On My Radar

A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty by Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews became a favourite historical author of mine from her very first book, and a huge part of her books’ appeal is her extensive knowledge of the Victorian era.

Matthews also writes nonfiction books about the era, and this one seems like it will be invaluable. I can’t wait to read it:

A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty by Mimi Matthews

What did a Victorian lady wear for a walk in the park? How did she style her hair for an evening at the theatre? And what products might she have used to soothe a sunburn or treat an unsightly blemish? Mimi Matthews answers these questions and more as she takes readers on a decade-by-decade journey through Victorian fashion and beauty history.

Women’s clothing changed dramatically during the course of the Victorian era. Necklines rose, waistlines dropped, and Gothic severity gave way to flounces, frills, and an abundance of trimmings. Sleeves ballooned up and skirts billowed out. The crinoline morphed into the bustle and steam-moulded corsets cinched women’s waists ever tighter.

As fashion was evolving, so too were trends in ladies’ hair care and cosmetics. An era which began by prizing natural, barefaced beauty ended with women purchasing lip and cheek rouge, false hairpieces and pomades, and fashionable perfumes made with expensive spice oils and animal essences.

Using research from nineteenth century beauty books, fashion magazines, and lady’s journals, Mimi Matthews brings the intricacies of a Victorian lady’s toilette into modern day focus. In the process, she gives readers a glimpse of the social issues that influenced women’s clothing and the societal outrage that was an all too frequent response to those bold females who used fashion and beauty as a means of asserting their individuality and independence.

TIME Magazine: The Famous Women Writers Whose Friendships We’ve Forgotten

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Chalrotte Elizabeth Episode Three

Interesting article over at TIME Magazine:

The Famous Women Writers Whose Friendships We’ve Forgotten

“…After all, writers have always turned to each other for creative and moral support. The alliance between Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth is enshrined in literary lore. A mention of Lord Byron immediately brings to mind Percy Bysshe Shelley. And biographies of F. Scott Fitzgerald are incomplete without reference to Ernest Hemingway.

But where are the women in this roster of legendary friendships? Jane Austen is mythologised as a shy and sheltered spinster; the Brontё sisters, lonely wanderers of windswept moors; George Eliot, an aloof intellectual; and Virginia Woolf, a melancholic genius.

Skeptical of such images of isolation, we set out to investigate. We soon discovered that behind each of these celebrated authors was a close alliance with another female writer. But, to this day, these literary bonds have been systematically forgotten, distorted or downright suppressed…”

Out this month: Mr Jones

mr. jones is a 2019 drama film directed by agnieszka holland. soviet union ussr ukraine stalin's genocide holodomor in ukraine movie poster

Historical film Mr Jones – about a Welsh journalist who risked his life to tell the truth about Stalin’s 1930s genocide in Ukraine – is out this month, beginning with a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Unlike the Holocaust, the Kremlin’s forced famine genocide – known as the Holodomor – escaped the world’s notice mostly because Western journalists, many of them advocates of communism, spent decades denying it.

Conservative estimates of the death toll put it on par with the Holocaust, while others place the numbers much higher; up to ten-million Ukrainians killed between 1932 and 1933. The numbers vary so much because, unlike the Germans who documented every aspect of the Holocaust, the Russian authorities have done everything in their power to hide their crimes.

(It should be noted that the Kremlin committed another genocide, in Kazakhstan, at the same time, killing 42% of their population.)

Gareth Jones, played in the movie by English actor James Norton, saw the Holodomor firsthand, and went against the lead of Stalin-friendly journalists like The New York Times’ Walter Duranty to try and get the truth out beyond the Iron Curtain.

Jones was only twenty-nine when he was murdered, one day shy of his thirtieth birthday.

This film seems incredibly important in this day and age, with people once again reacting to rising fascism by identifying as communists and sympathising with Russia. As this Variety article points out, we live in a similar age to the 1930s, with propaganda and “fake news” dominating much of the press, and most of the world turning a blind eye to atrocities being committed by the Kremlin, and by the regimes in countries like Syria.

Inheritance in the English aristocracy.

Following on from the issues I had with a recent historical romance, I’ve found that many others were pulled out of the same story by a glaring mistake. Basically: no, an English aristocrat can’t randomly lose his title. And so – no – you can’t write a book with the premise that the hero will lose the dukedom if he doesn’t marry by his thirtieth birthday.

There’re historical romance authors out there with a much more complex understanding of inheritance issues than I have, and one of those people is KJ Charles, who wrote an interesting blog post in response to the book’s release last week. (This isn’t the only book to run with this premise; just the most recent, and one that’s getting attention because it’s by a very popular author.)

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Read the whole piece HERE.

There are historical realities you can muck about with, tons of them. Have a zillion dukes by all means. Let them marry governesses and plucky flower girls, fine. These things are wildly implausible, but this is historical romance, and we’re here to play.

And then there are things that you cannot mess with, because they don’t play with the world, they break it. Chief amongst these in British aristocracy romance would be, er, destroying the entire system of British aristocracy. Which is what this plot does.

The point of a system of primogeniture—the whole, sole, single, solitary purpose of it—is to establish that nobility is bestowed by birth. The monarch can bestow a title on a commoner because of their merit on the battlefield/skill in the sack, but once it is granted, it operates under the rules. Nobody ever gets to decide who will inherit their title—not the monarch, nobody. It goes to the first in line: end of story. And once a peerage is bestowed it cannot be removed by anything less than an Act of Parliament or Royal prerogative. Certainly not by a previous holder’s whim.”