Grand Central Publishing and Forever have some fantastic historical
Hallie is an authority on British eighteenth-century social history. She has written two works of non-fiction to critical acclaim: The Convent Garden Ladies and Lady Worsley’s Whim: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce.
In addition to writing books, articles, and reviews, Hallie regularly appears on TV in the UK as an expert contributor to documentaries. She lives in London with her husband.
RT Book Reviews had this to say about MISTRESS OF MY FATE (Top pick!): "Rubenhold's eye for rich detail and dialogue, coupled with witty writing and deft prose, turn this first-person "confession" into a "you are there" novel that readers will never want to end. The smart and sassy heroine and her every adventure are an irresistible delight. Be swept away into another world, another life and another mop of a read."
In keeping with the historical theme, Hallie shares a few 18th century beauty remedies and quiz.
An excellent receipt to clear a tanned complexion At night before going to rest, bathe the face with the juice of strawberries, and let it lie on the part all night, and in the morning wash yourself with chervil water. The skin will soon become fair and smooth.
To sweeten the breath Chew every night and morning a clove, or a piece of Florentine Orris root, about the size of a small bean.
Now let’s see which 18th century courtesan you are. Are you: Henrietta Lightfoot, Gertrude Mahon ‘The Bird of Paradise’, Mary Anne Greenhill ‘The Greenfinch’, Letitia, Lady Lade, or Caroline Ponsonby?
1. When it comes to expressing myself:
a. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not very good at disguising my emotions.
b. I think before I speak and am always aware of the damage I can do if I’m not careful.
c. I try to conceal my real feelings, but sometimes I come across as a bit false or even bitchy.
d. I call a spade a spade and don’t mince words.
e. I often don’t think before I speak. I can say some stupid things sometimes.
2. I would describe my attitude towards life as:
a. Honest, full of integrity, but I do try to look out for myself.
b. Savvy and experienced. I’ve seen a lot in my day and virtually nothing surprises me.
c. I’m on the way up. I’m ambitious and I know how to get what I want.
d. I don’t mess about and I certainly don’t suffer fools. I’m not obsessed with possessions or appearances.
e. Easy come, easy go. I get myself into scrapes, but usually things turn out alright in the end.
3. I would describe myself as:
a. Good and wholesome.
b. Seasoned and wise.
c. a bitch.
d. sporty and fun loving. I’m a lad in petticoats.
e. A little scatter-brained.
4. I would describe my dress sense as:
a. Modest, classic, not over adorned.
b. stylish but well suited to my age.
c. a slave to fashion, jewelry and the latest styles.
e. not too fussy.
5. My attitude towards relationships is:
a. I believe in true love.
b. I’ve had my heart broken and am now quite practical about my relationships.
c. I need a rich man to make me happy.
d. I spent many years playing the field but now I’m happily settled.
e. When it comes to love, sometimes I think I’m still learning the ropes!
6. In my free time I like to:
a. Read, paint, think, go for long walks.
b. plan outings and events.
c. Go out, be seen, flirt and go shopping.
d. participate in sports or larking about with the lads.
e. pretty much go along with whatever my friends have in mind.
7. My picture of home is:
a. A beautiful country cottage which I share with my true love and our children.
b. A nice place in town which I have all to myself.
c. An extremely expensive and fashionable address, decorated to my taste.
d. A house where my husband and I throw wild parties for our crazy friends.
e. A secure place, where I know the rent will always be paid.
What were your results?
Mostly A’s : You are Henrietta Lightfoot – intelligent, quick witted, honest and principled. You were not born to deception and dishonesty, but you’ve learned how to look out for yourself in the real world. No matter what anyone tells you, you’re a firm believer in true love.
Mostly B’s: You are Gertrude Mahon, ‘The Bird of Paradise’ – No one gets one over on you. You’re a true woman of the world. You’ve known love, but you’ve also seen the darker side of people. Over the years you’ve cultivated some very loyal friends. You’re totally in control and have a mature outlook on life.
Mostly C’s: You are Mary Anne Greenhill, ‘The Greenfinch’ – You’ve climbed the greasy pole to a life of comfort and luxury. You are sophisticated, fashionable and materialistic – but only because you know how hard life is likely to be without these things. You’re canny, clever and always looking for the next opportunity to better your life.
Mostly D’s: You are Letitia, Lady Lade - You can’t be bothered with flattery and falseness and you’re very matter of fact in your approach to life. If you’re hit with a crisis, you tend to pick yourself up, stop moaning and get on with it. You’re sporty, fun-loving and quite like male company because it’s no nonsense. You can swagger and swear as well as any lad.
Mostly E’s: You are Caroline Ponsonby – Life seems to carry you along in its current and you’re alright with that. Although bad things have happened to you, it’s remarkable how everything always seems to turn out alright in the end. You’re basically quite a positive person and people tend to look out for you.
To get a better understand and feel for MISTRESS OF MY FATE, here’s a portion of Chapter 1. For the entire excerpt, visit Hallie’s Facebook Page.
5th March 1835
My dear reader, how pleased I am that you have purchased this volume! It warms my heart that you have requested it from your bookseller; that he has wrapped it carefully in brown paper and string and handed it to you. How happy I am that you have taken it home with you to read in the quiet of your sitting room or library. Now you may know the truth, and nothing gives me greater relief than this.
I have no doubt that many of you have come to this work out of curiosity. You have heard so much about me, most of which is pure fabrication. Now that you have torn off the packaging and cut the pages, you can begin to read my story and to know who I am. You see, for some time a relation of mine has been attempting to discredit me in the most reprehensible manner. I have no doubt that he too sent a servant to his local bookseller to collect a copy of this work. As you read this, so does he. His eyes are scanning every word, searching every syllable. He is among you, taking in my story alongside you.
To him I say, Lord Dennington, do not think I have written these memoirs because of you. Do not flatter yourself. You are only part of the reason. There is much I need to say on the matter of my life and I have grown weary of your slander. Whomever you have hired to do your disgraceful deeds, whether it is those shameless scribes who will print anything for a crust of bread, or that unscrupulous little spy you planted among my loyal staff, they are not capable of telling the truth. You pay them and so they will say anything. Certainly, a man who has seen as much of the world as you should know this.
Now it is my turn to pick up my pen, to clear my name, to scrub away the lies with which you have stained it. I must commend you for the amusement you have provided for me and my friends. We laughed heartily at your accusations—that I had been a circus performer, that I worked as a charlatan attempting to revive the dead and, worse still, that I murdered a ship of sailors. Really, this is quite absurd.
No, sir, as you will come to realize, these memoirs are not written solely because of you. I write because it is time for the public to hear my story, because for as long as I have been called Mrs. Lightfoot, great men and women have asked for it. The world wants my confession yet, until this moment, I refused to honour that request. I wished to keep my life and my adventures quiet. Like you, my lord, discretion was one of the virtues I was taught as a child.
As for my other readers, whose sensibilities I wish to protect, I feel the need to issue a warning. In these pages I set out to tell the absolute truth. If you take offence easily, if you are faint of heart or of a delicate nature, there is much here that you are likely to find objectionable. It is necessary for you to understand why I have, in the past, refused to discuss these private matters. My story is not an easy one to relay, nor is it likely to be short.
I shall begin by telling you what I remember most vividly: an early morning in late October. I was but seventeen and so unprepared for the world that I hardly knew how to dress myself, let alone judge character or transact the business of ordinary life. I sat on the floor of my bedchamber in the darkness, entirely unaware of the hour. There was no fire in my grate, nor would there be anyone coming to light it. I shivered, from both the cold and a complete terror of that which I knew I must do.
For most of the night I had sobbed. I had lain outstretched on the floor, like a condemned prisoner, unable to move or think, able only to ache. My life as I had known it was now about to end. But, as any good Christian will tell you, with death there also comes resurrection and the possibility of a better existence elsewhere. I knew this in my heart, and that rebirth was the sole path open to me. I had only to muster the courage to grab for it and, in doing so, let go of all that tied me to the girl I had been.
So I did this, while the moon threw its dim cast across my windowsill. I worked without so much as a candle to guide me, rummaging through the most essential of my belongings: linens, stockings, skirts, a petticoat and, most importantly, the few small items of value that I as a young lady owned. Of all a woman’s possessions, jewels will get her the furthest and mine, on several occasions, have saved me from experiencing the grossest of depredations. At the time, I had but two trinkets: a gold and pearl cross, which I always wore upon my person; and a pair of simple pearl eardrops. I was too young for diamonds. Those are for married women, and in any case, owing to my precarious position within their family, Lord and Lady Stavourley saw no need to adorn me so lavishly.
I wrapped my bundle as a servant would, in a sheet. I had never before carried my own belongings and I did not even know how to tie them up securely. However, I found that soft packet offered me some comfort as I clutched it to my breast. It calmed my trembling.
I dressed for the road, but not without some struggle, sliding on my sturdiest shoes and fumbling with the buttons of my grey riding habit. Around my shoulders I threw my blue cape, the hood of which rested atop my black hat. I hoped to look respectable for my journey without drawing attention to myself. In truth, I knew that most people would be able to guess my circumstances. It is not usual to see a well-dressed young lady with spotless white gloves and a quivering expression traveling unchaperoned.
It was not until after I had attired myself and gathered my belongings that my mind, like a lamp, flickered out. My lungs and heart and legs took over. My breathing was so harsh that I feared all of Melmouth could hear my gasps as I carefully navigated the treacherous steps of the back stairs. The chill within the stony walls turned my breath to steam. I was like an animal, clambering through the darkness. I stole through the narrow corridor near the kitchens, passing by the doors of servants, still sunk deeply into their warm straw mattresses. In an hour, the first light of morning would wake them and, with so many pairs of eyes on guard, my flight would have been impossible. You must understand that, by then, they hated me. They would have set upon me like a pack of slavering dogs.
Aware of this, I picked my way carefully along the row of doors. To my ear, the gentle clack of my heels reverberated like cannon fire. How I wished to bolt when I saw that window above the entryway, illuminating the porthole to my release! Instead, I continued to creep nearer and nearer, until my hands rested on the entry door. At last, with a firm push, I passed out of one life and into the next.
I can understand why infants scream when they come into our world. The strain of birth is enormous. The cold that greets them foretells what awaits them in life. It is as if they know from their very first breath that the warmth of the womb and all of its comforts have been lost for ever.
When I stepped over the threshold of Melmouth House and into the sprawl of parkland, I bawled as if my heart would break. The sobs came with such force that I feared they would echo through the park and wake the entire household. I had to stop my mouth with my fist. As I ran, scrambling, tripping across the frost-crusted grass, I howled, unable to contain my anguish. I have never known such heart-tearing pain as I did that morning, when I cut the cord that held me to my only true parent.
My legs knew where they carried me: to the perimeter wall. I would not risk passing the gatehouses, or scaling the heights to my freedom. There was one break, filled in loosely with stones, where an old door had been. Poachers were known to slip through it, their sacks dripping with Lord Stavourley’s grouse and rabbits. I had seen the spot several months earlier, but finding it in the dark was to prove difficult.
I tumbled through the park, startling sleepy deer, dislodging bats and rousing a variety of creatures that squealed and scampered off at my approach. I tore through the copse with an urgency that they alone might have understood. Although I knew every path and trail, every pool and corner of Melmouth, I was not so familiar with it while it lay beneath the curtain of night. With my eyes ablaze with tears, I traveled in a state of near blindness, sinking in mud to my shins, my cape hemmed with filth and fallen leaves, my stockings already sodden and stained beyond laundering. It took some scrambling for me to find the precise point in the wall. By then the sky was softening into the deep blue of dawn. I pushed and kicked with all my might. Eventually, three of the stones fell away and I was able to squeeze myself, mouse-like, through the opening.
Doesn’t this make you wonder what happens from here? What else does this memoir have to tell? Thanks everyone for stopping by today. I hope you had fun taking the quiz and please let me know if you give the beauty treatments a try. What do you enjoy most about historical romance novels?