Today I am celebrating the UK publication of Desired, the fifth in my Scandalous Women of the Ton series. Here it is with its beautiful UK cover!
I loved writing Desired for many reasons but one of the most important was that I adored the character of the heroine, Tess Darent. Tess has a big secret – she is a female cartoonist drawing caricatures of the government in support of the radical party. She wants political reform and she uses her pen to try to achieve it, working under the pseudonym of Jupiter.
Political satire was rife in Georgian and Regency England. William Hogarth’s drawings had a moral tone to them. Artist and cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson’s work was witty but he was also making strong and influential comment on the politics of the time. He would highlight the flaws of political leaders and he could influence the popularity and reputations of those in power through offering clever criticisms of social and political trends. George Cruickshank, another cartoonist of the period achieved notoriety with political prints satirising the royal family and those in power - until he was paid off with a bribe of £100 in 1820!
As far as I know there were no female satirists of the period but there is no real reason why there should not have been. Drawing and painting was seen as an accomplishment for ladies of the gentry and the upper classes in the period who had plenty of leisure time. Itinerant drawing masters would travel the country, teaching the daughters of the wealthy how to draw. It is against this background that Tess has developed her skill in cartoons and caricatures.
Radical politics in the 18th and early 19th century did much to keep the revolutionary traditions of the medieval Peasants Revolt alive. The Radicals called for the redistribution of land and wealth amongst the population and during the years that followed the French Revolution the British Government cracked down on them hard because of fears that they would inflame the population to overthrow the established order.
I feature the Spa Fields riots of 1816 as a backdrop to Desired. The popular and law-abiding Radical Henry “Orator” Hunt had been asked to address two meetings of “Distressed Manufacturers, Mariners, Artisans and others” and he took a petition to the Prince Regent asking for reform. When the Regent failed to respond in any way (no surprise there!) several radical leaders encouraged the crowds to riot. About two hundred men, inflamed by patriotic rhetoric and also by alcohol, marched through the city towards the Tower of London, arming themselves from gun shops on the way. By the time they reached the Tower their numbers had dwindled, they failed to persuade the guards to open the gates and were dispersed by a detachment of cavalry. The rising, such as it was, was a complete failure but at a time when war made the ruling classes more paranoid about rebellion and revolution it only served to set back the cause of peaceful reform.