Pamela Sherwood Blog Swap!
A few weeks ago, Theresa Romain and I did a blog swap and shared recipes from our respective releases. Today, I’m hosting Pamela Sherwood here and she’s having me there. (So as soon as you leave a comment here, I hope you’ll pop over to Pam’s blog for my half of the swap!) Our topic, along with a little Q&A so you can get to know Pamela and her books, is fashion!
I first met Pam at a Sourcebooks dinner a couple years ago. She’s a delightful person. I know you’re going to love her! We’ll start by letting you listen in to our cyber conversation:
Mia: I saw on your website that you hold a Doctorate in English literature specializing in the Victorian & Romantic periods. I’m so impressed! I feel like I should be calling you Dr. Pam or something! Who is your favorite Victorian writer and why?
Pamela: Titles are optional, believe me! ;-) At any rate, “Dr.” belongs to a different life, in which I write nonfiction and reference articles, rather than romances and mysteries! Although that other life taught me patience and persistence, as well as honing my research skills. And it introduced me to a wealth of Victorian writers and their works. It’s hard to pick a favorite, when I admire so many, so I will narrow it down to one novelist, Charlotte Bronte, whose Jane Eyre was one of those life-altering books for me as it introduced one of the strongest literary heroines ever, and one poet, Robert Browning, whose versatility and vitality always make him a worthwhile read. Not to mention that he had a starring role in a notable real-life romance, with Elizabeth Barrett, the invalid poet who became his wife!
Mia: I’ve been known to mix genres a little by adding a few paranormal elements to my historicals, like the ghost who pop up to bedevil the living in Plaid Tidings! I understand your romances are also mysteries. Tell us a bit about how the mystery adds to the romance in your latest release.
Pamela: Many of the romances I grew up reading contained mystery and suspense elements: Mary Stewart’s, Jane Aiken Hodge’s, Barbara Michaels’, even some of Georgette Heyer’s. So I gravitated naturally to including them in my own romances when I started writing them. What I love about the combination of romance and mystery is the way it allows the hero and heroine to become partners, because they usually end up working together to solve whatever mystery or riddle is involved. In the process, they often discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they find they make a formidable team, stronger together than apart. And isn’t that the lesson most individuals learn when they decide to become part of a couple?
In A Song at Twilight, Robin has always been very protective of Sophie. They first meet when she is only seventeen, fresh from the schoolroom. Robin is eight years older, with some unwise choices and serious mistakes in his not-so-distant past. When they reunite after several years’ separation, Sophie is in her twenties and determined to be treated as a partner and an equal. So, when the mystery element comes into play and knocks Robin’s world sideways, Sophie not only stands by her man, she takes an active role in helping him uncover the truth. She won’t let him push her away, and despite some initial resistance, Robin ultimately accepts her help and gains new appreciation for her loyalty and tenacity.
Mia: A Song at Twilight sounds wonderful! When you’re not writing, what do you like to do for fun? And while we’re at it, what’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever done in the name of recreation?
Pamela: Like many writers, I’m a voracious reader–that’s how it all started, in fact! But I also enjoy cooking, dealing with concrete things like ingredients and utensils as opposed to abstract things like words and ideas. And I’m an avid amateur photographer. I take my cell phone on my morning walks and use the camera to take pictures of anything that interests or amuses me.
I don’t know that I’ve done anything that qualifies as “wacky,” exactly, but during the most recent family trip to Disneyland, I went on the Splash Mountain ride–in January! Everyone got soaking wet, the day was sort of drizzly and overcast, and I was wearing these corduroy pants that took forever to dry! And some years ago, on my first vacation in British Columbia, I crossed the Capilano suspension bridge. Heights are far from being my favorite thing, and we’re talking about a simple structure made of planks and cables, swinging 230 feet above the Capilano River. Kids run across, shrieking excitedly–and making the bridge sway even more. I proceeded more gingerly, made the return trip with equal caution, felt enormous relief at being on solid ground again–and have concluded quite cheerfully that one such crossing was enough for me!
Mia: OK, 230 feet above a river on a wobbly bridge qualifies as wacky in my book! Where can readers find out more about you and your books and connect with you on the web?
Pamela: I’m probably easiest to reach through my website/blog. But I respond to emails, comments, tweets, and Facebook notifications, so it’s not hard to get hold of me! Stop in sometime at any of the following locations, if you feel like chatting.
“A DEDICATED FOLLOWER OF FASHION”
One of the fun parts of writing historical romance is dressing your characters–especially the women! And what romance reader doesn’t get a vicarious thrill out of seeing or reading about beautiful clothes?
The Victorian Age produced its share of gorgeous gowns, though vastly different from the high-waisted, classically influenced frocks of the Regency. During the 64 years of Victoria’s reign, necklines went up, waistlines went down, bodices became more closely fitted, sleeves lengthened, and skirts grew fuller: that was the basic shape of a Victorian dress until the end of the century, although there were some notable variations. Crinolines and steel hoops made skirts billow out to unprecedented widths in the 1850s and 1860s–think Scarlett O’Hara’s gowns in Gone With the Wind–and made passing through narrow doorways, avoiding collisions with furniture, and even bending over (without exposing one’s undergarments) a challenge, to say the least! Fortunately, the style was not universally embraced–Queen Victoria herself never adopted the crinoline!
Eventually, the skirt’s fullness transferred itself to the back when the bustle came into fashion, its size waxing and waning from year to year. Bustles were especially full in the mid-1880s, then diminished to a small pad by the end of the decade, and vanished entirely during the 1890s. Then puffed sleeves became all the rage, ballooning ever larger from 1893 to 1896–they were known as “gigot” or “leg of mutton” sleeves, wide at the upper arm, narrow from elbow to wrist. Their extreme fullness was apparently intended to make the wearer’s waist look slimmer by comparison. But the amount of fabric used for those enormous upper sleeves must have been staggering, to say nothing of the weight on one’s arms! Sleeves underwent a dramatic reduction in 1897, and stayed fairly small for the remainder of the century!
The unquestioned king of Victorian fashion was Charles Worth (1825-1895), an English expatriate who set up his shop in Paris, on the Rue de la Paix. Considered the father of “haute couture,” Worth thought of himself as an artist, a designer of gorgeous ensembles–gowns and perfectly chosen accessories–for leading ladies of fashion in Europe and America. He was the chosen dressmaker of wealthy American heiresses who could afford to buy a whole Season’s worth of his creations. Worth’s trademarks included the use of rich, heavy Lyons silk, asymmetrical design (his gowns never looked the same from every angle), and unique combinations of color, such as coral and silver or chestnut and bronze-green. Among his most famous creations was a gown designed for Lady Curzon (formerly Mary Leiter) that gave the appearance of being made of peacock feathers, with an iridescent green beetle shell forming the center of each “eye.”
Aurelia and Sophie–the heroines, respectively, of Waltz with a Stranger and A Song at Twilight–have the financial wherewithal to dress becomingly, even lavishly (it wouldn’t be half as much fun to dress them if they didn’t!). And as young ladies who must spend considerable time in the public eye, they understand the importance of fashion as a tool: knowing that they look their best lends them poise and confidence, even if they are not nearly as composed on the inside as they appear on the outside!
In this excerpt, Sophie–a professional singer–tries to choose a gown for a London performance that she hopes Robin Pendarvis, the man she loved and lost four years ago, will attend:
Rising, she crossed to the open wardrobe to inspect the contents. She’d narrowed her choice of which gown down to two: an ice-blue satin draped with an overskirt of silver lace, and a pale gold silk-the color of candlelight-sewn with sparkling crystal beads on bodice, sleeves, and skirt. Both had the extravagant balloon sleeves that were still all the rage after three years, probably because they made the wearer’s waist look tiny by comparison. In Sophie’s opinion, these sleeves had reached absurd extremes of fullness this Season, to say nothing of how tiring it could be to carry the weight of so much fabric on one’s upper arms. While in Paris this spring, she’d been relieved to hear that sleeves would be much less voluminous next season.
She’d almost decided on the pale-gold gown, was just reaching for it, when she heard the faintest whisper in her memory: “I’m partial to you in green.”
Then more faintly still-You look like a Nereid in that dress. My idea of one, anyway.
Try as she might, she could not push those whispers away. Almost of their own volition, her fingers sought and located the delicate confection of sea-green silk gauze over oyster-white satin that hung in the wardrobe as well.
“I’ll wear this tonight,” she found herself saying.
Not that it was any less fine. Far from it-there were seed pearls and silver bugles on the bodice that would shine just as brightly as the crystals on the gold gown. She’d purchased it just before leaving on her European tour and hadn’t found the right opportunity to wear it yet.
Letty made an approving sound as she lifted out the gown for her mistress. “You do look a proper treat in green, miss. I’ve always thought so.”
Feeling as mindless as a life-sized doll, Sophie let herself be dressed for the soirée. The green gown, with its matching slippers, then her jewels for the night: teardrop pearl earrings, then her pearl necklace, a single creamy strand. She restrained a shiver as their cool weight settled about the base of her throat with the intimacy of a lover’s touch.
Come, and I will lead the way / Where the pearly treasures be.
When had she last sung that song? Surely she must have performed it since that long-ago afternoon at Pendarvis Hall, she was sure of it… but no other occasion sprang to mind.
The past was all around her now, a living, breathing entity. And only time would tell whether she’d been wise or foolish to resurrect it, whether she should have let the ashes lie rather than stir the fire.
BOOK INFORMATION AND BLURB
Late in England’s Victorian age, the world is changing–new freedoms, new ideas, and perhaps a chance for an old love to be new again…
Aspiring singer Sophie Tresilian had the world at her feet–fame, fortune, and true love–until the man of her dreams broke her heart. Now she’s the toast of Europe, desired by countless men but unwilling to commit to any of them. Then Robin Pendarvis walks back into her life …
Four years ago, Robin had hoped to make Sophie his bride, but secrets from his past forced him to let her go. Seeing her again revives all the old pain–and all the old passion. It might be against every rule, but somehow, some way, he will bring them together again…
Thanks so much for sharing A Song at Twilight with us, Pamela.
Pamela is graciously offering a copy of A Song at Twilight to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment or question for Pam to enter. Then once you’ve done that be sure to pop over to Pamela’s Blog where I’m talking about kilts and offering a copy of Plaid Tidings as a prize to a random commenter there.
PS. If you haven’t done so already, now would be a great time to subscribe to my blog by email. You’ll find the sign up in the left hand margin beneath the navigation bar. That way, you’ll never miss one of my terrific guests, giveaways or the always popular Red Pencil Thursdays!