Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady
by Kate Summerscale
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
On a mild winter's evening in 1850, Isabella Robinson set out for a party. Her carriage bumped across the wide cobbled streets of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town and drew up at 8 Royal Circus, a grand sandstone terrace lit by gas lamps. The guests were gathered in the high, airy drawing rooms on the first floor, the ladies in glinting silk and satin pulled tight over boned corsets; the gentlemen in tailcoats, waistcoats and neckties. When Mrs Robinson joined the throng she was at once enchanted by a Mr Edward Lane, a handsome medical student ten years her junior. He was 'fascinating', she told her diary, before chastising herself for being so susceptible to a man's charms. But a wish had taken hold of her, which she was to find hard to shake...
I picked this one up on the strength of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, and while the narrative wasn't quite as strong here (my version was read by Jenny Agutter, who was as superb as always, however), I still enjoyed both the story and the format. An excellent investigation and insight into a Victorian marriage.
The English Country House Explained
by Trevor Yorke
Published by COUNTRYSIDE BOOKS
England's country houses have never been more popular with visitors. Most are packed with masterpieces of art and antiques, and they have vast landscaped gardens, often with lakes and fountains. They reflect all the splendour of England's glory years. Trevor Yorke, using original drawings, diagrams and photographs, takes the reader on a careful tour of the country house and describes its features, exterior and interior, upstairs and downstairs. He looks at the different periods of large country houses from the mid 1500s up to 1914, explaining the changing architectural styles. He describes the different rooms within the main house and their changing roles over the centuries. There is a glossary of architectural terms, and a quick reference time chart listing country house architects and the notable buildings they designed, with drawings of the period details that help to date them.
A quick and easy guide to a subsection of architectural history, complete with a series of illustrations (one at the end of each relevant chapter) showing how a typical house might have been added to and modified over the centuries. Worth buying for that aspect alone, although it's also handy as a quick and easy reference guide while out and about, to supplement a library of more extensive and specialised books.
Promises Made Under Fire
by Charlie Cochrane
Published by Carina Press
Lieutenant Tom Donald envies everything about fellow officer Frank Foden--his confidence, his easy manner with the men in the trenches, the affectionate letters from his wife. Frank shares these letters happily, drawing Tom into a vicarious friendship with a woman he's never met. Although the bonds of friendship forged under fire are strong, Tom can't be so open with Frank--he's attracted to men and could never confess that to anyone.
When Frank is killed in no-man's-land, he leaves behind a mysterious request for Tom: to deliver a sealed letter to a man named Palmer. Tom undertakes the commission while on leave--and discovers that almost everything he thought he knew about Frank is a lie...
I loved this story so much, and I'm not just saying that because Charlie's a friend. The exchanges between Tom and Foden, and between Tom and officer's servant Bentam are wonderful, and the letters Tom sends and receives after discovering Foden's secret doubly so. A beautiful picture of hope in a time of terror and sadness.
Snowdrops and Scandalbroth
by Barbara Metzger
Published by Belgrave House/Regency Reads
Kathlyn Partland mistrusted Lord Chase’s offer to pay her for appearing in public with him. But she was in need of the money, and he was in need of proving to Society that he was a rake. Chase assured her it was a ruse, that he believed both bride and groom should arrive at marriage with innocence intact.
A very sweet comedy of manners. Lord Chase is caught in a snowstorm with his betrothed only to find she is not as pure as himself. Breaking the betrothal creates all manner of rumours about him, which no amount of heroics can assuage, even when he returns wounded from the war. So he decides he must be seen to have a mistress, one who won't tell anyone of what they don't get up to in private.
Kathlyn has been left penniless after her parents' deaths and is on her way to London to become a governess. Hold-ups due to snow and highwaymen along the way mean that when she arrives the position is no longer there. She agrees reluctantly to become part of Chase's plan, mainly because she likes his old Nanny and wants to help that family until the new grandchild is born. Everyone is now watching the pair, either because they are intrigued by the scandal or because they suspect Kathlyn knows the location of stolen jewels. Multiple groups plan to kidnap her and some succeed only for her to rescue herself before Chase can get there. It all gets resolved in the end (possibly a little too quickly, but that's my complaint with a lot of romances.
The Most Amazing Stately Homes in Britain: Great Country Houses and Grand Estates in England, Scotland and Wales
Published by Reader's Digest
ISBN 13: 9781780201382
Britain's stately homes and grand houses are among its greatest treasures, and The Most Amazing Stately Homes in Britain brings you the grandest, most magnificent, eccentric and unusual of them all. This wonderfully illustrated regional touring guide describes each house and tells its story, following the ebb and flow of fortune and fame. Every house has something that sets it apart from the rest: the magnificent four-storey Tudor tower (set in world famous gardens) of Sissinghurst in Kent; sumptuous painted cloth wallhangings of romantic Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire; superb topiary at Levens Hall in Cumbria; sinister myths of Blickling Hall in Norfolk and the enchanting Great Garden of Edzell Castle in Scotland, created in 1604 to stimulate the mind and the senses. Discover ancient deer parks; exquisite collections of furniture, national treasures and breathtaking views, to enjoy season-by-season and year-round. The cover features Chatsworth in Derbyshire, one of Britain's most famous historic houses and the fastest-growing paid-for visitor attraction in 2010* with more than 716,000 visitors. In May 2012 Chatsworth featured in a popular threepart BBC1 documentary covering a year behind the scenes of the house and estate.
Probably one to dip into, rather than to read in full from cover to cover. Most houses get only a paragraph, and only a selection get photographs. Some interesting longer sections of various aspects of the homes in general and life within, and the inclusion of brief directions by road and a note as to which were run by English Heritage of the National Trust/National Trust for Scotland. However, I would I prefered some indication of which others were part of one of the other groups running stately homes, and some fiorm of contact details (no matter how easily those might go out of date).