Category Archives: Edwardian romance

Victorian Vise — Dilemma of the Newly Poor

448px-Sense_and_Sensibility_Illustration_Chap_12
“He cut off a long lock of her hair.”

In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwoods are cast into poverty when Mr. Dashwood dies. The home passes to his only son from a first marriage, and his second wife and three daughters are left to fend for themselves. The situation is all more tragic when one realizes English women of a certain social strata in that era did not work, and perhaps had few marketable skills even if they could. Therefore, women were almost entirely dependent on a male protector for their very survival. Throughout the Victorian era, very little changed. Society women were discouraged from pursuing any course of education other than “drawing room” skills such as music or singing, or artistic endeavors such as embroidery, painting, and the like. What happened to newly impoverished Society women if they had no relatives? If they were lucky, they could procure a position as a governess or companion. The unluckier ones might be forced into a seamier career in East End in order to eat.

Sense and Sensibility was one of the inspirations for Jessamine’s Folly. In the story, Jessamine is orphaned at fifteen, and her estate is entailed away from her to an uncle. Although the uncle agrees to let her stay, her aunt and cousin make her life miserable. When Jessamine is of age, her aunt forces her to look for work as a governess. A loyal servant knows of a position, but it comes with a catch:

Excerpt:

“My cousin Garfield is valet to the Earl of Kirkendale. He wrote me just the other day about the young lady of the house needing a governess, or companion more like, since Lady Amelie is turning eighteen soon. The thing is, no governess has managed to last at Knight’s Keep more than a few weeks.”

Jessamine blinked. “Is the girl difficult?”

“The problem might lie with the master of Knight’s Keep. Lord Kirkendale is Lady Amelie’s elder brother, and the Earl of Kirkendale since his father died. It seems no lass young enough to be a governess or companion to Lady Amelie can avoid falling in love with the man. He’s that handsome, says my cousin.”

“What a bunch of ninnies!” Jessamine exclaimed.

“Aye. Well, you know how impressionable young women can be. Anyway, Lord Kirkendale is looking to fill the post. It’s likely only a temporary position, however, until Her Ladyship makes a good marriage.”

“I think I can avoid falling in love until then,” Jessamine said.

ornament29Can Jessamine can avoid falling in love with Lord Kirkendale, or is taking such a position sheer folly? Unfortunately for Jessamine, she has little choice but to try.There is much to admire about 19th century dress, manners, and style but the cultivated helplessness of upper class women isn’t something I could easily accept. Fortunately, my time machine has never failed me yet. ~ S.G. RogersJessaminesFolly_432

Edwardian Era Paradox

Portrait of Edward VII (1841-1910)

Queen Victoria, whose long reign spanned 1837 – 1901, was known for her strict code of moral conduct. She herself, however was certainly no prude when it came to her marital relationship with her husband, Albert. By all accounts, the two had an affectionate and passionate relationship between the sheets. As a result, their union produced nine children. Nevertheless, the Victorian era is seen as one of straight-laced propriety, endless rules of etiquette, and an emphasis on purity and virtue. Certainly the queen’s offspring, raised in such an atmosphere, could be expected to be as well-behaved as the von Trapp family brood…or as wholesome as the Brady Bunch.

Not so fast.

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales

Victoria and Albert’s eldest son, Edward (nicknamed ‘Bertie’) was a naughty lad…once he grew out of short pants. As a young man, he took pleasure in the company of accommodating women, both before and during his marriage to long-suffering Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Edward’s string of mistresses was legendary, but no illegitimate offspring were ever acknowledged by him. In one incident, a flagrant affair with actress Nellie Clifden brought Edward’s papa on the run. Albert was already ill when he undertook the journey, but two weeks afterward, he died. Victoria blamed her son for her beloved’s demise, writing about Edward to her eldest daughter, “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.”

All scandalous behavior aside, ‘Bertie’ had the reputation for being a clotheshorse, charming, well-mannered, skilled in the art of diplomacy–and fond of a good meal. Perhaps he was not as straight-laced as his mother would have wished…but neither was he dull.

The popular television series Downton Abbey is set in the post-Edwardian era, but that program inspired me to delve a little deeper into the age as a backdrop to my latest release, Jessamine’s Folly. In the story, young Jessamine finds herself obliged to earn her own living, even though she was brought up as a privileged member of the gentry class. As a newly-hired companion to an earl’s sister, she’s not exactly a servant, but she’s not Society either. Jessamine tries to adapt to her new role, but pitfalls abound. Can she navigate her way through, or will she end up working in East End as just another casualty of sudden poverty?

~ S.G. Rogers

JessaminesFolly_432Blurb: 

After her estate is entailed away, Jessamine Foster has no choice but to live with relatives who detest her. When her aunt gives her an ultimatum to leave, Jessamine accepts a position as companion to Lord Kirkendale’s sister—even though she’s been warned her predecessors can’t seem to resist the earl’s exceptional good looks. Can Jessamine manage to hold onto her job without losing her heart?

To honor a promise made to his dying father, Lord Kirkendale agrees to an arranged marriage to a woman he cannot love. Although he is resigned to a life without sentiment, the arrival of his sister’s new companion awakens a slumbering passion. Can he find a way to secure his own happiness without sacrificing his family’s honor, or will his broken promise result in the ruination of the person he loves most?

Available at Amazon HERE, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday!

To add to your to-read list on Goodreads, go HERE