BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review & Excerpt - Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes by Krista D Ball

Publisher: Tyche Books Ltd
Series: Guide Book #2
Formats Read: egalley and print
Source: egalley - the author in exchange for an honest review; print - owned by the reviewer
Release Date: April 24, 2014
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Blurb from goodreads:

Get ready to step into the back alleys of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens's London, and explore the alternative worlds of steampunk in this new guide book by fantasy author Krista D. Ball. Ball takes readers on a fascinating journey into the world of the Have-Nots, and explores the bustling, crime-ridden London during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Discover the world of knocker-uppers (it's not what you think), mudlarks, and costermongers. Learn how to scrub floors and polish knives, pick for bones, and catch rats. Learn about race and social status, and the difference between a lady's maid and a scullery maid. With her usual wit, insight, and snark, Ball gives historical, romance, and steampunk authors the tools to create vibrant, realistic worlds. Whether you're an author, a Janeite, or just a fan of history, Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes gives you a fresh look into the dark past.

Bea's Thoughts:

I don't tend to read much non-fiction unless it's work-related. But Ball is one of my favorite fiction authors, I read and enjoyed the first book in this series, and she'd been sharing teasers from this book on Twitter and facebook, so I knew I wanted to read this. I wish she'd been my history teacher in high school or college. She has a relaxed, sometimes snarky, style that doesn't forgo thoroughness or accuracy. She's done her research and it shows but she's never dull or dry. The book is intended not just for writers, but anyone interested in history.

Of course, Hustlers isn't just for writers, even though it's a writer's guide. If you're in love with Major Richard Sharpe (hubba hubba), laughed at Mrs. Bennet, or dress up at fan conventions as a steampunkress, you're my kind of people... They might be writers, who are creating fiction steeped in reality. They might be readers, who want to know the bigger context of the stories they love. Others want to peek into the lives of people from another era.

In "Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes", Ball looks at the Georgian and Regency eras in London, England. She looks at the range of social classes and what their typical behavior was, she looks at food and eating habits, jobs that were available, and other daily matters as well as common misconceptions about those eras. It's not an exhaustive book, but an introduction. It's intended as a reference for authors writing about those time periods so that those writings will be accurate and have period flavor. For instance, she talks about a book she read set during the Regency where a heroine ate a ham sandwich. Not a problem, ham was eaten then, except that it was deli ham and that was a glaring anachronism since deli ham wasn't available then. And although many people bemoan fast food, most are unaware that it's not a new phenomenon. There are all sorts of tidbits and facts to be found and I will definitely be reading with a more critical eye any novels set during the Georgian or Regency periods.

Since this is not an exhaustive reference work, Ball scratches the surface when it comes to details but there's more than enough to give you a feel for how it was. Some things I already knew, while much I didn't, and things that I'd read in books or seen in movies but never understood suddenly made sense.

"Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes" was fun to read, Ball is articulate, passionate and humorous, and I loved the character sketches with mini biographies of real people from the Georgian and Regency eras that were scattered throughout the book. The drawings by Stephan Lorenz add to the text. If you enjoy reading historical novels or learning more about history and how people live, you need this book. It's a fairly fast read, enjoyable, informative, and interesting. 

And the next time you're moaning about doing chores around the house, read the chapter where Ball re-enacts the life of a maid and cleans her house and cooks the way it was done back then, eating only what the maid would have eaten and wearing an outfit similar to hers. I have a much better appreciation for my conveniences and technology!



Famous Players
Not all prostitutes were nameless, faceless women who performed sex acts in disgusting alleys. Some were celebrities, who lived the high life. Some ended up in bad circumstances, others in fabulous ones. But even those who had tragic ends, they lived grand lives. So this section is about four of the grandest, Sally Salisbury, Lavinia Fenton, Kitty Fischer, and Elizabeth Armistead.

Most women weren’t like Kitty Fisher (?-1767), who demanded 100 guineas a night. Most were working with bawdy-houses with most of their earnings going to the owners. Many of the lower street walkers made 1 shilling per sex act. That was still a lot of money, considering that was a week’s rent in one of the slums. Shortly before her death, Kitty left prostitution all together and married John Norris, the son of an MP and a grandson of an Admiral. She was well-liked, kind to the poor, and settled into domestic life. Sadly, she died a few months later.

Lavinia Fenton (1708-1760) was a child prostitute who became a popular actress. She caught the eye of Charles, Duke of Bolton, became his mistress, and bore him three children. When Bolton’s wife died in 1751, he did the unexpected: he married his mistress. They lived together happily for nine years before her death.

When romance novels write about the Duke marrying a prostitute, they’re actually writing about Lavinia’s life.

But perhaps none were more talked about than courtesan and actress Elizabeth Armistead (1750-1842) who married politician Charles James Fox. Elizabeth had become the mistress to several of the aristocracy and it was through those social connections that she and Fox had become friends. After a decade of them knowing each other, she became his mistress and they married in secret in 1795.

It wasn’t until 1802 that everyone found out their favourite (or most hated, depending on one’s politics) politician had married his courtesan mistress several years before. It was a shock and much talked about, but society soon accepted her. 

Excerpt from Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes: A Regency and Steampunk Field Guide. C 2014 by Krista D. Ball Published by Tyche Books.

Hannah Snell - interior art from Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes

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