Available in ebook & paperback (10 November 2020)
ABOUT THE BOOK
*A prequel to the award-winning Tall Chimneys*
The Talbots are wealthy. But their wealth is from ‘trade’. With neither ancient lineage nor title, they struggle for entrance into elite Regency society. Finally, aided by an impecunious viscount, they gain access to the drawing rooms of England’s most illustrious houses.
Once established in le bon ton, Mrs Talbot intends her daughter Jocelyn to marry well, to eliminate the stain of the family’s ignoble beginnings. But the young men Jocelyn meets are vacuous, seeing Jocelyn as merely a brood mare with a great deal of money. Only Lieutenant Barnaby Willow sees the real Jocelyn, but he must go to Europe to fight the French.
The hypocrisy of fashionable society repulses Jocelyn—beneath the courtly manners and studied elegance she finds tittle-tattle, deceit, dissipation and vice. Jocelyn stumbles upon and then is embroiled in a sordid scandal which will mean utter disgrace for the Talbot family. Humiliated and dishonoured, she is sent to a remote house hidden in a hollow of the Yorkshire moors. There, separated from family, friends and any hope of hearing about the lieutenant’s fate, she must build her own life—and her own social order—anew.
It’s a pleasure to welcome to the blog Allie Cresswell, following publication of her latest book, The House in the Hollow. My thanks to Allie for the interesting guest post – especially since Regency is a genre that I am not currently overly familiar with.
Lifting the veil on Regency society to find inequality and prejudice
by Allie Cresswell
Recently there has been an up-surge in interest in all things Regency. The new adaptation of Emma only rode the wave of enthusiasm that carried (and then effectively swamped) the serialisation of Sanditon. The Bridgerton series on Netflix is eagerly awaited, not least by me.
The Regency era has an evergreen attraction. Naturally we’re only talking about the wealthy classes—no one aspires to be a scullery maid or an agricultural labourer in those times—who were leisured, educated and privileged. They were waited on hand and foot, well-fed, beautifully clothed and at liberty to enjoy an elegant existence of genteel sport and social engagements.
For the romantics amongst us the courtly, polite relationship between men and women is exquisite. Men were gentlemen. Women were ladies. Words like honour, respect and regard characterised the relationships between them. Although certain fictional couples had a zest of physical attraction it was the least consideration in the question of matrimony and never pursued—at least in Jane Austen’s original novels—beyond the nuptial altar.
It is a strange contradiction that while ladies were respected, even revered, and their reputations held almost holy, they were at the same time less well-educated, severely restricted in terms of personal wealth and often patronised intellectually. They had little or no personal freedom. Young ladies must always be watched, chaperoned and supervised for fear of a taint to their reputations while young men were free to do as they wished. If they got into a ‘scrape’ it was considered as not much more than an inconvenience to be paid off and forgotten about; their reputations remained unsullied.
This inequality of reputation really interested me, and as I wrote The House in the Hollow I decided to explore the discrepancy between the way Regency society treated women and men in terms of reputation and especially in regard to sex.
One needs only to do a little research to discover that the exquisitely proper manners of Jane Austen’s world did not prevail at court. The prince Regent had numerous mistresses and, taking his lead, affairs and intrigues were commonplace amongst the aristocracy. Brothels and bawdy houses abounded in London and other cities. It is naive to assume that men like Darcy and Knightley were as inexperienced on their wedding nights as their brides. It was implicitly understood that men ‘had their needs’ and often ‘strayed’. Amongst young men sexual adventures were tacitly condoned, considered a necessary rite of passage—what other purpose had the grand tour? This attitude by no means extended to women. ‘Fallen’ women, or even women reputed to have been ‘indiscreet’, ‘compromised’ or ‘tainted by association’ were censured, debarred from polite society or even driven into prostitution because they were cast off by their families.
The House in the Hollow, whilst being a ‘clean’ read, rich in Regency culture and all that we love about those times, features three women who fall foul of the Regency’s imbalanced attitude to women. Are they ‘more sinned against than sinning’? Well you must be the judge of that.
The House in the Hollow is currently available to download from Amazon UK at 99p
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages.
Nowadays Allie writes full time. She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.
The House in the Hollow is her eleventh novel.