Brides of Bath, Book 4 Releases Oct. 1

Many fans of my Brides of Bath series have been emailing me to ask when the fourth and final book of the series will be released. I’m happy to announce the book — now titled TO TAKE THIS LORD — is scheduled to come out Oct. 1. The first three books came out late May and early June and have been very popular.

Book 4 was published in 2004 in mass market paperback with the title AN IMPROPER PROPOSAL, which had nothing to do with the book. The editors had retitled it to give it a sexier feel.

I’m happy to say it got some pretty stunning reviews when it was originally published. Here are some of them:

Reviews of this book:

“does a wonderful job building simmering sexual tension between her opinionated,
outspoken heroine and deliciously tortured, conflicted hero.” – Booklist

 “5 Stars – highly recommended.” – Huntress Reviews

“Bolen’s writing has a certain elegance that lends itself to the era and creates the
perfect atmosphere for her enchanting romances.” – Romantic Times

“sexual tension sizzles.” – Happily Ever After

“an emotionally compelling novel that kept me reading well after midnight.” – In Print

 “a pleasant completion to the Brides of Bath series.” –The Best Reviews

What Regency Parents Named Their Children

Recently I blogged about Debrett’s and Burke’s Peerage and mentioned in an off-the-cuff comment  that those Regency mamas tended to stick to the same 15 or 20 Christian names for their children.

This holds particularly true for the aristocracy. The older the aristocratic family, the more they recycled the same names. They still do. The interior designing daughter of the Duke of Marlborough is named Harriet Churchill. Not too many Harriets around these days – unless your father is a duke.

The former Lady Diana Spencer, who became the beloved Princess Diana, was one in a very long line of Lady Diana Spencers.

Even British kings are keen to recycle the same names. Therefore, you’ve got your Jameses, Charleses, Edwards, Georges, Richards, Henrys, to name some of the most prominent.

Earlier in my writing career I was cognizant of my heroes – most of whom were aristocrats – holding proper-sounding Regency first names. I had Charles, James, Thomas, Edward, George, Richard. I batted a thousand.

But I really struck out with my females. After meeting a woman named Glee, I told her I would make that name the heroine in one of my books. So I did. She had a sister named Felicity, and a child named Joy. Oh, boy! Then I threw in a Carlotta, the raven-haired vixen who always wore purple. Guess what? No Regency women had those names. (I got it right in my first two published books – before I strayed.)

The more I’ve studied the Regency, the more offensive it is to me when a fictional heroine or hero bears a decidedly non-Regency name. Especially if the character is an aristocrat. This wasn’t done.

To prove my point, I went on a search of my period Burke’s Peerage. I did digital searches as well as eyeballing about 50 random pages.

It was amazing how much the same names kept popping up. For females, Elizabeth was the most common. There were also many Anns as well as Annes, tons of Harriets, Franceses, Charlottes, Janes and Margarets.

There were variations of Mary which included Marie, Marian and Mary Ann. Dorothy as well as Dorothea were fairly common, as were Catherine, Catharine, and Katherine.

For men, the repetition of a handful of names was even more obvious. James, John, and William win, hands down, as the most common, but there were a lot of males named Thomas, Robert, Richard, Edward, Hugh, Philip, Charles, and Alexander.

Some other popular male names included Arthur, Francis, and David.

Some male names twisted into female names include Frederick/Fredericka, George/Georgiana, and Henry/Henrietta, all of those combinations being very popular in Regency England. More rarely, one could find the Jacob/Jacobina variation or Justin/Justina.

Here are some less common female names in use during the Regency: Abigail, Alice, Agnes, Alicia, Beatrice, Barbara, Caroline, Emma, Emily, Eleanor, Ellen, Hannah, Helen, Isabella, Julia, Joane, Jemima, Louisa, Lavinia, Lydia, Lucy, Letitia, Martha, Rebecca, Sophia, Sarah, Susan, and Teresa.

Less common names for males included Benjamin, Cecil, Christopher, Dudley, Daniel, Edmund, Evan, Henry, Joseph, Lawrence, Michael, Matthew, Miles, Martin, Nicholas, Patrick, Ralph, Reginald and Stephen.

Occasionally, younger sons would be given what I assume to be old family surnames. I found a Willoughby, Albemarle, and Montague.

I recently read a book where the aristocratic hero was named Jared. My search of almost 1,400 pages of the peerage yielded zero males named Jared. I think it’s harder for an author to pull off an out-of-period name for an aristocratic hero because these families abided by an unwritten rule that the heirs would carry on the same old family names.

All of this being said, I must point out that all these names I’ve listed here are for aristocrats. For characters of the lower classes, the rules might change. Most aristocrats were Church of England. Many of the lower classes belonged to evangelical churches and oftentimes would give their children names that might harken back to the Old Testament.

For period authors in doubt, think back to the signers of the American Declaration of Independence. Most of those men descended from British; therefore, their names are spot-on for our period.

And for a hero, you can never go wrong if he bears the name of an English king of the past five or six-hundred years.

Next week’s blog will address Regency surnames. © 2011, Cheryl Bolen


Lady Jersey’s Osterley Park

© Cheryl Bolen, 2011

Since last week’s blog post spotlighted Lady “Sally” Jersey, I thought it only fitting that this week’s feature Osterley Park, the lovely estate she inherited.

Though just ten miles from central London, Osterley was considered a country estate. Today, visitors can reach the National Trust property by traveling the Piccadilly line toward Heathrow and getting off at the Osterley exit. From the subway station, turn left upon exiting and you’ll quickly come to the brown National Trust signpost pointing the way to Osterley, a short and straight shot.

I selected to highlight Osterley because of its many associations with Georgian/Regency England. The first association, of course, being Lady Jersey.

The most significant association with Regency England is Osterley’s maintenance of spectacular Robert Adam interiors. In fact, Osterley is the only stately home in England which boasts Adam’s interiors exactly as he designed them.

For example, when he designed a room, he did not just concentrate on its architecture. He would design furnishings, mirrors, sconces, wallcoverings, and even furniture.

Adam also left his stamp on Osterley’s exterior and landscape. Adam “adjusted” Osterley’s original Elizabethan exterior by adding a Grecian pediment in the Palladian style, eliminating a number of rooms, and repurposing the former courtyard.

As the landscape architect, Adam added the little temples and summer houses so common to grounds of the great country estates during the Regency.

The wealthy Sir Thomas Gresham (?1519-1579), commercial agent and advisor to the Crown and builder of the Royal Exchange, built his stately country home ten miles from London at Osterley Park around 1565. At least twice Queen Elizabeth visited Osterley and the 750 acres surrounding it.

After Gresham’s death the house passed through a series of owners before it became the property of the wealthy Childs Bank family. Sir Robert Child (1674-1721) was the first member of the family to reside at the house. Sir Robert served as an MP, a Childs Bank director and as director of the East India Company. Each successive member of the family was more eminent than his predecessor, with Sir Francis Child the Younger also serving as Lord Mayor, and each generation brought more improvements to Osterley.

The immensely wealthy Robert Child (1739-1782) employed Robert Adam to transform the Tudor mansion into a neo-classical edifice for which Adam is known. Adam reduced the size of the house from the original 46 rooms, added a classical “transparent” pediment and converted the dormered attic into a third floor.

When Robert Child died, his will bypassed his only child (a daughter who had married the 10th Earl of Westmoreland against his wishes) and settled his entire fortune and all his properties on the second child of his daughter’s marriage. Therefore, the fortune went to Lady Sara Fane (1785-1867), who became the Countess of Jersey a year after marrying George Villiers, the 5th Earl of Jersey in 1804. The Jerseys chose to reside at the London townhouse at Berkeley Square and at the Jersey family seat, Middleton Park in Oxfordshire.

In 1885 the Jersey family was forced to sell Osterley’s famed library to make needed repairs to the house.

Various schemes to either lease or sell the property never materialized, and after the 9th Earl of Jersey inherited in 1923 he made the decision to keep the house and its contents intact for future generations to enjoy. Because there was no endowment, few organizations he approached would take over ownership of the property; so, in 1939 he opened it to the public. A decade later, he presented it to the National Trust.

Osterley Park is used as the background of Henry James’s The Lesson of the Master.

Little of the Elizabethan house remains, save for the plan of constructing a square building around a courtyard and the corner turrets topped by ogee lead caps (which were actually built later).

Robert Adam’s neoclassical stamp pervades the house. Employed at Osterley for 17 years beginning in 1763, Adam designed not only the architecture but also the furnishings, carpets, cornices, mirrors and every facet of architectural embellishment. The State Apartments at Osterley are the only surviving example of Adam’s finest interior decoration complete with the furnishings he designed for them.

The exterior is remarkable for the pedimented ionic portico that bridges the two side wings without enclosing the original courtyard.

Visitors will see the subdued gray Hall with its fine white plasterwork, Mrs. Child’s Dressing Room and Bedroom, the 130 foot long Gallery, Adam’s elegantly restrained Great Stair, and the aforementioned State Apartments that remain as Adam designed them more than two centuries ago. The State Apartments include the rose-colored Tapestry Room, the Drawing Room, the State Bedroom with its unsurpassed domed and gilded bed, and the Etruscan Dressing Room.

The park and gardens at Osterley are much diminished from former times, especially since the 1965 construction of the M4, but Osterley still provides a tranquil, country setting a mere 10 miles from London’s Charing Cross. Committed to retaining Osterley’s rural character, the National Trust in 1996 purchased an additional 150 acres adjacent to Osterley’s 150 acres the trust already owned.

Locals in London’s borough of Hounslow flock to this serene setting. The park, which features broad lawns and a lovely lake, can be enjoyed for free.

A fee is charged to see the gardens. These include gardens around Adam’s Garden House, the American Garden planted with North American shrubs and plants in the 18th century, and the lake. A woodland walk (about 45 minutes) takes visitors past the Temple of Pan, which was built around 1740, and around a stream that flows into the lake.

Almack’s Patroness Sally Jersey

© Cheryl Bolen, 2011

Most of us got our introduction to Sally Jersey – sometimes referred to as Silence – through Georgette Heyer’s fiction. When I discovered Heyer’s books in the 1970s, I visualized Lady Jersey as a middle-aged meddler. There are others who, knowing the Prince of Wales (before he was regent) took Lady Jersey as his mistress, assumed that mistress was Sally Jersey. This blog is to set the facts straight.

First, her name was not Sally, but Sarah. She was born Sarah Fane on March 4, 1785. Her mother, the only child of the enormously rich bankerRobert Child, was Sarah Anne (1764-1793), who eloped with John Fane, the 10th Earl of Westmoreland. Their son would inherit the Westmoreland title and wealth; however, the entire Child banking fortune would go to the first daughter of the marriage: Sarah. It was estimated her annual income was £60,000. By comparison, the Duke of Devonshire, who was one of the largest landowners in Great Britain, enjoyed an enormous annual income of £50,000.

It is no wonder that when Lady Sarah came upon the Marriage Mart, she could have any man in the kingdom. Indeed, they all threw themselves at her. In addition to her massive wealth, she was also attractive.

When she was 19 she settled on George Villiers (1773-1859), heir to the 4th Earl of Jersey. They wed on May 23, 1804 at her home in Berkley Square. The following year he succeeded his father. It was his mother, Frances Villiers (1753-1821), who was a long-time mistress to the Prince of Wales.

So at the age of 20, the new Lady Jersey was the toast of London society. Along with other young matrons, including Lady Cowper, she was to wield consider clout as a patroness of Almack’s. Because of her great wealth and lofty position in society, she was held in awe.

The moniker Silence was facetiously attached to her because of her propensity to always be the center of attention.

She would live at 38 Berkley Square for the rest of her life. In addition to her maternal grandfather’s fortune, she also inherited his country estate, Osterley Park in Middlesex, which is now a suburb of London. She spent little time at Osterley, preferring the Jersey estate, Middleton Park in Oxfordshire.

She would give birth to eight children, one of whom died in infancy.

In addition to being an Almack’s patroness, Lady Jersey also was a noted political hostess. In her earlier years, she aligned herself with the Whigs; when the Tories Wellington and Peel (whose daughter married Lady Jersey’s son) came into power, she switched her allegiance.

Women of the era made fools of themselves over Wellington, as did she. He apparently did not reciprocate. In an era when her contemporaries – and especially her mother-in-law – indulged in extramarital affairs, it’s quite possible that she did, but I’ve not uncovered any details to corroborate this.

With her emerging Tory tastes, she opposed reform, but she was very good to those who worked on the Jersey estates and established a number of schools.

At the age of 78 she was widowed, in 1859. In a three-week period, there were three Earls of Jersey. Her eldest son inherited the title but died three weeks later, to be succeeded by his son. She outlived all but one of her children. Seven years after losing her husband, she died at her home in Berkley Square and was buried near her husband at Middleton Stoney.

What Lord & Lady Holland Gave up for Love

Lady Holland

The hostess who became known throughout Europe during the Regency and into the Victorian era for her Holland House dinners may have been forced to bring society to her because she could not enter society.

For Lady Holland was a divorced woman.

Born Elizabeth Vassall in 1771, the future Lady Holland was the only child of wealthy Richard Vassall (1732-1795) and heir to his three Jamaican sugar plantations. For reasons which are not understood more than two centuries later, at the age of fifteen she married Sir Godfrey Webster, who was twenty-three years older than she.

Between 1790 and 1795 she gave birth to five children, two of whom died as infants. Two sons and a daughter survived.

During those years, she had persuaded her husband to indulge her love of continental travel, and she kept a sketchy journal of these travels. In 1794, despite that she was heavily pregnant, young Lord Holland fell in love with her.

The nephew of the charismatic Whig leader Charles James Fox, Lord Holland was fresh from Oxford and traveling the continent with university friends. He had not quite reached his majority when he met his future wife, then known as Lady Webster. She was two years and eight months his senior, a gap she would later call “a horrid disparity.”

Though her journal is full of references to Lord Holland (referred to as Ld H) during her sojourn in Italy, nothing of a personal nature is conveyed. Those of us reading the journal cannot learn at what point they fell in love.

Few personal references are in her journal – unless she’s mentioning her detested husband. He is referred to as “my tormentor” or “the man I had the calamity to be united.”

Right about that time her father died, and his fortune came to her and Sir Godfrey, who had to take on the surname Vassall.

By then the wife who loathed Sir Godfrey was deeply in love with the good-natured Lord Holland, and he returned her affections. She refused to return to England with her husband.

Though Lord Holland was but one and twenty years old, he knew this was the woman with whom he wanted to spend his life.

She felt the same. She stayed on the continent with the man she loved.

But women at that time had no rights. Her husband, Sir Godfrey, was considered the sole possessor of her fortune, and he was to have custody of the couple’s three children.

Because of her love for Lord Holland, she gave up her fortune and her children. But it was too painful for her to send her small daughter back to England to live with her father. Therefore, Lady Holland concocted a plan whereby she would tell Sir Godfrey the child had died. She even went through a mock burial, and later would pretend to adopt a child to take her daughter’s place, with the adopted child being her true daughter. The scheme was eventually found out, and she had to give up the little girl three years later.

Three years after she met Lord Holland – and eight months after she give birth to their first son – Parliament annulled her marriage to Sir Godfrey. On July 6, 1797, two days after her marriage was dissolved, she married Lord Holland.

For all practical purposes, she was considered a divorced woman and would be scorned by polite society. However, she had the good fortune to be wed to a man who was beloved by all who knew him. Their little circle in Naples had dubbed the portly peer Sal Volatile because of his perpetual good humor. (Sal Volatile was the equivalent of today’s antidepressant.)

Lady Holland had a facility in assembling an interesting assortment of guests around the famed Holland House dinners, which became the closest thing England ever had to a French salon.

She and Lord Holland – whom she adored – would have six children of their own. One daughter died the day she was born, and another one died at the age of ten. Their first-born son would be prevented from inheriting his father’s title because he was born before his parents’ legal marriage took place. Their surviving daughter would not be able to be presented to society by her parents because of her mother’s “disgrace.”

The first husband Lady Holland detested committed suicide in 1800 (some reports say because of gambling losses), and her father’s fortune reverted to her children, both those fathered by Sir Godfrey and those fathered by Lord Holland. Lord Holland took on the Vassall surname.

Those interested in the Regency might enjoy reading Lady Holland’s Journals, the one volume of which is available free on Google Books. © 2011, Cheryl Bolen

Debrett’s and Burke’s Peerage

It’s easy for me to understand why members of the ton during the Regency as well as wannbe members of the ton would have enjoyed thumbing through their peerage reference books for hours on end.

Of course, during the actual Regency (1811-1820), only Debrett’s was in existence. Some sources say it began in 1769, but others date Debrett’s to 1802. By that date, peerage “guides” had been around for a couple of generations. Burke’s Peerage came along in 1826.

For years I wanted to own my own copy, but ones from the early nineteenth century were very expensive. I opted to buy an inexpensive CD-Rom of the 1845 Burke’s on Ebay. To my disappointment, it was not searchable. My husband quickly remedied that by thinking to convert it to Word.

I have spent many, many hours reading about long-dead English peers. Just yesterday, for a work-in-progress, I wanted to search my heroine’s name to see if it was a name generally in use during the Regency. I was fearing that it wasn’t. My heavy research into the era has told me that aristocratic ladies tended to have the same 15-20 Christian names, which included Sarah, Mary, Jane, Ann, Diana, Augusta, Susan, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Fanny (for Frances), Henrietta, and Harriette. It’s sort of a pet peeve of mine for current Regency-set romance novels to have heroines with contemporary-sounding names like Courtney. (My author friend Gerry Bartlett jokiningly says, “Courtney spelled Cortni!”)

Sure enough, I was right. My heroine, tentatively titled Lady Leigh, was in possession of a name that would never have been in use during the Regency. My search of Burke’s yielded zero results. Even when I searched the Biblical Leah, I came up with zero. Like I said, those Regency/Georgian mothers pretty much stuck with the same fifteen names.

Even though Sophia is one of those Top 10 names given to baby girls in 2010, it so happens it was in use in England before and after 1845, the year of my Burke’s Peerage. After I searched my Burke’s and found a gazillion Sophias just in the A’s, I remembered one of Mad King Georg’es daughters bore that name. Therefore, I’ve done a search-and-replace of my entire document to change Leigh to Sophia.

My Burke’s is also handy when I want a good English-sounding surname for one of my characters, since it gives all the family names. There were (and are) title names and family names. For example, the Duke of Devonshire’s family name is Cavendish. (Did you all know the famous Kennedy sister who died young was married to a Cavendish who was in line to become the duke, had he not been killed in World War II? Or that Fred Astair’s sister and original dancing partner married one of those Cavendishes?) The Duke of Bedford’s family name is Russell.

Because I read a lot of diaries and letters of those who lived in Regency/Georgian England and early Victorian England, I especially enjoy searching my Burke’s for a complete listing of the various aristocratic families. Each family is traced from its origins. All a peer’s predecessors are listed, as are their siblings, the date they married – or died – and the name of all their offspring. The peerage even gives the name of their family seat. I am far better acquainted with names of eighteenth-century British peers than I am with today’s. I’ve even learned how many of the various families were interrelated over the years.

As time marches on, the 107th edition (and most recent edition) of Burke’s was published in three volumes in 2003. Americans can purchase it online for around $400, including shipping. A little pricey.

Both Debrett’s and Burke’s are now available through online subscription. Debrett’s will give one access to its 3,000 pages for an annual subscription of £75 – over $160. Burke’s offers a yearly subscription for £64.95, or £7.95 a month for access to its 15,000 references.

Perhaps for my next birthday. .

Burke’s Peerage
Debrett’s Peerage