Friday, March 30, 2012

The Victorian Trousseau

This week I worked on the proposal of marriage offered by Patrick Rochester to Charlotte Gray. After torturing the man for a good five pages, she finally relented to marrying him.

Her sister, Lilly Collins, is actively involved in preparations for the wedding. One task that she is helping Charlotte with is preparing her trousseau. This French word refers, of course, to a bride's bundle of personal possessions amassed prior to the wedding that include undergarments and clothing. Late in the 19th and early 20th century a collection of household wares (tablecloths, towels, linens, etc.) were included.

My story is set roughly around the 1885-1890, so Charlotte's collection of personal items deal mainly with fine undergarments and clothing. Below is an excerpt from Vintage Connection describing a typical trousseau around 1884. It would include the following:


"... a dozen chemises trimmed with embroidery or insertions, a dozen nightdresses, six well-trimmed combinations, a dozen drawers, nine trimmed petticoats, one French petticoat, nine camisoles, six vests, five flannel petticoats, two dressing gowns, three bed jackets, a dozen pairs of fine-quality Lisle stockings, three pairs of silk stockings, two dozen handkerchiefs, a pair of French corsets, a bustle, a satin nightdress and a lace-trimmed sachet."

Women wore such beautiful clothing compared to our jeans and t-shirts of today. I feel like a slob half the time when I read about everything a lady possessed in her trousseau. Maybe that's why I don't feel like a lady!

In my next post, I'll write about the Victorian wedding and post some stunning pictures of period wedding dresses.

There are quite a few vintage clothing websites, if you search Google, where you can purchase period clothing still intact. I doubt, however, that I have a waist that would fit into any period clothing unless I squish my organs with a corset.

Here is a nice French corset from 1891 and interesting article, as well, about how they were poor for your health, but made you look stunning in a dress. Click Here.

Hope you enjoy!

Vicki

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Romance Genre - It's a Tough Gig

Every time an author sits down to write a book, you ask yourself a lot of questions. Is the story any good? Is the plot okay? Are the characters believable? Is there enough conflict and suspense? Is it too predictable? The list goes on and on.

I just received a new book on how to write good conflict and suspense. The only books I read are how to be a better writer. I always hope that my next novel will show growth in my craft and become more appealing to readers. I'm still tuning my style and finding my voice. Of course, this being my fourth fiction, you'd think I would have found it by now!

Today I stumbled across a few historical romances on Amazon from best selling traditionally published authors. I wanted to read why people liked what they wrote or why they didn't like it. Wow, what an interesting exercise, which reminded me that the romance genre is one tough gig.

Here is a sample of the few colorful comments written in reviews:

  • So predictable as to be tedious
  • Horrible
  • Awful
  • Dull
  • No romance
  • Boring characters
  • The hero is an idiot
  • The heroine is stupid
  • Zero chemistry between the hero and the heroine
  • Unbelievable plot
  • Historically inaccurate
  • Just threw the book against the wall
Boy, it's hard to please women!

So, what are women looking for in romance? I'm asking that question as I start the second half of Dark Persuasion. I don't really follow the "rules" of writing romance novels (yes, readers there are rules). I'm becoming hesitant about adding the word "romance" to my search terms. I've been told by another author that my books are more "historical fiction, with romantic elements." Perhaps, I should stick with that description. However, when romance is the best selling genre around, you sort of want to keep your toe in the water to get noticed.

In any event, I'm back to that question, what are women looking for in romance novels? It seems there are more earls, dukes, lords, rogues, and rakes than you can shake a stick at. Covers are never-ending back-bared women in flowing dresses with handsome men sliding their hands down their bodies. Does every story need to sweep a reader off their feet? Does every story need to have a strong woman as a character? Does every story need to have a hero that makes your heart melt into a pool of jello when you imagine his hot lips capturing your own?

After reading all those comments today, it makes me a bit nervous with this book. I find myself back to the question: Do I write to please the masses or do I write to tell a story? I'm waffling here.

I'll do my best with Dark Persuasion; but if you don't like it, I give you permission to throw it against the wall. It won't be the first time, since The Price of Innocence has taken that journey due to its ending. I was glad to hear today it wasn't the first book that had made that trip.

You gotta love it!

Cheers,
Vicki

PS - Thanks to handsome Jimmy Thomas for one more hot picture to drool over. He makes a handsome Patrick Rochester, don't you think?


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tiny Taste of First Impressions

I'm over halfway finished with the novel. A few weeks ago, I was writing like a maniac, but then my life situation threw me a few curves and my time to write came to a screeching halt. I hate it when I lose momentum.

At the present time, I'm looking at Chapter 18 and am at a pivotal point in the storyline. Sometimes you reach a point in a story where you stand at crossroad with a variety of paths to follow. Right now I'm at the intersection trying to decide which way to go.

As usual, I've picked a story that's not the cookie-cutter formula for romance. You may find Charlotte Gray a gullible, weak-willed woman who is easily duped by the men in her life. Of course, she has the disadvantage of not being able to see her suitors. She can only formulate her impressions about a man based on his voice, words, actions, and through the recommendations of others. Charlotte Gray may follow her inward instincts, but what if she is wrong? It's a challenge indeed.

The question is will you like or dislike her when you read the peril she places herself into because of her trusting nature? I guess I'll have to wait to find out. The other question, of course, is what you'll think of the two brothers who vie for her attention and love. Yes, we have rivals and a game to play between the two.

In the meantime, I thought I'd give you a taste of her first impressions. Hope you enjoy:

*****

(Copyright 2012-Vicki Hopkins - Draft)

Charlotte floated into the carriage. The evening had far exceeded her expectations in every way. Lilly scooted next to her, no doubt eager to ask her every delicious detail about her dances. She wondered if her father and mother were smiling like Chesire cats.

“I’m very pleased at how the evening turned out, Charlotte," commented her father. "Lord Rochester’s ball was undoubtedly the social affair of the county and to think it was in your honor.”

Honor.

A word that Charlotte rarely considered should be given to her as a blind woman. Yet, she had to admit a twinge of pride welled in her heart over the evening's events. It had gone well. She could have danced the entire night and not felt fatigued.


“I will acknowledge that I am surprised over the attention I received. Hopefully, it was not pity, but laced with some sincerity of interest toward me as a woman.”

“Pity?” exclaimed Lilly. “Hardly, my dear. I wish you could have seen their faces and the looks in their eyes, Charlotte. Especially that of Patrick Rochester.”

“Patrick Rochester?” It was not the name she cared to hear. “What of Rupert, his brother? How did he look at me?”
The carriage grew strangely quiet. She heard her father clear his voice.

“It’s difficult to put into words. Don’t you agree, Lilly?”

“Indeed,” she drawled, apparently pondering carefully how to describe him. “I would characterize him as smugly curious.”
“Smugly curious?” Charlotte’s heart sank as she repeated the words. “I don’t understand what you mean by smugly curious.”

“He acted far too sure of himself, as if he were doing you a favor Charlotte by asking you to dance. I did not see any real adoration in his gaze. He was smugly curious and a bit indiscreet in the way he looked at you.”

“I will say,” interjected her father, “the elder brother, Patrick Rochester, appeared quite anxious to be in your presence. In fact, he stood like a mesmerized fool for quite some time staring at you, my dear.”

“I didn’t like him,” Charlotte quipped. “He seemed stiff and unyielding when we danced. I thought at one point that he frankly was performing a token duty for his uncle in asking my hand for a waltz.”

Charlotte erased the distasteful look from her face and smiled warmly. “Rupert Rochester, on the other hand, was quite amiable. I found his personality to be lighthearted and warmly gregarious. It was a breath of fresh air.”

“Well, just because he may not dance well,” Lilly defended him with a tone of annoyance
, “doesn’t mean the man is not a good catch. I dare say that Patrick Rochester was undoubtedly the most handsome man in the entire room, as far as I’m concerned.” Lilly squeezed Charlotte’s hand. “His eyes were so dark and expressive. If I were not married myself, I would throw myself at his feet and beg for a kiss and not care one ounce what impropriety would be thought of it.”

“Lilly!” exclaimed her mother. “Such talk from a married woman. Mind yourself!”


“I suppose that is one advantage I possess as a blind woman," Charlotte announced with pride.
No man can entice my interests merely because he looks like a Greek god. I’d much rather be in the presence of a warm and attentive man, than a stiff and boring one.”

“That’s where we differ, my dear sister, and I’m sure you’d agree with my assessment, if you could behold the elder brother and see his sincerity.”


“He is also the heir to the Rochester estate when his uncle dies. One day he’ll be the richest man in the county and the vast land holdings and residence will belong to him," her father added, as if spreading frosting on top of a delicious cake.


“Oh, now, I should not only fall for his good looks, but his money as well?”


Charlotte turned her head away. She did not wish to hear of the preferences of her father and sister. Rupert Rochester, in her mind, was far more appealing in personality.


*****

Hoped you enjoy! Subject to change and editing, of course, but you get the drift. I'll keep you apprised of my progress.

Thanks!




Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Debutante

Taking a lunch break! It feels good to have Internet access for an hour. I've been so pent-up not being able to express myself except through a few posts via telephone on my Facebook page.

In the meantime, after unpacking my boxes from moving into my condo, I've settled down into a routine of writing once again. Apparently, I didn't forget to pack the muse. He arrived safe and sound with no damage.

Dark Persuasion is coming along wonderfully. If you haven't guessed by now, my heroine is quite different than any other woman I've written about. She is blind. Writing from her point of view has been a challenge. I'm relying heavily upon her other senses to portray her surroundings.

In addition, I've also had to deeply examine what it would be like not being able to see. How would you judge a man when you met him? It's a challenge not seeing a person's facial expression and looking into their eyes -- the window of their soul. Could you fall in love? Would you dare? How could you trust? Those are all questions I'll explore as the book progresses.

I've also done quite a bit of interesting research. Though Charlotte Gray cannot see, I am affording her opportunities like any other woman in spite of her disabilities. When you read the book, you'll discover why.

One major event in her life will be her introduction into society as a debutante. It was common for an aristocrat or upper class family to sponsor a young lady by introducing her into society. Charlotte Gray, in spite of her disability, has a unique connection with Lord and Lady Rochester, who have offered to present her on her 18th birthday.

Research into the debutante occasion has proven to be quite interesting. Writing it from the perspective of a blind woman has been even more challenging. From her gown, to the receiving line, to her introductions, and the dance card upon which potential beaus sign, made me close my own eyes and imagine the challenge. I am enjoying writing this book from a different perspective.

Of course, by popular demand of my readers, we have the tortured hero - Patrick Rochester. It's at her coming out that he is introduced to Miss Gray, after which he terms as his "purgatory." I can only say his sad, puppy-dog eyes will tug at your heart. You'll feel sorry for him. You'll want to rescue him. However, Charlotte Gray will feel very little of those feelings toward the handsome rich man, who her sister scandalously describes as a Greek god.

In any event, put on your dancing slippers, dress in your 1890's style debutante gown (as shown above thanks to Wikipedia), and waltz the evening away. The first few chapters will not only introduce you to Charlotte Gray, but to the story and characters of Dark Persuasion. As usual, I've added a scoundrel to the story for conflict. You'll just despise him, I'm sure.

That's it for now! I'll be back after March 11th when my Internet at home is hooked up.