Blogging from A to Z: L is for Limehouse

AtoZ2019tenthAnn“What’s wrong with her?”

“I don’t know yet, my friend.”

“I don’t want to be apart from her when she’s unwell. She …” I sat down in a chair and dropped my face into my hands. “She loves me regardless, and I need to be with her. I’ll take her home.”

“What on earth do you mean by that, sir? ‘She loves me regardless’ is a strong statement.”

With that, I reached behind my head and undid the mask, revealing my face to the doctor. His eyes widened with interest as I tied the mask back in place.

“She loves me in spite of this hideous face. I would die for her, and every pain that she feels is my own.”

“I’ll call on her tomorrow at your home if you’ll give me an address. For now, she really must be kept quiet.”

I called for my carriage and delivered Claire to our home. Then, reverting to a pattern I had long thought behind me, I had Michael take me to the Chinatown at Limehouse, where I sought out the arms of Morpheus in an opium den. — Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


Limehouse_basin_1
Limehouse Basin, 2006. Photo by Tarquin Binary CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)

Limehouse is a district of London near what is now referred to as the Docklands. It’s name comes from the lime oasts, or lime ovens, that were operated by pottery makers in the area during the 14th century.

Because it had better access to London by river (the land route was marshy), Limehouse was part of an active maritime center on the Thames. As such, it also had active rope-making, chandlery, and shipbuilding communities.  The wharves were a place where casual seafaring labor could be picked up, including sailors from China, the Arab world (the Lascars), and Africa’s Guinea Coast.

A large Chinese community sprung up in Limehouse during the late 19th Century, and the area became notorious for the number of opium dens there.


Are you enjoying this series so far? Intrigued enough that you would like your own copy of In The Eye of The Beholder? Here are the blurb and purchasing links.

ITEOTB Wrap Cover frtWhen French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiancé in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday. Life is not easy for a woman in fin de siècle France, where her rights are determined by a male guardian. Claire, both intelligent and independent, chafes under the strictures of her time.

Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other’s past?

Updated for 2015 with glossaries of equestrian terms and French words used in the text.

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Blogging from A to Z: F is for François Delacroix

AtoZ2019tenthAnnIt took a couple of months to find François and bring him to Baincthun. When he arrived, he came with several other Camargois horsemen with whom he had established a riding troupe. I enjoyed meeting his companions, but found my cousin to be somewhat cold and given to putting on airs. He even had a valet, which was peculiar for a man of his station.

François moved into the Baincthun house with me and his companions took lodging in town. Their horses joined Josephine in the barn.

I scandalized François and many others by putting off mourning a mere six months after my father’s death. I wanted to ride, and so I did. I also wanted to marry Philippe and cease the pointless waiting. – Excerpt from In The Eye of The Beholder


Claire’s handsome cousin François comes across pretty much as a stereotypical, mustache-twirling villain in this book — and that was a deliberate choice on my part. We learn more about him, and his valet, in In The Eye of The Storm.

eyeThe main reason I create the character was to highlight some oddities of Napoleonic and coverture laws. According to Napoleonic law, all children were to inherit equally regardless of gender, . However, coverture law still existed, which meant that a male relative controlled a female relative’s inheritance unless she was married. In that case, it was controlled by her husband. Because Claire is unmarried, the closest relative they can find is her cousin in the south of France.

François really is a jerk, but he is also the reason why Claire winds up in the opera house in the first place, so he moves the story along.


Are you enjoying this series so far? Intrigued enough that you would like your own copy of In The Eye of The Beholder? Here are the blurb and purchasing links.

When French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiancé in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday. Life is not easy for a woman in fin de siècle France, where her rights are determined by a male guardian. Claire, both intelligent and independent, chafes under the strictures of her time.

Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other’s past?

Updated for 2015 with glossaries of equestrian terms and French words used in the text.

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Facts from My Fiction: Nuncheon

Clyties_CallerIsabel Browning was surprised, just a few days later, to see her cousin Samuel escorting Clytemnestra Preston to the Pump Room. He seated Clytie and made his way to the fountain for two glasses of the foul-smelling water. She intercepted him there.

“So, you’ve managed to draw the mouse from her hole. And what an interesting pink dress she is wearing under that blue spencer.”

“Bella, she is my patient and, need I remind you, your future sister-in-law. Please keep your remarks civil.”

“Your patient, Sam? I’ve never yet seen you bring one of your unfortunate soldiers to the Pump Room for waters and nuncheon.”

“Perhaps that is something I shall rectify. If you will excuse me, I believe I have left Miss Preston too long.”

He made his way back to the table, where a pot of tea and sandwiches had already been served. He put the two glasses of water at their places and sat down. — Clytie’s Caller

—–

Nuncheon is an interesting word. It has long since gone out of fashion and usage, replaced by luncheon in modern vocabulary. AngloNorman Dictionary tells us that “The word has a suggested etymology which traces it back to an Old English compound of ‘noon’ and ‘shench’. Its first half, ‘noon’, is derived from Classical Latin ‘nona’ (DMLBS nonus 1929a), meaning the ‘ninth hour of the day’.  In Roman and consequently ecclesiastical time-keeping this would originally have corresponded with 3 o’clock in the afternoon, although in the course of the Middle Ages the word became more and more used (both in Middle English and Anglo-Norman) to refer to an earlier time of day (see AND second edition sub none1, forthcoming). It has been suggested that monastic orders, who had their lunch after the ‘ninth hour’ liturgy, were inclined to perform that service earlier and earlier, so that the term ‘noon’ eventually became associated with midday.”

You may well run across this term in books published during the Regency (e.g., those by Sir Walter Scott) … and now you know what it means, and that it’s not a typo for “luncheon.”


Want your own copy of Clytie’s Caller? Here are the cover blurb and purchase links.

Bath, 1816. Clytemnestra Preston has become so terrified of life that she refuses to leave her room. Not even her family can convince her to take her place in Society again. Doctor Samuel Whittington, late of His Majesty’s Army, may be her only chance for a cure … and romance. Can Sam convince Clytie to open the door, and her heart?

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Facts from my Fiction: Bertha Collar/Neckline

eyeI looked longingly at a window display: a beautiful evening gown in sapphire moiré bengaline with a deep bertha neckline. I lifted its hem and examined the stitching, wishing I had use for such a piece. Not only was the price out of my reach, but I had no opportunity for dining out or attending the theatre. I sighed wistfully and returned to the carriage with my small package of ribbon, stockings, and so on.

“I saw you admire the gown in the window,” Erik’s voice came from the darkened carriage; he had drawn the curtains lest he be seen. When I closed the door after entering, there was no light at all.

“It is beautiful,” I admitted. “But I’ve no need for a dress of that nature; I haven’t the opportunities to wear such a gown.” – In The Eye of The Beholder


512px-ball_gown_met_dt7578
Metropolitan Museum of Art (CC0)

A bertha neckline was worn off the shoulders, often trimmed with deep lace (3″ – 6″). The style was most frequently worn by upper- and middle-class women during the Victorian era; a woman from the more common classes would seldom have shown that much flesh.

This gown shows a splendid example of the style.


2019 marks the 10th anniversary of my debut novel, In The Eye of The Beholder.  Want your own copy? Here are the back cover copy and purchasing links:

When French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiancé in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday. Life is not easy for a woman in fin de siècle France, where her rights are determined by a male guardian. Claire, both intelligent and independent, chafes under the strictures of her time.

Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other’s past?

Updated for 2015 with glossaries of equestrian terms and French words used in the text.

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Alibris

Amazon (This link will automatically click through to the correct site for your country)

Apple Books

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Blackwells (UK)

Booktopia (Australia)

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The Ripped Bodice

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Sample Saturday: Joyeux Noël

This is one of my favorite short pieces. Enjoy!

Sharon E. Cathcart

This story appears in Through the Opera Glass.  The custom cover image for the tale was created by Linda Boulanger.

joyeuxnoelcover

Author’s Note: The carol Erik sings at the end of this story is a popular French carol, sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

Christmas, 1891
Just outside Avignon, France

Claire rose to an unusually chilly house. She rubbed her aching back as she eased herself out of bed. Spring, and the baby’s birth, could not come fast enough for her. The house was unusually cold; she hurried into warm, fur-lined slippers and a woolen wrapper. Erik still slept; she was glad of it. His ever-worsening cough sometimes kept both of them awake.

Claire struck a lucifer to light the fire in the grate; the wood had been laid the night before so that it would be ready first thing. The winter winds had buffeted the little house; Erik…

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