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history behind the book

 

I've had the most fun working on this series, and visiting my favorite place in the world, Paris!  (Even if it's only vicariously, on the page).  I also love the Belle Epoque period, a time of such beauty and innovation and optimism.  It seemed like the perfect place for a vivacious, enthusiastic lady like Diana, and her handsome hero.

 The Exposition Universelle ran from May 6 to October 31, 1889, celebrating the 100thanniversary of the Bastille, and was a high-water mark in modern Europe.  It also gave us one of my very favorite spots, the Eiffel Tower! Covering 237 acres, the Exposition featured pavilions and villages from countries all over the world, including Java, Egypt, Mexico, Senegal, and Cambodia, introducing Europeans to a wide array of music, food, art, and languages.  There was a railroad to carry fairgoers between exhibits, the Galerie des Machines featuring modern inventions (including a visit by Thomas Edison, to show off his newfangled lightbulb and gramophone), Buffalo Bill's “Wild West Show,” with Annie Oakley, and the art pavilion with works by Whistler, Munch, Bonheur, and Gaugin.  (Another popular exhibit was the Imperial, aka Jacob, Diamond in the French pavilion.  It was one of the largest stones in the world, previously owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad and now by the government of India.  I used it as inspiration for the Eastern Star). 

 The fair's main symbol, of course, was the Eiffel Tower, the entrance arch to the fair.  By the time the Exposition opened, workers were still putting on the finishing touches and the lifts weren't quite working, but people swarmed up its stairs to take in the dizzying views and shop at the souvenir counters and eat at the cafes.  It wasn't entirely loved, though.  A petition sent to the paper Le Temps read, “We writers, painters, sculptors, and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength...in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.”  The tower was meant to be temporary, but grew on the population of the city, and now is one of the most visited and beloved landmarks in the world, a symbol of the beautiful city itself.

One of my favorite aspects of researching historical background for my stories is looking into the fashions of the day!  The end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th seems like a particularly elegant period to me, and the most famous of all the purveyors of fashions of the day was the House of Worth. Opened in 1858 by an Englishman, the house on the Rue de la Paix was soon The Place for ladies of fashion to shop.  Empress Eugenie, Sarah Bernhardt, Lillie Langtry, Jenny Lind, Princess Alexandra, and a variety of royalty and American millionaires patronized the elegant, comfortable salon, ordering their wardrobes for each season.  The lush fabrics, unique designs, and impeccable service made it famous, and its designs are still well-known.

 I also had a lot of fun using the real-life visit of Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) in my story!  On June 10, Bertie, Alexandra, and their five children arrived at the Eiffel Tower.  It was a “private” visit (Queen Victoria couldn't countenance a celebration of a country throwing off their monarchy!), but Paris was Bertie's lifelong favorite city, and he wasn't about to miss a look at something as grand as the Exposition.  They arrived at the Tower at 10:30 in the morning, entourage and press in tow, the princess wearing a “simple” blue and white silk gown and bonnet trimmed with lilies of the valley, and were conducted on a tour by Monsieur Eiffel himself.  I expanded the trip with a few more parties and excursions for the royal group, but I'm sure the fun-loving prince wouldn't mind!

 I hope you enjoy exploring the beauties of Paris with Diana and William as much as I loved writing about it!  Stay tuned for the next book in the series, when we see what's really going on with Lady Alexandra and her gorgeous millionaire department store owner!  (The Governess's Convenient Marriage will be out December 2018)

A few sources I used in researching the period:

  • Jill Jonnes, Eiffel's Tower (2009)

  • Amy de la Haye and Valerie D. Mendes, House of Worth: Portrait of an Archive (2014)

  • Claire Rose, Art Nouveau Fashion (2014)

  • Jane Ridley, Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII (2013)

  • Richard Hough, Edward and Alexandra: Their Private and Public Lives (1992)

 

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 Last Updated: August 2017                                                                                                                                             Site Designed and Maintained by Kelli McBride

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