Today we welcome back another favorite in the lair, my critique partner Janet Mullany. She's here to talk about her latest book, Mr. Bishop and the Actress.
Here's the back cover blurb:
What could be more important than a lady’s reputation?
Although initially alarmed by their unconventional ways, straight-laced Harry Bishop is content in the service of Lord Shad and his family. But when he is sent to London to rescue Shad’s wayward relation from debt and self-destruction, he also has the dubious honour of dealing with the man’s mistress – troublesome actress Sophie Wallace.
A man of dignity and decorum, Mr. Bishop is desperate to disassociate himself from the scandalous Sophie. Unfortunately, avoiding her proves harder than he could ever have imagined and soon she’s causing him all kinds of bother…
A rollicking Regency tale of manners, mischief and behaving disgracefully
Thanks for having me back, Banditas, to talk about my latest release Mr Bishop and the Actress. Always a pleasure to be here (as the actress said to the bishop)! While thinking about fixing to get ready to start beginning this blog post I wanted to come up with a quick definition of what the book is about. And yes, the book is a sequel (sort of) to Improper Relations, so we get to see Shad and Charlotte happily married and having babies.
I came to the conclusion it was a love story, yadda yadda yadda, but it was also a story about misfits finding their place—people who, for one reason or another, don’t quite fit in, or are compelled by circumstances to go beyond their comfort zone. So we have the following characters:
The hero, Mr. Harry Bishop:
For all he looks like a gentleman, there are certain indications—his accent, the borrowed coat—that mark him as a servant, and of course my neighbors knew him for what he was immediately. An educated and gentlemanly servant, it is true, but someone who ascends the slippery slope of social advancement on his own talent and wits. No wonder he is so nervous around me. He does not want to be associated with a woman of ill repute.
The heroine, Mrs. Sophie Wallace, a discarded courtesan:
A new profession. Bishop’s words echo in my head. I cannot saunter to a club and, over brandy and cards with my privileged friends, reveal that I am in need of a position, some gentlemanly sinecure without a hint of labor or trade. The possibilities for a female, particularly a female of middling origins and poor reputation, are dire. With a loan I could maybe start a shop; with luck, and some fabrication of references, I might take on a new identity as a genteel sort of servant. My experience of marriage is such that I do not wish to repeat it, even if I were to find a gentleman willing to take me on, and neither of the above professions open to a woman in my circumstances hold much appeal for me.
I think the issue of social advancement—or decline—is one of the most fascinating features of the Regency. This was a time of great social flux, from displaced country workers leaving the villages where their families had lived for centuries and heading for the great new industrial centers, to the nouveau riche, the owners of those factories or the nabobs returning from India. In Pride and Prejudice Austen hints that Darcy is old money, Bingley comes from the manufacturing classes.
In addition, a burgeoning middle class aspired to gentility. The Duchess and her tenant farmer’s wife could now both afford a pianoforte—the great instrument maker Broadwood had a piano for every (middle class and above) income level, with instruments starting at twenty guineas. As comparison, Jane Austen paid thirty guineas for her piano in 1810 (although we don’t know who the maker was) and twelve shillings for a pair of silk stockings: in other words, her piano cost the equivalent of about fifty pairs of silk stockings.
Do you think we’re too hung up on those at the top of the heap—the earls and dukes? Because there’s some very interesting stuff going on further down (as the actress said to the bishop). What do you think?
The Banditas will pick a winner who’ll receive a signed copy of the book and I look forward to chatting with you! And please visit my website at janetmullany.com for more excerpts and a contest, and bookdepository.com is the best place to buy my Little Black Dress books, which have no US distribution.
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