No, that isn’t a realy gothic novel of the early 19th century. It’s the one Lord Darius Debenham and Lady Mara St Bride work on in TO RESCUE A ROGUE (out in September) under the name Dara St. Mara.
It all started when Mara didn’t want to cut short their time together after a visit to Dubourg’s Cork Exhibit (“Corks?” “It’s supposed to be fascinating.”) so she asks that they stop by the lending library so she can pick up a copy of Tales of Fancy that is waiting for her. And of course, she has to see what else is available. So I had to find some titles of other novels of the time, which is always fun because they’re so way over the top. Dare wants her to get BAROZZI, OR THE VENITIAN SORCERESS, but Mara can’t resist HUSBAND HUNTERS!!! because of the three exclamation points.
I haven’t found a copy of HUSBAND HUNTERS!!! yet, but I have a copy of BAROZZI, thanks to Valancourt Books or Chicago.
It was one of those bits of serendipity that bless a writer’s life. Early this year I received this e-mail:
I operate a small press called Valancourt Books (http://www.valancourtbooks.com) which reprints rare Gothic novels from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of the novels we’re working on right now is The Demon of Sicily, which given its rarity, I was frankly amazed to see mentioned in your An Arranged Marriage. Are you a fan of these old Gothic novels? If so, I wonder if you’d ever like to contribute a short preface or something to one of our titles?
Now AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE, you’ll remember, is my first novel, the one I started back in 1977. I suspect that THE DEMON OF SICILY came into it is the rewrites in the late ’80s, but it was still a while, so I couldn’t say why I’d chosen that one. I wonder if it is the the Carlton University collection in Ottawa. I could have simply browsed the catalogue for a title because I didn’t read the book.
I confessed as much to the publisher, but said yes, I would be interested in writing a preface, which I’m working on, because these novels were such a part of the early 19th century. Not everyone was reading Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott, but nearly every young woman would have read one or more gothics.
Of course I went to look at his catalogue. Alas, he doesn’t have HUSBAND HUNTERS!!!, which I really want to read, but there was BAROZZI. He also sent me THE WITCH OF RAVENSWORTH, but that’s by a man so I’m feeling negatively disposed.
I quoted a bit from BAROZZI in a tag-end comment to the line about sentences from books were reading now. It’s a rip-roaring yarn. From the modern back-copy. “The unfortunate Rosalina St. Almo (see, if I’d known that Dare would have said something about the connection between St. Bride and St. Almo) is torn from her father’s arms by vicious bandits who slaughter her father before her eyes. (Page one, line one. No mucking about with slow openings here.) Fortunately she is rescued from the bandits by young Rosalva di Barozzi, who takes her to his father’s palace in Venice. But more terror awaits her when a hideous sorceress at a masked ball prophesies her doom!”
I was a bit thrown by Rosalva as a hero’s name, but he’s dashing. It’s a bit odd to have hero and heroine names so similar, too.
Check out Valancourt Books for other fun titles. They’re nicely bound editions, too, and not very expensive and it seems to be a labor of love for the publisher to make these books available again.
I’ve mentioned the gothic novels of the time in many books. Most were put out by the Minerva Press, which was a flourishing business. My novella FORBIDDEN AFFECTIONS is entirely wrapped around a gothic novel of that title because the heroine finds herself sleeping in a recreation of the heroine’s ghastly bedchamber of the book. Bound to excite a 16-year-old’s curiosity. And of course she has to check whether the fireplace really does conceal a secret door….
Have a happy Wednesday,