VIRTUAL TOUR AND GIVEAWAY:
Romantic Historical Lovers is pleased to participate in this virtual book tour in which the author will award two personally autographed print copies of her novel, The Haversham Legacy, to randomly drawn commenters during the tour (international contest).
PUBLISHER’S BLURB: England, mid seventeenth century. When young Sarah finds out that innkeeper Amos Jennings is not her father, she feels uncertain and scared. Her problems grow bigger when she starts a job as housekeeper and gets involved with two men who both want her love: the earl of Linfield, and his younger brother Richard. To escape these problems, Sarah takes off to London to begin a new life as actress at His Majesty’s Theatre.
(Here we meet King Charles II, who also plays an important role in the plot)
As Hart had predicted the performance went smoothly. When Sarah appeared on the stage, her armpits were wet with transpiration. Nevertheless she said her first lines without the slightest hesitation and then became fully absorbed with her role.
She not once looked into the auditorium and therefore was not aware of the fact that most of the male audience was paying more attention to her than to the actual play.
In the royal box the king and his brother were more attentive than normal. Charles looked more than once at the leading actress, to his brother’s amusement.
“I won’t pretend Shakespeare is my favorite playwright,” the king whispered into James’s ear. “But this Ophelia… She’s a damned good actress and a pretty wench as well. Is she a new acquisition?”
“I don’t know,” James answered.
“Her name is Sarah Davenport,” George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, interrupted. The duke was one of the gentlemen in the king’s suit. He also was a frequent visitor of the theatre. “She is one of Hart’s new discoveries and he thinks rather well of her.”
“Davenport? Interesting,” Charles commented.
He kept silent for a while, completely forgetting the presence of the others. His thoughts lingered away and a secretive smile curled his mouth.
Oh yes, this could become a special occasion indeed…
As a child, I was just fascinated by history. I soon found out that my favourite era’s were the 16th and 17th centuries. I read loads of books set in these times, and my brain picked up tidbits here and there.
Also, I had a grandfather who loved to read and had this wonderful library at his home. He had the entire collection of books of Alexandre Dumas (in the original French language, as he was born in Wallony and spoke French next to Flemish). My all time favourite of these was “Les trois mousquetaires” or The Three Musketeers, with d’Artagnan as my big hero.
Now when I write about let’s say the Restoration, my mind has already lots of information stored. I don’t need to look up a lot anymore, thanks to my voracious reading in earlier times. Still, I do have a test reader who checks every fact (he used to work for intelligence, see). He really checks out everything and he would tell me if I make a mistake. Once I wrote in a novel (Maria Gonzalez) that the sun went down around 4 pm. Can you imagine, he went to find out at exact which moment it happened? And I was only wrong for seconds…. Seemed to me quite natural, as in winter it also becomes dark in Flanders around this time, and London is not that far off…
2. The spectre of illegitimate birth looms large throughout the novel. Do you feel the modern reader can really comprehend what it was like to bear the taint of bastardy during this era? How are the royal illegitmates different?
Sarah is born in a rural village. In those small communities, it really was a shame if a young woman had a child without being married. People would talk about it – still did when I was growing up in a rural Flemish village in the 1970’s. It just was not done, and well, such women were shunned. Perhaps it is different for people who live in big cities, but I guess the reader will understand Sarah’s concerns when they read the entire novel.
There was no shame, though, when the father of the illegitimate child bore a high rank. Such bastards were accepted and paid respect (class can really make a difference, still does). One of my own ancestors was Robert of Bethune, the then Count of Flanders. The mother of his illegitimate son got a bag of gold and the son became mayor of his town later on.
3. Throughout the novel we see Sarah lose her naivete and become more worldly, yet she retains many of the traditional beliefs she had from her upbringing. Will you comment on Sarah’s willingness to live as Richard’s mistress despite her desire for home and family?
Sarah loves Richard – deeply, without questions. For him she is willing to forget her upbringing, and she becomes his mistress because she hopes, despite better knowledge, that he will ask for her hand in marriage. This is also why later on in the story, she is so pleased he asked her to become his wife before he knows she is the daughter of the king.
On the other hand, living in London and being an actress in the theatre has taught her to be realistic. For a woman of her station, it was not so bad to be a lord’s mistress. Sarah knows it and understands you sometimes have to give in some of your expectations.
4. We know from the historical record that though Charles II was attracted to several actresses, Nell Gwyne went on to become one of his favorite mistresses. Why did you select Nellie in particular to be Sarah’s best friend in London? Why did you place Sarah into the story before Nellie and Charles become lovers?
I thought it would be a nice touch to the story if I included Nell Gwynne. In my story, she would have been somewhat younger than Sarah. So when this one comes to London, Nell is only a girl of fifteen and not yet an actress. She is involved with Charles Hart though (in the 16th century, a young woman of 13 was fit to marry and have children) and wants to become an actress. So she and Sarah could easily have been friends. Nell is more worldly, but she admires Sarah because she is how she once wanted to be.
5. Sarah does not recognize the nature of Walter’s true feelings for her until he is near death. Why does she remain blind to him for so long? Does she marry for pity, guilt, or security? At what point does Walter himself acknowledge his feelings for Sarah and why does he not press his suit earlier?
Sarah sees in Walter the father she is looking for. Amos Jennings never showed any love for her, while Walter is genuinely interested in everything she does. She interprets his kindness to her for just that, and doesn’t suspect he falls in love with her. When he finally confesses his love, she regrets not having it seen earlier on, because she knows he also would have made her happy. She does not only marry him out of pity, because she has strong feelings for him and she thinks Richard has deserted her.
6. Do you have plans for a new book detailing how Sarah and Richard’s lives change given their new titles and status? Can you reveal anything about it to your readers?
Right now, I don’t have any plans for another novel in which the Duke and Duchess of Linfield play a part. Once I thought I could write a book about Charlie, their daughter. Perhaps I’ll write it in the future, I don’t know. I’m working on an entirely other novel at the moment, set in the 19th century.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Nickie Fleming was born and raised in the historical town of Dendermonde, Belgium – home of the legendary Horse Bayard. She read English Literature at the University of Ghent, and got her master’s degree in philology. Since then, she has been working as a high school teacher. Her interests besides reading and writing are travelling, skiing in winter and enjoying fine food.
Links: Website: www.nickiefleming.comFacebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Nickie-Fleming/222668744458949
Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat Level : 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
REVIEWED BY SAMANTHA
In The Gold Crucifix, author Nickie Fleming captures the rolicking fun of Restoration England after years of moral uprightness and oppression during the Puritanical rule of Oliver Cromwell and his followers. Young Sarah Jennings is growing up in this time after the return of Charles II to England. As a young girl, she captures the heart of Walter Carey, Earl of Linfield and becomes housekeeper of his estates. When Walter’s brother Richard comes to visit, the chemistry between them is undeniable and the situation quickly escalates beyond her control. After having too much to drink at dinner on the eve of Richard’s departure, Sarah finds herself in his bed the following morning. Richard gruffly proposes that Sarah become his mistress when he returns from his merchant travels at sea, but her pride keeps any such notion from taking root in her mind. Ashamed of her actions and her own status as a bastard who has no idea who her father might be, Sarah flees to start a new life in London.
Recalling her prior experience at her stepfather’s inn and tavern, Sarah quickly finds a job as a waitress in London. One of her customers happens to be Charles Hart, the preeminent actor in London’s theater community. He recruits Sarah to work as an actress in his company. There, she coincidentally encounters Richard Carey after a performance one day as he was escorting a young woman home. Both his and Walter’s efforts to locate Sarah had gone unrewarded for months, so naturally he was stunned to just run into her. After apologizing for his treatment of Sarah, they begin to build a friendship that promises to become something more, but Richard’s fear of commitment, the call of the seas and adventure and his jealousy stand in the way. As they attempt to overcome these obstacles, other crises challenge them, including Sarah’s low birth and her budding friendship with none other than the King!
This book has a lively plot and interesting love story, but I found that as the plot advances, I found that there were too many “convenient” elements for my taste. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, so let’s just say that the causes of Sarah’s rise in society seem unlikely at best, and the manner of in which she learns of her own identity and parentage nearly an impossibility. That said, when reading romantic historical fiction, the expectation of realism should be somewhat suspended and these kinds of advancements in the plot acceptable. Fleming paints a vivid portrait of life in Restoration England, in particular among the theater community and the nobility. The love story between Richard and Sarah takes many unexpected twists and turns, and the love between Sarah and Walter is deep and abiding, but ultimately rendered tragic not only by Walter’s illness, but also by Sarah’s inability to recognize it until the very end of his life. Through both of these main story lines, as well as the evolution of Richard and Walter’s relationship as brothers and Sarah and Nellie’s as friends, Fleming takes the reader through both the joy and sorrow of the different kinds of love we share with those in our life.
This novel is a well-written quick read. Those who enjoy works about Restoration England and the height of English theater will enjoy this book, but I think those who seek an introduction to the time period in particular will find this book to their liking.
**At time of review the digital version of this title is available for $4.99 **