Good morning! The sun is shining, I saw a gorgeous cardinal this morning, and I am thrilled to announce that on the Diary of an Eccentric blog you can enter to win one of two ecopies of Victorine! (Did I mention you will be able to buy your OWN ecopy very soon? More on that soon!) Many thanks to Anna for hosting me over on her excellent blog.
Thus begins the celebration of the one-year anniversary of Victorine being reborn! Victorine Meurent was an artist and the favorite model of Edouard Manet, something she’s most often remembered for. But with my research bringing to light paintings of her long supposed lost, gradually she’s coming back to Herstory and I am thrilled to be a part of that process.
I hope you will stay tuned and join us join me as other celebrations are revealed, including a blog tour with France Book Tours (schedule here) and a takeover of a Facebook group Starting Monday, The Historical Fiction Club. If you are on Facebook, consider joining me. If you’re not a member of the group, just request to be. There will be behind-the-scenes info about my book, fun games, and giveaways. I’m looking forward to it.
And my newsletter subscribers get an extra special opportunity. (Hint: it involves swag!!) What’s that, you’re not a subscriber? Let’s fix that now. (When you subscribe, you also get a FREE historical fiction story about artists Olga Meerson and Henri Matisse and their alleged affair.) Alleged or not, at the very least it was complicated.
This has been a challenging year for all new novels. You should have seen me crossing out book appearance after book appearance from my planner. But I can’t feel too sorry for myself. For one thing, others had it so much worse. And I had all of these wonderful people helping me get the word out. And I am, as always, grateful for you!
So many thanks to Patty of Patty Pirate Reviews for this glowing review of Victorine! I first noticed her blog when she reviewed Bronte’s Mistress (a great book!), and was so pleased when she reviewed my novel as well. These generous souls who spend their precious time reading and reviewing books are angels to the publishing community.
Am I the only one who gets choked up when someone says lovely things about their book? I can’t help but feel I have a sacred trust, bringing Victorine back to Herstory. (I can never say it enough times.) Every review makes me feel that I’m that much closer. I’m humbled.
We are having so much lovely sun these days here in Indiana. I adore writing outdoors, and I can’t wait until I can do that nearly every day! I hope spring is finding its way towards you, too, depending on what hemisphere you are in, of course.
We are inching ever closer to not only the one-year anniversary of Victorine’s release, but to the release of the e-version as well!
There will also be a blog tour coming in the next few days of Francophile blogs.
I met my guest today over on Twitter, where she caught my attention by being a helpful, welcoming presence. When I discovered she was also an aspiring historical fiction writer, I got to know her better, and even shared an interview with her previously here and in my newsletter.
Today, I’m pleased to feature another interview with her to announce her forthcoming debut novel! Please take a read to learn more about our darling Emma. Scroll below for an exciting excerpt of her novel as well.
What inspired you to write DISCERNING GRACE (Book 1)?
I’ve always been a little nosy—I know, I know … curiosity killed the cat! But back in 2001 during one of my regular letter-writing sessions to my grandmother in England, I decided I’d like to know a little more about our family history from the older generation. Once they’ve passed it’s so hard to find out what kinds of people they knew and the sorts of things they got up to.
So, my darling late grandmother, whom I was incredibly close to, indulgently began answering my questions and documenting memories of her own childhood and stories of ancestors. All it took was for me to read the opening to one of her letters and I just KNEW I had to write a story about it! This is what the letter said, ‘Your GGG grandmother was only 16 when she ran away from home to marry a sea captain … her family cut her off and she sailed the seas with him …’
Come on! What author couldn’t resist a little bit of real-life inspiration like that?
And so, that is how my purely fictional, historical naval adventure— with a dash of romance—blossomed. I’ve been thrilled by the journey of writing it and all the research too, but most of all, I’ve loved imagining the incredible courage and fortitude it would have taken my ancestor to choose such a life! Plus, there is my GGG grandfather’s side of the tale to consider too. As my grandmother put it, they were ‘obviously a very enlightened couple, and she a very, very liberated woman.’
What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?
To give my main character, Grace Baxter, more agency instead of her being a victim of circumstance. I was pushed to get her to create and direct her own circumstances. This was a bit more of a challenge having a female lead character in the early 1800s because of societal restrictions on women in those days. But I also figured that there had to be pioneering women, even back then, who broke the mould. Since Grace is inspired by my three times great grandmother, who indeed bucked the norm in her day by leaving her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain and live with him at sea, I felt I had a little more leeway to play with when writing Grace’s character. And besides, what’s a rollicking romantic adventure without a feisty heroine!
What is your favourite historical era and why? Do you have a favourite historical female? Why?
I’m open when it comes to reading historical fiction through the different eras, from Jean M. Auel’s prehistoric The Clan of the Cave Bear, to Vikings and Romans, through to later centuries like in Wilbur Smith’s Courtney series. As for writing it, I’ve been so immersed in the 19th century since I’ve been writing my own books, that I have a soft spot for this era. There’s a great balance of knowledge and information out there since it wasn’t too long ago—say unlike the ancient Egyptian era. I have huge admiration for historical authors who write about ancient times. The research required for that is mammoth (snigger)!
While there are many well-known historical females, my research unearthed a whole world of unknown women whose stories have not had a spotlight shone on them. These have been my favourite historical females to find—mothers penning journals about parenthood, sisters writing letters to relatives from the other side of the world, wives aboard ships keeping diaries that recorded tiny details of daily life not captured in a ship’s log books. It took me ages to find some resources that spoke about women aboard ships who were not just there to entertain the sailors, but who played a pivotal role in sailing the ship, raising a family aboard, and supporting industrious endeavours. These are some of my favourites:
Seafaring Women by renowned historian, Linda Grant De Pauw
Female Tars by Suzanne J. Stark
Hen Frigates by maritime historian, Joan Durett
She Captains by maritime historian, Joan Durett
What message are you sharing in your books?
The themes in my first novel, DISCERNING GRACE (Book 1), include:
an independent woman
the importance of love over money
appearances can be deceiving
love can conquer all
triumph over adversity
Does each book stand alone, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book?
I love reading a long series where you can immerse yourself into another world and get to know the characters intimately through several books, so it felt perfectly natural for me to write a series too. It has been a joy to evolve my characters from their young and naïve selves in the first book, and mature them through their life experiences in subsequent books. Discerning Grace (Book 1) is out now. The second book is nearly ready to publish, and I have complete draft manuscripts for books three and four.
A movie producer wants to turn your book into a movie and you get to make a cameo. What would you do in the movie?
Ooo, isn’t this every writer’s dream!
Due to the nature of my story aboard a 19th century Royal Naval tall ship, there aren’t that many female characters, though I could play no role on the ship since I get hideously sea sick!
I would have to stick with a role that is safe on land, so perhaps one of the dinner guests in my opening scene.
You have created images for your main characters, how does that help you write them?
I asked my beta readers to send me images of real-life people who they thought most looked like Seamus and Grace. Those images, along with the descriptions from my book, created the basis for the artwork I’ve commissioned (because I can barely draw a stick man!) They turned out exactly as I envisaged them in my mind’s eye!
It has been marvellous to have them drawn so young and fresh when we first meet them. For the subsequent books in the series, I can envisage the deepening of Seamus’s smile line beside his mouth, or the crow’s feet around Grace’s aquamarine eyes. I don’t necessarily speak to my characters, but I do sit and watch them interact and play out scenes in my head (it must look like I’m staring into space, and not working, when I do this!) I only need to look at their body language in their artwork for an inspirational reminder about how they react physically and verbally to different situations.
Since I own this artwork, I’ve actually created my own Redbubble store called, By-the-Book (yes, like the name of my newsletter), where my readers can grab their own favourite keepsakes.
What do you do for fun? What does a perfect day look like?
In everyday life, I’m Mum to four teenage sons—my men children, all of whom are taller than me—and two cantankerous cats who often thrash it out for a spot on my lap! I live in the perpetually sunny city of Brisbane in Australia. I love building jigsaw puzzles (especially Wasgij, backwards puzzles), playing Candy Crush (my secret shame!), and playing board games with my boys—though gone are the days when used to I beat them, they whip me soundly now. And I totally suck at Risk! Having raised four rambunctious boys, my perfect day these days constitutes solitude and silence. It doesn’t matter where, as long as those two ingredients are present.
BOOK SPOTLIGHT: DISCERNING GRACE by Emma Lombard
Publication Date: 22 February 2021
Print Length: 370 pages
Ebook ISBN: 9781393725831
Genre: Historical Women’s Fiction
London 1826. Wilful Grace Baxter, will not marry old Lord Silverton with his salivary incontinence and dead-mouse stink. Discovering she is a pawn in an arrangement between slobbery Silverton and her calculating father, Grace is devastated when Silverton reveals his true callous nature.
Refusing this fate, Grace resolves to stow away. Heading to the docks, disguised as a lad to ease her escape, she encounters smooth-talking naval recruiter, Gilly, who lures her aboard HMS Discerning with promises of freedom and exploration in South America.
When Grace’s big mouth lands her bare-bottomed over a cannon for insubordination, her identity is exposed. The captain wants her back in London but his orders, to chart the icy archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, forbid it. Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam gallantly offers to take Grace off the fretting captain’s hands by placing her under his protection.
Grace must now win over the crew she betrayed with her secret, while managing her feelings towards her taciturn protector, whose obstinate chivalry stifles her new-found independence.
London, 13 May 1826
A deep-throated rumble of laughter drew Grace’s eyes across the crowded drawing room, and over to Uncle Farfar. Heading over to him, she admired the double row of gold buttons on his blue naval coat glinting in the luminescence of the gilt chandelier above. The crystal beads cast a sprinkling of starlight around the room. Grace thought the evening had a distinctly tropical aura with wide-fronded palms and vines spilling from all corners in a waterfall of greenery. Grace also thought Mother’s décor was fanciful and faux.
Uncle Farfar beckoned a young man, the single epaulette on his right shoulder announcing that he was a lieutenant in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. “Ah, Fitzwilliam. Just in time,” beamed Uncle Farfar, his face flushed with pleasure. Uncle Farfar was actually Admiral Arthur Jameson Baxter, highly decorated for his successful engagement in Admiral Nelson’s campaign at the Battle of Trafalgar. He had lovingly endured the childhood nickname Grace had bestowed upon him when she was eighteen months old, and unable to pronounce his name, Uncle Arthur. He had not escaped the deep weathering of a man who had spent his life at sea, and though his face was much rounder these days, Grace thought he still had a kindness in his eyes.
Centring himself between Grace and the new arrival, Uncle Farfar said, “Lieutenant Seamus Fitzwilliam, may I introduce you to Miss Grace Baxter, my niece and the delight of my life.”
Grace smiled politely, admiring the shades of gold shimmering across Fitzwilliam’s smoothed-back hair, caught tidily in a black silk ribbon at his graceful nape.
“The pleasure is all mine, Miss Baxter,” said Fitzwilliam, formally kissing her hand.
“Lieutenant.” Grace took her hand back, fingers curling, and Fitzwilliam clasped his own behind his back.
Uncle Farfar’s sharp eyes flicked across the room, and his cordiality shrivelled. “God save us, see who approaches? Lord Silverton.”
To Grace, Lord Silverton appeared closer to a hundred years old, despite him only being in his early fifties. He was also a childless widower of renowned wealth and lineage. His bulging midriff announced no shortage of good food. He had been a mysterious figure on the outskirts of Grace’s life since she could remember, but no number of years had lessened her discomfort around him.
Grace dipped her head in greeting, lowering her gaze from Silverton’s beady eyes to the neatly tied cravat at the base of his bulbous, waggling chin. How could any respectable lady willingly draw herself to the attention of this crusty, timeworn creature?
“Your gown is simply delightful, Miss Baxter,” said Silverton. “Reminds me of the gossamer wings of a dragonfly.” Silverton’s obtrusive stare seemed to blacken Uncle Farfar’s mood further.
Oblivious, Silverton droned on, “Fascinating creatures! Dragonfly rituals of courtship may seem romantic to those inclined to observe the world through rose-coloured spectacles, but the amazing show of flips and spirals is usually the female trying to escape the boorish behaviour of the males.”
“I cannot possibly imagine how that feels,” Grace muttered, peering impassively around the crowded room. Fitzwilliam’s quick dry cough sounded suspiciously like a laugh, and Grace studied him from the corner of her eye. His face betrayed nothing.
Just then the butler rang the bell. Silverton’s beady eyes fixed on Grace. “Would you care to dine with me this evening, Miss Baxter?”
Uncle Farfar cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind Silverton, I’d appreciate my niece’s company this evening.” Uncle Farfar drew Grace away before Silverton could say anything more, and ushered her into the dining room. Fitzwilliam followed two steps behind with his allotted dinner companion, Miss Pettigrew. Her petite hand curled in his elbow, and her coifed black hair barely met his shoulder. Grace had made her acquaintance only once before, and realised with a sinking heart that she was in for an evening of little to no conversation with the demure creature, should she sit beside her. The stretched table was laid with the snowiest of linen, and set with such precision that even the King of England would have been pressed to find fault.
Uncle Farfar waved at the empty chairs. “Would you care to sit between Lieutenant Fitzwilliam and I, Grace dear? You might need to give me a kick under the table if we bore you with too much naval chatter.”
Grace sank into her chair. “Nonsense, Uncle. I do so enjoy your tales.”
Fitzwilliam waited for Miss Pettigrew to be seated as she gave him a simpering smile. A wave of relief washed over Grace at not being stuck with Silverton for the evening. Uncle Farfar clearly had the same thoughts, and he chuckled, “At least you’re squirrelled with us, away from that pompous windbag.”
Grace peered down the long table, her eyes narrowing as she caught Silverton’s beady eyes, grey as a wolf’s pelt, roaming freely across her décolletage. She scratched absentmindedly at the fine lace edging around the low neck of her lavender gown, aware that her unladylike fidgeting would likely irk Father at some point in the evening. But it could not be helped. Lace was wretchedly itchy.
Fitzwilliam pulled in his chair, and nodded at Captain Steven Fincham sitting stiffly opposite him like a squat Napoleonic figure. Dark circles beneath Fincham’s bleary, bloodshot eyes gave Grace the impression that he was in poor health, was suffering from the crapulous effects of intoxication, or both.
With the soup course over, Grace eyed the line of footmen entering with platters laden with succulent roast lamb. The thin slices looked perfectly browned on the outside with just a peek of pink inside. Her stomach grumbled at the rich buttery scent of the potatoes being served onto her plate. She intended to enjoy every mouthful. At the sound of cutlery pinging on glass, Grace turned her attention to her father, Lord Flint, who rose with his wine glass raised.
“As you know, my dear wife’s partiality to dinner parties ensures they happen with alarming regularity.” A polite smattering of laughter rippled around the table. “But tonight, we have two guests who deserve our well wishes.” Father inclined his bewigged head at Captain Fincham. “Captain Fincham and Lieutenant Fitzwilliam will soon be leaving England’s fair shores in an effort to expand our great nation’s knowledge of the world.” His crystal cut glass glimmered in the candlelight. “To a safe and prosperous journey, gentlemen.”
“To a safe and prosperous journey,” echoed the diners.
Uncle Farfar’s grey head peered around Grace at Fitzwilliam. “Where are you off to this time, Lieutenant?”
Relieved to be released from Fincham’s melancholy, and Miss Pettigrew’s muteness, Grace widened her eyes, equally interested to hear his answer.
“Plymouth first, to pick up the rest of the ship’s company and fresh supplies, before we sail to Tierra del Fuego,” said Fitzwilliam.
“Damned notorious waters off the Horn of South America, eh?” declared Uncle Farfar.
“That’s right,” interrupted Fincham, his unsteady hand lowering his empty glass to the table. “We’re sailing out tomorrow on the Discerning. To chart the coasts between Montevideo and Chiloé Island.”
“Ah, yes, the hydrographic survey! I recall hearing of it around the Admiralty.” Uncle Farfar’s eyes blazed. “The Royal Navy has been around those parts for years, but they’ve few charts to show for it. About time someone had a crack at it.” He inclined his head at Fitzwilliam. “Sounds just the kind of adventure a young man like you would relish.”
“Indeed, sir.” Fitzwilliam agreed.
Grace tucked a chocolate corkscrew of hair, that had rebelliously come undone, behind her ear. “What a pity you shan’t be here for the ball next week, Lieutenant. Mother will no doubt outdo herself again.” Fitzwilliam was about to reply when Lady Flint’s tinkling laughter drew his attention down the other end of the table. Despite numerous suitors declaring that Grace’s natural beauty stemmed from her mother, Grace thought Lady Flint’s shrewd eyes and downturned mouth erased all prettiness. She glanced back at the handsome naval officer beside her.
“You’ll have to pardon me, Miss Baxter,” Fitzwilliam said ruefully. “I find society balls to be little more than an exercise in attaching one unwitting party to another, usually for monetary gain.”
“Hear, hear!” Fincham banged the table, jangling the silverware. Miss Pettigrew squeaked with fright. Fincham blustered, “The oceans of the world are far less dangerous to navigate as far as I’m concerned.”
Grace laughed. “I quite agree, Captain Fincham. Father had me all but married off to Colonel Dunne until he found out he’s as poor as a church mouse and about to be shipped off to India.” She turned to Fitzwilliam, one brow arching as she whispered from the corner of her mouth, “Dull as a butter knife too.”
Clearly amused by her honesty, Fitzwilliam’s shoulders jiggled with silent laughter, and he smirked. Grace had never understood how Father threw her at suitors who were highly suitable on paper but wholly unsuitable in person.
Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick. Discerning Grace, is the first book in The White Sails Series.
Y’all have to listen to this What’s Her Name? podcast interview featuring Victorine (and moi). It is so well done, featuring a virtual museum visit and a dialogue between friends Dr. Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle interspersed with sound bites of my interview with Katie. She makes even me sound good!
To make it even better, the episode uses my husband, Barry’s, music in spots. (Remember that album he created for Victorine?)
And THEN the thing that maybe thrills my soul the most (maybe? IDK, I loved the whole episode…) first the magnificent hosts of HERstory on the Rocks created a classy, bespoke drink for Victorine, remember, last year?
Well now you can get…drumroll…the cross stitch pattern of Victorine Meurent! (I get no money from this pattern, btw. It goes to support the podcast’s projects. But I immediately bought the pattern and though I haven’t cross stitched in a very long time, I know what my next project is! I’ll add pictures when I’m done with it. I have some special plans for it!) The pattern was created by the talented Olivia Meikle. I’m so grateful for it! I feel every bit of attention and interaction Victorine Meurent can get she deserves.
I’m not sure if I did get around to sharing the drink recipe from HERstory on the Rocks over here. So since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon, here you go. (It’s a wonderful, mesmerizing green color.)
Recipe from Katie and Allie
The Painted Lady 1.5 oz Gin 1/2 oz absinthe juice from half a lime top with Prosecco
Barry made them for us just before I was on their podcast and he recommends using a shaker to prep them in. (I like extra lime juice in mine, btw.) Warning: these are strong. I stopped at a few sips so I could keep a clear head during the episode. But it’s a beautiful green color, fitting for release day, which in addition to being the anniversary of Victorine’s death is also St. Patrick’s Day!
Buy the cross stitch pattern on Etsy! I am posting the picture below — don’t you just love it?! It’s Victorine in the dress she wore in her self-portrait. I ADORE THIS!
Thanks so much, What’s Her Name?! You’re the greatest.
Now for the news I wanted to share! The ebook of Victorine is coming soon! Mid March is the goal — I’ll let you know when it’s officially available. So those of you who have been waiting for the ebook, it’s almost here!
Yes, Mademoiselle Victorine Louise Meurent would be 176 years old today! And she’s never looked better.
Best known, of course, as Édouard Manet’s favorite model, we now know she was much more than that. With my rediscovery of her recently recovered paintings, she’s been returned to the world as the artist she was and not only a model! For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s my book trailer which features not only some of the paintings she modeled for, but HER paintings as well:
Not enough of the world knows about her yet, so could you do me a favor? If you’re reading this, could you please share a link to this post on social media? Thanks from me — and from Victorine!
So I’m trying to be punny with the headline and I’m not sure I’m succeeding. But I do hope you’re having a happy Valentine’s Day. My honey bought a together present for us, which made me so happy. Maybe I mentioned before that we picked out a China pattern when we were newly married but only started buying it to celebrate our 30th! (Don’t feel too sorry for us; we have a beautiful set in a different pattern handed down from his mother that we use.)
Meet the newest members which have already been pressed into service for several cups of tea. When I asked my dear Mr. Drudge whether they were to be put into everyday use or for special occasions, he said the latter, though I do tend to frown upon things being “saved.” I will try to honor his request, but we shall see…don’t you love this pattern, Royal Albert Old Country Roses?
P.S. He also bought me several wonderful books that I will try to forget about while I do my pressing day job duties for the new few days. More on those books soon! (And I bought him some nifty gifties as well. But I’ll let him share those with you in his own good time. Psst…he can often be found conversing with musicians on Twitter.)
And now, here’s what I’ve been building up to. Many, many thanks to the crew over at You Read it Here First and to Debbie A. McClure in particular for her glowing introduction of me and Victorine and her thoughtful interview. I am so touched. I’ll let you read her interview, but I have to share this quote because it warmed my heart: “It’s not often I find a kindred spirit in a writer who loves the craft of writing, art, and the joy of travel as much as I do, but author Drēma Drudge fits that bill. Wit and a serious respect for writing and art, Drēma takes the reader on a journey into the past that delights and educates at the same time.” Debbie A McClure.
Please go show the interview some love on Valentine’s Day!
Those of you who are familiar with my journey researching and writing Victorine know my main goal was to remind the world about Victorine Meurent and her art, not just her nude body depicted in paintings for which she is remembered — if that.
Y’all, this review by Gail M. Murray for Historical Novel Society has me so excited! Many, many thanks to her for her intelligent, nuanced review. Please read the entire review at the link below.
Murray goes on to say, “Aficionados of art history will relish this novel,” and make other insightful observations. I can’t thank her enough for her review.
P.S. Would it be vain to say this is review is a big get? I can’t pretend to be anything but utterly excited to have this review both on HNS’S website as well as in their print version. I can’t wait to receive mine in the mail…would you like a peek at it when I do?
I can’t read the headline of this post without wanting to sob. Those of you who have helped me spread the word about Victorine Meurent, thank you, thank you, thank you. Those who have opened your hearts and minds to this unconventional, imperfect but generous, loyal character, thank you.
If you haven’t bought your copy of Victorine yet, here’s the link.
And P.S. there are big, fun things ahead for the one-year anniversary of Victorine in March. More details as they emerge.
I was going to write one last post about Orlando by Virginia Woolf until I saw this gem on YouTube. It’s quite the fun LEGO-fueled take. It’s Orlando told in eleven minutes. Enjoy! I’m not at all sure I can add anything to it.
Our Autumn of Woolf has lost its leaves and unintentionally extended into winter. Because of that, I have decided to hold off on discussing ARoom of One’s Own indefinitely. And because I’m currently using that room of my own to write my third novel, and novels take lots of coddling.
Thank you for being here with me during these last few months. They’ve been lovely.