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The Ruin of Evangeline Jones

Yay! I’m pleased to announce that The Ruin of Evangeline Jones is scheduled for release on April 27th 2020. To those of you who have already read The Madness of Miss Grey and have asked me if Alex is getting his own story: This is it!

I don’t have a cover or back cover copy yet, but here’s the blurb I wrote when I was submitting it:

Alex Stanton just inherited a dukedom but his true passion is uncovering charlatans and frauds wherever he finds them. Spiritualist and medium Evangeline “Evie” Jones is the biggest fake of all and he’s determined to expose her lies for all of London to see. Her prim manner and ladylike airs don’t fool him. He sees the hunger beneath and recognizes a worthy opponent. He also can’t deny the dark undercurrents of lust between them.

Evie worked her way up from the gutter and she’s not about to abandon the life she’s built for fear of this aristocratic dilettante. She knows his type. She sees the attraction simmering beneath his animosity, and she knows how to use it to keep him off balance. They strike a bargain. He has one week to prove she’s a fake. If he fails, he has to abandon all further attempts. If he succeeds, she’ll not only retire but make a public statement explaining all her tricks.

Neither expects to find anything in common, not to mention anything to love, in the other. Both are blindsided by the affinity and blossoming tenderness between them. But even if it were possible for a lowly charlatan to live happily ever after with a duke, more is going on than either suspects. Someone else has brought them together for a sinister purpose of his own.

I can’t wait to share Alex and Evie’s story with you!

Not About Writing

Top 10 Film Costumes

Recently, I posted some images of some costumes from Crimson Peak to Facebook. My followers seemed to like them and, well, I certainly liked them, and you know I’m always looking for an excuse to share costume porn here, so I decided to do my own Top 10 costumes from film.

Here are the rules:

  1. Only one costume per film allowed.
  2. I had to be able to find good quality images of the costume (which ruled out The Artist and Wings of the Dove).
  3. It had to be from a film I enjoyed and would recommend (which sadly ruled out Marie Antoinette, Batman Returns, and the Duchess. It nearly ruled out Titanic but I decided to be lenient).

Here we go then:

10. The Marquise de Merteuil’s Travelling dress, Dangerous Liaisons (1988), costume designer: James Acheson. Genres: Psychological drama; literary adaptation.

This gown has stuck with me over the years despite not actually being on screen that long. It’s a triumphant moment for Glenn Close’s Merteuil as her plans begin falling into place, a powerful gown for a character at the height of her own power.

Honestly, though, all the costumes in this film are amazing and gorgeous. All of them.

9. Claire Fraser’s wedding dress in Outlander (season 1), costume designer: Terry Dresbach. Genre: Time travel; romance; epic; literary adaptation.

Another 18th century style dress. Not only is the gown stunning (my god, the embroidery!) but it symbolizes so much to the characters; Jamie’s hopes for their marriage, the seriousness of Claire’s situation (Jamie’s all in, so it’s going to be hard to go through with deserting him), as well as fulfilling the wishes and dreams of everyone who read the book and had waited years to see this moment on screen. It’s a lot for a dress to measure up to, yet this one does.

8. Romeo and Juliet (1998), costume designer: Kym Barrett. Genres: Shakespeare adaptation.

Almost every teenage girl in the ’90s seemed to be obsessed with this film, myself included. I was already a literature geek, so of course I was going to love this. Even though I suspect this dress owes a lot to Claire Danes’s ethereal beauty, it has a magic that still works on me more than twenty years later. (20 years? Seriously? The ’90s was just the other day!)

7. Satine’s trapeze costume, Moulin Rouge, costume designer: Catherine Martin. Genres: Musical.

Another Baz Luhrman film. There are several gowns I could have chosen but it’s this one that sticks with me. This is the first glimpse we get of Nicole Kidman’s Satine and she manages to do Diamonds are a Girls’s Best Friend with enough style and attitude that I don’t immediately wish I were watching Marilyn Monroe instead (which is a huge achievement in and of itself). It’s just an amazing, versatile, fun and glitzy costume.

6. Rose’s boarding gown, Titanic, costume designer: Deborah Lynn Scott. Genres: Drama.

Say what you like about Titanic (this film is a guilty pleasure for me), the costumes were amazing. I almost chose the red dress she wears when she tries to throw herself overboard. I’ve got to be honest, my choice here is 75% about the hat. That being said, the boarding outfit, inspired largely by a contemporary source gown (see slideshow), is so crisp and smart. It’s an outfit for the woman Rose is trying so hard to become.

5. Edith’s black bow dress, Crimson Peak, costume designer: Kate Hawley. Genres: Gothic horror.

This is the gown that inspired this post. I fully intend to watch Crimson Peak again soon just for the costumes, which are all amazing. I love how everything Edith wears in New York, all beautiful, up to date (for the 1890s) gowns, contrasts with Jessica Chastain’s dresses which, while equally beautiful, all look 10-20 years behind the fashion. Edith dresses like a strong, confident New Woman, but the bow somehow renders her vulnerable. Like a hand might reach out from the dark, take hold of all that fabric, and never let go.

4. Sarah’s ballgown, Labyrinth. Costume designer: Ellis Flyte. Genres: Family film; Musical.

What is that dress made of? It has a definite cellophane-ish quality, yet I love it. Perhaps it’s because I saw this film when I was small. Perhaps it’s because I still love that song they dance to. Perhaps it’s the peak 80s-ness of it all. I don’t even know.

3. Danielle’s ballgown, Ever After, costume designer: Jenny Beavan. Genres: Fairy-tale retelling.

This was a perfect moment. So much so that I’m afraid to re-watch this film as a proper adult in case it doesn’t stand up. The dress, though, will always hold up.

2. Ellen Olenska’s red gown, The Age of Innocence. Costume designer: Gabriella Pescucci. Genres: Pychological drama; literary adaptation.

This is a case of the perfect dress for the scene. Madame Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) is different from every other character. As wonderful as she is, she doesn’t fit in, and this dress underscores that fact beautifully. Unbeknownst to her, she’s moving around in hostile territory where it might be smarter to pass unnoticed. Of course the fact that she floats around in her crimson gown completely oblivious to this hostility, is why we love her.

1.Anna’s ballgown, The King and I, costume designer: Irene Sharaff. Genres: Musical, literary adaptation.

This dress is largely responsible for beginning my Victorian obsession. It is directly responsible for little Julia insisting her first ever bridesmaid dress have a hoop skirt. It also led to compulsive use of the silver crayon when it was coloring-in time at my primary school. Despite the film’s problems, I still get chills when Anna dances with the king. I love the way the dress looks like liquid as she moves.

There you go; my top 10. I hope you’ll let me know your favorite costumes from film in the comments here, or on Facebook or Instagram.

history

Eminent Victorians: Kate and Maggie Fox

Kate and Maggie Fox, via Pinterest.

The heroine of my next book (The Ruin of Evangeline Jones, coming soon from Entangled Publishing) is a charlatan medium. To tell her story, I researched the Victorian spiritualist movement, which is how I found out about Kate and Maggie Fox. These two sisters are in large part responsible for starting the entire 19th century spiritualist craze.

It all began in the 1840s when they were still children. According to the PSI Encyclopedia, “Maggie and Kate Fox were at the centre of a poltergeist-type disturbance in 1848 that led to the emergence of Spiritualism, a religion based on communication with spirits of the dead.”

The sisters claimed to hear strange knocking and rapping sounds through which they could communicate with the spirit of a murdered peddler haunting their home. Spookily enough, searches under the house revealed bone fragments. Tables moved, doors shut spontaneously and the spirit (whom the girls nicknamed Mr. Splitfoot after the devil) urged the sisters to hold public meetings to spread the word about life after death. Visitors descended on their house and eventually, since the spirit seemed to follow the girls wherever they went, they took their show on the road, joined by their older sister Leah (the entrepreneur of the family).

They became a sensation, attracting many famous admirers and, because of their many imitators, spawned a new religion. Not bad for three ordinary Victorian women from a tiny hamlet in New York state.

The Fox sisters in later life: Leah (1814–1890), Margaretta (also called Maggie) (1833–1893) and Catherine (also called Kate ) (1837–1892).

To this day, many believe the sisters to be genuine mediums despite the fact that Kate and Maggie both took to the stage in 1888 to reveal how they accomplished the fraud. The rapping was nothing more than the cracking of toe and ankle joints. At the same time, both denounced the spiritualist movement as a whole and their now estranged sister Leah in particular. Perhaps those who continued to believe in Mr. Splitfoot put this down to a family quarrel that got out of hand and, to be fair, Maggie and Kate, both in dire need of cash, later resumed giving seances. Maggie also renounced her confession.

Even though I think the sisters were charlatans, I can’t help but admire what they accomplished at a time when women had few career options. They attained a level of success few achieved and sparked a movement that took the western world by storm. What may have started as an innocent prank when they were children still colors people’s beliefs to this day.

history

A new figure for a healthier more attractive you? The S-bend Corset.

So, five minutes ago, I discovered that s-bend (also known as swan bill) corsets were a thing. Apparently, they were invented in the 1890s by Inès Gaches-Sarraute (a medical doctor) as a healthier alternative to regular v-shaped corsets (that is, corsets designed to give women the desirable v shape at the waist), the idea being that it didn’t put so much pressure on the abdomen. They were all the rage from about 1900 and into the early 1910s.

As for what the the corsets looked like…

S-bend corset, 1905, Victorian and Albert Museum, via Pinterest.

So pretty!

Below, you can see the finished effect and how the s-bend got its name.

The straight busque forces the pelvis backwards and the bust forwards. Despite the good doctor/corsetiere’s intentions, the health benefits were minimal, given the extreme strain placed on the back.

And, just like the old-style corset, high fashion often dictated ridiculously tight lacing:

Fortunately, in the 1910s, waist lines rose to pretty much regency height (think Rose in Titanic) and women’s backs and waists were safe for a while. I’d laugh except that, more than a hundred years later, we still torture ourselves for fashion. Stilettos, anyone?

history

Eminent Victorians: Spring-heeled Jack

Urban legend, prank, or supervillain?

This here is Satan, we might say the devil, but that ain’t right, and gennelfolks don’t like such words. He is now commonly called ‘Spring-heeled Jack;’ or the ‘Rossian Bear,’ – that’s since the war.— Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor

The first sighting of the being known as Spring-heeled Jack occurred in London in 1837. A man jumped out and grabbed Mary Stevens, tore at her clothes, and touched her with claws that were “cold and clammy as those of a corpse.” A clear-cut case of sexual assault. The next day, the same man leaped out in front of a coach, causing it to crash, and, according to several witnesses, escaped over a 9ft wall, babbling and laughing. More sightings followed and the mysterious attacker was even featured in a Times article.

What did he look like? Some accounts describe him in tight-fitting oilskin, others in the attire of a gentleman. Most agree about the claws, voluminous cloak, and general devilishness of his appearance. Accounts of subsequent attacks grew increasingly outlandish. Jack is said to have spewed blue and white flames from his mouth (a professional or amateur fire-breather, perhaps?), possess eyes of fire, and metallic claws that he used to tear women’s clothes. He also once appeared in a bearskin (which I feel gives my fire-breather/performance artist theory even more credence). However, the likeliest suspect in the early attacks is the Marquess of Waterford (commonly known as The Mad Marquess).

In 1838, an arrest was made (not the marquess) but, despite a confession and evidence that he committed at least one of the crimes, the man had to be released because he didn’t know how to fire breathe. Gradually attacks became less frequent until a new wave occurred in the 1840s and again in the 1870s. The last sighting of Jack was in Liverpool in 1904. A copycat? Or–an idea that gained increasing momentum among those who claimed to see him–a ghost?

Illustration of Spring-heeled Jack, from the 1867 serial Spring-heel’d Jack: The Terror of London , via Wikipedia.

One of the problems with parsing the Spring-heeled Jack sightings is that he quickly became a literary sensation, the star of numerous plays and penny dreadfuls. The stories of him running about on the rooftops of London, masked, cloaked and performing supernatural leaps, quickly mixed with and obfuscated genuine sightings of what seems to have been a budding sex offender who enjoyed dangerous pranks or, even more likely, a series of similar criminals. (I’m not one for the ghost theory, but your mileage may vary).

Whatever you believe, the stories themselves, the fiction that grew up around Spring-heeled Jack, have ensured that he’s passed into legend.