Tag Archives: His Silken Seduction

Sexy, seductive silk—and sexy, seductive IN silk

Silk is a fabric the delights the eye and, particularly, the sense of touch. Run your fingers over a piece of silk—smooth, luscious, sensuous. And slightly baffling, too, in the way it can be so very tough while seeming so fine and fragile. Colorful threads of Thai silk

Silk seduced me the first time I saw it. I loved the jewel-like colours that the magical fibres can take. The ones shown above will make Thai silk. Aren’t those colours sumptuous? (Which makes me think, in passing, of Sumptuary Laws and the prohibition on the wearing of materials like silk by “inferior persons”. Possibly a topic for a future blog?)

Sewing silk: joys and pitfalls

Paisley pattern silkWhen I was in my teens and early twenties, I made a lot of my own clothes. A friend who was an air stewardess offered to sell me a dress length she’d brought back from Thailand. I couldn’t resist. The silk was mostly ruby and garnet coloured, with a paisley-type pattern, with hints of sapphire and amethyst. Gorgeous. (The pattern was something like the one shown here, only much, much nicer and without the orange.)

girl in red and gold cheongsamAnd then I had to decide what to turn it into. There wasn’t really enough of it to make a long dress, but long dresses were all the rage. I determined to do it, somehow.
Eventually, I succeeded.

I made a cheongsam out of it. I did have to leave out the sleeves and reverse the nap on part of the bodice in order to have enough material. The great thing about a cheongsam is that the skirt has slits up the sides without any fullness at all. So it takes less silk than you’d imagine.

And I loved it to bits. I thought I still had that dress but I’ve been unable to find it, so, sadly, I can’t show it to you.

red chinese silk evening dressBut I do still have a vibrant red Chinese silk evening gown with pintucks down the front that had me tearing my hair out as I sewed. Never, never, try to put parallel tucks into fine, slippery Chinese silk. It might work with Thai silk, which is often thicker and easier to stitch, but really fine silk is a nightmare to sew. If you look closely [click to enlarge], you can see all those nightmarish pintucks. But I hope you’ll agree that the figured silk is both delicate and beautiful.

Selling silk

1760s mantua © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

1760s mantua © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Sophie reminded me about silk this week when (courtesy of @AStitchinTime13) she tweeted a link to a Swatch Book in the collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. It dates from 1764. A salesman (a middleman) would have used it to display wares to potential customers. Each sample has a code so the salesman knows where to buy it but the customer does not. Sneaky, eh?

These silks would have been used to make extraordinary gowns such as this mantua from the 1760s. The silk is French but the V&A’s notes say it was sewn in England.

The swatch book contains hundreds of images of the silks and scrolling through them is an engrossing way to spend an hour or two. Do have a look. Having been protected from light inside the book, the colours are vibrant. You’ll find more like these gems:

Silk weaving in Lyon

Lyon was the centre of French silk-making and contains a fascinating museum, the musée des tissus, with many displays about the silk industry. It’s definitely worth a visit if you love silk.

Weaver at loom making silk brocade in Lyon, FranceJacquard machine for silk weaving 19th centuryIn the old city, weaving used traditional hand looms like the one shown left. The more automated process perfected by Jacquard used very tall looms that couldn’t be accommodated in the houses of the old city. So new houses were built on the northern hill of La Croix-Rousse with high ceilings to accommodate the new machines and their punch-card mechanisms. This illustration (from later in the 19th century) shows quite a small machine; they could be much bigger.

Apparently, Napoleon realised the potential of the Jacquard loom to help France compete against Britain’s industrialised textile industry. He and Josephine visited Lyon in April 1805. Three days later, he granted the patent for the loom to the city of Lyon. Jacquard himself didn’t lose out. He got a pension of 3,000 francs and a royalty of 50 francs on each loom sold. This print seems to commemorate Napoleon’s visit.Napoleon visits Jacquard in Lyon 1805

Silk and Lyon: and The Aikenhead Honours series

Cover of His Silken Seduction by Joanna MaitlandHis Silken Seduction new coverWhen I was writing about The Hundred Days and my brotherhood of noble spies in The Aikenhead Honours quartet, I couldn’t resist using the old city of Lyon as a setting in book 3 and, especially, book 4 which is a true Lyon love story.

The background of my first self-published cover for book 4, left, is a print of the old city. The current cover, right, shows some of the old silk quarter. This is the much longer book that is intended to provide a more complete and satisfying story than the original short novella. I loved having the opportunity to be able to write it and to give my hero and heroine a proper rounded story of their own.

My silk weavers weren’t using Jacquard looms, but the older, narrow hand looms to make their silks and velvets. Of course, the silks that my characters wove would have been different from the ornate floral patterns so common in earlier decades. replica silk evening gowns from Pride and PrejudiceStyles in the 1810s were flowing and clinging. A lot of the fabric patterns were very simple, like the ones used to make these replica ballgowns from the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (shown in the Bath Museum).

My heroines, Marguerite and Suzanne, are sisters whose father is dead and whose mother has early dementia. The sisters are valiantly trying to keep their silk business going by hiding the death of their father and doing both the weaving and the selling themselves. Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 and the return of King Louis seem to herald a new era of prosperity for their royalist family.

And then it all goes pear-shaped…
Napoleon's return from Elba 1815

Napoleon returns to France. And, worse, the sisters have spies hidden in their house.

The family’s precious silks and velvets are kept safely in a windowless room upstairs, with Marguerite’s bedroom on one side and Suzanne’s on the other. Each bedroom has a door into the silk store. By book 4, Marguerite and Jack have left for Paris and England.

Selection of Thai silkSuzanne stays behind, in charge of the business. She’s also taking care of Ben, the fourth Aikenhead Honour, who’s recovering from a bullet wound. And he’s hiding in Marguerite’s room, just through the connecting doors via the silk store. All that’s keeping Suzanne away from Ben, the man she fell in love with at first sight, is a couple of doors to which she holds the keys. She tells herself he’s too weak and ill to be a threat to her virtue, even though she’d rather like such a threat to materialise 😉

Ballerina leaps surrounded by silkYou won’t be surprised to learn that it does, though you’ll have to read the story to find out exactly how. I can tell you, though, just to whet your appetite, that the encounter takes place in the silk store and involves a great deal of draping of wonderful, sensuous fabrics. Mutual draping, too. And mutual lessons in how to be sexy and seductive IN silk.

Sadly I have only an image of an ecstatic female dancer surrounded by flying silk. Perhaps imagine Nureyev leaping across the stage in  Romeo and Juliet, trailing one of those dramatic floor-length silk cloaks? That would certainly do it for me. You?

His Silken Seduction

The ebook of His Silken Seduction is available here. And I promise it contains a great deal of sexy, sensuous silk as well as the HEA. Or, if you prefer, the whole Aikenhead Honours series is here and free on Kindle Unlimited. Enjoy!

Libertà co-founder Joanna Maitland

Joanna, silk lover (and sometime dressmaker)

Celebrating The Aikenhead Honours with a Giveaway

This Bank Holiday, I am celebrating the publication for Kindle of four new (well, sort of new) stories—the four books of The Aikenhead Honours series. In revised editions. With four brand new covers that I love. See for yourself, in the image below:

The original Harlequin covers focused purely on the lovers. Fair enough, but I wanted my new covers to show how far afield my heroes had to travel to find their brides. Book 1 shows the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Book 2 shows Schönbrunn palace outside Vienna, Book 3 shows Notre Dame, in Paris, Book 4 shows the old city in Lyons. My heroes went to all those places on business, of course—spying business.

Editing the Aikenhead Honours Series

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Female images : the message on romance covers?

  1. Cover Design and the Self-published Author
  2. An International Cover Story
  3. Designer Brief from Self-Publisher
  4. The mental image of a character : the influence of covers
  5. Female images : the message on romance covers?
  6. Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers
  7. Making Covers Work for You, the Author
  8. Covers: should images be historically accurate?
  9. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)
  10. Series Covers : but what says Series Covers to readers?

Historical Covers : what do they say to readers?

I usually write Regency romances. So I have to keep an eye on developments in the market. And covers are a vital part of getting readers to pick up a book.

female images to match the story

What prompted a modern woman to pick up a Regency romance?

If I were to generalise from the many Regency covers I’m seeing these days, I’d say that quite a lot of them look too modern. They don’t say “Regency” to me.

I’m not sure whether it’s the heavy make-up, or the hairstyles, or the clothes, or just the knowingness that 21st century models seem to display. Whatever it is, very few of the females on today’s Regency covers look (to me) anything other than a modern woman playing at being in the Regency. Continue reading

First Reader Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

First Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

Libertà’s First Reader Love Letter to a Favourite Novel

Our Love Letter to a Favourite Novel feature is still a work in progress. We’ve now refined it in the light of comments we’ve received from (we hope) intending contributors. We’re really grateful for all the supportive and encouraging suggestions and we hope you will keep them coming.

At this stage, we’ve got a couple of watchwords for ourselves and our contributors as they write their Love Letters: sharing and authenticity.

  • chatting about authors we loveSharing — we want everyone who reads these posts to feel at home here, whether they’re a fellow author or not.
  • Authentic — the piece doesn’t have to be unalloyed praise. Love isn’t always blind, after all. If readers think a character was short changed or there’s something they wish had or hadn’t been in the book, but nevertheless they still love it, they should go ahead and say so in their Love Letter.

You can read more about the latest news on the Love Letter to a Favourite Novel feature on the main page.

Today with a fanfare of trumpet — we could only manage one, sadly — we’re publishing our first reader contribution. Beth Elliott shares her love for R D Blackmore’s Lorna Doone. Continue reading

Is your Blurb boring? Add visual impact

visual impact for blurbs

 

When potential readers look at your book on Amazon, does the blurb have impact?

Or do they ignore it because it looks boring?

If so, this is the blog for you — how to fill out that description box on KDP to give your blurb visual impact.

 Your Blurb Text

This guide is not about how to write your blurb text. You’re a writer. It’s what you do, isn’t it?

“True,” you reply, grimacing, “but I write novels, not 80-word blurbs. Blurb-writing is hell on wheels.”  Most writers would sympathise, so here’s a link to an excellent blog about writing back cover blurb by K J Charles who is both an accomplished writer and a professional editor.

For this blog, I’m concentrating on how to give your wonderful blurb visual impact.

Among other advice in the K J Charles blog is: “keep it short”. When potential buyers see your book on Amazon, they normally see only the start of your blurb. Unless your opening lines have visual impact, readers may not click to read the rest. And if they don’t read your blurb, they probably won’t buy your book, either.

Visual impact catches readers eye

Catching the reader’s eye matters

Adding Visual Impact with HTML Codes : A Worked Example

For a How To guide like this, we need a real-life example. Continue reading

Napoleon’s Bees

industrious bee like Napoleon's bees

We like to think of Libertà as a hive of worker bees, buzzing away industriously, creating good and sweet produce for readers to enjoy. But 200-odd years ago, the bee was a French Imperial symbol. Napoleon’s Bees were — to coin a phrase — the bees’ knees.
(Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Feel free to groan!)

Where did Napoleon’s bees come from? Why did the bee become a French symbol rather than the fleur-de-lys?

 

Napoleon’s Bees: Stories & Myths

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Why go Indie? Joanna Maitland’s answers

This post on Going Indie was originally a guest piece on Sue Moorcroft’s blog. Many thanks to her for letting us repost it here, complete with new thoughts, several months on…

Back in November 2015, I wrote:

Why go indie? At the risk of stating the obvious, I’d say the answer is freedom.

indie has freedom

Freedom to ride off into the sunset. What’s not to like?

Here’s an example of independent author freedom in action. As originally published, in the Harlequin Undone! series of short ebooks, His Silken Seduction was well under 50 pages. That was the length the line required, so that was the length I wrote. Simples!

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