Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

March's Madness by Emery Lee

Today I'd like to welcome guest author, Emery Lee back to History Undressed. She previously visited us in April 2010 with the release of her debut novel, The Highest Stakes. She is back with us now to talk about March's Madness and her new release, Fortune's Son. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Ms. Lee's novel, Fortune's Son. (1 winner, US and Canada only)

by Emery Lee

To those who have my read my novels to date, my love (read obsession) with the Georgian era is clearly evident. For those of you who have not, I invite you to open the pages and immerse yourself in a fascinating paradox that is nowhere better represented than in the lives of Georgian aristocrats - many of whom adopted an outward veneer to hide the sin within.

In my first novel, THE HIGHEST STAKES, I delved deeply into the obsessive world of horseracing and arranged marriages, where nothing was sacred and an individual’s happiness (particularly if one happened to be female) was easily laid aside to advance a family’s political or social agenda.

In FORTUNE’S SON I further explore the gaming world and it often served as more than a mere diversion,  but as a last resort for those with reduced circumstances whose social position did not allow any manner of gaining a more honest income.  Compelled to wager, many faced financial devastation and social ruin, while occasionally (and incomprehensibly), Fortune seemed to smile on particular individuals for no particular reason.  One such colorful example (whom I delighted in bringing to life as a secondary character in FORTUNE’S SON) was William Douglas - third Earl March and Ruglen,  later  the Fourth Duke of Queensbury, nicknamed “Old Q”.

Although many young, aristocrats lacking more worthy pursuits, squandered their days at race tracks, cockpits, or over the green baize tables, Lord March’s exploits and love of a wager are legendary even for the gaming Georgians.  His most infamous wager has come to be known over the ages as Lord March’s “race against time” and plays a significant role in FORTUNE’S SON.

(Excerpt from FORTUNE’S SON chapter 39)

March signaled a lackey for a new pack of cards to replace those he’d swept off the table to join the mounds scattered about the floor.  “One can do very well on credit,” said March. “By way of example, I have no fewer than three carriage makers, and four cartwrights, currently engineering a contraption for my upcoming wager with Taaffe and Sprowle.”

“Are you still about that madness, March?” George Selwyn asked.

“What madness is this?” Philip inquired, laying down fifty guineas, and hoping his careless manner belied the near-emptiness of his pockets. March and Selwyn matched his stakes, and he absently dealt the first two cards, face-up to his immediate left.

“A bloody chariot race,” said George. “As a fellow turf man, you’ll doubtless find the fellow’s scheme most diverting.”

 “I daresay Hastings has had his fill of racing wagers.” Lord March’s jibe at Philip’s  recent loss hit home.

“Not at all, my lord,” Philip replied coolly. “When one plays, one must expect eventually to pay.”

Lord March regarded Philip speculatively. “I never begrudge a man who wins from me fairly.”

“Then I remind you ’tis now past noon, and our friend Hastings is alive, hale, and in present company,” said George, referring to their earlier wager.

Lord March carelessly unfolded a fifty-pound bank note from a wad of bills in his pocket, and handed it to George, whilst continuing his narrative. “The chariot wager was made some six-month past when Count Taaffe, that damnable upstart Irishman, boasted of having the fastest chaise and four in the country. When challenged to prove the claim, he asserted he’d clocked them at twelve miles in an hour. ‘Twelve miles?’ says I. ‘Why I’ll lay you a thousand guineas, I can produce a chaise and team half again as fast.’ Believing me out of my head, Taaffe readily accepted my wage.”

Philip replied with a chuckle, “You are out of your head, March! Eighteen miles in an hour? An impossible feat. The fastest coach pulled by a team of six doesn’t exceed ten miles per hour.”

March broke into a slow, sly smile. “A carriage is quite an ambiguous thing is it not?” March said. “Since the terms of the wager did not specify a body be fitted to the carriage, our passenger will be slung on leather straps between the two hind wheels. While united the back carriage to the fore in the usual manner, to reduce weight, we used cords and springs, and the pole and bars are of thin wood reinforced with supporting wire. As to the harness, an optimal lightness was achieved by constructing the traces from silk, and the breechings, of whalebone.”

“Silk and whalebone? Do you wish to harness your horses or to corset them?” Philip chuckled. “And you think to drive this deathtrap at eighteen miles per hour?”

“A ridiculous notion, Hastings! You think I’d take such a risk when I employ any number of competent grooms to drive the contraption?”

“Dare I ask how many have perished in the trials?”

“Why none have suffered worse than a few broken limbs,” March replied indignantly, but then confessed that he had lost half a dozen horses, explaining, “They were only second-rate runners. For the true trials I require nothing less than four plate winners.”

Philip was astounded. “You would risk four plate-winning horses for a thousand guineas? Mayhap your mind is disordered after all.”

Lord March answered heatedly. “It’s the principle of the thing, Hastings! Besides, the odds are posted at four to one against me, which means I stand to gain a huge sum in secondary wagers, but the money has become inconsequential. Hell, I’m seven hundred pounds invested already and as like to treble that amount before all is said and done. But I’ll see it through, by God.”

“That would answer,” Philip replied. “My hat is off to you, March. You are truly one calculating devil. But if you lose any more horses in the training runs, how do you propose to win?”

“I only need four to race, Hastings. I propose to retain a stable of six plate winners as a contingency. I’m saving the best of the lot for last, and won’t set the date until I deem the equipage fit, and the horses fitter.” March’s lips curved up at the corners. “After all, I race only to win.” - ( End of excerpt)



True to form until the very end, gambling, horses, and women continued to be Old Q’s  life passions until his death at the ripe old age of eighty five.


Emery Lee is a true romantic and  self-professed “Georgian Junkie.”  She is also the moderator for Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers. 


Joya said...

Great post, Emery. Gotta love arranged marriages and horse racing! Thanks for sharing. :)

Emery Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emery Lee said...

Thanks Joya! I loved this race and was dying to use it in this book!I also loved using real people as secondary characters. There are quite a few of them in FORTUNE'S SON.

Unknown said...

Great excerpt! I ♥ the Georgian Era, and look forward to reading FORTUNE'S SON.


Diane D - Florida said...

Thank you for a great interview and excerpt from your new book, "Fortune's Son". I've only ever read a couple of Georgian romances, the ones' that I normally read are Regency. I want to branch out into another era and this sounds like the perfect opportunity for me to do this.

I love the cover art and the colors. The colors are amazing, the dress is to die for and, so is the guy.

Thank you for this opportunity Emery.

dpd333 (at) aol dot com

Emery Lee said...

@ Jena and Diane-
I hope you will both fall in love with this era as well! And yes- Georgain era clothes are to die for!

Marilyn ~ wiggiemd said...

Hi Emery,
Great post and excerpt! Another book on my TBR list!


Susan Shay said...

Wow. I know NOTHING about the Georgian era. Not even the years it covers.
How much research do you have to do for your books? Or is it something you grew up hearing about at the dinner table at home?

Emery Lee said...

@ Susan-

To answer your first question, the Georgian era covers the reigns of George I (1715) until the Regency era (1811) when the Prince of Wales who woudl later become George IV had to rule as his father's proxy due to George III's madness.

This era is incredibly rich historically. My older blog post "Why I Love the George's" goes into much of this.

As to the second question - No. I am the only history geek in my family!

Eliza Knight said...

And the winner is... Marilyn!

Marilyn ~ wiggiemd said...

YEAH! Thanks Eliza and Emery! I'm so excited!!!