walls, Kieran noticed a lone figure across the fields on the rise above the creek separating his property from Ashton Abbey’s lands.
       Kieran could see his lovely Rose, with her artist’s smock and her wide brimmed hat to keep out the bright July sunshine. She wasn’t seated on her stool, as usual, painting away. She was standing, her hands on her hips, looking down into the ravine at something. Even from this distance, he could feel something wasn’t right as he watched her.
       A strong presentiment of danger filled him. 
       Kieran was ten minutes away, he figured, by the time it would take to move down the hill on his side of the property line, cross the stone bridge and climb the low grassy hillside to where her painting station was situated. He took a short cut down the steep incline instead of the gradual path created by the road. He moved down the boggy ravine at a slow pace. The hillside was treacherous if one didn’t move carefully around the stones and the deep ruts and roots breaking the landscape. Flowers dotted the soil on either side of the ravine, purple heather. It would make a lovely landscape painting. Perhaps he should commission her to paint it with Roisin Dubh Castle in the distant hills. It would make a nice composition.
       

© Walshphotos | Dreamstime.com - Summertime Photo
         He paused, as the continual buzzing reverberated through the blooming heather bushes. The place was alive with bees collecting nectar from the fragrant blooms. The sound of angry voices carried down the ravine. Kieran was near the bottom. He was just about to try to navigate the small creek bed without getting his boots wet when the disturbance of human voices, angry voices, caught his attention. He gazed up the bank to where Rose had stood moments before.
She wasn’t alone any longer, nor were her hands on her hips. They were pummeling a man, a sizable man with dark hair who seized her about the waist and was trying to kiss her.
      “Stop it, you oaf. I’ll have none of your drunken pawing.” She sounded more than angry. Rose sounded panicked.
      Kieran splashed across the creek, his boots be damned. He could afford another pair.
     “See here, is that any way to treat me? I help to keep the roof over your head. I should be given a reward in return.”
      Slap! The raw sound of a palm hitting flesh echoed above. And then the man accosting Miss de Lacy muttered a foul oath, followed by several others.
     “You fucking bitch,” the man shrieked, incensed by her response.  
     “Rose,” Kieran shouted. “You there, leave her be.”
They didn’t hear him.  He tried to hurry up the ravine. It was too steep to run, and filled with potholes, roots and rocks.
      “You little tart, you’re coming with me.” the man bellowed. He seized Rose by the upper arm and made as if to drag her with him. She fought him but he was stronger. He was dragging her away, over the hill and down to the next ravine.
      “Rose!” Kieran shouted, trying to rush up the steep embankment to help her. Where was her damned dog? Who was the bastard manhandling her so?
It was no good. He jaunted up the muddy side and slipped back down. It rained last night. The embankment was wet and slick.
      Damn it. He couldn’t see Rose anymore. He could hear them shouting at each other.
      Kieran had only one weapon at his disposal, magic. He couldn’t reach her to stop the bully.  For all he knew, she was being raped by her assailant while he wallowed at the bottom of the ravine in his attempt to reach her. He started chanting, calling upon nature to aid him.
      The bees. It was the perfect weapon. He chanted in Gaelic, asking the bees to aid him and directing them to attack only the male and not harm the female with him. He climbed up, up, over a rock, stepping carefully so as not to slip again and slide down to the bottom of the ravine. His breeches were soaked from his jaunt through the creek and his slide down the mud slick ravine path.
     The steady, thrumming sound of the busy bees lifted. There was a shift in the air, a queer sort of breeze created by the mass of tiny insects rising from their labors in a swarm and climbing the hill above Kieran. Good. They were going to help Rose, hurrying on ahead to stop the man from hurting the woman he cared for.
*    *    *
   
Rose de Lacey
“Get off me, you stinking turd.” Rose slapped at him and tried to punch and scratch him to drive him away. Her dress was wet on the back because she was lying on the damp wet ground with Quinn atop her. "How dare you!”  Her voice was shrill, high pitched, and none would hear it out here in the wilds. She never should have left Simon home with Tommy. She should have taken a weapon, something to ward off this wretched cur who believed she was easy prey because there wasn’t a man at the abbey.
      He'd tried coming into her room again last night when the household was asleep. She had locked the door, locked him out. He wasn’t pleased, and so he’d come after her here. His big hands caught her wrists. Her arms were pinned above her head with one of his. She tried to rock and kick at him, but he was holding her down with his knees and tugging her skirts up with his free hand.
      “I’ll tell Bridget,” She screamed, desperate to reach him, to make him see reason.
      “Aye, and I’ll tell her you seduced me. My sister's a dim one, she’ll believe me.”
       A dull roar filled her ears, a peculiar thrumming noise. At first she thought she was imagining it or about to pass out from sheer terror.
      Quinn flinched and released his hold on her wrists. He swore, and flinched again.
      A dark cloud blocked the sun. A living cloud. Rose screamed, and then covered her face with her arms as the cloud descended. Bees. A huge swarm had come to settle over them.
      Quinn was shrieking. He stood and started swiping frantically at his face and neck.
Rose peeked out from beneath her arm. The bees were swarming over him, they were covering him like a living cloak. His hair was alive with bees. His face was covered by his hands, but his coat, his neck even his legs were covered with the wriggling, crawling creatures.
      And he was shrieking with pain.
     “Rose.” She started, as another male voice from above called out to her.  
      Kieran stumbled down the ravine and nearly fell on her in his desperation to get to her.
     “Rose, my dear Rose, are you all right?” The sound of his worry was beautiful.
She struggled to get up, to right her skirts. Kieran was beside her in an instant. He knelt down and hugged her against him. “I couldn’t get up the hill fast enough. Did he hurt you? He’ll pay if he did, I swear.”
      Rose was stunned by his sudden presence and his strong arms about her as he knelt and hugged her fiercely. Both of them were wet, soggy from the damp earth. It didn’t matter. Lord Grey was here and he was holding her close. He was concerned for her.
      The shrieks from the man beside them brought them back to the present. Quinn was dancing a jig and turning about as he moved up the hill. The bees were still following him and many were clinging to the back of his coat as he clawed at the wet earth, stumbled and then cursed. He shrieked every so often, as one of the stingers penetrated his flesh.
      Kieran released his hold on Rose but kept her huddled firmly against him with his left arm. He extended his right hand toward the fleeing Quinn and started chanting in Gaelic.
      Rose didn’t speak Gaelic. Watching Kieran chant and seeing his blue-green eyes glaze over with fierce determination, Rose could only shiver as she watched the swarm of bees lift up and away from Quinn’s fleeing form.
      It was inconceivable. The bees were obeying this man. They lifted up in one great cloud, up and away from their prey. They moved in perfect formation toward Kieran and Rose.
Rose whimpered and hid her face in the crook of her elbow.  
      “Shhh, stay still,” he commanded in English. “They won’t harm you.”
       The massive cloud moved over them, circling them in a whirlwind and then lifted again, moving up and away, over the ravine, toward O’Flaherty lands.
       She could only gaze up at him with horror.
   
Kieran O'Flaherty
“There now. It’s all right.” His voice was low, gentle and ripe with concern. “Oh.” He reached up and removed something from her hair. He cradled it in his palm. “Thank you, for saving the lady.”  A single bee sat in the palm of his hand, flapping its wings, almost as if it understood his conversation.         “Off with you now. Back to your mates. The bear has fled and left the honeycomb unhindered.”
The bee in his palm lifted and flew away. And that warm, strong palm cupped her cheek and began to wipe away her tears.
      “Shhh. Don’t cry. I won’t hurt you. No one will.”
       She felt like a ninny, and yet she was so distraught she couldn’t stop the frantic tears. She’d never been accosted by a man before, not like this. Or rescued by one, either. Not a mere man--a sorcerer, a magician who commanded the birds and the bees. “H-h-how . . . ?” she stuttered.  
      “Who was that cur?” Kieran asked. His hand was stroking up and down her spine as he held her firmly against him. Her backside was cold. She was cold and wet. She was sitting in the damp grass and the back of her dress was soaked.
       Without a word, he released her and shrugged out of his coat. He slipped it over her shoulders and then took to rubbing her arms brusquely.
      “I know its July, but the rains have left you soaked and you’re probably suffering shock. Let’s get you home and out of these wet clothes.”
      “No.” She couldn’t go home. Not with Quinn there. Suppose he did tell Bridget she tried to seduce him. If so, she’d be hard pressed to argue with him in her present condition. She wanted to kill the man. Nay, she’d be sure to kill him next time. She’d not leave the house again unarmed. She’d not leave the door to her room unlocked in the night . . .  Oh God!
      “Oh, my sweet, wilted Rose.” Kieran whispered. He hugged her close. “I’m here. He won’t hurt you again, I promise.”
      She was sobbing, beside herself with fear. She felt so betrayed. How could she return home with Quinn there, glaring at her, accusing her, behaving as if she were to blame for his lack of self control. “I-I can’t go h-home. That was Bridget’s brother. I can’t go home. Not with him there.”

     “Well, then, my mud spattered Rose, you’ll just have to come home with me.”  He wasn’t smiling when he said it. But his voice, oh, that soft, charming voice was full of sunshine.
End of Excerpt,  Bright Scoundrel, copyright Lily Silver 2013

Thanks for visiting my blog this week. In the future I will be featuring an excerpt from one of my books every two weeks.

Bright Scoundrel is available on Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Paris in the Spring, Part 4: The Exposition Universelle of 1889

Happy Bastille Day, Everyone!


On July 14th, 1789, Paris citizens rose up and seized the Bastille. It was a prison that held few prisoners at the time, mostly just a handful of political offenders. Even so, it was a significant act for the protesters, as the Bastille was a symbol of oppression of the masses by the Aristocracy.


Think of Bastille Day as an Independence Day celebration for the French. 

The French Revolution began with the fall of the Bastille, but it was years to come before true freedom was won for French citizens of every social class.

It's fitting to look at the centennial (100 year) celebration of this event, the Paris World's Fair of 1889. It was a gathering from among nations, a huge exposition of such scale and scope that it boggles the mind, even today. The celebration was in commemoration of the Revolution's beginning, and thus it was scheduled to last from May 6th, 1889 to November 2nd, 1889.  It was a six month long party. With much planning beforehand, the French opened up this event to the rest of the world, allowing other governments to set up exhibits alongside theirs in a celebration of human progress.

Postcard of the Paris Exposition of 1889

Surprisingly, a few governments still using the monarchy system declined to participate; England, Sweden and Germany, to name a few.

The rest of the world, however, was thrilled to participate. There were exhibits set up numerous and diverse nations. Some showed houses of typical nations, like Africa, India, Mexico, South America, Serbia, Egypt, and Indonesian countries. Model life sized homes were built on the grounds showing the unique architecture from distant lands. The buildings created for this massive celebration to house the exhibits were truly amazing. Not only were there displays homes from many nations in contemporary times on display, but also from different eras of history--it featured homes of the Vikings, Renaissance Italy, and Romanesque and Medieval architecture. Scroll to bottom of page to find a slideshow link depicting these wonders! 

postcard of Galerie de Machines. 

For example of the extraordinary architecture on display, look at the photo of the Galerie de Machines above. It was a huge building constructed to house the new mechanical inventions of the age and was made of Iron and Glass. It was reported to be at least a couple of football fields in length. This massive building housed exhibits by Thomas Edison, (over 400 of his alone) and Gottlieb Daimler, and countless inventors of the time. Daimler presented a smaller model of an automobile that featured a gas engine. Many people thought his model was a toy, not realizing it would soon replace the horse and carriage.

By the way, for those of you who are avid historical romance readers, and would like to read an awesome story about a hero trying to compete with Daimler in creating the first gas engine, (a Victorian Romance), I highly recommend Juliana Gray's book,  A Lady Never Lies.  This book is part of a trilogy, and it rocks. I've read this book two times, and would read it again, that's how good it is. The trilogy is awesome, but I mention this first book as it features a unique, ginger haired inventor hero who is trying to compete against Daimler and others in the invention of the automobile discussed above. It takes place in Italy, not France. Finn, the hero, is English, and is holed up in a remote Italian castle to work secretly on his horseless carriage. Of course there are others wanting to stop his progress, adding to the suspense. The lady in the book helps him and they have a lively romance, meeting in his garage and trying to avoid detection by the other guests at the castle. Those of you who regularly visit this blog know I often recommend books I've fallen in love with to my readers.
A Lady Never Lies on Amazon

And back to the World's Fair of 1889:

The 80 buildings constructed on the grounds for this extraordinary event were lovely beyond compare. They were elaborate, with no detail spared. This was NOT your typical county fair experience with aluminum buildings housing exhibits and livestock. This was cultured elegance, a jewel of the Belle Epoque', an experience unlike any other for those attending. The buildings were called Palaces or Pavilions--as in the Palace of Diverse Industries, which featured jewelry and fashion exhibits from around the world, among other items.

The fair featured a live street in Cairo, sort of like a living museum experience we see today. It was an Egyptian bazaar taking up one whole street of the fairgrounds, where Egyptian merchants dressed in native costumes waited upon fair goers who strolled the market booths to purchase exotic items from that nation. It was said that people felt as if they were actually visiting Cairo, as the exhibit was flawless in depicting the market street. You could ride a donkey for a fee, and buy lamb kabobs or other Egyptian treats.

All of this Victorian grandeur was centered around the newly completed Eiffel Tower. The tower was built for this Paris Exhibition, and was not intended to remain standing beyond 1900. The government agreed to keep the tower up for this fair in 1889 and then for the next one in 1900. After that, it was supposed to be torn down. Lucky for all of us, they didn't destroy the Eiffel Tower as they originally intended.



The tower was painted red, yes, a bright red. It had different shades of red for each of the five platforms. It was also festooned with the newly modern electric lights, thousands of them to light the tower up in the night. The fair was open until 11pm, mind you. At dusk the tower was lit up and also a spectacular display of fountains were illuminated to impress the gathered visitors. The tower boasted a restaurant on the first platform, complete with an orchestra playing to the patrons. It cost .40 cents to go up to the first platform, where the restaurant was, and .60 cents to go up to the second platform. The tower featured newly invented Otis elevators to go up to the top of the tower, but they were not working properly until  May 26th. (The Fair opened May 6th, 1889). A small cannon was set up on the top platform, and it was fired every day at specific times during the exhibition to let all of Paris know the party was still going on.

Now then, I've tried to describe this incredible event, quite inadequately, I'm afraid. The sumptuousness and visual beauty of it is impossible to convey in words. I did try in my latest novel, Some Enchanted Dream, to depict the fair as the time traveling hero and heroine visit it and share a few kisses amid the stuffy Victorian crowd.

Thanks for joining me to celebrate Bastille Day. If you are intrigued by the stunning visual beauty of this historic fair, you can find a youtube video slideshow showing the expo grounds. I've included it here, and it is also in the back of my novel for readers to enjoy.

Paris 1889 exp slide show

Monday, June 15, 2015

Paris in the Spring part 3: Party all night at the Moulin Rouge!


Everybody likes a party!  Dancing girls on stage, wine and other drinks flowing freely, and lively music.

Henri Toulouse Lautrec



In Montmartre, a village above Paris, there were plenty of nightclubs in 1889.  The men flocked to them, some wealthy, some less prosperous.  There was a reason for this dedicated patronage: Show Girls!  Yeah, sort of like Las Vegas, but without the electricity everywhere.

There were several of these popular clubs in the area.  Amid the Absinthe drinking crowds, there was an appreciation for the leggy dancers who whirled onstage in red skirts and lifted their legs to reveal the black stockings beneath those skirts. This may seem tame by today's standards, but in Victorian society, where fashions kept women laced up tight from ankle to neck, believe me when I say the men were titillated to see a little bit of thigh!  And, as a grand finale, sometimes the girls would line up and bend over to lift their skirts, revealing their scantily clad bottoms. Yeah, it was heaven for a man in that time period.
Poster by Toulouse Lautrec
The Moulin Rouge was the place to be. It opened in October of 1889, and became the most famous dance club of the time. Amid the glittering lights, as the club was illuminated by both gaslights and electric, there were many sights to see.  It was sort of like a circus atmosphere, with various stages holding amusements for the crowds.  And there were crowds, upwards of 2,000 a night.

Moulin Rouge 1898

The Moulin Rouge had a sensual appeal, with walls painted red, and showgirls making appearances on stage to lift their skirts for the patrons, who were at eye level with the stage.  Dancing girls, kind of like Las Vegas without the lights and machines. There were magicians, vaudeville acts, and singing women dressed in pink tights. And beneath the glittering lights excitement and sensuality ruled the evening.  Tables were laden with beverages such as Cherry Brandy, Champagne and Absinthe, and lively music was played by musicians. Think of jaunty piano music, loud crowds, heavy drinking, and nearly nude women, and you get the picture.


The back of the Moulin Rouge, in the garden, was a place for secret assignations and stolen kisses. The garden had a large stucco Elephant that had been rescued from one of the world's fair exhibits. It was hollow inside. Patrons could go up the winding stairs to the belly of the beast to admire female belly dancers who performed to a 'gentleman only' audience.


Add to the allure, the bare breasted women riding donkeys in the garden, the illuminated fountains, a stage with someone singing, and you get the picture, it was a gentleman's paradise.

The Moulin Galette was a competitor.  They had been established years earlier in Montmartre. Moulin, by the way, means mill. The area boasted many windmills in the 19th century, and a few, such as the Moulin Galette and the Moulin Rouge, were converted into Dance Halls.

The Moulin Galette was a popular place as well. It was on the outskirts of Montmartre, and had an open garden area where people could dance, sip wine and hang out away from prying eyes of society. Renoir painted this alluring place. You've probably seen this painting before.

Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This is the back garden, where people could meet over drinks and enjoy the summer nights. Note the balls hanging above the dancers. Those were electric lights. So, this is still 'Victorian' society, but as you can see, the French were less rigid than the English at this time. You'll note women lounging and drinking with men in this scene, enjoying the evening air.


The Moulin Galette
Here from the outside, a street view.  Van Gogh was a frequent visitor here, as were other artists such as Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin.

The dance clubs or cabarets, were there to make money, to entertain men as serve as a place for wealthy men to meet lower class girls. The biggest draw of all was the women who danced at these places. Men came to see long legs clad in black stockings, and swirling skirts that enticed their every fantasy.  At one such club, the Reine Blanche, you could see Nini of the Beautiful Thighs.

The grandeur and the greed is staggering. And yet, if you're like Dan Wilson, a character in Some Enchanted Dream, a man from the future, you'll find these places a veritable paradise. He falls for a dance girl, and a little romance ensues. Being from the future, Dan will be more accepting of her profession than the men of Gisele's own time.

If you would like to see more images, go to my pinterest board to see more of Paris.

Lily's Pinterest Board on Paris in late 19th century

Next time, I'll talk a little about the Paris Expo.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Paris in the Spring 2; Absinthe, have you met the Green Fairy?






La Fee Verte', or the Green Fairy is associated with Absinthe.  In the late nineteenth century, in Paris, artists, poets, musicians and writers were known to chase the Green Fairy to gain inspiration. She was their muse, their goddess, whom they believed imbued man with increased creativity if they drank her special cocktail--Absinthe! Writers, Poets and intellectuals hailed her as the reason for their ability to produce great art and literature. Men drank the potion with a near religious fervor to try to entice the Green Fairy to pay them a visit and give them the talent they sought.

The depiction below shows it diluted with water. Some drank it straight up, resulting in a deep green drink.

Van Gogh's Glass of Absinthe and Carafe

The time between five o'clock and seven o'clock in the evening was called the Green Hour, or l'heure verte. It is said that the smell of Absinthe was carried on the early evening air in the Paris boulevards. Sounds exciting to me, to stroll the boulevards in the evening and meet the artists we all adore today, back when they were struggling to gain recognition in the art world. Can you imagine sitting down to a glass of Absinthe with Van Gogh or Toulouse Lautrec!

Absinthe Drinkers, by Degas

The Legend of Absinthe: 

According to the book Absinthe: a Cultural History by Phil Baker, legend says that "Absinthe as it's known today appeared at the end of the 18th century, around 1792. Dr. Pierre Ordinaire was fleeing Paris during French Revolution, and settled in a Swiss village of Couret. He supposedly found it growing wild and cooked up his own recipe for the drink. When he died in 1821, his highly alcoholic concoction was already known as La Fee' Verte, and regarded by locals as a tonic." page 105

The 'real' story, according to Baker, goes like this:  The Henriod sisters were were already making Absinthe before Dr. Ordinaire arrived in the Alps region. A Major Dublied discovered the product, bought the recipe from the sisters Henriod, and started manufacturing it himself. Dublied moved his production company from Switzerland to France to save on import duties. He set up the Absinthe factory in Pontarlier, near the Swiss border. His daughter married a man named Henri-Louis Pernod in 1797, and the Pernod Fils brand of Absinthe was born.

A Writer's Paradise! 


When researching Some Enchanted Dream, I took the legend of how Absinthe was discovered, and the belief in the Green Fairy and ran with it, using it as a plot point. That's what writers like to do, take a legend and create a story around it. In Some Enchanted Dream, the Green Fairy, Artemisia, married a man escaping the French Revolution (fictional person, not Dr. Ordinaire), and gave him the recipe for Absinthe. He then imprisoned her in a garden, and produced the magic drink that inspired artists and poets. He died, leaving her stranded in her garden prison on his estate for several decades. Tara, my heroine, is also of the Fey race. She hears Artemisia reaching out to her in her dreams begging for aid in gaining her freedom.

What's the stuff made of, Really? 


Absinthe is made from an herb, wormwood, also known as Artemisia Absinthium, hence the name Absinthe.  The recipe typically is made from steeping various herbs in alcohol overnight--wormwood, anise, fennel and sometimes lemon balm. This mix is further boiled to produce the distillate of alcohol to combine with steam distilled terpenoids from the herbs. For more refinement, more herbs could be added like hyssop and petite absinthe (Artemisia Pontica).  Recipes varied, but the main kick was the wormwood steeped in Alcohol. It's not fermented like whiskey or brandy, instead, it's made quickly through steeping and steaming for refinement. Even so, Pernod Absinthe was 60% alcohol, so it was literally 120 proof, twice the strength of whiskey. The idea was to just have one glass in the evening.


It was the drink in Montmartre during the 1880's up through the early 20th century. Later, as the effects of too much wormwood ingestion via Absinthe became known, France and other countries started to restrict it's use and to ban it.  Others embraced it as a tonic for melancholy and as a mood enhancer.  Either way, it is a mysterious green liquid that can bring on visions and dreams, also known as The Green Eyed Muse. It is described as being the genius of those didn't have any genius, but the death of any real genius for those who did (possess genius).



Some drank it diluted, as I mentioned above, and it became fashionable later to also use an Absinthe spoon and light a cube of sugar aflame over the glass and let it drip into the drink. My husband and I have enjoyed a glass of Absinthe on many occasions with friends or just the two of us. I do admit to feeling a bit of a creative buzz from it. Not drunk, just mind kind of expanded and serene.  I see why the famous artists and writers sought the Green Muse!



Today, you can buy various brands of Absinthe again. Some are available for purchase in Europe via the internet, and some brands, like Lucid, can be bought here in the United States. The absinthe for sale in this century is not a true Absinthe as the old artists drank. It's been a little toned down to protect consumers.  Some people speculate that Absinthe was responsible for driving Van Gogh mad, and also Henri Toulouse Lautrec. Both spent time in mental institutions. Van Gogh killed himself after being released from one, and Toulouse Lautrec died in one.  I'm not sure if this is true or more urban legend, but some believe the heavy use of the drink can cause depravity and madness.

English writer H.P. Hugh called Absinthe a "Deadly Opal Drink"


And yet, by these labels, you don't get that idea about the vibrant green drink, do you.





Here is a youtube video of Johnny Depp, in From Hell, drinking Absinthe, using the popular method of sugar cube and flame.  It's a wonderful video with vocals by OnlyMandy87 singing Alice Cooper's classic song "Poison".  From Hell depicts the time of Jack the Ripper, circa 1889 in London, not Paris. Even so, you can see that Absinthe was a popular drink in not just France at this time, as Oscar Wilde and many other great English writers imbibed in the brew as well. It was a popular drink for those suffering melancholy or trying to forget their pain as well. But hell, I'm just a huge Johnny Depp fan, so hence the video....... enjoy.



Next Time: Those wonderful night clubs in Montmartre and Paris--the Moulin Galette, Moulin Rouge, and more!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Release Day for Some Enchanted Dream: The Belle Epoque Adventure



Wonderful news to announce today.

My 10th Romance Novel, and 9th Historical Romance, has just been released.



Amazon buy link

iTunes buy link


I'm celebrating, and taking a day off from the writing cave.

What's it all about: 

It is the Belle Époque; the beautiful time when Western Europe is at peace;
Adrian and Tara escaped arrest in Dublin nearly a century earlier through a time jump. They arrive in Paris of 1889 when the world's fair is in full swing. The newly completed Eiffel tower is the centerpiece of this gathering of nations celebrating the pinnacle of human achievement.

The newlyweds take lodgings in Montmartre, a village on the edge of Paris known for artists, absinthe and an avant garde lifestyle . . .

He's from the past: Adrian's privileged existence has crash landed into a sobering reality. He's time-jumped into the future with his lovely bride, only to find his wealth is locked up in a bank account he cannot access because he's legally dead. Adrian struggles to overcome his aristocratic airs and survive without his wealth. As a vigilante in his prior life, will he rise to the occasion on the back streets of Montmartre when Tara challenges him to make a difference? 

She's from the Future: As a 21st century woman, Tara is discovering marriage to a man from the past has its difficulties. She's awakening to her fey powers and learning how to use the magic within to survive among mortals. Can she balance her new, empowered existence with her love for a man who believes it is his duty to care for her? When the Green Fairy visits Tara's dreams, she realizes she's been drawn to this time and place for a reason--and it isn't to admire impressionist art.


Beneath the gaiety and celebration in the City of Light, a cruel darkness lurks. Tara and Adrian must blend their strengths to vanquish an ancient evil seeking to enslave mankind. 

This book was so much fun to write, and research. I've always been fascinated by this era, with artists haunting Montmartre and creating new, exciting art for the world to enjoy. This is the time of Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, and other impressionist and post impressionist painters.  My minor in Art History helped some, but I still had to research the Paris Exposition of 1889 and the use of Absinthe, and so on.  Loved every minute of it, and now its out in the world!   

Buy Links:


This story is a sequel to Some Enchanted Waltz, A Time Travel Romance.
In the first book, Tara O'Neill is thrust from our time into Ireland of 1798. She is rescued from British soldiers by a masked man, Captain Midnight. He's also a wealthy Irish Lord, known as Viscount Dillon.  He convinces her to marry him for her own protection, and the adventure ensues.


You won't need to read book 1 to be able to enjoy book two, but if you like time travel stories, romance mingled with history, you might like this one as well.

Thanks for your patience in waiting, my deadline got bumped from an April release to May (31) release on Some Enchanted Dream. Hopefully, the wait was worth it. If you are looking for Some Enchanted Waltz, click the picture of the book on the sidebar and it will take you to the Amazon page.

Today, I'm in my gazebo, drinking coffee and enjoying the spring flowers.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Paris in the Spring, a Cliche'? Part One--Art


Irises in Spring, Lily Silver copyright 2007

"Lilac bushes are in full bloom and the air is heavy with their fragrance. In all the public gardens and squares flowers have been planted and are thriving. The streets are thronged with ladies in beautiful dresses--crowds of persons sitting in front of the cafes and restaurants . . . the boulevards are filled with vehicles (carriages) of every description--yet there is no unpleasant hurrying no pushing. . . "  Quote from The American Register Newspaper, circa the late nineteenth century. 

I love Paris, all things Paris.  Big surprise there, who doesn't?  


 However, I just finished writing a novel where one of the main support characters doesn't.  To quote Dan Wilson in Some Enchanted Dream, "I hate Paris in the spring, it's a fucking cliche!"

Well, Dan is a modern man so he is forgiven for being a cynic.  He's also a sassy character who speaks his mind a bit too frequently. He makes the statement above when he arrives in Paris of 1889, during a blinding rainstorm. By the time he meets Henri Toulouse Lautrec, and goes to the Moulin Galette, however, he's loving Paris in this time period. Its a modern man's paradise.

For the past six months I've been researching Paris life in 1889, during the Belle Epoque.  Specifically the Montmartre neighborhood, and the Paris expo of 1889. It's been so much fun. I've devoted a couple of Pinterest boards to just the visual aspects of Paris in that era. 


What is the appeal for me? Or you?  Well, there is plenty to get your blood moving if you are familiar with the era. 

 

The Artist Movements: 

 

Van Gogh's The Starry Night, compare with image directly below this one

We've all heard of Vincent Van Gogh, right?  The guy who has his images plastered on mugs and tee shirts, whose original paintings sell now for a fortune each.  But back in 1889, things weren't looking so good for Vincent. He was a poor painter, had only sold one painting in his lifetime, and people generally thought he was nuts. He was laughed at, scorned, and looked down upon. He was an emotional guy, true, but he was brilliant and no one recognized that face. He lived in obscurity, painting life as he saw it. And his method was part of a new movement called Impressionism that the art world and critics hated. The art curators would not let the Impressionists hang their paintings in the annual salon show for viewing by the public. They considered the works of Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Seurat and others to be too different from the norm of painting realistic almost photographic depictions of historic event.  See below:

 
Oath of the Horatii, by David, a traditional painting of era

The impressionists and post impressionists were painting what they saw in the blink of an eye, and that upset a lot of people. These artists were also delving into subject matter that was taboo, like nudes of women known in French society--recognizable women. They immortalized prostitutes, and Absinthe drinkers, people most of society didn't want to even know about much less be the feature of a modern art show.  

But, the impressionists and other artists of the time kept painting. When they were refused entry to the established circles of galleries and salons, they set up their own art shows in the parks, allowing the general public to decide for themselves what they liked instead of the gatekeepers who controlled the galleries and what was seen by the public.  So this era is very interesting as it brought unimaginable changes to the art world that we take for granted today. 

 Okay, two reasons to love Paris in the Springtime.  One, the  Spring Salon was a big annual event where vetted art approved by the critics and curators was put on display to the public for a couple of weeks. And second, the unapproved artists also displayed their works in parks and public cafes to get the work out to art lovers when they were banned by the establishment. 

 
Gauguin's Tahiti period, Note a similar style by later artist Frida Kahlo

These artists were also interesting characters, having wild affairs, being eccentric, drinking Absinthe to gain inspiration from the muse, living on a dime, and making the conservatives around them cringe with their flamboyant lifestyles. Paul Gauguin, for example, quit his day job as a stock broker and left his wife and children (not cool in any age), to pursue an art career. He went to Tahiti to paint nudes of natives, among other things like landscapes.  Abandoning his family is not admirable in any age, but he did become a famous artist, eventually.  He's best known for those Tahitian nudes, which are primitive by the standards of the art era he lived in, but sort of revolutionary in style compared to the traditional depictions of previous times.

 

Henri Toulouse Lautrec is also a prominent figure in this area. He was the son of a count, but again chose to go to Montmartre, the artist's district just north of Paris, and become a painter. Toulouse Lautrec was height challenged, a little person in modern lingo. He was also very flamboyant at times. Henri created a cocktail he called an earthquake, a mix of equal parts Absinthe and Cognac. He is famous for his depictions of the night life of the cabarets, including the Moulin Rouge.  His style was not at all traditional, either, and he took a lot of flack for it from traditional, conservative art critics at the time. He essentially painted naughty girls--can-can dancers, prostitutes, and gave some of the portraits a gritty edge. He was another brilliant player who influenced art in a big way, opening up the door to true realism in art and not just pretty, painterly realism that had a classic aesthetic.  Toulouse Lautrec began doing poster art for businesses, like the Moulin Rouge. Like Van Gogh, he died poor and unrecognized except in a negative way, and was committed to an asylum.

 
Lautrec's poster art

Art was one of the huge draws for me in creating a time travel story set in 1889 Paris, and more specifically, Montmartre, the artist's district.  I've studied art history for years and minored it in in college. This era is exciting for art in so many ways, so much changed within a short time as new artists brought new styles and techniques into play. And boy, did they live the life!  

As Dan Wilson says in my book, the hippies of the Haight-Ashbury era had nothing on these daring souls. The men leaving a comfortable home to live in Montmartre were brilliant in their own right, visionaries in the art world, post humus in many cases. They drank, partied, brawled, hung out in cafes late at night and discussed art together, made love with their subjects at times, haunted the dance halls and created a new age in art by breaking down barriers. Artists coming after them are beholden to them for taking the scorn and rejection and pushing through.  

 

 
Painting by Toulouse Lautrec

My apologies if I've bored you in my enthusiasm for the artists of this time. I started out in this post trying to share many of the elements that went into my newest Time Travel Romance Adventure, Some Enchanted Dream.  However, I couldn't put it all in one post. I couldn't limit my love of the artists of this time to one paragraph, as I originally planned. And since I've gone a couple of weeks without a post, this will make up for it, I hope. 


In the next few posts I'll devote time to other elements of the era that beckoned me to write the book, such as the Famous World Expo of 1889 that was held in Paris and used the newly completed Eiffel Tower as a centerpiece, the heavy use of Absinthe in this period, The search for the Green Fairy--the artist's muse, the avant garde lifestyles and of course the popular dance halls like The Moulin Rouge. FYI, there were other nightclubs before it that had just as much excitement going on to draw in patrons--circus acts, card games and beautiful showgirls enticing the men. Think Las Vegas, but without electricity!


Here is an excerpt from my book: Dan is a time traveler from our time, and is meeting local artists at a cafe in May 1889 to share Absinthe, dinner and some interesting conversation: 

Release date 5/30/15
Excerpt of Some Enchanted Dream, COPYRIGHT LILY SILVER, 2015
     "This was Paris, in the time of Le Heure Verte.
     Dan was enchanted by the phrase. The Parisians actually had a name for the time of day when everyone indulged in a glass of green liquor. L'heure Verte. The Green Hour.
     He was sitting at an outdoor table on the terrace of the Cafe Veron on Blvd Montmartre, sipping absinthe with two men he had met in the tobacco shop that afternoon.
     Never one for art, Dan couldn't name the famous fellow who had painted an outdoor cafe scene at night, he only remembered the guy had flaming red hair and was supposed to have cut off his ear and gifted it to some poor lady he admired. Mad fellow, that, but his paintings from this time were worth millions in the future.
     I'll ask Tara about the fellow, surely she'll know his name, Dan thought. Wouldn't it be a hoot if they could meet that famous painter? He was mimicking his companions, taking small sips of the bittersweet drink of pale, opalescent green that had an hour of the day named after it. L'heure Verte.  He tasted licorice, lemon balm and some other delicate flavoring that tickled his senses.  
     "Where are you from, good fellow?" Dan's companion asked politely. Arthur Bellows was the man who had directed them to their present lodgings the other day. Bellows hailed from England. He was spending a year in Paris, trying to establish himself as an artist.
     "America," Dan answered, rolling his lips and letting his tongue dart about them to garner another taste of the unusual drink. "I was visiting my daughter and her husband in Dublin. They decided to come to Paris on a whim. It seemed a pleasant diversion."

      "I salute their effort at spontaneity," Mr. Paul Gouffe' said with bold authority. "Didn't they realize every room in Paris would be let for the Exposition?" The man had a nose that seemed more broken than hooked. His face was grave, his hair black and his beard bushy and full where his comrade, Mr. Bellows had a countenance that was smooth-shaven and his manner was quiet and cultured. "The world has come to bow at our feet. We are the city of light."  
      An odd pair, these two, but friendly toward a stranger, Dan conceded.
     "Paul, don't be so hard on the fellow," Arthur argued. "Here's to you and your daughter, Sir. May your dreams become manifest in our fair city of light." Arthur raised his small glass toward the tower glowing in the distance, the Eiffel Tower, and they drank to his toast.
      "It is the time for dreams, no?" Paul, the burly fellow, gestured about. "Take me? I've left my stuffy life as a bank clerk to become a painter. We must all embrace our dreams, oui?"
      "Ah, yes. And if only you could find patrons for your primitive nudes," Arthur laughed, and slapped the brute fellow on the shoulder. "Then you'd stop complaining about not having two sous to rub together in this glorious city of light."
      Paul's face, coarse and unpleasant as it was, grew red, signaling trouble. He stood up, and tossed his empty glass to the curb. The noise of it shattering made the men at the tables around them turn to look. "M'sieur Bellows, you insult me with your jest in front of our guest!"
   
"Paul, sit. I meant no insult to you and you know it. You tell everyone here night after night how you cannot sell your glorious paintings to the salon, how you need to find patrons to fund your next trip around the world, so why the pretended offense if I tell the same story to a visitor in our midst?" Arthur argued.
      Murmurs about them, mostly in French, gave Dan the uneasy feeling a fight was about to ensue between the gruff Mr. Gouffe' and his more temperate English friend.
      A long string of French exploded from Paul's ruddy lips like a wind storm. He glared at Arthur. Arthur stood up, appearing to take issue with the Frenchman's hot words.
     "Gentleman," Dan rose and extended a hand toward each of them. "Do not ruin my first evening out in Paris with a brawl. I should like to hear more about your paintings, Paul."
     "Not tonight," the Frenchman hissed, and lumbered away from the open cafe.
     "He is a hot headed chap," Arthur explained as they took their seats again. "Doesn't take much to set him off. He'll be off to visit one of his whores to soothe his ego."
      Dan nodded, but didn't comment. The fellow had been so jovial earlier that afternoon when they met in the tobacco shop. He was sullen and ill tempered this evening. "So, he paints nudes, does he?"
     "This is Paris. We all paint nudes. To the beauty of the female form." Arthur lifted his glass once again in a toast.  
     Dan couldn't contain his grin. This place was turning into paradise. "Here, here."  
     A waiter came out bearing a tray of cooked meat, and a woman followed with plates and forks.            Dan swallowed hard, realizing he'd not eaten since before noon and it was now past six in the evening. He patted his pockets. "How much? I'll toss in half."
     "No." Arthur held up a thin hand with long fingers. "You are my guest tonight, Mr. Wilson. And my father, the ill humored Earl of Leicester, is the benefactor for our feast. Eat, friend. Eat. Drink. Celebrate. This is Paris, after all. And we are her suitors from afar, come to court Le belle dame sans merci, The beautiful woman without mercy." 
      The scent of roasted fowl was curling about Dan's nose with exotic tendrils of seduction. He could not argue with his companion. Hopefully, he'd be able to return the favor and buy Arthur a few pints later this evening. "Are you a poet as well as an artist?"
      Arthur sliced a piece of breast meat from the sultry brown carcass between them. He offered it to Dan by reaching across the table and placing it on his plate. There were steaming potatoes, and green beans. Dan smiled with wicked delight. If Paul hadn't become so foul tempered, he'd be eating with them now. Well, then, all the more for himself and Artie.  
     "I do write verse from time to time, but that quote is not my own. It comes from Keats, written long ago. Do you not know your English Poets, my good man?  "'I met a lady in the meads, Full beautiful--a  fairy's child, her hair was long, her foot was light, and her eyes were wild'.  To Keats, the beautiful woman without mercy is actually a fairy maid."
      Dan choked on the mouthful of roasted duck he was trying to swallow. Fairy. He'd been slapped upside the head recently over that odd business. And wasn't that what got him into this wild mess of time travel in the first place? Fairy magic. Tara's fairy magic, to be precise.
     
COPYRIGHT LILY SILVER, 2015

NEXT TIME: Absinthe, that lovely green drink that inspires men to dream, to write, to paint, to create!