To Sin with a Stranger
Once again, my research for a book led the story into an entirely unforeseen direction. It started with a study of pugilism which led to the Elgin Marbles, Lord Elgin and his struggles with the outlandish leader of the Society Dilletani and then the British Museum.
In To Sin With a Stranger, Sterling Sinclair, the Marquess of Blackburn, is a natural pugilist (boxer) and so, when his father, the Duke of Sinclair, casts him and his brothers and sisters out of Scotland until they redeem themselves, Sterling decides to puts his fists to use to help support the family. So began my study of pugilism.
This still from Becoming Jane helped inspire the scene where Sterling and Isobel meet for the first time at Gentleman John Johnsonís pugilistic club.
Gentleman John Jackson, a former star pugilist, opened a boxing saloon in London where gentleman pugilists could spar and train. In my story, it was Gentleman John Jackson who convinced Sterling to fight at Fives Court for a huge prize purse.
Fight at Fives Court, 1822
The Sinclair family rents No. 1 Grosvenor Square, a very fashionable address (though they can only afford to furnish the public rooms).
The Caringtons live on Leicester Square, a once highly regarded address, but at the time of the story, it was no longer considered quite as smart.
Amazingly enough, the bridge from pugilism to the Elgin Marbles was quite a natural one. Lord Elgin, who acquired the Parthenon Marbles (later called the Elgin Marbles) sent the collection of marble statues and pediments back to England using the British Fleet. He chose to travel primarily by land, but was captured and held for years. During this time a sore on his nose ulcered and as a result, his nose felt off. His wife, for whom he acquired the marbles, left him for the man who worked to free him from capture.
By time he returned to London, his fortune was depleted. To help finance storage of the marbles he hired pugilists to pose nude beside the marbles to prove how exquisite and realistic the marbles were.
Eventually he could no longer afford to store the marbles and kept them in a large coal shed at Burlington House while he petitioned Parliament to buy the marbles and display them at the British Museum for the good of the people. I set a very sexy scene in this coal shed, featuring the pediment Dionysus.
Sir Payne Knight, a connoisseur of antiquities (and avid collector of phallic images), was jealous of Elginís acquisition of the marbles and tried to have them discredited, and worked to convince Parliament to allow the marbles to disintegrate in the London rains rather than purchase them for display in the British Museum. He was unsuccessful. In To Sin With a Stranger, Sir Payne Knight, angry with Sterling for supporting Elgin, seeks to expose Sinclair involvement in the anonymous wager at Whiteís betting book, and prevent him from marrying Isobel.
pictured~ a page of bets
from Whiteís betting book
Although I also collect fashion plates from the Regency, I found Isobelís wedding gown on my friend Candice Hernís site. No one has a better collection than Candice!
I have so many images and historical tidbits for this story. If there is any item in the story you would like to know more about, please let me know and I will do my best to add it here.