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review 2017-11-24 21:55
A great resource for writers of historical fiction, historians, and people who love social history and the Victorian period.
Life on the Victorian Stage: Theatrical Gossip - Nell Darby

Thanks to Alex from Pen & Sword for providing me with a review paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

If you have been following my reviews for some time, you will be aware that I have read a number of the historical books published by Pen & Sword. I tend to be more interested in social history and how historical changes affected the lives of those who don’t always figure in the big History treatises. Being a lover of plays and a kin theatregoer, I was very curious about this book. Yes, theatre gossip was intriguing, but getting a sense of what life on the Victorian stage must have been like was my main interest. Although sometimes we discover that life has changed dramatically in a reasonably short period of times, some things do not seem to change much. And human curiosity and the love of gossip are among those things. If Victorians had no access to social media, there were plenty of newspapers and periodicals to keep them entertained, and actors were as much a subject of interest then as they are now.

The author does not follow a narrative or chooses a few big cases in this book, but rather illustrates the sheer amount of theatrical news that occupied the Victorian press of the time, not only in London but also in the provinces. As communications improved, newspapers even started featuring stories about actors in America (either natives or British authors touring there) and although sometimes the features lacked in detail (in some cases a suicide or a death would not feature the name of those involved) they were always after items that would attract the public’s attention. Darby divides the book into three parts: Part 1 deals with the business side of things (including such matters as licenses, libel, bankruptcy, breach of contract…), Part 2 looks at criminal lives (from blackmail and assault to prostitution and murder), and Part 3 delves into the personal lives of the actors (what we would probably consider gossip proper, although not all of it is gossip. The chapter on death and disaster deals with serious matter and also makes us look at security measures and disasters in theatres, bigamy seems to have been much more common than it is today, and personally I was fascinated by the chapter on breaches of promise, as I had not realise that there were laws that offered more protection to women in those circumstances than I would have expected).  Each chapter shares both, examples of standard cases of what would usually find its way into the newspapers (brief pieces with hardly any detail) and it dedicates more space to others that were better known, but no single case gets all the limelight. In many ways, this book is like a sampler, where people interested in the subject can learn more and be pointed in the right direction to research further.

The author’s style of writing is direct, and mostly allows the sources to do the talking. She provides sufficient background (on legal matters, the nature of performances, technical issues…) for readers to appreciate the items she discusses, and also some reflections on her own take on the materials. She notes how some periodicals, like The Era, were in a double-bind of sorts, as they tried hard to defend the profession of acting on the stage (that had a pretty bad reputation, especially in the case of women), insisting that actors were honourable and true professionals, whilst at the same time featured “sensational” news to attract readers. Although these days respectability is not a concept many people are worried about, it is true that the press has a hard time trying to reconcile the ideal of protectors of the truth, whilst fighting to keep the attention of the public by any means necessary. Is it possible to keep the moral high ground whilst publishing gossip and innuendo?

Although this is not, perhaps, a book for the general reading public, as I read I kept thinking about how useful this book would be to writers of historical fiction interested in the period (and not only for those considering using a theatrical background in their story but also for those thinking about the press of the time and even society at large) and to historians. Darby provides end notes full of details, both of the sources of her research and also of further information available. Although she mostly uses newspapers, she digs on the archives to confirm details such as names (as many actors and actresses used stage names and some of those were fairly popular) and discovers that Mark Twain wasn’t the only one whose death had been grossly exaggerated (deaths, marriages… were often misreported). The paperback also contains pictures that allow us to put faces to some of the names and help transport us to the era.

In sum, this is a book that will greatly assist writers, historians, and people passionate about the Victorian era and the history of the stage in the UK. It is a good starting point for those who want a general view of the topic and/or are looking for inspiration for their next story or research project. And if you just want to confirm that people’s love for gossip about the stars has not changed over the years, this is your book.

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review 2017-11-22 15:49
good book and characters
Set the Stage - Karis Walsh Set the Stage - Karis Walsh

Emilie is finishing her shift at a fast food restaurant. Emilie is giving her two week notice as she is  returning to her true passion the stage to act at the Oregon Shakespeare festival. Emilie had been a promising actress but had given up her career to follow her then girlfriend to Europe . But they didn't end up working out. Emilie had more scars than happy memories from her ex girlfriend.  Now Emilie is getting a second chance at acting and she is very excited.   Arden was a gardener/ groundskeeper/artist who works in the nearby- to where the festival is being held- Lithia Park.  Arden has a history of dating actresses but only ends up being heartbroken.   Emilie has already signed a contract for the Shakespeare festival. EWnilie is determined to concentrate in her acting no romance. Arden had followed her grandfather around Lithia Park and watched the work he did. But her grandfather had passed away now. Then Arden went to school and got a degree in  Arden was used to people leaving her. Arden’s parents had left her with her grandparents to pursue their own careers when Arden was about four. Arden stumbles across Emilie for the time  when Emilie  is in the park practicing one of her roles. Emilie and Arden are immediately attracted to each other but Emilie says they can only be friends.

I liked this book for the most part just not into reading about lesbians and their romantic relationships. I did feel this was well written. I also like how the setting was portrayed. This book lacked passion but considering about a lesbian couple that was okay with me, I also liked the double POVS. I did like the romance was slow burning. But I did think there was too much repetition about Arden’s and Emilie’s issues.

I liked this book for the most part. I liked there wasn’t a lot of sex involved. I don’t judge women together I just don’t want to read about it. I did like how Arden and Emilie supported each other. I loved the ins and outs of this story and I recommend it.

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review 2017-08-22 07:00
Adjustment
Lick - Kylie Scott

 Evelyn had plans for Vegas.  She was going to find a hot guy and lose her virginity all over again.  That is not exactly what went down.

 

David has been through a lot.  As a famous rockstar, he gets what he wants.  Only this time, what he wants may walk away.  

 

This is a great story about true love and how is can happen quickly.  I loved the characters and their interaction.  Even the other characters in Stage Dive series are funny and worth reading.  I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.  I give this story a 3/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

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review 2017-05-01 22:17
Release Day ARC Review: Stage Two by Ariel Tachna
Stage Two (Dreamspun Desires Book 33) - Ariel Tachna

This is the 3rd book in the Lexington Lovers series, as well as an installment of the Dreamspun Desires titles.

I liked this a lot. A whole lot. It's about family, second chances, learning to trust, and learning how to stand up for what you believe, even if it hurts you. It's about how sometimes teenagers are smarter than you are, and maybe you ought to listen to them.

Blake Barnes is a high school assistant principal and charged with the sophomores. Two of his newest students, two brothers who've recently lost their mother after losing their father when they were much younger, are being harassed by their classmates. When the bullying escalates and the two boys, Kit and Phillip, end up in his office, he comes face to face with Thane Dalton, the boys' guardian/uncle and Blake's teenage crush.

Thane is every bit the badass Blake remembers, but the attraction still burns brightly. Once he unravels his tied tongue after seeing Thane again, Blake goes full assistant principal mode and lays out his plan.

What follows is at once a humorous and poignant romance between two men who are trying to build a relationship against the odds and against many obstacles in their way, the least of which are the two teenage boys Thane has inherited from his late sister.

The book touches on important topics, such as high school bullying, homophobia, bad assumptions, and making rash judgments without having all the information. Yes, Thane - I'm definitely looking at you with that last one. And good for Blake for having a backbone.

As with all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, there's little steam, but there's plenty of UST, and one mustn't forget that it's kind of difficult to get it on when you have two teenagers living in the same house. The romance between the two men was totally believable and relatable. Neither has had any kind of long-term relationship before meeting again (which is something only Blake really remembers since he didn't actually interact with Thane back in his high school days), but they're both all in pretty much right away, especially Thane. Which made it so very painful when he did that stupid thing he did. Sure, I could to some extent understand his rash reaction, but to not even give the guy he professed to want to keep a chance to explain - yeah, you were dumb, Thane. And your boys suffered for it just the same as you did.

Speaking of Kit and Phillip - I really liked those two. They were grieving their mother, of course, but they stuck by each other and were fiercely loyal to their uncle and Mr. B. I loved seeing the relationships between the boys and Mr. B. develop through the course of the book and watch him go from Mr. B. to Uncle Blake. In fact, the boys really rounded out the plot in this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it whenever they were on page.

This was a really sweet read, and it met all my expectations, and surpassed them in some instances. For example, Blake's idea of giving the boys a place on the theater stage crew was brilliant, with sound reasoning, even if Thane doesn't buy it at first. The boys plotting to get Blake and Thane into the same room at the end - hahaha, that was fun, and it worked!

I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too. Recommended.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2016-11-26 12:00
Dreamy & Romantic Regency Tale
Scandal Takes the Stage - Eva Leigh

“It’s been so long since I’ve had experience with it.”
“With what? Pleasure?” At her small nod, he said, “That’s a damned shame. You deserve as much as you desire.”
“And if my desire is great?” she asked, breathless.
“Then I am the man for you,” he replied thickly, his every nerve alight, his body tight.

Scandal Takes the Stage was a dreamy historical romance nestled in the theater district of London. The combination of a scorned female playwright and a devilishly handsome rake was just too good to resist.

 

I’m really enjoying Eva Leigh’s The Wicked Quills of London series so far. Book two continued on with the witty bantering and highly intelligent, extremely likable characters we saw in the first installment. Just like with feisty Eleanor, I loved Maggie’s strength and independence. It wasn’t easy for a woman to make a name as a serious playwright in the 1800s but she certainly did so. Maggie put Cameron through his paces before giving in to her attraction to him, and I thought that seemed realistic given her history.

 

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