Book: Silent in the Sanctuary

Title: Silent in the Sanctuary
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Length: 552 pgs

Summary: Lady Julia Grey is back from her Italian getaway, where she recovered from the loss of her husband, the shock of discovering who killed her husband, the confusing emotions toward the detective hunting her husband’s murderer, and the smoke inhalation from the night all these factors came together in a literal blaze of fury. Home for Christmas in Sussex, Lady Julia is shocked to see among the guests Brisbane, the aforementioned detective, who is newly engaged to one of the silliest women she has ever laid eyes on. When murder happens in the abbey, it is up to Lady Julia and Brisbane to solve the crime despite their tumultuous history.

Excerpts:
pg 158 – She proceeded to comment on everything we passed–the symmetry of the maze, the magnificence of the bell tower, the cleverness of the carp ponds.

And then she saw the gates. She went into raptures about the iron hares that topped them, the darling little gatehouse, the pretty shrubbery by the road. Another twenty minutes was spent on the straightness of the linden allee, and by the time we reached the village of Blessingstoke, my ears had gone numb with the effort of listening to her.

“So many words,” he murmured. “I did not think one person could know so many words.”

pg 482 – “That’s the trouble with women,” she said wonderingly. “We know what we oughtn’t do, but when a man comes along, we only hear his voice, and not our own.”

pg 497 – I finally ran him to ground in the library, gamely working his way through Pride and Prejudice. He sprang to his feet when I entered, smiling broadly.

I nodded to the book. “How are you enjoying Jane Austen?”

He waggled his hand from side to side. “She is a little silly, I think.”

Now I was more certain than ever in my decision. I could not love a man who did not love Jane Austen.

Why should you read this book?
Contrary to many of the reviews that I read on Amazon.com, I really liked this book precisely because the continued love-hate relationship from the previous book, Silent in the Grave, was in no way resolved, and in a way that was true to the characters. That’s genius, if you ask me, because it keeps the true fans of the series panting for more. This book is funny, charming, and portrays High Victorian Society oh so well. The setting is well-written without overtaking the plot, the characters are snappy, and my favorite device is used: giving tertiary characters their own subplots that affect the whole.

Read this book for a sophomore attempt that was as good (if not better) than the first, for a lesson in creating characters that don’t fit in their own society and yet seem genuine to the reader, a true puzzle of a crime, a charming and funny narrator, a passionate romance with no real sense of a happy ending (must continue to read the series!), and the only series in a long time that has an alpha romance lead that doesn’t make me want to shoot him.

From the Notebook: Inside the Victorian Home

I have so many notes dedicated to life in the Victorian home that I could probably dedicate an entire month’s worth of posts to the topic. I won’t, but here are some tidbits here and there that I found interesting.

Currency controlled by the Royal Mint after 1884, thus…

  • One pound (denoted £) = 20 shillings
  • One shilling (denoted s) = 12 pence
  • One pence (denoted d) = 1 penny

Prosperous Middle Class: generally earned around £ 50 per year (annum), which allowed for 5 bedrooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms (upper middle class often had 12+ rooms in a house)

  • top floor: servants, childrens bedrooms (2-3)
  • half-landing: bathroom
    • 1880s bath and sink were iron, tin, stoneware, earthenware
    • bathroom walls covered in varnished wallpaper
    • floor covered in enamel paint
    • tub had lead plate with turned up edges and waste pipe for extra water
  • 2nd floor: master bedroom, dressing room, second bedroom
  • 1st floor: drawing room
  • ground floor: dining room, morning room
  • basement: kitchen, scullery*, breakfast room

* Scullery aka back kitchen; had running water and used for food preparation that was messy (fish, veggies, cleaning pots)
* Pantry has wooden sink lined with lead to prevent chipping; stored china, glass, silver, sink to wash aforementioned items
* Larder was used for fresh food storage
* Store-room held dried goods and the cleaning equipment

Linoleum was popular in kitchens, passageways, and sculleries because they were easy to clean.
– patented in 1860

From Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders. © 2003

From the Notebook: Victorian Courting Customs

First thing’s first: someone has randomly thanked me for posting in this journal, and encouraged me to keep up the good work. I don’t know who wrote the comment, but let me thank you for leaving it. Writing is a lonely adventure sometimes. Random, anonymous comments, while frustrating because the commenter remains mysterious, are greatly appreciated. Not to gush or anything, because the comment is a little sparse, but I’ve been having a semi-bad week thanks to school stresses and residual back/leg pain from an injury, and this random comment completely made my day.

All right. Now that I’ve managed to contain my pleasure, I thought I’d treat you all with a little bit of something something from my notes about courtships. I missed Valentine’s Day, but February is the month of love and hey, I am a romance writer, so here’s an excerpt from my research journal:

Courtship at most formal:

  • Man wants to marry?
    1. Consider future prospects, financial position –> justify his trying to attract women?
    2. See if chosen women return his affection “with delicacy and caution to avoid compromising her” (can happen even before meeting the girl)
      -Might see her in church, at a ball, be family friend
    3. If haven’t met her before, arrange for mutual friend to introduce him to family
      -If no mutual friend, good sign the idea should be dropped cuz families don’t run in same social circle
  • Girl and Guy meet in family circles with at least one married member present…allows girl to “assess his worth”
    -Does he diss women? Does he attend church? Are his hobbies “low and vulgar?”
    -He also can’t be lazy, eccentric, frivolous or foppish
    -He better have enough biz interest to ensure they’ll have future $$ 

    -Also allows him to see if she is attentive to her duties, respectful/affectionate to parents, kind to siblings, mellow…

  • If she turns out to be a flirt or he a jerk, they can remove themselves from the courtship at this process and not feel guilty
  • Now he can speak to her father. If dad’s agreeable, speak to daughter

Parent’s involvement along gender lines: dad takes care of financial concerns, mom looks at social compatability.

If all looks good, invitations set so couple can meet, give talking opportunities…

Information gleaned from Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders

In other words, courtship was a business back then. I’m not sure how many happy couples were created out of such a courtship system, but given the number of romantic fiction authors, I hope there were a lot. Or at least a few. But then, given the divorce rate these days, and, knowing that for many couples, the divisive topic was money, maybe we should consider marriage more of a business than we do?

Anyway, Happy belated Valentine’s Day! May your muse bless you with beautiful prose that befits the month of love.

From the Notebook: British Peerage

I took these notes for my High Victorian era novel on December 19, 2004. Thought I’d post a few of my notes every once in a while, either as a way to help my fellow fiction/historical fiction writers, and also as a fun way to remind me of all the information I’ve gathered.

The British Peerage
The following list is in order of importance, most to least. All of the following should be addressed as Lord and Lady BlankWhatever, in which BlankWhatever is the name of the title/name of the estate, and not the family name aka last name. Every once in a while the family name and title are the same.

  1. Duke, Duchess
  2. Marquis (Marquess), Marchioness
  3. Earl, Countess
  4. Viscount, Viscountess
  5. Baron, Baroness

– The eldest son of a duke, marquis, and earl take the lesser title.
– The younger son of a duke/marquis is called “Lord FirstName LastName” or simply “Lord FirstName.”
– The younger son of an earl is called “the Honourable FirstName LastName.”
– All children of viscounts/barons are called “the Honourable FirstName LastName.”
– Daughters of dukes, marquises, earls are called “Lady Given Name.”

Servants
It should be understood that the upper servants ate in the housekeeper’s room, and the lower servants ate in the servants’ hall and cleaned the upper servants’ rooms.

  • Upper Servants (not all households had full set): butler, housekeeper, parlor maid, cook, children’s nurse, valet, ladies’ maid.
  • Lower Servants: footmen, housemaids, under housemaids, kitchen and scullery maids, still-room maids, charwomen, nursery maids, pages.
  • Outside Servants: coachman, gardener, young boys.

* Manservants are much more expensive, so if a family owns even one, it’s a definite indication of their wealth.

* Middle-class families sometimes took over certain duties:
– housekeeper: domestic accounts and bills
– ladies’ maid: plain needlework for self and children
– governess: children’s education

* Jilting a fiance lowered a marriagable woman’s chances for making a “good match.”
– 1/4 middle-class women didn’t marry in late Victorian era

Information retrieved from: Jo McMurtry’s Victorian Life and Victorian Fiction: A Companion for the American Reader.