Transcription: “Rose Lerner’s THE WIFE IN THE ATTIC, pitched as a Gothic historical novel and queer Jane Eyre retelling in which the governess falls in love with the wife in the attic, and together they wreak fiery vengeance on the tyrannical master of the house, to Allison Carroll at Audible Originals, in a nice deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2020.”
I’m so excited to be able to share this news with you!! GOTHIC AUDIOBOOK FTW!!!!!
I remember when I wanted to touch up the paint on my old car, I looked up the color in my documentation and bought the exactly correct shade from the dealership. But when I put it on, it didn’t match at all! Then I realized–the paint on the car isn’t the same color it was when it was new! It’s been out in the world all this time, metamorphosing.
This was a bit like that. I wrote In for a Penny more than ten years ago; I’ve been growing up all this time, and Nev and Penny and their friends haven’t, so nothing I write about them now will quite match. In some ways, this story is maybe a self-indulgent exercise in letting them grow up too, just a little.
But I loved writing it! As Penny learned, there’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself now and then! Hopefully I’m indulging you, too.
The post is open access, so you don’t have to be a patron to read it (although of course if you wanted to support me, I’d be obsequiously grateful!!…sorry, it’s Mr. Collins jokes full time over at my Patreon).
Sunday, February 15 | 12-4PM | Parkway Central Library lobby | 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia
Join local romance authors (including me!!) in the lobby of the Parkway Central Library for a day of Valentine’s fun! A dozen local authors will be selling and signing their romance novels. There will be snacks, drinks, and a craft station where all ages can make valentines to your local library branch, your favorite book, or that special someone you forgot to give one to the day before. Chat with romance authors, discover new books to love, and go on a Blind Date with a Book.
I won’t be bringing all my books, so if there’s one you know you want, just hit reply and tell me! I will also be bringing all the kids’ Valentines cards I’ve accumulated over the years–Harry Potter, WWE, and Star Wars (“Join the Resistance, Valentine”). I can sign one to you, or you can take one to give a friend!
Feb. 23 is the 10 year anniversary of In for a Penny‘s release–in other words, my 10 year publiversary! Since the Wednesday after is Ash Wednesday, I figured I’d celebrate by writing flashfiction for my Patreon patrons…
This is open to ALL patrons, even if you only give $1 a month!
(For those of you who haven’t done a flashfiction day with me before, basically, in the comments of the 2/26 Spoiler Wednesday post, you can give me a prompt related to any of the characters or to the world of any of my books, and I’ll write you at least 100 words of fiction in response. Almost anything goes, so start brainstorming now!
I promise to do at least the first 10 prompts I receive–if there’s something you really want, maybe set a Google reminder? The post will go up on 2/26/2020 at 12PM Philadelphia time.
I’ll also be playing the Rom-Com Game on Twitter that Tuesday (2/25), so keep an eye out!!
Just to get corny for a second: thanks for all your support in the years since my debut. You are the wind beneath my wings.
(That has been my in-joke with myself for years and I can’t even remember what it’s a reference to? I think maybe the Buffy episode where she and Spike think they’re going to get married??…MWAHAHAHA YES I WAS RIGHT
…but also you are. For realsies.)
(Image credit: Illustration from “The Russian Story Book” by Richard Wilson, illustrated by Frank C. Papé, 1916. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Other Wikimedia Commons images I considered to illustrate you being the wind beneath my wings:
Note: this is a reprint of a post which originally appeared on AllAboutRomance.com.
[trigger warning: discussion of sexual harassment/assault]
Happy new year, all!
Being a servant is not a great job. I knew that when I set out to research Listen to the Moon
(my new Regency romance about an impassive valet and a snarky maid who
marry to get a plum job), and most of what I read just made it seem
worse and worse.
Part of why Longbourn (Jo Baker’s Pride and Prejudice retelling from the servants’ point of view) didn’t quite work for me (I DNF’ed a few chapters in) was the constant detailing of servants’ misery. Their hands are dry! They work long hours! They have to empty chamber pots! It felt like there wasn’t anything else in their brains or lives. Of course it’s true that servants’ hands are dry and they work long hours and have to empty chamber pots—but. I don’t know. People with crappy jobs still tell jokes and have emotional lives? Being poor really, really sucks but it doesn’t mean it’s all you think about and that you are 100% miserable 24/7? People are not defined solely by their tragedies?
It’s complicated, but I just feel like, there is a lot of that story out there. The Dickensian “those poor wretched people!” story. I would rather read and write a different kind of story, where bad stuff happens and also people live and laugh and gossip and have work drama and love each other and are sometimes deliriously happy.
That’s why I’m a romance writer, I guess.
So since I didn’t do it in my book, this is my place to really get in
there and wallow in what a truly crappy job being a servant was.
I remember as a little kid asking my mom about women’s rights after watching Mary Poppins. She told me that back when many married women didn’t work or have their own bank accounts, they were dependent on their husbands. So you had to hope that your husband was nice, because if he was it could be okay, but if he was mean, there wasn’t a lot you could do about it.
Being a servant was a lot like that. If you had a nice boss, it could
be okay. If you didn’t, you were completely screwed. Highlights:
1. The hours. Servants were expected to work from
early in the morning to late at night. There was no part of the day that
was designated as free time or after work. If their boss needed
something in the middle of the night, they’d be woken up.
If I had a nickel for every time I have read a complaint about maids
reading novels when they should be working, I would be rich! But when
CAN they read novels, then? They are working ALL THE TIME.
They were rarely allowed to have guests, even in the kitchen, so for
many servants their only opportunity for a social life outside the home
was on their time off, which was a half-day once a week at best and
sometimes not even that. (Plus Sunday morning for church in some
Many servants in this time period were maids-of-all-work, meaning
they were the only servants a family had. I can’t imagine how lonely
that must have been.
2. Employers felt entitled to dictate everything about their servants’ lives.
Many female servants were not allowed to date (though of course making a
rule is not always the same as being able to enforce it). And they were
watched obsessively for any signs of a love life or, God forbid,
Some employers also didn’t even like servants leaving the house! For example, in 1821 John Skinner wrote that he “made
it a rule…to state [to new servants] my dislike of them going into the
village,” though he did say he would allow them to “go home to their
friends, or occasionally see them here”.
Bridget Hill writes in Servants: English Domestics in the Eighteenth Century(a really great resource) that “So
great was the desire of some masters to keep their servants at home
that they locked them in when they went out. So when Mr. Goodwin, the
minister at Tankersley, went to church, he locked his maid and two
children in the house.”
Remember that Regency locks usually worked differently than modern
ones: they were key-and-keyhole locks, where you could lock them, put
the key in your pocket, and walk away, and the door would be locked from
both sides. No fire codes here!
3. Which leads to…no privacy. Outside of country
estates with dedicated servants’ quarters or wings (and I don’t think
they were entirely universal at country houses, even, in this time
period), servants could not count on having a bed, let alone a room to
themselves. They might sleep in closets, on landings, or even on the
kitchen floor. Their rooms didn’t always have doors. And as Hill notes, “wherever their quarters were, something that was common to them all was that they could rarely be locked.” If there was a key, housekeepers or employers kept it, not the servants themselves.
4. The above quote from Hill is from a chapter titled “The Sexual Vulnerability and Sexuality of Female Domestic Servants.”
I feel like I don’t even really need to say more. Servants who were
harassed or assaulted had very little recourse and were likely to find
themselves out of a job if they spoke up. They were also almost certain
to find themselves out of a job if they got pregnant.
(Though this problem affected female servants disproportionately, of course it wasn’t limited to them.)
5. Have I mentioned that employers really, really did not want their servants to get pregnant?
They often couched this in terms of virtue, respectability, morality,
etc. but the truth is that employers also did not want their servants to
get married, because either way the pregnancy was inconvenient for
them. Hill writes:
“Marriages between fellow servants were fraught with
difficulties. On the whole few masters seem to have employed married
couples as servants. If two servants within the same household wanted to
marry custom dictated they ask for the permission of their master—and
such permission could be withheld—or leave the household…Employers were
apprehensive that a married couple, particularly if they had children,
would be as much concerned with their own family as their master’s. But
if marriage between two servants was to have any chance of success the
married couple needed to be employed in one household.”
6. You did not even always get paid! Hill writes
that “Wages were frequently not paid on time. Indeed, in order that
servants could pay ‘for anything missing’ it was recommended (by John Trusler in The London Advisor and Guide, 1790) that employers ‘keep part of their wages in hand’, and that ‘they should always be paid one half year under another, reserving half-a-year in hand.’” Trusler points out that servants could not legally be compelled to pay for broken items ‘unless it was so agreed on the hiring,’
but the fact is that many employers applied wage penalties (over and
above lost time) for all kinds of infractions: breaking things, leaving
before the agreed-on date, going home for the holidays, not going to
church, badly done work, neglect, getting drunk, etc.
A servant whose claim for unpaid wages was under £10 could have their
case heard by a magistrate very cheaply, but who knows how many
servants were aware of this right or dared take advantage of it? A
servant who was owed more presumably had to sue if they wanted to
7. This will probably surprise no one, but women servants were paid far below men servants. Boswell wrote in 1791:
“I put a question to him [Dr. Johnson] upon a fact in
common life, which he could not answer, nor have I found any one else
who could. What is the reason that women servants, though obliged to be
at the expense of purchasing their own clothes, have much lower wages
than men servants, to whom a great proportion of that article is
furnished, and when in fact our female house servants work much harder
than the male?”
Good question, Mr. Boswell!
(Note: with the exception of footmen, etc. who wore livery, there
were no uniforms for servants in this period. Sometimes female servants
were provided with clothes or the fabric to make them, but it was less a
matter of custom and more one of the employer’s discretion.)
For many female domestic servants, the goal was for it to be a
“life-cycle job”, i.e. something she did in her teens and early twenties
and then graduated out of, hopefully through marriage. But finding a
life partner is never a guarantee, and it was especially difficult for a
servant to 1) meet someone and 2) save for a dowry. So this didn’t
always pan out—which sucked because domestic work was very physically
demanding, and a woman’s wages might actually decrease as she aged, yet
she could rarely afford to retire.
For workers in a great house like the ones owned by many Regency
romance characters, service made more sense as a lifelong career: there
were some opportunities for advancement (ladies’ maid, cook,
housekeeper, upper housemaid, etc.) and it must have made the work much
more tolerable long-term to have other servants to hang out with and to
not have your employer breathing down your neck all the time.
On the other hand, specialized servants in a large house who did want
to marry might find themselves at a disadvantage. Hill writes:
“There is a late eighteenth-century ‘penny-history’ in
which Ned advises his friend, Harry, against marrying a chambermaid ‘for
they bring nothing with them but a few old cloaths [sic] of their
mistresses, and for housekeeping, few of them know anything of it; for
they can hardly make a pudding or a pye, neither can they spin, nor
knit, nor wash, except it be a few laces to make themselves fine
6. The Regency was one of the last stages in the transition from feudalism to capitalism.
I’m not trying to toot feudalism’s horn here. But every crappy economic
system is unique, and one aspect of feudalism was that in it, the model
of “service” was (at least theoretically) understood to be one of
mutual rights and responsibilities. Noblesse oblige and all that. The
capitalist model, of course, is one of contractual wage labor.
To illustrate how drastically things shifted: in the eighteenth
century, “family” often still simply meant “household” and included
apprentices, servants, etc. George Washington’s aides-de-camp, for
example, were widely referred to as his “family,” because they traveled
with him and were usually accommodated in the same house. As the
Victorian era neared, the new ideals of hearth and home and “private
life” meant that “family” began to refer only to those related by blood.
For servants who lived with their employers, this transition had
numerous disadvantages, often with fewer corresponding gains in
independence than, say, a factory worker. Employers resented servants
because their presence inherently compromised precious privacy (one
reason, in tandem with technological advances like bell-pulls that could
call servants from another part of the house, for the increase in
designated servants’ quarters).
Class barriers hardened, and as the perceived gulf between employer
and employee widened, intimacy between servants and employers came to be
seen as “dangerous”, especially to impressionable children.
And even as their own loyalty to servants shrank (with less perceived
obligation to provide for sick or old servants, for example), employers
bitterly resented the loss of servants’ loyalty and gratitude. As Hill
says, “[T]heir concern about servants spying on them and gossiping became almost paranoid.”
“The servant problem” is obsessively discussed in eighteenth century
and frankly it makes me gag every time. Let me tell you, I had a really
hard time finding images for this post that weren’t either A)
condescending caricature/satire, B) racist, C) porn, or D) all of the
You know what, rich Regency people? If you don’t like it, do your own damn laundry!
7. And on top of all that which is specific to servants, there are still all the general problems of non-unionized labor, and that in a time before labor laws of any kind: no pension, no health insurance, no job security, no OSHA, no limit on working hours, etc., etc.!
Rise of Skywalker felt like a cross between fanfiction and a Jackson Pollack painting. Which like, was exhilarating in its way? But I still feel like it could have used a bit more focus, and I have 4 simple script suggestions that I think would have helped:
Get exclusive scenes of your favorite couples from my books celebrating the holidays…
FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, YOU CAN SIGN UP TO RECEIVE AS MANY STORIES AS YOU WANT!
(Just remember, if you read them all now, there may come a year when there are no new stories for you to read. Choose wisely!)
I’ve written five adorable Christmas mini-stories, one about Solomon and Serena from A Lily Among Thorns, one about Nev and Penny from In for a Penny, one about Phoebe and Nick from Sweet Disorder, one about Sukey and John from Listen to the Moon, and one about Robert and Betsy from “A Taste of Honey”.
And I’ve got three charming Hanukkah stories, one about Ash and Lydia from True Pretenses, one about Simon and Maggie from “All or Nothing”, and one about Rachel and Nathan from “Promised Land” in the Hamilton’s Battalion anthology.
Everything is the same as last year, so if you’ve already read a story, you don’t need to request it again.