Dearly Beloved: the Story Behind the Story

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Editing and producing e-versions of earlier books is an interesting, nostalgic, and sometimes alarming process.  I agree with everything Cara/Andrea said in her Wednesday discussion of the e-release of three of her Signet Regencies.  Proofing forces an author to confront all the appalling writing weaknesses that she has been struggling to eliminate.  Thank heaven that in popular fiction, a good story can trump wordiness! To a point, anyhow. <G>

I’ve just uploaded the ebook verson of Dearly Beloved, my first true Regency historical romance after I’d written 7 traditional Signet Regencies.  I wanted a rock ‘em, sock ‘em story that would push the limits beyond anything I’d attempted, and I succeeded.  I also wanted to do the sort of deception that Mary Stewart did in The Ivy Tree, where a plot twist makes what came before look different in light of new information. 

MaryJoPutney_DearlyBeloved_800pxYes, I was probably biting off too much, but if I were a reasonable person, I wouldn't have become a writer. <G>  Though I generally avoid Amazon reviews, I just noticed one that said Dearly Beloved was a book people either loved or hated.  Luckily, this particular reviewer loved the book, but others didn't.  Which is fine.  No book is for everyone.

When my agent was sending out the manuscript, at least one editor refused to even consider it because the heroine, Diana Lindsay, goes to London to become a courtesan.  But that is much too simple a description of the story. 

Diana is a woman of instinct and intuition, and it is instinct that drives her from her remote Yorkshire home to find a better life.  Dangerously beautiful, she realizes that being an elite courtesan will give her freedom and power, and London will give her young son more opportunities.

At her first venture into the demimonde, Diana meets Gervase, a haunted lord and spymaster who is entranced by her warmth and kindness.  Soon they are locked in an intense, passionate love affair.  But they each have their secrets, and their approaches to life are catastrophically different in ways that threaten to wrench them apart.

Here’s an excerpt, along with the original cover, which I loved for its tenderness.  I think it looks more like the characters in my head than any other cover I've had:

    In spite of their physical closeness Gervase was remote from her, his expression Dearly Beloved originalharsh and withdrawn.  Diana leaned across the narrow gap for a light kiss, asking softly, “Is something wrong?”
     His eyes were shadowed and he was silent for too long.  “You’re like…an addiction.  The more I have of you, the more I crave you.”
     “And you dislike that?”
     “I don’t want to need anyone.  Ever.”
     Diana felt the chill of his mood dispelling her contentment and she sat up, wrapping her cloak around her.  Without true intimacy, it seemed wrong to be naked in front of him.  Staring into the fire, she wondered what one could say to a man who preferred aloneness, who wanted to be sufficient unto himself.  “You need air to survive, and food and drink and sleep.  To be fully human, one also needs other people.”  
     To even discuss such matters was to betray vulnerability, and there was a long interval before he answered.  “Needing objects is safe enough—one kind of food can easily replace another.  To need people is dangerous because…it gives them power over you.”
     Still looking at the fire, she drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs, folds of cloak spilling around her to the rug.  “Sometimes that is true, but why do you assume that others will always use their power against you?”
     With a brittle laugh, he said, “Experience.”
     She turned to face him.  “Can you truly say that everyone you have ever cared about has abused your trust?”
     Silence.  Then, “No.  The risk increases with the level of caring.  If one cares only a little, there is only a little danger.  The real risk is in…caring deeply.”
     Diana felt pity that he couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “love.”  What had happened to him, that the very thought of loving was so frightening?  “Then you are in no danger from me.  I can see what a bother it must be that your lust is temporarily out of control, but sex is just a “thing,’ like the need for food and drink.”
     She wished he would leave so she could give way to tears.  It was a mistake to love a man who daren’t love in return.  She stood, her voice gently mocking. “Take comfort in the fact that soon I will not be a novelty and you can easily replace me with another woman.”
     Gervase stood also, coming behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her against the hard length of his body.  “Can I replace you that easily, Diana?  Is that all that is between us—intemperate lust that will soon wane?”
     She held herself rigid, fighting the desire to melt back against him.  “I can’t answer that.  Only you can.”
     “But I don’t know the answer.  I don’t even understand the question.”
     Speaking from her own hurt, she said, “You don’t pay me enough to teach you the questions.”
     His arms dropped away, and when he spoke it was in a voice of cool irony.  “Good of you to remind me what is really between us. Since it is only vulgar money, there can be no danger.”
     She turned to face him, her blue eyes stark with unhappiness.  “You said that, not me.  If that is what you choose to believe, then of course it must be the truth.  After all, the customer is always right.”
     He flinched back at her words.  “If only it were that simple.”  Placing his hands on Diana’s shoulders, he drew her to him.  “But even after that spectacular sexual exchange has discharged physical desire, I still want you.  And so I fear you.”
     She softened then, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her head on his shoulder. “Do you really think I could ever hurt you?”
     He laid his cheek against her tangled hair, the scent of lilac poignant around them.  “I don’t know.  I really…just…do not know.  And that is what frightens me.”

Dearly Beloved: Love it or hate it.  The book was nominated for the RWA book of the year award and won the NJRW best historical of the year award.  It also brought me my first hate mail. 

Here’s a review quote from Terrie Figueroa of

"Brimming with betrayal, passion, intrigue and love, Dearly Beloved is a novel that no romance reader should miss…It's a novel that will touch your heart, and a perfect example of what a romance novel should be."

I love the quote, though I don’t think the book is for every romance reader. <G> 

The e-edition of Dearly Beloved is currently being uploaded to the usual platforms.  The only current link I have is for Amazon, but Nook and Kobo and the others will follow over the next few days. 

MaryJoPutney_LadyofFortune_200pxI have two more novels that I have yet to edit, format, and upload: Uncommon Vows, (my one medieval) and Lady of Fortune, originally a Signet Super Regency.  They will become available later this year, but I have no idea when!

In the meantime, I’ll give a print copy of Dearly Beloved to someone who leaves a comment between now and midnight Saturday. 

While I have your attention: I’m thinking of making some of my books available in print on demand (POD) editions, which look and cost about the same as a trade paperback.  So, more expensive than mass market paperbacks.  Do you have any MaryJoPutney_ThunderandRoses_200pxthoughts about this?  Would you consider buying the print edition of a book that is otherwise available only as an ebook?  Let me know what you think, please!

Mary Jo, who would start POD with Thunder and Roses, first of the Fallen Angels series

Regency Either/Or!

CoronetNicola here! I have one arm in a sling this week after
unexpectedly needing some treatment to my shoulder and as a result I can’t type
much. So for my blog today I thought I would post up a little game for everyone
called Regency Either/Or. I shamelessly borrowed this idea from Honorary Word
Wench Mia Marlowe who has a very fun version of this on her blog. I hope you enjoy
it and share your choices and your own suggestions!

Duke of Mr?

Actually these days I think that should be Prince or Mr. I
have noticed title inflation in some historical romances rather like the
millionaire to billionaire inflation in some contemporary romance books. Whilst
a Duke (or Prince) is frightfully authoritative and powerful I have a soft spot
for a Mr. On the other hand teh duke gets to wear the cute coronet above.

Debutante or courtesan?

I don’t mind a debutante heroine if she has a bit of
gumption and isn’t too “straight out of the schoolroom.” As for courtesans,
well everyone deserves to find true love.

Swords or pistols?

Which is your weapon of choice? By 1770 the sword was
considered very old-fashioned and pistols were
Duelling pistols
all the rage. But gentlemen,
remember: would it not be more mature – and less dangerous – simply to apologise? There is no dishonour in that.

Brandy or claret?

is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must
drink brandy.” Dr Johnson. Need I say more?

Signet ring or diamond cravat pin?

A signet ring, especially one bearing the arms of the hero’s
family, suggests a reassuringly ancient pedigree. Is a diamond cravat pin just
too bling?

StagecoachCurricle or stagecoach?

Who could resist the sports car of its day? But if you
do take a ride in a curricle make sure that the driver is a noted whip and not
someone who cannot handle his cattle. Let’s not dismiss the stage out of hand,
though. You can meet very interesting people on public transport.

Highwayman, smuggler of pirate?

Ok, I know it's cheating to have three but when it comes to heroes who like to walk on the wrong side of the law, how do you choose?

Now it's your turn. Answer as many as you like or make up your own!

All that glistens is not . . . goldfish

Joanna here, talking about English Goldfish. 

You've probably asked yourself, from time to time, if there are any Shakespeare  Thomas Benjamin Kennington quotes about goldfish. 

Did Shakespeare say, "That which we call a goldfish, by any other name would be as bright"? 
Or insult some catiff with a, "Thou wimpled, reeling-ripe goldfish-licker!" 

He did not. 
Goldfish didn't make it to England till nearly a century after Shakespeare's death.  We got Shakespearean dogs and cats, camels, carp, marmosets, mackerel, and whales . . . but no goldfish. 

Basically, the goldfish is the carp who made good. 

The carp is a wide-spread, useful and tasty fish that's been domesticated for a couple millennia in China.  While the Chinese were raising carp for the table, they'd noticed a common mutation that threw an orange or gold fish Grabbing_for_goldfishin among the ordinary ones. 

After centuies of noticing that, about a thousand years ago, the Chinese set down to the serious business of breeding these bright-colored fishes as garden ornaments.  The women of the imperial court doubtless engaged in a little friendly rivalry as to the beauty and vigor of their particular line of goldfish.  They'd bring them inside in big porcelain basins to enjoy.  Especially favored courtiers would be invited over to watch the fish swim, this being before TV and Wii.

When trade routes opened in the 1600s, goldfish were freed from their splendid isolation in the Mandarin's garden and went travelling the world.  Japan first.  Then southern Europe, coming in through Portugal.  Then just about everywhere.

The Japanese Kanji characters for goldfish are 'gold' and 'fish'.  'King yo'.  In Dutch, goldfish is goudvis.  French, poisson d'or.  Spanish, carpa dorada.  Goldfish tend to be called 'goldfish'. 
When goldfish hit Europe, it settled a bit of an artistic conundrum.  Chinese  paintings had been arriving in Europe with representations of goldfish.  "Pooh," said some.  "Mythical animals." 

Turned out it wasn't artistic license. 
It was fish.

Legend has it goldfish were brought to France as a present for Madame de Pompadour.  In Russia, Prince Potemkin gave goldfish to Catherine the Great. 

Goldfish were the Tiffany trinket of the Eighteenth Century.

And across southern Europe in those years, it became a tradition for husbands to give their wives a goldfish on the first anniversary as a symbol for prosperous years to come.

1800boillyjfillesafentre crop1800boillyjfillesafentre 

Here's a pair of impeccable French goldfish from 1800 in an impeccable period fishbowl. 

Goldfish moved into England in 1728, brought over to a Sir Matthew Dekker who handed them out to his friends and neighbors in London. 

They were, when first introduced into England, considered rare and fragile.  As late as 1821, a naturalist could write,

"Great care is necessary to preserve them; for they are extremely delicate, and sensible of the least injuries of the air; a loud noise, such as that of thunder or cannon; a strong smell, a violent shaking of the vessel or a single touch, will often destroy them."

Admittedly, the survival of a goldfish in the care of a ten-year-old boy is somewhat of a crap shoot.  But it's not as bad as that.

The most illustrious patron of goldfish in Georgian England was Horace Walpole, who kept a pond of them at his home, Strawberry Hill, bred them and gifted them about Europe. 

Horace walpole  Said Walpole: 

"I have lately given count Perron some gold-fish, which he has carried in his post-chaise to Turin: he has already carried some before. The Russian minister has asked me for some too, but I doubt their succeeding there . . ."

Goldfish:  Eighteenth Century baksheesh, greasing the wheels of international diplomacy.



Walpole tells the story:  

"I Was prevented from finishing my letter yesterday, by what do you think ? By no less magnificent a circumstance than a deluge  . . .  About four arrived such a flood, that we could not see out of the windows: the whole lawn was a lake . . .  I had but just, time to collect two dogs, a couple of sheep, a pair of bantams, and a brace of gold-fish; for, in the haste of my zeal to imitate my ancestor Noah, I forgot that fish would not easily be drowned.

The goldfish by henri matisse In short, if you chance to spy a little ark with pinnacles sailing towards Jersey, open the sky-light, and you will find some of your acquaintance. You never saw such desolation ! A pigeon brings word that Mabland has fared still worse."

I can see Walpole, retreating from his flooded house with his 'brace of goldfish'.  (ETA:  This is Horace Walpole, not Robert Walpole, as I originally wrote.  Jeesh.  Pay attention, Joanna.)

That's Strawberry Hill somewhat far above, Walpole's magnificent Gothic madness.  To the left and slightly above is an entirely unrelated set of Matisse goldfish.

Elsewhere Walpole says,

"You may get your pond ready as soon as you please; the gold fish swarm: Mr. Bentley carried a dozen to town t'other day in a decanter.
You would be entertained with our fishing; instead of nets and rods and lines and worms, we use nothing but a pail and a basin and a tea-strainer, which I persuade my neighbours is the Chinese method."

It's not impossible your goldfish — if you have one — is descended from the adventurous fish of Walpole's pond at Strawberry Hill.

By the Regency, goldfish were a commonplace in the parlor, kept in goldfish  bowls that looked exactly like the modern variety.  Goldfish seem to have made 'unexceptional', affectionate presents.

In Maria Edgeworth's novel, Belinda, goldfish are sent to an invalid. — "I have  some gold fish, which you know cannot make the least noise: may I send them to her?"

This picture to the right is Kitty Fisher, Eighteenth CenNathaniel Hone portrait of Kitty Fisher, her cat, and the goldfish bowltury courtesan, with goldfish bowl and cat.

Developing on the courtesan theme, below Kitty is the courtesan Wakamurasaki playing with a goldfish.  

Folks tended to moralize about the whole 'gold' thing.  In Thomas Gray's poem, The Cat and the Gold Fish, the poor cat falls into the goldfish vase:

No master came, no servant stirr'd;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard :
A fav'rite has no friend!

Learn hence, ye fair ones, undeceiv'd,Chokosai-eisho-a-bust-portrait-of-the-courtesan-wakamurasaki-of-the-tsunotamaya-playing-with-goldfish
False steps are hard to be retriev'd,
And be with caution bold.

Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes,
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters gold.

In Regency England, if you weren't lucky enough to be gifted with goldfish, you might buy your own from the itinerant goldfish peddler.  The Regency was a great time for merchandise coming to you instead of t'other way round. 

George Dunlop, R.A., LeslieThe Goldfish Seller

In the interests of providing a full audio-visual experience, I'm going to wander far afield from the Regency and bring in Debussy's piano piece, Poisson d'or

Poisson d'or — 'Goldfish', of course.   Debussy's work was inspired by this particular lacquer artwPoissonsD'Or+19thCenturyJapaneseLaquer+MuseeClaudeDebussy+Saint-Germain-En-Layeork here to the right.  It hung in his study. 

You can listen to Poisson d'or here.  That's Magda Tagliaferro playing, and she's 92.

Debussy used to call the times when inspiration ran dry, his 'factory of  nothingness."

While you're listening to that goldfish music . . .

I became interested in the question of Regency and French Revolutionary goldfish, (allow me to pause while I rid my mind of the image of small revolutionary fish carrying banners,) because, in my book, The Forbidden Rose, my heroine keeps fish.
Well . . . she kept fish.

In this scene her chateau has been burned and looted, and naturally no one thinks about the fish in a situation like this.  It's always the innocent fish that suffer.

***** ***

Aaajapanese fb He stood, looking formidable. Behind him, dawn curved like a shell.

The wide granite pool was white as the moon.  It was cold as the moon when she dipped her hand beneath the surface of the reflection. “Will you tell me what you plan to do with me? I am naturally curious.”

“We’ll talk about it when we’re on the road. I want to get away from here. Soap.” LeBreton laid it beside the towels.  A metal box of soft and greasy-looking soap. “Probably not what you’re used to.”

“It is lovely. Thank you.”

“Don’t get any in the pool.”

Fish were poisoned by soap. She liked it that LeBreton knew that, and cared. It is in such small things that men reveal themselves.

Goldfish came and nibbled at her fingers. She had named them all when she was a child. Moses—because he parted the waters—and Blondine and fat, lazy Rousseau.  Once the noisy Jacobin riffraff took themselves off, Mayor Leclerc would come from the village with tubs to steal her fish for his own pond. He had coveted them for many years.  She hoped he would hurry. They should not be neglected in this fashion.

. . . (and later) . . .

She wore nothing at all. It was strange to be unclothed under the open sky. 

Her reflection looked up at her from the fish basin, more pale than the sky, rippling in the circles that spread where fish came to lip at the surface. The rim of the basin was gritty under her, with little puddles in every unevenness. The wind of the new day scraped her skin like a dull knife. She put her feet in the water. The slippery film of mud at the bottom of the pool crept up between her toes.

Cold. Immeasurably cold.

Quickly, before she lost her courage, she wet half the towel, rubbed water down her arms, over her stomach, hissing every breath in and out. Then up and down her thighs. She washed every scratch, every cut. There was not one of them without a sting. It was not helpful to remind herself that she was the descendent of warriors.

Moses and Rousseau and the other great rulers of the pool held themselves aloof, but many small fish came to nibble at her calves and ankles and the knuckles of her hands with little bites, like kittens.

*****  ***

Author anecdote here:  My aunt had a goldfish named Moses who lived in a big ornamental pond behind her house.  He used to come up to the top and blow bubbles when she rang a bell.  When you write your own books you get to name the fictional goldfish after goldfish you have known personally.

Anyhow . . . While goldfish were swimming happily about in English drawing rooms in 1730-ish, they didn't arrive in America till about a century later.  They showed up sometime in the early years of the Nineteenth Century.  No one knows just when.  Actress Fanny Kemble recounts finding goldfish in a pool at a florists in New York in the 1830s.

Which brings us at last to the vexatious question of goldfish versus koi. 
The cagematch.

Koi to the left.  Goldfish to the right.   

Both g-Koi_wiki commonsoldfish and koi were bred from wild carp Goldfish bfraz licence cc by nc sapopulations.  
Goldfish started out in China, a thousand years ago.  Koi arose from a different breed of carp, in Japan, in the mid Nineteenth Century. 

Koi are Johnnies-come-lately.  No Regency koi, alas.

Since I cannot resist talking about koi anyway:  The Japanese word 'koi' means simply 'carp'.  What we call koi the Japanese call 'nishikigoi'.  'Brocaded carp'. 
By chance, the Japanese word, 'koi', is a homophone  for another word that means 'affection' or 'love'.  Koi are therefore symbols of love and friendship in Japan.

In celebration of the goldfishes Blondine, Rousseau and Moses, I'll be giving away a copy of either The Forbidden Rose or the trade paperback of Spymaster's Lady, (your choice,) to one lucky poster in the comment trail.

So — what pet should the Romance heroine, (or hero,) keep?  Monkey, hedgehog, ferret, hummingbird?  Maybe an attack dog?