Sunday, March 2, 2014

Regency-era 'Dynasty' - The Maid of Milan

A Regency-era 'Dynasty' with its love triangle
drug addiction.

When I was in my teens I stumbled upon Victorian journalist Henry Mayhew's 'London's Underworld', a report on the 'detritus' of mid eighteenth century society that would change my life.

Over 400 pages were filled with first hand accounts of tragic stories, often prosaically delivered to the reporter by naive 'ruined' women who understood that they could never be accepted by mainstream society, and that while life had dealt them a bad hand, it was up to them to 'get on with it'.

These were girls from all walks of life who’d been seduced, kidnapped or otherwise tricked into a life servitude and prostitution and their accounts throw some light onto a world of hypocrisy we can only imagine.

Many of the stories I write are set in the Regency or Victorian period, but there's always vice and hypocrisy bubbling beneath the veneer of genteel elegance. Thanks to Mayhew's report, which has provided me with a wealth of material and inspiration, I hope I've shown both the grit and the glitter.

Here's one account of a young woman of twenty whom Henry Mayhew interviewed in a ‘respectable-looking’ house in a street running out of Langham Place.

What she told us was briefly this. Her life was a life of perfect slavery, she was seldom if ever allowed to go out and then not without being watched. Why was this? Because she would “cut it” if she got a chance, they knew that very well, and took very much care she shouldn’t have much opportunity.

Their house was rather popular, and they had lots of visitors; she had some particular friends who always came to see her. They paid her well, but she hardly ever got any of the money…. Where was she born? Somewhere in Stepney. What did it matter where; she could tell me all about it if she liked, but she didn’t care. It touched her on the raw- made her feel too much. She was ‘ticed when she was young, that is, she was decoyed by the mistress of the house some years ago. She met Mrs.—in the street, and the woman began talking to her in a friendly way.

Asked her who her father was (he was a journey-man carpenter), where he lived, extracted all about her family, and finally asked her to come home to tea with her. The child delighted at making the acquaintance of so kind and well dressed a lady, willingly acquiesced, without making any demur, as she never dreamt of anything wrong, and had not been cautioned by her father. She had lost her mother some years ago. She was not brought direct to the house where I found her? Oh! No. There was a branch establishment over the water, where they were broken in as it were. How long did she remain there? Oh! Perhaps two months, maybe three; she didn’t keep much account of how time went. When she was conquered and her spirit broken, she was transported from the first house to a more aristocratic neighbourhood. How did they tame her: Oh! They made her drunk and sign some papers, which she knew gave them great power over her, although she didn’t exactly know in what said power consisted, or how it might be exercised. Then they clothed her and fed her well, and gradually inured her to that sort of life. And now, was there anything I’d like to know particularly, because if there was, I’d better look sharp about asking it, as she was getting tired of talking, she could tell me. Did she expect to lead this life till she died? Well, she never did if I wasn’t going to preachify. She couldn’t stand that—anything but that.

What’s so sad about this and so many similar other accounts Mayhew documents is that the girl accepted she’d never be freed from her life of exploitation and servitude. Furthermore, Mayhew never even considered it a police matter. Nor was it, back then.

My latest Regency historical romance The Maid of Milan, features a middle class heroine, Adelaide, who marries into the aristocracy. As well as a love story it's an exploration into coercion, subterfuge and manipulation as Adelaide is forced to live a lie created by her mother to explain her 'past'. It's a lie that shackles her to a life of genteel slavery, preventing her from forging true love with the husband she's grown to love.

If you're interested in reading more accounts of Mayhew's 'fallen women' or about my historical romantic intrigues and mysteries, please visit - or my own blog –

The Maid of Milan Blurb

After three years of marriage, Adelaide has fallen in love with the handsome, honourable husband who nurtured her through her darkest hours.
Now Adelaide’s former lover, the passionate poet from whose arms she was torn by her family during their illicit liaison in Milan four years previously has returned, a celebrity due to the success of his book The Maid of Milan.

High society is as desperate to discover the identity of his ‘muse’ as Adelaide is to protect her newfound love and her husband’s political career.

Author Bio

Beverley Eikli is the author of eight historical romances.
She has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, a safari lodge manager in the Okavango, and an airborne geophysical survey operator on contracts around the world.
Beverley wrote her first romance at seventeen, but drowning her heroine on the last page was symptomatic of the problems she grappled with during her 23-year journey towards publication.
Recently she received her third nomination from Australian Romance Readers for Favourite Historical Romance with her suspenseful Napoleonic espionage Romance The Reluctant Bride.
Beverley teaches in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University, Melbourne. 
She writes under the name Beverley Oakley for more sensual stories.
You can buy The Maid of Milan at Amazon US | Amazon UK | iTunes |  Barnes & Noble

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