All of life's a wicked stage and love a dangerous drama...
"A fascinating portrayal of London's theatrical milieu...Ware again proves she can intertwine fact and fiction to create an entertaining and harmonious whole."
If Shakespeare had a sister...
In 18th century London the glamorous Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres were all the rage, beckoning every young actor, actress, playwright, and performer with the lure of the stage lights. But competition and back-biting between theatre owners, patrons, actors, and writers left aspiring playwrights with their work stolen, profits withheld, and reputations on the line. For a female, things were harder still, as the chances of a "petticoat playwright" getting past the government censor was slim.
In this exciting and cutthroat world, a young woman with a skill for writing and an ambition to see her work performed could rise to glory, or could lose all in the blink of an eye...
In Ciji Ware's signature style, real-life characters of the day create a backdrop for a portrait of a glittering era, a love story, and a compelling glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an emphatically man's world.
"A historical novel so lively and intriguing, you don't realize you've learnt anything till after you close the book. Exciting, entertaining, and enlightening."
Ciji Ware is an Emmy Award-winning journalist with tremendous media savvy and charisma in addition to being an author of historical fiction novels. She has appeared on the Today show to promote her books, and continues to be highly involved with her own projects in the television and film industries. She lives with her husband in San Francisco.
Read an Excerpt
Thro' all the drama-whether damned or not-
Love gilds the scene, and women guide the plot.
-Richard Brinsley Sheridan,
"Epilogue," The Rivals
Edinburgh, May 1761
"Sophie, lass! Quickly! Hide your book!" Daniel McGann urged his daughter, as he peered anxiously through the square windowpanes at the front of his small book shop. Outside, a group of dour, somberly attired men were striding like avenging angels along Edinburgh's High Street. "'Tis the kirk elders!" he confirmed, wringing his ink-stained hands. "They're coming this way!"
Sophie sprang from her stool in front of the diminutive hearth that was the shop's only source of heat. She quickly shoved her copy of Fielding's Tom Jones, along with Rousseau's novel La Nouvelle Heloise, beneath a pile of pungent chunks of peat stored in a wooden box next to the fire. Without further instructions, she grabbed several other books that she, even at the age of sixteen, knew would be judged "ungodly" by the gaggle of religious fanatics bearing down on her father's book-and-printing establishment. Swiftly she stashed the offending volumes behind a row of Bibles displayed prominently on one of the front shelves and reserved precisely for just such an emergency.
Daniel McGann, his gray periwig slightly askew and his upper lip sheened with sweat, was greatly alarmed that for the second time in scarcely a month his shop was the apparent target of the wrath of Calvinist churchmen from nearby St. Giles Cathedral. The local Presbyterian clergy had long voiced disapproval of the novels, plays, and engravings that had made McGann's one of the most popular gathering places for the literati in Edinburgh. From the angry looks on their faces today, the zealots seemed determined to drive McGann's out of business.
Somber bells in the church tower overhead tolled the noon hour as Daniel McGann reached beneath a counter and pushed several parcels wrapped in outdated theater playbills into Sophie's hands.
"Out the back portal with you!" he croaked over the tolling bells. "Deliver the thin packet to Lord Lemore and the thick one to the Canongate Playhouse." As his daughter bolted toward the rear exit, he called after her, "Hurry, now! And mind that you collect the siller for 'em! We've scarcely two Scots pennies in the till."
Making her escape, Sophie heard the sound of the front door opening as the imperious men in black once again invaded her father's domain. She sped through the back room that housed the small wooden hand press and a variety of implements that comprised their modest printing business. Several sheets from a recently completed order hung drying on lengths of cord stretched across the back of the low-ceilinged chamber. As she rushed through the squat door at the rear of the press room that was permeated with a perpetual smell of carbon black and linseed oil, she prayed-blasphemously, she supposed-that no offending political broadside, pamphlet, or chapbook would be inadvertently discovered by the raiding churchmen. Pausing to listen, she heard a chorus of angry voices fill the front chamber.
"Vile works! Abominations!" a voice thundered from inside the shop.
"You, sir, traffic in the Devil's commerce!"
Those squawking black vultures should leave us alone! Sophie thought defiantly as she darted down the narrow alleyway shadowed by St. Giles's bell tower looming overhead.
Inside her father's book shop, the churchmen were systematically pulling books from the shelves and flinging them onto the flagstones beneath their feet.
"We've given you ample warning, McGann," the Reverend Mr. Meeker pronounced, "yet still you trade in the works of Satan!"
Daniel McGann stared with growing dismay at the pile of volumes by the likes of Defoe, Molière, and the dramatist William Congreve, heaped on the floor next to his desk.
"Surely you don't consider Shakespeare-" Daniel began to protest, as he watched several of the bard's comedies join the pile.
"'Tis bawdry!" Reverend Meeker retorted. "Full of jesters and fools mouthing blasphemy. 'Tis intolerable!"
Briefly, Daniel imagined how his wife, Margaret, would have responded to such an invasion, such absurd pronouncements. When Margaret was alive, her dark head bent over her weekly correspondence with the best book agents in London, he had boldly challenged the arguments and actions of these kirk zealots and had been a leader in local efforts to beat back the meddling churchmen's attempts to dictate cultural and religious standards to the entire city.
But that was before the bleak winter when the tumor had first appeared on his wife's neck, the malignancy that had squeezed the breath and life out of the poor woman by the time nearby Whinny Hill was splashed with autumn heather. These days, he could barely summon the energy to peruse his stock of books, much less battle the fanatics holding forth from the pulpit next door. Many buyers had stayed away and sales were dwindling. When he was forced to sack his clerk, Sophie, bless her, had taken over minding the accounts? and had acquired a working knowledge of the shop's inventory. She had even learned the skills necessary to run the small printing press in the back chamber where broadsides, chapbooks, and playbills earned them much needed extra income.
"Have you been struck dumb, McGann?" demanded the rotund Reverend Meeker. "I'm asking you to forswear selling such ungodly texts in future, or stand ready to accept the dire consequences that God shall mete out! What say you?"
"I say you are blinded, bigoted fools," Daniel replied without rancor, "and ignorant ones as well, if you don't delight in Shakespeare," he added, staring sorrowfully at the books that Meeker's henchmen would probably burn to cinders.
Reverend Meeker glared at Daniel McGann with speechless indignation. At last he turned and strode toward the front door, followed by the others. Upon reaching the threshold, he turned to impart a final threat, his bulbous nose crimson with fury.
"If you persist in leading the public down such paths of wickedness, McGann, you shall find yourself brought up on charges of libel and blasphemy!"
Wicked Company 3.7 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
WICKED COMPANY by Ciji Ware is an amazing historical romance set in 1761-1774 Scotland and Boston. It spans thirteen years, is well written, very detailed, has depth, the plot in very interesting. It has romance, deceit, betrayal, intrigue,passion, secrets, danger,misuse,playwrites, theatre, actresses, goverenment censor,actors, a true love story. This story is very detailed with vivid characters and plot. The characters are enchanting, determined, real life, strong, independent and will sweep you off your feet. The heroine, Sophie, is independent, beautiful, a petticoat playwright, strong willed,is misused, betrayed, determined to use her own name for her playwrights,and falling in love with her long time friend/protector Hunter.The hero, Hunter, is handsome, a jugglier, wants to be an actor,becomes Sophie's protector and falling in love with her. This story spans over a period of thirteen years, takes them into danger, adventure, Sophie's marriage to an evil, worthless, liar and drunk who uses her to know end. She learns everyone is not what they often seem. Befriends a actress, playwright, becomes with child by her husband, the child dies, she craves for love from her long time friend, Hunter. Hunter, thinks of her only as a friend/sister for years, but learns he is attracted to the woman she has become. Together they face the odds. Sophie, after a long estrangement with her drunken husband, becomes involved with Hunter. Has his child, becomes entangled with someone she believes to be her friend but soon learns he is only after her mind and will do anything to get her to writes plays for him. Sophie and Hunter suffer through years of trials but finally find true happiness, family, and true love. This is an intriguing story of love, betrayal, truth,and show the struggles female playwrights went through to get their work published in the 18th century. I would recommend this book, it is long with great details and a wonderful story. A keeper. This book was received for review from the publisher and details can be found at Sourcebooks Landmark an imprint of Sourcebooks and My Book Addiction and More.
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I liked the story--I was into it the whole time. I just didn't like how she forgave the guy (find out his name by reading it!) she was in love it (read it and you'll see what he called her and what he did).
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