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Dorset Day Trips – Lyme Regis/Poole

2 Sep

Now I’m properly settled in Bournemouth it’s time to start exploring the neighbouring towns.

I must admit that I am no stranger to Lyme Regis. I visited the coastal town in my youth to visit the location of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, one of my favourite novels. Not that I remember much of the occasion. I couldn’t have been much older than 12.

But I am looking forward to revisit the town and soak up its literary atmosphere – to linger on the steps where Louisa Musgrove fell and sank into unconsciousness. She subsequently got nursed back to health by her would-be husband. I’d rather forego on the accident but wouldn’t mind the happy ending. Sigh. Captain Wentworth.

At any rate, I have become rather fond of coastal towns. Last weekend, I briefly explored the harbour town of Poole. Some mighty fine ships there were! I would’ve commandeered one of them had I possession of a crew. Alas! But I enjoyed my harbour stroll regardless.

I’m just not sure what to wear and whether to bring my brolly or not. After two days of fine, sunny weather tomorrow is sure to be a disappointment but thunderstorms are rather becoming of seaside locations, are they not? I shall return bearing gifts. That is, hopefully I’ll be able to take some photographs.

I will certainly bring my notepad. Just in case..

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Matches and Matrimony – A pride and prejudice game

26 Jun
Although I’ve always thought it was a good idea to create a game about classic books, this was not what I had in mind. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it.
I discovered this little game yesterday and admittedly played it for a few hours. It is basically based on Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion.
Darcy, the Bingley sisters and Lizzy.
First of all, you can choose your own name. You have two sisters (a red-headed Jane and Lydianne). They only use a few characters so some characters take on multiple roles. Lady Lucas in the game also takes you to the Lake District and also takes you to London (like Mrs. Jenkins), although the fall from Persuasion now takes place there instead of at Lyme. Your sister Lydianne falls and turns into Louisa but is nursed back to health by Brandon, thus ending up as Marianne. 

Mr Bennett, Jane and Mrs. Bennett.

Mr. Wickham is now called Mr. Wickeby (he is a combination of Willoughly and Wickham) and Bingley is now called Edward instead of Charles. He’s supposed to be Edward Ferrars. At the end up the Bingley plot, news circulates of him having wed Miss Darcy. This is however false. Instead, Mr. Darcy has married Caroline Bingley!
I really enjoyed having Colonel Brandon randomly show up after my character (in Marianne-mode) played at the piano. However, I didn’t care for his red hair and silly beard. I was also thrilled to see Captain Wentworth, who is a favourite Austen man of mine. He was dashing in his red uniform.
The game is fun to play but a few things bothered me. First of all, some of the characters did not look very Regency. Some of them are walking around with their hair down and for some bizarre reason Mr. Bennett and Lady Catherine are dressed from a completely different period – and not from the Victorian era, although it is said that is the setting for the game. I also don’t like that the characters are wearing the same outfit throughout the game. It’s a period piece. I would have liked a mini-game to choose the most suitable outfit.

It is also quite difficult. To play the game, you select activities to get through the Monday – Friday. Different activities give you different points. You can gather points for: Willpower, Talent, Kindness, Sensibility, Propriety and Wit. Sometimes, you cannot progress because you lack Willpower points to speak up. The first time I played, this caused me to accept the proposal from Mr. Collins! -shudder-
With Lady Catherine the Bourgh’s confrontation, I had too many Propriety points to disobey her and if you did not save the game recently, that basically means you’re screwed. There are 9 possible endings (one of which is Collins and another is not getting married). 
Charlotte and Lizzy
Once you finish the game once, you can request information on how to get a certain suitor and you have the option to ”get a head start” and fast-forward to chapter 10 with all the necessary attributes to get to that point. One of the things that amused me is that you can also end up with Bingley, in which case you have to get his sisters to like you. In this ending, Jane marries Colonel Brandon. 
Overall, I thought the dialogue also ran too long and I kept clicking to move on. Especially with verbose characters such as Collins and Mrs. Bennett, it went on and on. Maybe if you are not familiar with the story yet, this will interest you. But for someone who knows the dialogue inside out, it is not very interesting. 
Luckily, once you have gone through a certain dialogue once, you can skip it next time. You progress through the story by selecting dialogue. The options you are presented with depend on your skills. A very kind person might say this but a very improper person might say that. What you say to the characters affects the storyline and it is worth saying that with Mr. Darcy, being difficult and stubborn is what gets him to like you. The first time, I agreed with him, danced with him straight away and as a result, he did not like me. How singular!
So far, Wentworth is my favourite ending. That letter just gets me every time. If you’re stuck, there is a walk-through up on YouTube. You should check it out. I do find the narrator obnoxious, though. 
3 1/5 stars

Graphic Sex Scenes in Romance Novels

25 Jun

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I just don’t like gratuitous sex scenes in novels. I don’t see why they’re romantic or even sexy. If anything, they make me giggle. There’s something really over-the-top about these scenes. They just don’t seem realistic and especially in historical novels, feel really out-of-place.

Would a shy débutante really let a rake ravish her in the corner of a ball room? The thought makes me cringe. I remember skimming through my mum’s dirty novels as an adolescent. I’d enjoy the banter between the hero and the heroine but all the heaving bosoms? These scenes did nothing for me. I usually skipped them completely because romance can be expressed in other, more effective ways. I much prefer witty banter or a stolen kiss.

Historical novels are also filled with cliché characters, such as:

* The roguish, dashing Highlander
* The innocent, virginal English rose
* The witty, spunky heiress
* The conniving relative

I am sure there are many others. There are few original characters left anymore but unless written really well, these archetypes are tedious to read about. If you are going to flout historical accuracy by writing racy sex scenes, at least make the characters fun. What about a clergyman who falls for a courtesan? What about a woman accused of witchcraft finding love in her cell?

And then there’s the covers. What’s sexy about an unrealistic fellow rippling with Photoshop masculinity? And then they lean over the heroine, whose dress is half undone and spilling with cleavage. The word tacky comes to mind. I can’t help but think that this sort of soft-porn only appeals to middle-aged housewives with expanded waistlines. But looking at the steady sales of such novels, I must be mistaken. Give me the classy covers of Heyer any day. Modern authors like Amanda Grange or Abigail Reynolds, too, use historical covers. And I think they’re gorgeous.

The possibilities are endless. I always have a dozen potential stories in mind at any given time. Some are abandoned, others never reach the page. The point is: I write romance without sex scenes because I am more interested in the journey of falling in love. I grew up watching Jane Austen and being a re-enactor of the Regency period. Whether I like it or not, it has affected my writing.

So yes, I am old-fashioned. But is being a hopeless romantic really that bad? I would rather wait for the right one than end up with ten wrong ones.

>Reading List 2011

18 Jan

>Enough already.

I’m sick of buying new books only to display them on my shelf. I’m sick of starting to read a book and then abandoning it with equal enthusiasm.

What is the point of having a bookshelf full of books if they’re only there for decorative purposes?

I’ve made myself a promise this year: I will not buy any new books before I have read every book on the shelf.

I’m writing this at work so the list below may in incomplete. First draft:

THE LIST OF DOOM:

READ:

Pride and Prejudice
Northanger Abbey
Persuasion
The Painted Veil
Masterclass in writing fiction
The art and craft of storytelling
Bridget Jones’s Diary

STARTED READING:

Wuthering Heights
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Emma

UNREAD:

Mansfield Park
Sense and Sensibility – part of my Reading Challenge
Victorian Life
A Journal Of the Plague Year
Ulysses
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Middlemarch
Anne of Green Gables (not yet received)

I’m happy about one thing: that most of my books are still back home so I can’t possibly read those (excuses, excuses…).

After that I should move on to my e-reader. That’s still chock-full of partially-read books. But that’ll come later. Let’s start reading! Once I finish one of them, I will write a review.

>A Regency Scene – A Mischievous Scheme

10 Jan

>


A continuation of: part 1 and part 2

The only person in the county to share her opinion was her best friend, Amelia Warren, whom she had known since childhood. Miss Warren, who was three years her senior, acted the part of her adviser in all matters of importance; it was mainly through her influence that the Hamilton family lived with economy and good taste. Amelia frequently with her brought the latest news from Paris in terms of fashion and the occasional gossip. Thanks to her great wealth and title, Miss Warren could do whatever she pleased and had taken a lover rather than a husband.

The only reason society still acknowledged her was because her promiscuity was a private affair only Audrey could confirm. The lover had to her even been introduced; Mr. Dawson, a gentleman’s second son and therefore heir to nothing except an allowance of a meagre 500 pounds per annum. This display of shocking indecorum initially repulsed Miss Hamilton. But once she saw the freedom the arrangement provided and the many pleasures her friend was privy to, she began to envy her situation rather than condemning it.

“You should take a lover, Audrey. Disinterested as you are in marriage, you should still allow yourself access to the pleasures of matrimony,” Amelia imparted as they were drinking tea in the drawing room.

Audrey’s eyes grew dilated and she shifted in her seat and fidgeted with her dress.

“That is impossible. I should fear being discovered. Besides, I have not completely despaired of men; after all, Catherine found herself an excellent husband so it can be done. We are to organise a ball next week at The Crown. Mr. Sharpe has engaged me for a dance and I am promised an introduction to the elusive Mr. Beckham.”

The man featured in their conversation with some regularity and both were anxious to make his acquaintance to find out his true nature. “Oh, I forgot to mention – my mother lately stumbled upon Mr. Beckham at her tailor; she told me he is excessively handsome and exceedingly obliging.”

Miss Hamilton could not but laugh at her theatrical language. “Which does not account for his treatment of us. I shall believe it when I experience his kindness myself; I do not trust another’s opinions. Our neighbours are too impressionable to be relied upon for any sort of valuable information.”



“And does my mother fall in that category?” Amelia teased.

“She’s certainly knowledgeable compared to mine.”

Amelia smiled. “Oh, high praise, indeed! But let us speak in earnest. Are you on the lookout for a husband?”

Even Audrey herself did not know her heart. “Only a very great man can tempt me to accept him. I have not seen a worthy suitor yet. But mama has set her sights on a visit to London so that might remedy my predicament.”

Miss Warren adored London and had long wished her friend to spend the season there; she knew Audrey to be a hopeless romantic and no romance could be found in the country at present – all eligible bachelors had gone away to Town to catch an heiress.

“I think it a very good development. You stayed away too long – such country grudges sully one’s reputation. Besides, I have a great acquaintance in Town and I shall endeavour to introduce you to every single one of them.”

Audrey sipped her tea and indulged in some quiet reflection; perhaps she had stayed away too long, indeed. “I am much obliged, Amelia. My only worry is that no one shall notice me when you stand next to me.”

Although the two friends were equal in beauty and wit, Amelia’s wealth and prospects were superior. Audrey, though respectable and rich, could offer no title or grand estate.

“Nonsense. I have made it perfectly clear I do not wish to marry. No gentleman would willingly subject himself to a rejection by making me an offer. No, I am quite resolved to promote you as the most beautiful, angelic and sweet-tempered girl in the country. You shall have all the attentions that you deserve. You may rely upon it.”

But Miss Hamilton, having endured only one proposal and one season in London, flushed at the notion of such relentless attentions to her person. She hoped that those vying for her notice would be well worth the effort. “They shall abandon me once an introduction to my mother has been made.”

Ever since returning to the country since her disastrous first season, her mother had scared away any potential suitors; her persistence was infamous, her methods questionable.

“Do not make yourself uneasy. The gentleman in Town are far too worldly to be so easily discouraged; but, perhaps I should include a warning in my promotion of fair Miss Hamilton. It might arouse their sympathy, rather than their abhorrence.”

But the idea sickened Miss Hamilton. “No, pray don’t speak of my mother. I will invent some scheme to keep her home. I might apply to the generosity of my aunt and uncle in escorting me to events. They are sociable creatures and very fond of me. They often write to beg me to come visit. I shall make my apologies to my mother and explain. To do so without injuring her shall be my only difficulty.”

“Can we not send you to Town under some pretext? Surely, your relatives have need of you. Otherwise I will take it upon myself to devise a reason. At any rate, I could accompany you so your arrival would cause the necessary alarm and curiosity.”

“Oh, yes. Mama dotes on you. She thinks you a very good influence (ahem). I am certain of her acquiescence if we were to travel together.”

Amelia’s eyes glistened with mischief. “Now all we have to do is tell her.”

At such times of emotional trial she turned to poetry: John Keats was her current favourite, after a brief time of Wordsworth. It was in poems a gleam of life with all its promise and potential revealed itself to her. “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” she recited to herself to give her courage. Taking in a sharp breath, she entered her mother’s room and thought to herself: what would Jane do? Jane, of course, being Jane Austen.

>The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011

2 Jan

>

Can you believe it? 


As of this year, Sense and Sensibility was published 200 years ago. And yet, when reading the book or watching the adaptations, it doesn’t seem that way. In celebration of its bicentenary, they are holding a reading challenge over at Austenprose.

                                                           -swoon-

I admit I’ve never read the novel (but recently bought Jane Austen’s novels at Amazon) but seen the famous 1995 adaptation with the wonderful Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon and more recently the mini-series from 2008. I don’t own the particular edition Austenprose lists. Instead, I bought the edition below because of the lovely covers, maps and cutesy appeal.


The edition I bought in all its girlishness


Now, I don’t own any of the Jane Austen sequels – because, let’s face it, who can live up to her genius, anyway? The only one I own is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but I never even finished reading that one. 


I do admit that Colonel Brandon’s diary sounds interesting because of the more literary nature of those works. But until I know for sure I can get my hands on it, I’ll keep it safely nestled on my wish list. From Prada to Nada also sounds entertaining but I couldn’t find it on Amazon so I doubt I’ll manage to get it in time.

My mother owns the screenplay by Emma Thompson but she lives in another country so that’s not going to happen either…

With these limitations, I’ll be forced to content myself with the original novel and a few adaptations. As of now, I commit myself to the following:


Level of participation
: Neophyte: 1 – 4 selections

Books:


Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen


Movies:


Sense and Sensibility – 1995

Sense and Sensibility – 2008

>Living History: Reenacting Jane Austen

2 Jan

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We are all familiar with the books of Jane Austen, spend rainy Sunday afternoons swooning over Mr. Darcy and wish we could step into Elizabeth’s lucky footsteps. Now, you might not get to meet Mr. Darcy, but reenactment allows you to travel through time and enter a different life. Events are held all across the world where people indulge in this strange hobby. So, what’s the appeal? As an experienced regency re-enactor I will share some of my experiences and photographs with you.

                                                           at my first ball with my aunt

I first heard about the society through my aunt, who co-founded it after experiencing a lack of civilian re-enactment groups. Many people were interested in the period itself rather than the military element. From the desire to demonstrate middle-class regency life, the society was born and quickly, my whole family joined. Made up of period piece enthusiasts, it was no difficult task to convince them. I was only twelve years old when I attended my first event – a ball in a real castle!
I wasn’t even officially a member at that point but it opened my eyes to a new, exciting world where I not only inhabited a regency heroine and got to dance with dashing rogues (who were perhaps a cook or accountant in real life), but it also deepened my love for history. Being involved in living history requires some effort on your part and whoever would like to take up this marvellous hobby, should take the following issues into consideration:

                                                                           a peek at our wardrobe

  • ·         You are in charge of your own costumes. Although members might let you borrow a gown or two when you’re just getting started, there are patterns available from the period so get your sewing kit out! I can tell you in advance that recreating a historical costume takes a lot of work, patience and fitting. You wouldn’t be the first one to cut off the wrong part or sew something on backwards. Through experience, you will become more proficient in creating your own historically accurate outfits. Just do some research on fabric and colour. I’ve seen one too many ladies in dresses that reminded me of Barbie goes to Prom.

                                                           attending a Regency wedding in church

  • ·          Events can take place internationally so depending on your location and commitment, there will be some travel expenses. You will need to bring your costume and accessories, food, etc. You’ll need a car to get all your stuff safely (and in good condition!) to the event.

sipping tea on our country estate; I’m in white
  • ·         Read, research, refine. If you’re going to portray someone from another period, you will need to know how they talked, sat, acted and so on. Familiarise yourself with the etiquette and the history of the period so you know what was going on in the world. There’s another excuse to re-watch Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion.
dance and dinner at a ball; I’m wearing the red dress
  • ·        Dancing lessons. If you want to actually dance at a ball, you will have to take regency dancing lessons. It’s my favourite part of the experience. Mastering the dances takes a lot of time and energy. During every dance rehearsal we had several moments were we said: “Wrong way, Mr. Collins!” I know of several regency dancing troupes in the U.K. so that is something worth checking out. And just think, next time you’ll watch a period drama on the BBC, you’ll be able to pinpoint what dance they’re using and trace their footsteps to refresh your memory. 

                                                          fishing with my sister and uncle


If you have the time and money to invest in this hobby, I highly recommend it. Through my society, I attended balls, picnics, hunting parties, historical weddings and battles. We cultivated idleness and sipped tea for an audience while the men engaged themselves in sport (shooting, for instance). The ladies drew, read books, played old-fashioned games and wrote letters. I’ve also tried fishing at one of the events but there were no fish to be caught. I suppose it wasn’t the season.

                                                              f.l.t.r: my aunt, myself, my sister, my uncle


I’ve been photographed by a dozen people at once (which made me feel like a film star), called Anne Frank (wrong century!) and even once a servant (wrong class!). My favourite events had an international flavour. It enables you to meet like-minded people from all across the world. All those brooding Italians and Spanish soldiers. I even met my first boyfriend through this hobby. Alas, as it turned out he wasn’t my Mr. Darcy. But as I surveyed all those fine specimen of manliness in their military outfits, I perfectly understood Lydia. “Ooh, officers! A man is nothing without regimentals!”

This hobby also has a bit of a theatrical aspect. We sometimes staged scenes, including public arguments between different groups/classes of re-enactors. To make matters easier, we decided on a character to play for the duration of our membership. Because my mother, sister, both aunts and uncle were all members we created a regency family so we could still be related in our new fantasy world. Under this regency name, I wrote diary entries. It gave me my first taste of historical fiction and I enjoyed it immensely. Our society also had a magazine with useful tips and information, interviews, recipes, etc.

                                                                      my family in the beginning of our adventure

Links about living history:

Regency dancing groups:


If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment box and I will get back to you.