Posted by Donna MacMeans Jun 4 2012, 12:15 am in Donna MacMeans, Launch Party, Rake Patrol, The Casanova Code, Victorian personal ads
It’s here! It’s here! It’s finally here!
Tomorrow is the release day for THE CASANOVA CODE. I know – you’re probably tired of me talking about this book – but I love it so…it’s hard not to talk non-stop about it.
The idea for this book began when a friend sent me an article about Victorian Personal Ads. You can see the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/opinion/14epstein.html . The personal ads cited here (with the exception of my fictional ad taken from THE CASANOVA CODE) come from this article.
I had never really thought about such things as Victorian personal ads before, but once I read the article, I knew I could work a series around it.
Now here’s the second magical twist of fate, I originally planned to have my heroine work crossword puzzles but it turns out that those weren’t really popular until WWI – long past my time period. A facebook fan suggested I consider cryptograms and in doing the research, I discovered that personal ads were sometimes written in code so that unwanted eyes (perhaps a spouse’s eyes) wouldn’t see the ad. I found references to coded messages in the personals in Sherlock Holmes novels, as well as a reference to the columns as “the agonies” based on the often sad tributes to an impossible star-crossed love.
I made my heroine, Edwina Hargrove, a code-breaker and THE CASANOVA CODE took off at a gallop.
Liederkranz Ball — Beautiful young girl with rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes under black mask and laughs like a siren: wore wine-colored satin domino, pearl headdress and jewelry; white camellias; waltzed like a fairy with tall Spanish gentleman; gentleman of high social reputation asks the liberty of an honorable introduction. Address Strictly Honorable, Herald uptown office.
Feb. 16, 1879
I thought – what if a personal ad appeared in the Mayfair Messenger – the sort of ad that would likely receive a lot of responses. An ad something like this:
“A refined gentleman, age 25, of wealth and education, seeks the acquaintance, with a view to matrimony, of a high-minded, kind-hearted lady who prefers an evening of quiet conversation to the lively demands of society.”
And what if a concerned woman working at the Mayfair Messager recognizes the procurer of the ad as a notorious rake who is continually surrounded by beautiful women. She takes her concerns to her friends. Why would such a well known rakehell advertise if not for nefarious purposes?
Thus the Rake Patrol was born. Four friends decide to warn the women answering the rake’s ad so that the innocent women won’t fall into his evil web of seduction.
If only it was that simple…
My poor heroine finds herself captured in a web of secrets and secret organizations, to say nothing of being trapped in the clutches of the charismatic rake himself. She was trying to protect other women, but finds herself in need of protection!
I love this actual Victorian ad:
A young lady of 18, wealthy, pretty and agreeable, wants a husband. Not finding any one of her acquaintance who suits her, she has concluded to take this method of discovering one. The happy gentleman must be wealthy, stylish, handsome and fascinating. None other need apply. Address within three days, giving name and full particulars, and enclosing carte de visite, Carrie Howard, Station D, New York.
June 5, 1863
BTW, a carte de visite is a photograph – a technology that had been around, but due to new enhancements was suddenly available and affordable to the populace. Of course, their photographs were more stiff and sepia tinted – not like the eye candy I’ve scattered through the post. Still – Don’t you love her listing of attributes?
You can find a special excerpt of THE CASANOVA CODE in the member’s only section of this website. You can find another excerpt on my website www.DonnaMacMeans.com along with a page explaining the facts and inspirations for many of the references in the book. There’s a contest running through June as well to give one member of my newsletter subscribers a cherry blossom pendant necklace from the Smithsonian, so be sure to sign up.
But, for now, let’s celebrate the launch by writing a few personal ads of our own. You can use a contemporary format or something inspired by the examples above (and maybe inspired by the hotties).
I have a couple of copies of THE CASANOVA CODE to share so send me your ad and I might be sending you a delightful read.