What We’re Reading

Our Word Wench WWR posts are always popular, and our July reads start with Nicola Cornick:

Shrines of GaietyNicola here. My favourite read this month was Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, which is set in London in the 1920s in the glittering and criminal world of the Soho clubs. I picked it up because the story, about the Croker family and their entertainment empire was inspired by that of the infamous nightclub owner Kate Meyrick, several of whose daughters married into the aristocracy, including the Craven family. The book perfectly captures the complicated and glamorous world of 1920s society. The character of Nellie Coker, the matriarch, is compelling, as is the plot in which the police on one side and Nellie’s enemies in the criminal fraternity on the other, are all aiming to bring her down. Her eldest son, Niven, is a great romantic hero. My major grumble was that the romance strand was left hanging, which was very frustrating for those of us who like happy endings! I’ve enjoyed some Kate Atkinson books more than others but this was one of my favourites.

US link here: UK line here.

I also picked up The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware and thoroughly enjoyed that too. Mrs WestawayHarriet Westaway, struggling to make ends meet and even to survive in Brighton after her mother’s death, receives a letter that seems to answer all her prayers. The Cornish grandmother she never knew has left her a fortune. But Harriet’s grandparents died 20 years before… didn’t they? Desperate for the money, she decides to chance it and see if she can get away with the fraud, which brings her into the Westaway family circle and a whole host of secrets waiting to be revealed. This is a gothic thriller with all the trappings – a creepy old house, an equally creepy old family retainer and various weird relatives hiding all sorts of secrets. I found it a page-turner and went on to read another of Ruth Ware’s books, The It Girl, straight after.

US link UK link

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Musing on Writing Part 1

HeadPat here—I’m bogged down in a book that won’t end, so I’m spewing whatever comes into my head today. If you’re looking for educational research, you may stop reading now. If you want to see inside an author’s empty head, this one’s for you.

Once upon a time, in a place faraway. . . I itched to write the stories in my head when I couldn’t find anything new to read (which was often; we had no library). Once I was old enough to write whole sentences, I had ink pens with lovely turquoise ink and notebook pages meant for homework, and I scribbled my hea1024px-Fountain_pen_writing_(literacy)rt out. My fifth grade teacher was pretty useless at teaching grammar—I rudely corrected hers. But my sixth grade teacher encouraged creativity and politely corrected my ignorant outpourings. I even had a university professor to correct my letter to the editor—which taught me I’d better learn grammar if I wanted to write for anyone but myself. I stuck to writing for myself. 

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AAW: Favorite Furnishings!

by Mary Jo

Image003This Ask A Wench blog was inspired when we started talking about furniture in our private Word Wenches email loop, and we found out that we all had stories about favorite things!

Here is the question I asked: "Do you have a particular piece of furniture that you cherish? Tell us its story!"

And here are the replies:

From Pat Rice:

I HAD wonderful pieces that I cherished—the Victorian sofa my stepfather reupholstered in lovely wine and cream to match my Tudor-style dark oak living room; the dark oak dining table that was our very first piece of “bought” furniture, the one with scars in it from little hands pressing too hard with writing instruments while doing homework; the beautiful Bentwood rocker from my mother that I rocked my babies in… and the magnificent handmade mahogany Queen Anne bedroom suite I bought with my first big royalty check. ( the pic shows the table and the antique sideboard I picked up at a yard sale!)

They’re all gone now, left behind when we moved across the country to a modern cottage on the Pacific coast. These days, we live with NICOLA.Seaborn's chair thrift store bargains—because new, they probably cost more than all the above furniture did when we bought them. I no longer feel guilt at dumping a designer leather couch when we move to a house where it doesn’t fit. I can buy an even better one in a design that matches. Throw away furniture—it’s a Thing.

Nicola contributes a "Slightly macabre piece!"

 When I was a child my grandparents, who lived with us, bought an 18th century grandfather clock that stood in the hall, its loud tick filling the air and somehow giving a sense of reassurance and permanence. I loved that clock! I loved its painted face and the fact that it was much taller than I was, and that it had been made in the North of England and was so old.

Fast forward fifty years, and when we were clearing my parents’ house I really wanted to take that clock home to live with me. But there was a problem. It was too tall. Or our ceilings were too low. Whichever way you looked at it, it didn’t fit. We thought about taking several inches off the bottom of it, which wasn’t really feasible. We even thought about lowering a small part of the floor but that was even less practical. In the end I had to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen. My step-brother has it now and as he loves it too, that’s good enough for me.

 

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Priory chapels and perpetual curates

Enrique_VIII_de_Inglaterra _por_Hans_Holbein_el_JovenPat here: I believe I promised you last time to talk about my research into the Anglican Church. We all know the history about Henry the Head Chopper who wanted a divorce and the pope refused to give him one, so he created his own church. That’s not what I researched. Instead, I spent hours trying to figure out if my isolated manor might have a chapel or a vicar or what on earth they did for Sunday services.

I wasn’t researching because I just wanted my folks praying. They were nicely handling that by reading the English Book of Common Prayer on a Sunday morning—in the ancient great hall that was once a priory chapel, before Henry’s men tore it down. But under the Marriage Act of 1753, one cannot marry without a real church and real clergyman (unless you’re a Quaker or Jewish), and that’s a bit of a problem in a mystery series with a lot of romance.

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Regency Tailoring

Rice_SecretsofWycliffeManor600Pat here. . .

New cover! What do you think? I’m returning to historicals but in mystery format with lots of romance, not as a pure romance. Doors close on ghosts and intimacy. <G> So far, anyway. The cover depicts the heroine first approaching a once-abandoned manor deep in rural Warwickshire, sort of. The actual location is one of the complications I’m researching. (And of course, she arrived in a carriage with accompaniment, but covers don’t allow for details.)

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