A wicked turnabout on Jane Austen's oft-quoted adage "a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" is My Lady Scandalous, a richly raucous history that traverses the notoriously licentious British Regency era in the company of its most celebrated courtesan.
Following a simple Edinburgh girlhood, Grace Dalrymple came of age in the sin city of London, where wealthy men ruled society and women had everything to lose, starting with their reputations. As an impressionable bride of seventeen who married a man more than twice her age, Grace's remarkable beauty (likened by journalists to "a May morning") soon attracted the attentions of other men. A disastrous liaison with a consummate rake not only branded Grace as a demi-rep a woman with half a reputation but the scandal provoked Dr. John Eliot, her philandering husband, to pursue a divorce.
Grace became mistress of the most infamous peer in England, George James, Lord Cholmondeley, whose "secret perfections" were reputed to inspire "female enthusiasm." Cholmondeley commemorated the relationship by commissioning two works from eminent portraitist Thomas Gainsborough, first in 1778 and later in 1782, the same year Grace gave birth to a daughter, Georgiana (who may, in fact, have been the child of the Prince of Wales). Had Grace been an aristocrat, she and Cholmondeley might have had a future together, but it was not to be.
The tabloids broke the news: "Miss Dalrymple has embarked for France, and it is said parted with her noble gallant." Grace was soon to find a new protector in that nation's richest man, Philippe, Duc d'Orleans. Though Grace was ensconced as "one ofthe most brilliant and popular among the fashionable 'impures,'" her liaison with the duke turned perilous when Orleans fell to the Revolution's guillotine, just as she narrowly escaped with her life.
"People die, but love may not," declares author Jo Manning of her subject's romantic and historic misadventures. A connoisseur of the times, Manning ably demonstrates through contemporary newspapers, magazines, prints, and portraits as well as Grace's posthumously published journal how life in George III's England and Marie Antoinette's France can seem strangely familiar, especially when history turns to affairs of the heart.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.47(d)|
About the Author
Jo Manning is the author of two Regency romances, The Reluctant Guardian and Seducing Mr. Heywood (a Booklist Ten Best Romances of the Year selection), and The Sicilian Amulet, a contemporary romance. She was also the founder and director of the Reader's Digest General Books Library for over twenty years. Manning divides her time between London and Miami Beach. My Lady Scandalous is her first work of nonfiction.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really, really was looking forward to reading this book, but after the first couple of chapters I was disappointed - not necessarily with the content, but with the author's writing style. Like many of the reviewers I was put off by the veer in the wrong direction from colloquial to cutesy. She posits many questions that would benefit from more research (such as the difference in the spelling of the last name Eliot/Elliott as used by her husband and herself respectively) and her overuse of exclamation points. As a matter of fact, she brings up a lot of questions that go unanswered. It seems as though when she is relying on the research of others, her writing style is better. When she is left to fill in the blanks, so to speak, her style is sophomoric. Although there isn't a lot of information available about Grace, padding the book was not the right way to go. The book can be informative about the times in which Grace lived (too much so sometimes), but her (and her editor's) scattershot approach to presenting the information disrupts the flow. I would recommend this book to someone as an example of how NOT to present information like this. Read "Perdita" for an example of how to get it right.
A very readable biography of an interesting and scandalous woman
Life story of a woman who was once a lover of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. This is a surprisingly good book. Grace Dalrymple fell from accepted circles after having an extra-marital affair which led to her being divorced by her husband - a process which involved 2 courts and an Act of Parliament! She was now beyond the pale, but made an enterprising life as a successful courtesan in London and France. There is only a limited amount of material available of the subject of the book, but the author fills it out with informative and useful information about the times and the social mores in which the characters lived their lives. Presentation is lively - with information presented in side-bars and with plenty of background. Sometimes the flood of additional information seems to be outside the scope of the book, but that would be a small quibble in what was a fine read. May 2011.
This combination biography and autobiography enables Georgian and Regency readers especially of romance to gain deep insight into an interesting era of manners that today seem contradictory yet perfectly acceptable. Fans of the period will see through the eyes of one of the more renowned courtesans Grace Dalrymple Elliot, whose memoir was filmed by Eric Roemer The Lady and the Duke). Her insight into royalty and other members of the aristocracy is enhanced by sidebars from noted Regency author Jo Manning. Easy to read with its pick up and put down style and quite entertaining, MY LADY SCANDALOUS will elate sub-genre audience with living up to its subtitle by providing a deep look at the outrageous life of a royal courtesan during a time of decadence and hedonism. Excellent biography worth the time needed by the audience to absorb as there is so much here that bears rereading and applies so brilliantly to the novels set in this period. --- Harriet Klausner