Jo Beverley, a Storyteller For All Seasons

bev3 Readers have been devouring Jo Beverley’s bestselling novels for many years.  Her shelves are loaded with RITA trophies, and she was one of Romance Writers of America’s first inductees into the RWA Hall of Fame.  Her stories immerse us in accurately detailed settings with exquisitely drawn characters.  Romance with a capital R.  Welcome to the convertible, Jo!  Please tell us about your latest book and your recent travels.

bev2 A SCANDELOUS COUNTESSis mostly set in the summer of 1765, but it opens in June 1764, when Georgia Maybury’s husband is killed in a duel — rumored to be a duel over her honor. Her family sweep her off to their stately home in Worcesterhire, (pronounced Wustershuh) to let the scandal die down.

Go here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worcestershireto see where that is in England. You can read all about it, but fair warning, it doesn’t play much part in the book. (If you’re interested, I now live in Devon, which is the second bit up on the SW toe of the map. The furthest south is Cornwall.)

Georgia doesn’t intend to spend her whole mourning year at vast, cold Herne House — heaven forbid! — and has plans to celebrate Christmas at the house of her best friend, but then her mother-in-law dies.

She writes to her friend.

December 6th, 1764

Lizzie! Have you heard the news? Dickon’s mother has departed this life. I suppose I should express my grief, but as she was relentlessly unpleasant to me for most of my marriage, I will not play the hypocrite.

How unfair she was to blame me when we moved to Town when it was Dickon who was desperate to escape as soon as he was of age and in control of his fortune. Yet it was to me she wrote, complaining of our extravagance.

Oh, but I complained of all that at the time. Did I tell you of the letters she send after Dickon’s death? I think not. Written in acid with a fiery pen. I tried to respond moderately, Lizzie, I truly did, for I understood the anguish of a mother who had lost her only child, but in the end I had the letters kept from me. I didn’t return them, for I feared that would cause her greater pain, but I could not read any more of them.

She believed the foulest stories about me. I not only took Vance as a lover, but every single man in my court, and of course I seduced Vance into getting rid of my unwanted husband….

Oh, I will write no more of her, think no more of her! But alas, I fear I cannot visit you at Christmas. I won’t play the hypocrite, but I must give my husband’s mother the honor of at least a month of mourning.

If you and Torrismonde don’t go to Town for the winter season, perhaps I may visit you in January. For now, I am gathering my shawls, thick stockings, and woolen mitts in hope of surviving to see you again.

Your frozen friend,

Georgia M

 

I sympathize with Georgia, for though England doesn’t get extremely cold in winter — it’s rarely much below freezing — it’s a damp cold that can eat into your bones. I grew up in Lancashire, known for its damp climate, without central heating, but at least it was a fairly small house, not a palatial seat mostly floored with marble! Even with a comfortable, well-heated house, we’re spending January in southern Spain. There’s a picture of the local beach, with the port of Malaga in the distance, and another of the local delicacy — sardines cooked over a wood fire on a sugar cane skewer.

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In the letter, Georgia writes of the winter season. For a long time I didn’t know about it, for it was less important in the Regency period, though still a courtly fact. In the Georgian period it officially began with the king’s birthday on the 18th January, when anyone who was anyone should be in Town and at the court celebrations, but in effect it started with New Year’s celebrations.

London in winter? Why?

Remember the weather and consider Georgia’s options. Herne House, mostly unusable in winter. Her friend Lizzie’s house, which is a manor house, but with small rooms that can be kept warm will be much better, and then she intends a move to a London town house, which would be very cosy.

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London town houses in the 18th century weren’t the grand places seen in Upstairs Downstairs; they were tall, narrow houses in terraces, so less heat loss through side walls, and with modest sized rooms.  This picture (above, left) taken on a recent trip to London, shows a row of late Georgian houses. They’re hotels now, but you can see that the original houses were only two windows wide. There’s another picture (right) of a larger house, but you can still see that the rooms would be quite small. What’s more, a having a life in London didn’t risk health and safety with rural journeys in bad weather. A short walk or a ride in a sedan chair, perhaps warmed with some hot bricks on the floor, and one could visit friends, theaters, assemblies and balls.

By the way, the beauty of a sedan chair was it could be carried into the house so the user could get into it in comfort — cold, rain, or wind — and exit it the same way at the other end.

So Town or country in winter in the 18th century? Which would you prefer?

Georgia doesn’t escape winter at Herne, but she’s determined to move to Town as soon as her mourning is over in June, because Town is life and excitement. Before then, however, she encounters an interesting man during her last weeks of mourning.

Her father has arranged a private horse race at Herne, setting his prize mare against one owned by the new Lord Dracy. Until recently, Dracy was a naval officer, and he’s not a man of fashion. He knows nothing about Georgia or the scandal. Here’s how he first hears about her. He’s on the course, waiting for the race to begin.

Cartagena was perfectly conformed. Even his cousin Ceddie had seen that. The fool had ruined the estate with his taste for London life and the latest fashions, and he’d sold off his father’s famous thoroughbreds to pay for gewgaws. He’d kept Carta, however, called the Midnight Jade then, hoping she’d eventually show well in races and sell for a high price.

Carta had been Ceddie’s gamble, and now she was his, renamed for the best battle he’d taken part in. Do or die, then and now.

“Here we go,” Knowlton said, as the jockeys mounted.

Hernescroft’s man wore green and yellow silks, Dracy’s black and red lozenges. The two horses eyed each other as if they knew everything rested on this contest of speed and stamina.

“The deuce!” exclaimed Knowlton.

“What?” Dracy looked around for some unexpected hazard.

“The Scandalous Countess. Over there, in men’s clothing.”

Dracy looked and saw a man cramming a wide-brimmed hat back on the head of a laughing, red-haired woman.

“You could object to that,” Knowlton said. “She could jinx the whole thing.”

“I don’t believe in jinxes.” Dracy returned his attention to important matters. Devil take it, Carta was starting one of her fidgets. Perhaps she objected to red hair.

“Got Maybury killed in a duel over her lewd behavior.”

“Who?”

“Lady Maybury. The Scandalous Countess.”

“She planned it?” Dracy asked, a scrap of attention caught.

“No, no. At least, I don’t think so. Husband dead, Vance fled the country, but there she is, merry as a may fly. Maybury was an amiable fellow.”

“If he was amiable enough to let her stray, he should have been too amiable to challenge someone over it.”

“Devil take it, Dracy!”

“I’ve no interest in Lady Maybury or her lovers. Calm down, Carta. Calm down. At this rate she’ll burn off her energy before the race starts.”

“Too high spirited.”

“There’s nothing wrong with high spirits.”

“A true beauty,” Knowlton said.

“Isn’t she just?”

“But too wild to handle.”

“Jorrocks and she understand each other.”

“Who? Damme, Dracy, I was talking about Georgia Maybury.”

“To hell with Georgia Maybury. They’re readying for the off.”

You can read their first encounter on my web page, here. http://www.jobev.com/ascancexc.html

A SCANDELOUS COUNTESS is a Romantic Timestop pick, and it’s getting rave reviews.

Here’s one from Reader to Reader:

“Jo Beverley has once again proven why her novels are so popular with readers and critics alike. A Scandalous Countess, part of the Malloren World series, has everything from unrequited love to a good old-fashioned mystery, along with fascinating historical details about areas as diverse as the water system in London in the mid-18th century to the life of a young widow and the role defined by that status. The day to day life of London’s wealthiest citizens is detailed, but so is the contrasting life of those who rusticate in the country, all in perfect balance. The romance between Dracy and Georgia is unexpected and charming, and readers will root for love to win the day. Intelligent, intriguing and entertaining, A Scandalous Countess is enthralling, a book difficult to put down once the first page is turned.”

Have you had much experience of winter cold without modern conveniences? How do you think you’d do if suddenly transported back to the 18th century? Assuming you’re transported back as an aristocratic lady, hat sort of home would you prefer in winter, and what sort of comforts would you demand?

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I’ll give a copy of the previous countess book, AN UNLIKELY COUNTESS, to a random pick of one of the comments that answers any of my questions.

Have fun and keep warm!

Jo

For more news and views from Jo and 28 of her closest writer friends (including Kathleen)  be sure to “like” The Story Garden on Facebook and enter The Story Garden’s February contest for a chance to win a Kindle Fire and more wonderful books!

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About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
This entry was posted in Georgean England, Jo Beverley, London, Regency Romance, Spain and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Jo Beverley, a Storyteller For All Seasons

  1. TRACIE says:

    Sounds like a sweet read!
    We have not had a heater for the last couple of years. Living in Southern California you wouldn’t think it would be a huge hardship but there have been many mornings with thick frost on the windshield and the temps have dipped to the low 30’s. The blankets and layers are piled on to offset it but every morning is a challenge to leave the warm cocoon.
    Good luck and happy writing!

  2. CateS says:

    I’ve been cold, but never that bone chilling damp dank stuff… And I won’t be looking to experience it either!! I’m always in a sweater/sweatshirt/jacket mode for the colder months!

  3. Minna says:

    Nearly every time when we have a storm at winter at countryside there are powercuts that can last for hours -even days, if we are really unlucky and no electricity means no modern conveniences. But we have a sauna stove that is heated with wood, so we can stay warm and even heat some food. And anything that needs to stay cold is taken to the woodshed. It’s cold enough at winter.

  4. Good morning in America–Good afternoon Jo!

    One of my favorite TV series was BBC/PBS “The 1900 House.” What an education! With all our “conveniences” it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to keep house in those days, but when I remember that my grandmother got married in 1901 and my husband lived on a reservation in a log house with no electricity or running water when he was a boy, I realize I’m spoiled. I think it does us good to have a power outage once in a while.

    Dry cold is easier on the bones than damp cold, but it’s hard on the skin. I grew up in MA, where winter air temps were a little higher than those in the midwest, but there was more moisture in the air, so it felt cold. It’s the wind on the Plains that get you.

    I think I’d prefer a cozy cottage to a rambling mansion.

  5. kris says:

    I’m from Massachusetts and have given up the concept of being considered a hardy New Englander. I’ve been in various places in the South for a number of years and I really do need to go live on the sun. 🙂 Give me a beach and consistent 70 degree, sunny days forevermore and I’ll be happy.

    • Whenever we’ve been to Hawaii, we’ve spent the first few days thinking exactly that–this is perfect. Let’s just stay here. But you soon realize there are things you miss and it’s a long, expensive flight to get to them. But, oh, what a glorious place to visit.

      I’ve lived lots of places, and the one aspect of climate that really bothers me is humidity. I’m a serious sweater. Sweat-er?

  6. Quilt Lady says:

    We had an ice storm a few years back and I was very cold. We didn’t have any back up heat or anything, so we was without heat for a week. So I was so happy to get the power back on.

  7. catslady says:

    If you give me one of your heroes I won’t care where I live 🙂

  8. christieridgway says:

    I’d be like Georgia and want to stay in Town with amusements and better possibility of staying warm! Love your books, Jo, and can’t wait to pick this one up.

  9. Monikarw says:

    I just reacently dicovered your books! I know, what have I been reading, right? ; ) lol
    well, I love them! And I’d love to read this book 🙂
    to answer your question I’m sure I wouldn’t do well in the snow! =/
    you see, I’ve never seen the snow, I live in a desertic zone, have for my entire life! So, it’s really hot in here and in winter we don’t go really cold! Since I’m not used tto it, I’d probably suffer in the british winter!
    But whenever I read historicals I’ve always want to live in the country 🙂

  10. loisgreiman says:

    Thanks so much for joining us, Jo. We’re honored to have you. Can’t wait to read your latest.

  11. Jenni says:

    Last year, about this time, Dallas had an ice storm. It was every teacher and school kid’s dream: no school alllll week long. It was a lovely break from work, but it was also a break from modern conveniences for quite a few days when power went out.

    I put extra sweaters on the poodle, we snuggled under quilts and my wool tartan and I read by the light of the sun reflecting off the snow. No phone. No Internet (ok, I cheated and used ,y iPhone here and there, charging it in my car). No tv. It was kind of lovely.

    But I got tired of eating crackers without the benefit of cheese. 🙂

  12. chey says:

    I haven’t had much experience without modern conveniences in the winter. I don’t think I’d do well without electricity or running water.

  13. Caffey says:

    Hi Jo! One thing I so love about your books is that it so gets me interested in learning more about what I read, in a fun way! I love it! I love seeing pics of the homes, in and out! Too of the Inns. I think with not liking to travel, I would stay in the country in the winter! We have been known for our blizzards here in Buffalo and I remember one week, I think it was in the early 90’s, that we had such a bad blizzard and ice and really they don’t let you travel and mostly we stocked up before the storm and I would cuddle with blankets and have candles ready etc. And lots of books (I had read 6 of Christina Dodd’s Governess books that week!) And two of the days were no power but we were ready. We stay in one room alot and lots of reading and they playing their music (always had lots of batteries) or they were out shoveling. I’ve gone through this quite a few times (but nothing this year) So I would definitely brings books, blankets and lots of wood! Oh and food! I could survive, I do with our blizzards here, LOL. I always love to ask authors about what they would take with them (and where they would go) if they time traveled back. No toilet paper then, but for sure must take soap too!

    cathiecaffey @ gmail.com

  14. Debra Dixon says:

    Jo! Congrats on the new release. And I haven’t seen that pic of you before. It’s a nice one.

    “Worcesterhire, (pronounced Wustershuh)” Thank you! I’ve been having this fight with my hubby for years.

    To all– I have loved Jo’s work for the longest time. If you have not read her, you must.

  15. Jo Beverley says:

    Thanks for the lovely comments. Perhaps I shouldn’t have blogged about weather. The wretched weather that’s been killing people in easter Europe is moving west. Chaos in Italy from the snow, and that’s in the middle and even south, not the north near the Alps.

    Now it’s nippy in Spain. Perhaps it won’t be such a shock to get back to England in a couple of days!

    Yes, Deb, Americans want to say the “shire” bits of counties clearly and with emphasis, but it’s sort of swallowed in a muted “shuh”

    Jo

  16. laurieg72 says:

    Hi Jo,
    A SCANDELOUS COUNTESS is a Romantic Timestop pick, and it’s getting rave reviews.
    WOW! FANTASTIC!
    In November a storm knocked out power to our home. We have electric heat. We survived by moving into our smallest room with sweat clothes on our bodies and several blankets. We had candles for light. Food cereal, crackers and a jug of water.

    18th Century-
    I ‘d miss my shower, microwave,automobile, antibiotics and the ease of keeping in touch with family and friends.

    I’d have to have a large fireplace and books!

  17. HJ says:

    The problem with fires is that, although they look lovely and are fascinating to watch, they take a long time to heat a cold damp room because most of the heat goes up the chimney. I have discovered this living in a beautiful but cold old house in England, trying to sit inside a fireplace to get warm! (Doesn’t stop your back from freezing.) If I were transported to the eighteenth century I’d want as many warming pans and hot bricks as possible, because the best modern invention for winter is the electric blanket.

  18. Anme says:

    A few years ago, in northern WV, my area had a freak heavy blizzard on October 3rd that wreaked havoc with the electric lines because there were still leaves on the trees, and thus a lot of trees and branches coming down. (funnily enough, it wasn’t actually the earliest snowfall ever for the area) Luckily I had only some branches to deal with, my neighbor had one tree that went down and took the lines down with it. So, we spent the next 3 days with no electric, and temperatures in the 20s and 30s. It gave us a small taste of what life would have been like 100 years ago, though we were worse prepared with no wood burning stove!

  19. Debbie Walsh says:

    Interesting question. We are U.S. midwesterners (Chicago) but enjoyed two weeks in November on the Atlantic Cornwall coast in St. Agnes. During our stay, our cottage lost its water heater and we spent two days wrestling with heating water in the kettle and taking sponge baths. It was cold, damp and unpleasant, and certainly unexpected, but in a way, it was part of the adventure. We were able to imagine what we would have been dealing with if we had lived in the same place in the 19th century (well, perhaps without the electric kettle, but we would have had a wood stove and another form of kettle) but two days versus a lifetime, I suspect the ‘charm’ would have worn off if the ‘adventure’ had lasted much beyond two days. Give me central heating and hot water on demand or I whine and get very cranky.

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