Historical romance is one of the most popular genres in the romance world, so when an author has a fresh take on the genre, I'm intrigued. Lillian Marek's debut romance series, Victorian Adventures, continues with Lady Emily's Exotic Journey, which takes the tried-and-true Victorian romance and sets it in the far-away world of Mesopotamia.
In this guest post, Marek explains the history of the vacation and its roots in the Victorian era. Turns out, we have the Victorians to thank for our holidays!
Travel requires leisure time, and before the late 1800s, this meant that the traveler had to be, if not actually rich, at least well off enough to avoid working for a living. He had to be what used to be called “possessed of a competence.” Before the Victorian era, most people were not and, as such, didn’t travel any farther than they could walk on a Sunday, their only day of rest.
This began to change during the Victorian era when the railway altered everyone’s notion of distances. In 1800, a carriage trip from London to Edinburgh took a month. By 1888, the railway trip could be made in eight and a half hours. It still wasn’t a day trip, but it was much more manageable. Something else was changing, too—employees were getting time off.
The 1871 Bank Holiday Act gave workers four holidays every year—Easter Monday, Whit Monday (the day after Pentecost), the first Monday in August, and Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Increasingly, workers were also being given a half day off on Saturdays. Added to the Bank Holidays, this meant that even ordinary people could go someplace. Not to Rome or Paris, of course, but the August Bank Holiday could mean a day or two at the seashore. Brighton changed from being the playground of the Prince Regent and his circle to becoming a popular day trip destination for London’s working class.
Also, by the 1870s, many office workers and even factory workers were getting a week’s paid holiday every year. The railways were whisking off families by the thousands for a week at the seashore, and resorts mushroomed. The seaside town of Blackpool, perhaps the greatest example, had a population of 473 in 1801. By the 1890s, the population was 35,000, and the number of annual visitors was estimated at three million.
And not to be forgotten is the role of Thomas Cook and Cook’s Tours.
Cook didn’t set out to provide people with vacations. He was a strong opponent of drinking, and he organized his first excursion as a way for a large group to conveniently attend a temperance meeting. He moved on to Sunday school groups and then achieved his first major success in 1851, arranging excursions to The Great Exhibition in London.
Cook went into business with his son, and they invented the package tour, providing transportation, food and lodging to groups traveling all over the world.
The gentleman’s Grand Tour—or as much of it as could be crammed into your vacation time—was now in reach of everyone.
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Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
You don’t have to enjoy Faith Hill to enjoy Caught Up in the Touch by Laura Trentham. When Jessica Montgomery is ordered by her CEO father to head to Middle-of-Nowhere, Alabama, to recruit a top chef for her family’s business (that Jessica hopes to one day take over), she is not enthused. And when she finally meets the rugged Chef Logan Wilde, she’s frustrated by his casual, down-home pace of life—and even more frustrated by the fact that she’s wildly attracted to him.
Getting ahead in business means Jessica has cultivated an icy demeanor, but the hot Southern weather and the kind, patient Chef Logan are melting her defenses. This is a refreshingly nuanced romance with well-rounded characters harboring relatable demons.
He worked his way around the dishes, feeding her bite by bite, his satisfaction in her pleasure reflected in his crooked smile. Each dish was a unique spin on a classic. A slight protest clamored in the back of her mind. This didn’t feel like a business negotiation. It felt more like . . . a date. [....]
He sat back, linked his hands over his stomach, and stretched his legs out to the side of the table. How tall was he? A couple inches taller than her in her heels, which put him over six feet. Her gaze drifted up his legs to his hands, cleaned of the black grease from the afternoon, but still ruddy and strong. A workingman’s hands.
“What’d you think? Good enough for Montgomery Industries?”
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
A selection of the best new paperbacks on sale today:
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good
By Jan Karon
Berkley • $16 • ISBN 9780425276211
The 10th installment of Karon's beloved series finds Father Tim back in Mitford, trying to figure out his place in the village since his retirement as parish priest.
The Ogallala Road
By Julene Bair
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143127079
In this compelling and beautifully written memoir, Bair recounts the rewards and challenges of returning to her family's farm on the Great Plains, where she finds both a promising new romantic relationship and a troubling legacy of environmental transgressions.
The Boston Girl
By Anita Diamant
Scribner • $16 • ISBN 9781439199367
Diamant offers a tour of 20th-century American history through the eyes of her novel's narrator—a spunky Jewish woman relating the gripping events of her life story to an adoring granddaughter.
The Secret Place
By Tana French
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143127512
The latest entry in French's acclaimed Dublin Murder Squad series revolves around a deliciously twisted murder case at a prestigious Irish girls school.
By Cecilia Galante
Morrow • $14.99 • ISBN 9780062363510
The author of several popular YA and children's books makes her adult fiction debut with the moving story of four young women—close friends when they lived together at a group home for teens—who reunite 15 years later and confront the troubles from their past.
By Paul Ham
Picador • $20 • ISBN 9781250070050
A journalist and historian, Ham investigates the World War II nuclear bombings of two Japanese cities, which claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, and concludes that the bombings did little to change the course of the war.
This week's spotlighted debut is A Surrey State of Affairs, Ceri Radford's hilarious story of a middle-aged British woman who, in the wake of her husband's infidelity, decides to strike out on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Constance ricochets from ignoring the obvious evidence of her own husband’s adultery to missing entirely the crush another woman’s spurned husband has on her. (That would be a man from her beloved Tuesday evening bell-ringing club.) She also totally misreads her son’s sexual leanings, resulting in misguided attempts to find him a wife, even as she despairs at her daughter’s truly appalling computer-assisted illiteracy.
But that’s only the first half of this giggle-out-loud, go-with-the-flow novel of old-fashioned human impulses . . .
Read the full review from our April 2012 issue.
Today's guest post comes from Andy Abramowitz, author of Thank You, Goodnight. Teddy Tremble is a former musician whose band, Tremble, was a 1990s one-hit wonder. Now a lawyer in Philadelphia, Teddy discovers that Tremble is big in Switzerland—or at least, one tiny town in Switzerland. Is this his chance for another shot at coming out on top? Fans of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper will find much to admire in this heartfelt and hilarious story. We asked Abramowitz—who has a musical past himself—to give us a "Top 5" countdown of lessons he learned as a debut novelist.
Guest post by Andy Abramowitz
No. 5 – Your friends don’t want to read your book; they want to have read your book
Those friends of yours who only read presidential biographies or Allure don’t suddenly develop an appetite for fiction just because you wrote a book. They’ll congratulate you; some will mean it. They’ll say they’re going to buy it; a small subset of those will do that too. That should be enough. It’s quite nice of them to lie about how much they enjoyed it. Think you’re special? Test them. Narrow your eyes and ask, “What did you think of what happened to Warren at the end?” You’ll detect a bulky swallow in their throat and they’ll shrug and say, “It worked for me.” Told ya.
No. 4 – The editing process doesn’t end, it stops
Like the rush of critical information that suddenly occurs to your five year old at the precise moment of her bedtime, the editing process is never over. Every sentence stares up at you, asking for a tweak. I’m not telling you to walk away because it’s good enough. I’m telling you to walk away or your editor and publisher will. You’re not Steinbeck. Speaking of which . . .
No. 3 – John Steinbeck wrote East of Eden
Hardly revelatory, I know. But consider how much effort you put into making each of your sentences feel right and look right, informational and tonally true, not choking on gratuitous adverbs or clunky prepositions. Then humble yourself under the notion that so many others have done it with a lot more literary loop-de-loop than you could ever muster. So, Faulkner, wipe that scowl off your face over the fact that your masterpiece isn’t front and center at the airport newsstand.
No. 2 – You’ll never feel like more of a fraud than when signing a book
People you see every single day and whom you suspect are smirking because they know that the publication of your book is a minor miracle—they’ll all ask you to write your name on the inside cover. It will feel silly and pretentious, unearned, like an act performed only by the Michael Chabons of the world or people with fiction-writer hair. (See Michael Chabon.) Really—why would your sister ever need your autograph? I don’t have an answer for this one other than to nudge them toward the ebook version.
No. 1 – It’s okay to like your book
Society dictates that artists view their work with a measure of contempt, as but an imperfect realization of their vast vision. Applesauce! In a free moment, pick it up, read a few a pages, and notice that you’re smiling. That doesn’t make you a jerk. At least I don’t think it does.
In Julie Iromuanya's debut, Mr. and Mrs. Doctor, a Nigerian couple in America attempt to appear successful to their families back home, when in reality their lives are anything but perfect. Our reviewer says, "Iromuanya weaves this tale of a mismatched couple with dark humor and careful observation. [...] Her insights into assimilation—its difficulties and pitfalls—are astute and at times, eye-opening." (Read the full review.)
We asked Iromuanya to tell us about three books she's enjoyed reading lately.
Now We Will Be Happy by Amina Gautier
I love story collections that seemingly collapse time and space by reintroducing and circulating themes and characters. “Muñeca,” one story in Amina Gautier’s second award-winning story collection Now We Will Be Happy, is a haunting foray into the psyche of a character, but part of the richness of the story is how the protagonist’s narrative competes with the other narratives of love, loss, migration and displacement. Presences are heightened by absences in this story collection, as are the complexities at the core of racial and ethnic identity.
The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant
The stories in David James Poissant’s The Heaven of Animals feature animals in bizarre and exotic poses. Take, for example, the first story in the collection, “Lizard Man,” in which two down-on-their-luck deadbeats end up locking horns with a giant alligator. And one night the protagonist in “What the Wolf Wants” is face to face with something that might as well be a werewolf. The writing is energetic but also poignant, as many of these highly imagined stories engage with raw and disturbing realities.
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
Disgrace, written by J.M. Coetzee, is an oldie-but-goodie for me. I come back to it when I need to be reminded of how a light hand can be impactful in my writing. I’ve been a fan of his utilization of allegory since I first read Waiting for the Barbarians years ago. Disgrace opens like a pedestrian novel about a philandering professor, but it is ultimately a novel that addresses the emergence of the new South Africa as vestiges of the old remain. It is brutal and searing at every turn, but it is also subtle in its revelations.
BookPage.com is turning a page after the suspenseful twists of Private Eye July to focus on the quieter pleasure of discovering a great new voice—it's First Fiction Month!
In August, we'll be blogging about the best debut novels. Here's a sample of what you can expect:
Looking for a no-cook snack for these dog days of summer? Sarah Leah Chase's Seaside Guacamole is refreshing, simple and boasts some in-season vegetables as a bonus.
Once my son’s Little League schedule began taking me over to Martha’s Vineyard for baseball games, I quickly discovered Nantucket’s rival island had much to offer and it was there that I came across the idea of adding grilled local corn to my guacamole during the summer months. To heighten the smoky flavor of the corn kernels, I season this guacamole with smoked sea salt. My husband’s seasoning company, Coastal Goods, markets a smoked salt under the name of Sea Smoke and the Maine Sea Salt Company sells two smoked Maine sea salts, apple smoked and hickory smoked. Go with regular sea salt if you can’t get your hands on a jar of smoked, but do be sure to make this seasonal guacamole because it is just the thing to tide you and lots of hungry friends over until dinner after a summer day lazed away at the beach. And, it also pairs nicely with any number of New England’s microbrewed beers, the frostier the better. If you really want to gild the coastal lily, scoop some Seaside Guacamole onto tortilla chips and top each off with a whole cooked shrimp or a spoonful of fresh crab or lobster meat. Makes 5 cups; serves 8 to 10
1. Set up a charcoal or gas grill and preheat it to high.
2. To grill the corn: Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn and brush the kernels lightly all over with olive oil. Arrange the ears on the grate a few inches above the heat. Grill the corn, turning the ears, until the kernels are all nicely browned and slightly blistered, 5 to 7 minutes. Baste the corn with additional olive oil if the kernels appear to be getting too dry. Remove the corn from the grill and, when cool enough to handle, cut the grilled kernels off the cobs and set aside briefly. Discard the cobs.
3. Peel and pit the avocados and coarsely mash the pulp in a mixing bowl or molcajete. (If you don’t own a molcajete, a potato masher or wire whisk will work well to produce a coarse mash.) Add the grilled corn kernels, tomatoes, red onion, and jalapeños and gently mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in enough lime juice and smoked salt to suit your palate. Fold in the cilantro and serve the guacamole at once with tortilla chips.
Reprinted from New England Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase, copyright © 2015. Recipe courtesy of Workman Publishing. Photography credit: Matthew Benson. Photography © Workman Publishing 2015. Read our review of this book.
It's been nearly six years since Janice Y.K. Lee made her fiction debut with The Piano Teacher, an "exceptional first novel" set in postwar Hong Kong where Allied occupiers and the native people negotiate an uneasy peace and a brittle, stratified society (read our review). The novel was favorably reviewed and a national bestseller, so we're pleased to hear that a follow up, The Expatriates, will be coming in January from Viking.
Also set in Hong Kong and featuring a cast of expatriates, this novel is set in the modern day, and "explores with devastating poignancy the emotions, identities, and relationships of three very different American women living in the same small expat community in Hong Kong," according to the publisher.
Will you read it?