Friday, May 7, 2010

What a Heroine Likes

Yes, the heroine of any romance likes the hero, and a 'happy ever after' ending. But also she has to have likes and dislikes of everyday things in order to be a well-rounded person and a believable character.

When I began to consider the heroine, Grace Whitton, for my latest book "The Harmless Deception" (coincidentally to be released next Friday, May 14!) I discovered that she liked china--pretty porcelain, handsome dinner sets, all the products in fact of Wedgwood, Spode, Minton, Meissen and their fellow potters. And, fortunately for Grace, she grew up in an aristocratic household full of lovely specimens of the potter's craft.

But when my story opens, she has fallen on hard times and lives over her shop in London, east of Charing Cross. Her millinery store is home to pretty things, but her private life holds little from her past and her 'home' is rather spartan. She seeks to alleviate the austerity of her living quarters with inexpensive pieces of figurative pottery. I can visualize her purchasing a piece of china on the rare occasions when she feels she can spare a little money to brighten her world.

These pieces of stoneware and earthenware began to appear in the early 1700s and reached a certain maturity in the 1760s with the company of Ralph Wood Senior and Junior. The pottery types included salt-glazed stoneware, pearlware, agateware and chalkware. About this time, the figures began to be known as Staffordshire ware after the county which was home to the majority of English potteries.

Grace Whitton might have been familiar with the works of John Walton and Ralph Salt. Indeed, their work could be among the figures that sat on the shelf of pottery figures in her modest sitting room. Her shelf, I like to think, held a bust of Shakespeare or possibly Rousseau, a set of the Four Seasons, a dog or two, and no doubt a shepherd or shepherdess. There might also be a 'bocage' on her shelf; a grouping incorporating charmingly stylized trees and bushes.

Her collection catches the eye of the hero of "The Harmless Deception", Rufus Evens, Lord Evenswood. He is not the sort of man to be particularly aware of such things, but he does recognize a craving for colour and beauty when he sees it. As the story progresses, he finds himself in a position to purchase a gift for Grace and he chooses, very wisely, a porcelain group from the Meissen factory. The quality of the china and of the modelling are far beyond anything Grace has possessed since her girlhood, and she is overcome when he repeats his generosity later in the story. Evenswood's thoughtfulness, unexpected as it is, is a clear indication of his heroic stature.

I must confess to a liking for Staffordshire ware myself, and this is a picture of my own reproduction Staffordshire dogs, Gog and Magog. Perhaps Grace Whitton had a pair just like them!

'Til next time,


Staffordshire Pottery Figures by John Bedford, Walker and Company, New York 1964
A Collector's History of English Pottery by Griselda Lewis, Studio Vista London, 1969

Many thanks to Susanne Marie Knight for her visit last week and her wonderfully informative post on Gentlemen's Clubs in London. It was a pleasure having you here, Susanne!

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