Monday, 17 February 2014

Grace Elliot. Being a Woman in Georgian England.

I am very pleased to have author, Grace Elliot, joining me today as part of her blog tour to announce the release of The Ringmaster's Daughter.

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. She lives near London and is housekeeping staff to five cats, two teenage sons, one husband and a bearded dragon. Grace believes that everyone needs romance in their lives as an antidote to the modern world. The Ringmaster’s Daughter is Grace’s fifth novel, and the first in a new series of Georgian romances.

Being a Woman in Georgian England

I’m thrilled to be Judith’s guest as she is an author I very much admire. I love the strong women Judith portrays in her novels (especially, The Kiss of the Concubine) and this is perhaps no coincidence because I too love to write about strong female heroines. My latest release features just such a women, Henrietta Hart, who is the heroine in The Ringmaster’s Daughter. But to fully understand how courageous Henrietta is, let’s place her in the context of 18th century society when the novel is set.
            [England is] a paradise for women and hell for horses.” Robert Burton 1651
            The quote above is from the 17th century, but the underlying sentiment remains true in Georgian times. Just in case the word ‘paradise’ confuses you – consider that women are being put in the same category as horses, that is, both subject to men, their lord and master. In effect Burton is saying that women should consider themselves jolly lucky to be coddled and generously looked after by their menfolk. Puts a different complexion on the term ‘paradise’ doesn’t it?
            If you aren’t convinced, then consider this quote by Judge Buller, in 1782, who ruled on a point of English law concerning women and concluded:
            [It is] perfectly legal for a man to beat his wife, as long as he used a stick no thicker than his thumb.”
            In the upper classes there the prevailing attitude was of men ‘owning’ women – almost as though the men were intimidated and needed to keep women firmly under the thumb! Men subjugated women by linking learning, knowledge, politics and career to a loss of feminine charm. A ‘honey trap’ was created where a woman looked to marriage for security, and if she tried to be independent she was labelled as having loose morals. This is illustrated in this quote written in 1757 by Jean Jacques Rousseau:
            “There are no good morals for women outside of a withdrawn and domestic life …any woman who shows herself off disgraces herself.”
            But of course, many lower class women had no choice but to earn a living and there were few jobs were considered 'decent' - and surprise, surprise, they paid poorly. Interestingly, the 18th century saw the birth of consumerism and some women stepped into roles as seamstresses (helping the wealthy keep up with the latest fashion), writing for magazines and pamphlets (more lofty literary ambition was frowned upon), decorating ceramics and indeed, serving in the new shops. But as for actresses and singers, those females who might consider entertaining for a living were labeled as being sexually available…which brings us back to Henrietta Hart.
Set in the 1770’s, when her father falls ill, Henrietta takes on his role as ringmaster at the Foxhall Pleasure Gardens. She fights to keep a roof over their heads but the very act of performing makes her a target for unwanted male attention…

The Ringmaster’s Daughter – synopsis

1770’s London. The ringmaster’s daughter, Henrietta Hart, was born and raised around the stables of Foxhall  Gardens. Now her father is gravely ill, and their livelihood in danger. The Harts' only hope is to convince Foxhall’s new manager, Mr Wolfson, to let Hetty wield the ringmaster’s whip. Hetty finds herself drawn to the arrogant Wolfson but, despite their mutual attraction, he gives her an ultimatum: entertain as never before – or leave Foxhall.

When the winsome Hetty defies society and performs in breeches, Wolfson’s stony heart is in danger. Loath as he is to admit it, Hetty has a way with horses…and men. Her audacity and determination awaken emotions long since suppressed.

But Hetty’s success in the ring threatens her future when she attracts the eye of the lascivious Lord Fordyce. The duke is determined, by fair means or foul, to possess Hetty as his mistress – and, as Wolfson’s feelings for Henrietta grow, disaster looms.


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