Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Naughty Victorian Lady marries a naughty English Lord

by Lady Carlton née Katie O'Roarke, heroine of "The Blonde Samurai"

My wedding was perfect. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…

As in bluebood.

I am speaking about his lordship, Lord James Carlton, born to Braystone House, a fifteenth-century limestone goliath situated somewhere in the Midlands and unknown to me.

'Tis true that I, Katie O'Roarke, married an English lord in the summer of 1872. Like many titled "land-rich but cash-poor" Englishman, James needed funds and I needed a husband.

But not just any husband.

To please my sainted mother, I did as many American heiresses did. I sailed across the pond to England and joined the ranks of British royalty since its American counterpart of New York society matrons with the dubious moniker of Knickerbockers would have none of the likes of me.

I was among the first young American ladies to attach my person and the family fortune to a member of the British peerage. And what a time I had of it, me with my inquisitive nature and sassy mouth. Be it known my looks were plain and my opinions brash, but a grand journey it was…until I headed to Japan and discovered that all the palaces and finery in the world cannot compare to being with the man you love.

But I digress, dear lady reader.

Today's post is not about romance but marriage. A mariage de convenance as the French are wont to say. And so I shall attempt to enlighten you with the extravagant and wildly dazzling world of the American heiress in 1870s London.

Where shall I begin?

The O'Roarkes were nouveau riche, what I like to call gritty rich since my da was a man who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty to make an honest dollar. And that he did in railroads. He was among the self-made millionaires who could easily afford to spend what they made.

Even though my mother furnished our New York brownstone with elegant chairs in blue velvet inlaid with ebony and ivory and adorned herself in pleated skirts in watered silks, the snobbish society ladies would have nothing to do with us. No invitations to dinner parties or fancy balls. Her silver tray designed to hold such invitations remained empty.

But you don't know my Irish mother. Undaunted after being snubbed by the elitist New York Society, Mama insisted we head for Paris.

And from there to London where the H.R.H, the Prince of Wales, a royal with a reputation for the ladies, harbored no prejudice against Americans, but rather welcomed the company of Yankee heiresses with fortunes to spend and who looked charming in the latest Parisian gowns while doing so.
They called us buccaneers since we set out to plunder the titles of England like pirates in silk petticoats, the doors to a glittering new world opening up to us with invitations to all the London Society soirees.
I made my mother proud when I was among the first to marry a member of the peerage (I have since heard that Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill.***

I soon discovered that while being Lady Carlton afforded me great prestige, it left me with a lonely heart…

Until I arrived in Japan, the land of cherry blossoms and samurai, where I learned the way of the way of the warrior: loyalty, honor and self-respect from a samurai called Shintaro, one of the most mysterious, elusive and enigmatic men in all Japan.

[***Jina's note: Jennie Churchill was the mother of Sir Winston Churchill]

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February 2010: meet The Blonde Samurai
“She embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.”


Wynter Daniels said...

Can't wait for this, Jina. I love your voice!

Jina Bacarr said...

Thank you, Wynter, for your nice comment! It's quite a task to write blogs as if you're living in the 1870s--but I enjoy it. I want to give the reader a feeling of the world where my heroine lives and why things happen as they do.

Btw,the photo of Victorian ladies in today's blog is a print I bought at the old Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY--perfect for today's blog. Edna Ferber stayed there in the '30s and it is said she used it as the basis for her setting in Saratoga Trunk.

Katie Reus said...

That was fantastic (and I love that cover)! You've definitely got me hooked!

Jina Bacarr said...

Thankz, Katie--super that you have the same first name as my heroine!!

The American heiresses like Katie who married these British Lords were very wealthy--e.g., according to the research I found, HUNDREDS of red roses at $2 a stem adored the hall, tables, etc. at a wedding--

--this extravagant expense when a farm laborer earned around $18 a month!

I love the cover, too. Very sexy.

Stephanie Adkins said...

It sounds wonderful, and I love that cover! :)