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Review – Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain by Andrea Zuvich #SexyStuarts

Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain by Andrea Zuvich – Review

71FkRIbh-DL._SY600_As many of you know, I’ve had an abiding interest in the Stuart period, so I was thrilled to be offered an ARC by Pen and Sword Books for this new non-fiction book by Andrea Zuvich, also known as the Seventeenth Century Lady.

This is a fabulous book, not only about Stuart Sexuality, but also about how attitudes to sexuality affect everything else to do with Stuart life. The Stuarts ruled from 1603 to 1714, and their rule was characterised by enormous changes to rule and government, and attitudes that veered from the most stringent Puritanism to the most licentious and debauched libertinism of the Stuart Restoration.

The text not only covers things like pornography and prostitution, virginity and contraception, but also includes broader sections on courtship and marriage, on dress, hair and make up, on relationships in the Stuart age — including what we know about the sort of relationships which were then taboo. As you might expect, it really highlights how little we have changed, for sexual relationships of all types are represented, including some that might make your toes curl!

Zuvich doesn’t hold back – all the language of the day is here in glorious technicolour, so this is not a book for those who are easily offended by talk of ‘sheathing your sword’. The discussions are frank, knowledgeable, and written with a light touch.

The book is well laid -out in different themes, and takes the form of episodic snatches, with many original quotations from original sources, 18269but one thing I particularly enjoyed was the fact the book has interesting sections on the different monarchs and how their attitudes to sex affected the demeanour of the whole country.

All in all, an excellent book, and although I received a kindle ARC for review, a hard copy certainly deserves a spot on my bookshelf.

You can buy the book here

Go to Andrea’s Website here

Follow her on Twitter @17thCenturyLady

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Seventeenth Century Life

The Home of 1609

 

In A Divided Inheritance, Elspet Leviston stands to lose her family’s house and business to a cousin she never knew existed. To recreate the house in my mind I researched the late Elizabethan and Early Jacobean style – a period much overlooked, but with its own distinct characteristics.
Elspet lives in London and her house has been in the family for generations, so it is likely that the actual fabric of the building would have been Tudor or even earlier, but with more modern furnishings. She also tells us in the novel that her father is quite reluctant to update the house – to buy new drapes or replace worn items. Westview House in the novel would be quite shabby, but with good quality furniture. In the picture below of Crewe Hall, notice the typical ceiling of the period with its pendant plasterwork, which would soon have grown grubby from the smoking fires and tobacco.
Crewe_Hall_Dining_Room
Crewe Hall Dining Room
I used a real house to model Elspet’s home on. I find it much easier to write if I have a good sense of the geography of a house and a real picture of where doors, windows and so forth would have been. I couldn’t find a suitable house in London of the right middling size, though I used the street map of the time to locate where the house would have stood. Much of this area of London was lost in the subsequent Great Fire of 1666.
The house I chose to use is Bampfylde House which is actually in Exeter, but was the period and style which would have been similar to London houses of the time. Sadly this building no longer stands, as it was destroyed by incendiary bombs in 1942. Such a catastrophe! It had survived right up until the twentieth century intact. But there is a fascinating article about its history here, along with interesting tales of when it was visited by the Duke of Bedford.
bampfylde house
Bampfylde House
The paintings of the house were done by Robert Dymond, an antiquarian who visited it when it was still there, in 1864. The house has a small courtyard and the front, and a larger one behind, which I make good use of in the novel for Zachary Deane’s sword practice.
Oak Room Bampfylde House_Exeter
Oak Room, Bampfylde House
Jacobean furniture was massive, heavy and built to last. Often from oak, and built on simple lines, it is characterised by ornate carvings, and friezes of decorative designs. Chairs were probably quite uncomfortable as upholstery was little-used.
Shutters were used at the mullioned windows to keep in the warmth, and drapes possibly hand-embroidered with crewel work. Here are some examples of crewel work designs from the Victoria and Albert museum. Elspet’s mother may have spent long hours embroidering items such as these, and rubbing them with lavender or sandalwood to keep off moths.

Crewelwork 1630 V&A

Crewel_curtain late 17thC V&A

It was crucial to me to have a real sense of what Elspet might lose if she failed to keep her family’s house, so the reader can empathise with that. Re-creating the dark, somewhat structured interior of the house was also vital as a contrast to what Elspet later finds in Spain when she has to pursue her cousin to hot and dusty Seville. At the time Seville is the busiest port in Europe during Spain’s Golden Age, full of new and exciting sights, scents and sounds. There Elspet finds a completely different lifestyle, architecture and customs. Not only that, but she finds a new physical freedom she could never have found in London.
By the way, those interested in Jacobean houses might also find this article of interest – how Apethorpe Hall, a Jacobean treasure, was saved by one man.
Picture Credits:

Bampfylde House http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/bampfylde-house-elizabethan-mansion-in.html

Crewel Embroidery – wikipedia http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/english-embroidery-introduction/

This article first appeared on The Bookish Librarian Blog

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Blog

Win a copy of A Divided Inheritance

divided_Inheritance_fc_

I am delighted to announce that A Divided Inheritance is available on kindle today. Click on the cover to take you to Amazon. It will be available in all other formats from 24th October, including the traditional weighty paperback.

Today I’m giving away a signed paperback (UK) or e-book (US) to a winner picked from the hat –

leave a comment to enter with your email address. Entries close Friday 11th October. Two more UK winners will receive a copy of  the US editions of The Gilded Lily and The Lady’s Slipper. These are rare items in the UK and have integrated reading guides and beautiful covers. With family and friends I will be celebrating the release of A Divided Inheritance with a tour and afternoon tea at Leighton Hall. Leighton Hall is a beautiful old house close to where I live, and home to the famous Gillow furniture manufacturers in Georgian times.

Leighton Hall, picture from www.leightonhall.co.uk

Every owner of Leighton Hall, with one exception, has been a Roman Catholic and during Penal Times a priest was always hidden somewhere in the house. This makes it particularly appropriate venue for the launch of  ‘A Divided Inheritance’ as the book is set just after the Gunpowder Plot, when Catholicism was repressed in England. The only owner of Leighton Hall to conform to the Established Church was Sir George Middleton, the last of the Middletons of Leighton, although his wife remained a staunch Recusant throughout.

The public launch is at Carnforth Bookshop which is home to 100,000 second hand books and some new ones. Please join me from 2.30 till 3.30 on Saturday 26th October where I will give a talk on the life of a historical novelist! Below you can see the inside of Carnforth Bookshop – is it any wonder that with this just down the road I probably buy more titles than I actually sell! Here is the ideal opportunity to browse their packed shelves and get yourself a bargain.

Carnforth Bookstore Indie

As places are limited – books take up most of the space! – please contact the bookshop on 01524 734588  to reserve your place or email carnforthnew@aol.com Don’t forget to leave a comment to win a book.

Deborah is currently reading: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth