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The more things change . . .

How could the experience of English officers in Egypt in the early 1800s have any relevance to the situation today?
Read on . . . So many people think history is a quaint indulgence, but really, there is so much it can teach us about now. For instance, when I was researching travel in Egypt in the early 1800s, it was a surprise to me that Plague was a regular occurrence there — yes The Plague — bubonic plague, The Black Death — the same disease that killed 50 million people in the 14th century.

At that time, in Europe (specifically England, because that’s where part of my book was set) they didn’t know about germ theory, and how diseases were transferred. The question of whether the Plague was contagious or not polarized the medical profession into two camps —contagionists and anti-contagionists — and was hotly debated, even in Parliament. These reports are from Hansard (the  official UK parliamentary record) here and evidence was given by people who had encountered the plague in Egypt.  (I have used bold for some of the more interesting conclusions.)

Mr. Trant said: The plague prevailed at Alexandria while he was there. A surgeon with whom he was acquainted disbelieved the theory of contagion, and went among the patients in the hospital. He did not then take the infection, but wishing to push his experiments to the utmost, he got into a bed which had been occupied by one who had the infection. He did then become infected, and he died in consequence. General opinion, however, attributed the disease to atmospheric influence.

Sir Robert Wilson said that when he went to Egypt, the impression on his mind was, that the plague was contagious; but he was soon satisfied of the contrary. When he was in Egypt, the army formed two divisions. The one which was stationed at Alexandria took the plague; the other, which was generally in motion, was not touched with it. The difference was attributed to atmospheric influence.

The Turks* had no hesitation in entering the infected places. The bodies of those who died of the plague were buried in their clothes, and were generally dug up and stripped by those who had less fear of the consequences. The moving division of the British army passed through villages infected with the plague, without being touched with it… 

It appeared to be one of the extraordinary phenomena of this disease, that persons who remained stationary were liable to it, and that those who passed rapidly through various currents of air escaped it.

(*At the time Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire, hence the use of the word “Turks”)

However some historians have suggested that much of the medical fraternity’s conversion to anti-contagionism was less a result of medical conviction and more a desire to oppose “expensive, arbitrary and draconian” quarantine measures that hampered trade.  Doctors declared yellow fever, the plague, and cholera — the main diseases affected by quarantines — to be non-contagious. Other diseases were less controversial

So interesting that medical opinion was prepared to bow to economic advantage, and the desire to free up trade overruled the safety of ordinary people. And how the value of medical “knowledge” was decided in parliament. The more things change . . . 

A lockdown photo

This gorgeous photo was sent to me by a friend who’d lent her ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Marry In Scarlet to her niece, who was in lockdown with her newborn and her husband. So hard to have a beautiful new baby and none of your relatives or friends can come to admire and cuddle the baby. But she likes my books, and so my friend sent her the new book, as well as some baby gifts. And her husband took this beautiful photo. (Which I have permission to post.)

It's out!

Marry In Scarlet is out! I hope you’re planning to read it. It’s available on all platforms — in paperback, e-book, and audio. Here’s a universal link to on-line stores. To order by post, try Booktopia in Australia, or the Book Depository in the UK which will send books anywhere in the world for free postage. You can also buy it from most bricks and mortar bookstores, though some will need you to order it in.

It’s getting some lovely reviews, and I’m sharing this one that appeared in the Australian Romance Readers Association newsletter. 

I truly hope millions of readers are hanging out for this final book in the Marriage of Convenience series, because Anne Gracie has certainly saved the best for last. If you haven’t made their acquaintance, the books are: Book One: Marry in Haste, Book Two: Marry in Scandal, Book Three: Marry in Secret. If you haven’t already, start reading now and thank me later.
The left-at-the-altar Duke of Everingham from Book Three is our hero. What? you say? How can such an ice-cold, supercilious, arrogant, uptight and privileged man become a hero? And to whom? Who would have him? He was one scary dude, even more chillingly scary when his marriage service was interrupted, and the bride jilted him.
Hah. Read on.
Even more astonishingly, our heroine is the intrepid and absolutely wonderfully wild Lady George Rutherford. She’s become lovable and more vibrant as the series continues. This is the most unlikely pairing, ever. Well done Anne Gracie, you had me hooked from the beginning. Watching these two twirl and flash around each other was 101% fun!
George is a fighter. She’s had to be, to survive. Her father deserted her, and her mother unhappily died. George was left to survive with a faithful servant, but no money or knowledge she came from a wealthy, titled family. When Cal Rutherford (his story is Book One) discovered her and brought her home, she had a hard time adjusting to Society, and indeed the idea of ‘family’. She’s always been alone and impoverished. Fortunately, the beautiful Rutherfords are fabulously warm, loving and wise. They embraced George with joy and affection, even as she does distinctly un-societal things, like don riding breeches and scorn the side-saddle. Her fresh, fabulous personality shines through.
His Grace, on the other hand, has always lived a privileged life. Born and bred for it. It’s very telling that his best friend, Sinc (who steals most of the scenes he’s in with his irrepressible humour), was one Redmond Jasper Hartley (His Grace) made on the first day of boarding school. They were both little boys of seven, dumped at school and told to cope. No wonder they bonded.
Poor little rich boy Hart’s family is, quite frankly, appalling. We are treated to several scenes with his mother that would curdle custard. My goodness, what a cold, uncaring schemer she is. Sounds like his father was equally horrid. The idea of marrying for anything other than convenience is completely alien for Hart. The less he has to fuss with a woman, the better. When ‘the Heir’ arrives, Hart can install his wife—somewhere else—and get on with his life.
With the help of George’s Aunt Agatha, he decides George will do. She’s feisty and independent, not a simpering socialite, she likes dogs and horses (although she will not sell him her stallion!), and she prefers country life. Perfect. Once the Heir is begat, Hart can dump George on a country estate and they’ll both be happy and never have to see each other ever again.
Too funny.
Their romance is not just a clash of wills and spirits, although that certainly happens as George (surprise, surprise) initially refuses the Duke. It is also a story of courage as both step into the unknown, act honestly with each other (who knew?) and learn to be better people. Can their battered souls mend? Can they find their way into each other’s arms? You can probably guess the ending, but getting there makes for insightful, tender reading.
This is a spectacular romance, with bonus glimpses of favourite characters from the series popping in and out.
Anne Gracie also touches on other issues, such as the (non-existent) rights of married women in Regency times, and how Society can crush and reject people unfairly. It makes for better reading, quite frankly; the stakes were higher for this intrepid couple. For the Jane Austen fans, Anne treats us to JA quotes at the beginning of each chapter, each one perfect for the ongoing story.
A 5-star read that I laughed and cried through and finished with a happy smile. Reading it, I felt cherished and uplifted.
Reviewed by Malvina Yock, ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association)