Rebellious Women of the Aristocracy: Some Literary Heroes

Red Dirt DuchessMy latest release, Red Dirt Duchess, is set partly in the Australian outback and partly in an English stately home.

I’ve wanted to write a story about the English aristocracy for ages but I’m just an ordinary Australian. In order to make my aristocratic family believable, I needed to capture the tone and cadence of their speech and the type of language they might use.

To help with this, I drew upon the work of three of my literary heroes: Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth David and Mary Wesley.

Not only have I long been beguiled by their words, and in the case of Elizabeth David, her recipes, but by their rebellious reputations.

Each of these amazing women was born into a life of privilege that could have sailed seamlessly and silently to a dignified conclusion without creating a ripple. They each made conventional marriages to the “right” sort of men yet quickly moved beyond them, choosing a harder path. They lived life on their own terms instead of following the dictates of their class.

As rebellious women went, Nancy was by no means the wildest of the infamous Mitfords. That one aristocratic family should untitled (2)produce as daughters a communist, two fascists (of different flavours) and a duchess says a lot about their family dynamic. I imagine family get-togethers would have been extraordinary! Yet, despite the enduring legend which has grown up around them, it is Nancy’s sparkling comedies set within an aristocratic family loosely based upon her own that shine. The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and Don’t Tell Alfred are required reading for the devoted anglophile as well as the author trying to find the voice of that class.

images6I1K2GZ2Elizabeth David travelled widely and wrote a series of classic cookbooks and collections of published articles. Authoritative and imperious, her writing paints a vivid picture of a privileged life. With David, it’s all about ‘tone’. Her rigorously elegant prose is measured but evocative.

At 70, Wesley published her first novel and went on to publish ten more. I would love to have known this untitled (3)incredibly free-spirited woman (there’s a reason her biography is called Wild Mary). Her novels are full of black humour and poke and prod at the underlying seamy side of many upper-class families. In honour of Mary, I’ve included a little bit of seamy in Red Dirt Duchess.

Mitford’s and Wesley’s novels, and David’s writing, have allowed me glimpses into the lives of the upper-classes, a world I could otherwise only imagine from behind the velvet rope in a stately home tour. Here’s an interaction between my hero, Jon, his mother, Diana, and the heroine, Charlie. Barker is the butler and Vera is an elderly lady staying with the family. They have had a very trying day 🙂

Barker started to pour the tea as Jon ambled hopefully towards the drinks table. A cluster of almost empty decanters, more show than substance, sat on a silver tray.

‘What do you do in Australia, Charlie?’ Diana asked.

So the day was about to grind to its inexorable conclusion. Jon picked up a decanter and tipped it a little to the side, trying to work out what was inside. Quite frankly anything would do. He poured a generous amount into a glass and turned back to face the room.

‘I run a pub.’

Barker dropped a cup on its saucer with a clatter and murmured an apology. A small silence ensued.

‘A pub?’

Jon sighed. ‘A public house, mother. A drinking establishment. There is one in the village.’

‘I know what a pub is, Jon,’ Diana snapped. She turned to Charlie, her lips pursed, her back rigid with disapproval. ‘I see. You’re a barmaid.’

Jon sucked in a deep breath and turned just in time to see the level stare that Charlie gave his mother. He didn’t trust the slight smile on her lips. He hadn’t seen that since Bindundilly.

‘Oh, I’m so much more than that.’

Was that a small, suggestive wink she’d given his mother? Jon closed his eyes and said a prayer, although he wasn’t sure for whom. All he knew was that there was a tension that had been strained to breaking point today. It was about to snap.

‘I clean the toilets and make the beds as well.’ Charlie gave Diana a cheesy smile, letting her vowels broaden a little.

‘Really,’ Diana said faintly.

‘Charlie owns the Bindundilly Hotel, mother. She’s a businesswoman.’

Diana accepted tea from Barker, picked up the spoon and stirred it quietly, three times clockwise, just as she always did before placing the spoon back on the saucer. ‘And is business good in this Bindundilly place?’

Charlie stirred her own tea a little less quietly, then looked at the spoon as she removed it from the cup.

Please don’t.

She placed it neatly on the saucer. ‘Very good, thank you. Mind you, I’m the only business in town so it’s hard to assess just how good that is.’

His mother seemed to have run out of conversation. Possibly she was angrily fantasising about castrating Jon, although that would be rather counter-productive in the circumstances.

Charlie paused and cocked her head to one side, thinking. ‘Come to think of it, there is no town. There’s just the pub and nothing but desert in every direction for four hundred kilometres.’

‘Indeed.’ His mother was staring at Charlie, her eyes wide with horror, perhaps trying to imagine such a life.

‘But as long as the truckies keep stopping, I’ll be right,’ Charlie finished cheerfully, as though she’d just completed a complicated balance sheet and realised everything would be fine for the next year.

‘Truckies,’ Diana echoed, her gaze locking on Jon. He took a deep swallow from his glass. He didn’t know what of, but it sure felt good.

Vera woke with a light snort. ‘Truckie? What’s a truckie?’

Jon squeezed his eyes shut. This was priceless; in some ways the best fun he’d had in years.

‘Never mind, dear,’ said Diana.

‘It’s a lorry driver, Vera.’ Jon said. ‘You know, massive great lorries driven by men with strong, hairy muscled arms. Some women find it quite —’

‘That’s enough!’ Diana cut in. She really looked quite pale, no doubt imagining the countless lorry drivers that had passed through Bindundilly but hopefully not through Charlie.

She turned to Jon with a regretful smile that didn’t fool him. ‘Vera’s terribly tired, darling, and I’m afraid there’s not much for dinner this evening. I expect we’ll just boil some eggs or something.’

He could take a hint. He drained his glass and set it back on the tray. ‘That’s all right. I’ll take Charlie down to the Three Crowns.’

His mother rose to her feet and gave him a pointed look. ‘Excellent. I should think she’ll feel right at home.’

 

Buylinks:

www.amazon.com/Red-Dirt-Duchess-Louise-Reynolds-ebook/dp/B00LNLZ1R

https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/red-dirt-duchess/id897692738?mt=11

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-au/Search?Query=Red+Dirt+Duchess&fcmedia=Book

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Louise_Reynolds_Red_Dirt_Duchess?id=KRv8AwAAQBAJ

 

Web: www.louisereynolds.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouiseReynoldsauthorpage?ref=hl

Twitter: @LouiseHReynolds

 

 

Advertisements

Cooking The Books – Rachael Johns

Chef with cookbookAfter a break of a few months while I ate and read my way around the US, Cooking The Books is back with a brand new swag of terrific authors talking cooking, writing and reading. And what a way to kick off, with gorgeous Rural Romance author, Rachael Johns. If you haven’t heard of Rachael or read any of her wonderful outback romances then, as the saying goes, do yourself a favour and head straight to the buy links at the end of the blog. Here’s Rach!

When the fabulous Louise invited me on her awesome Cooking The Books blog, I said yes, immediately. And then I had a little stress. Because although I used to be quite a good cook, in the last few years, I seem to have lost all talent in this department. Seriously, whatever I used to be able to cook quite well, I can now stuff up even better. IMG_2698%20-%20Copy

So… WHAT could I talk about on Cooking The Books? I could talk about how Faith the heroine from my latest book cooks for comfort and how her expertise at baking helps her win her man. I could maybe even share one of her recipes, but I’ve already shared the only one I can cook without fail on Cathryn Hein’s Friday Feast and if I shared one of the other fabulous things I said Faith could cook, I would have to take photos to show you and THAT would require me actually cooking it. And then because I was doing it for something special, it’s even more certain that I would stuff it up.

So instead of sharing a recipe today, I’m going to talk about my love of recipe books. I’ve had to resist buying more over the last few years because we now live in a very small house and shelf space is rare but I LOVE looking at those coffee table recipe books. I love DREAMING about being a fabulous cook – and yes, mostly I want to bake sweet things.

For the purpose of this blog and so it didn’t go on for pages and pages, I have forced myself to choose my top three recipe books to share with you. In my cooking days (before the non-cooking curse was cast on me) I actually made many of the recipes in these books.

Rachael JohnsMY NUMBER ONE FAVOURITE RECIPE BOOK OF ALL TIME  – Nigella Lawson’s HOW TO BE A DOMESTIC GODDESS!!

Isn’t the title simply divine? Last year I gave this book to my then publisher as a wedding present as we both share a love of sweet things. I have made a number of things in this book but my faves are the chocolate dishes. I can highly recommend the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake. The Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins are also to-die-for!!

A CLOSE SECOND – Donna Hay’s MODERN CLASSICS 1 & 2 (1 is mains, 2 is desserts, so you can probably guess which one is my favourite)!

But I deserve a fair hearing here – I’ve actually made the recipes in number 1 more. For anyone not talented at cooking mains (i.e. me), this book has the simplest dinner dishes ever. The Thai Red Beef Curry page is splattered with curry in my book and I’ve made the basic short crust pastry for a million pies. Yes, I DO make my own pastry thank you very much. From scratch! N.B. This was before I misplaced my ability to cook. The last few times I’ve tried the pastry I managed to stuff it up too!

LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST – The Australian Women’s Weekly WICKED cookbook.

Oh my… my mouth is watering just thinking about this book and I may have to try my cooking luck at making the Cherry Ripe Chocolate Cake again very, very soon. I have made this cake and it’s not too hard AND it’s delicious, but I must also share a snippet about this book and cake. Years ago, I did work experience (during uni) at Cleo Magazine and I can’t remember why but for some reason the cooking people from The AWW brought down this cake to us after they’d baked it for a photo shoot. I decided that very day I needed that book. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a cake I like more since and that is saying something! This book might currently be out of print, but luckily this recipe is available here .

So, that is my Cooking The Books post! I hope you don’t think I’ve cheated sharing my fave recipe books (I DID give you a recipe), but I’d love to hear what your favourite recipe books are. Is there a recipe book you cannot live without? One that I simply MUST add to my collection?

Louise – Thanks, Rach. What a question! I adore cookbooks, from my ratty old collection of Elizabeth David paperbacks (ED, by the way, managed to influence a whole generation of English diners and cooks without benefit of a single glossy photo) right through to my latest acquisition, Bouchon by Thomas Keller. I could bang on for hours about cookbooks but what about you? What is the most used, food-splattered book in your collection?

Website – www.rachaeljohns.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RachaelJohnsRomance?fref=ts

Twitter – https://twitter.com/RachaelJohns

Blurb:

Outback-dreams-bookpageOUTBACK DREAMS

Harlequin Australia, 1st October 2013

 

Faith and Monty are both looking for love…but they’re looking in the wrong direction.

Faith Forrester is at a crossroads. Single, thirty and living on a farm in a small Western Australian town, she’s sick of being treated like a kitchen slave by her brother and father. Ten years ago, her mother died of breast cancer, and Faith has been treading water ever since. She wants to get her hands dirty on the family farm. She wants to prove to herself that she’s done something worthwhile with her life. And she wants to find a man…??

For as long as he can remember, Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property and moved to Perth, and ever since, Monty’s dreamed of having his own farm. So for the last ten years, he’s been back on the land, working odd jobs and saving every dollar to put toward his dream. Now he finally has the deposit. But there’s still something missing…??

So when Faith embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and Monty’s dream property comes on the market, things seem like they are falling into place for them both. Until a drunken night out ends with them sleeping together. Suddenly, the best friends are faced with a new load of challenges…

Monty and Faith are both ready to find a life partner and settle down, but have they both been looking in all the wrong places?

To-buy links:

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

Booktopia