Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guest Grace Elliott on Vauxhall Gardens--A Treat for the Senses

Today, my guest is fellow Regency author Grace Elliott and her latest book, the Regency spy romance, Verity's Lie. Here she tells us about London's pleasure garden, Vauxhall Gardens, where part of the action of her novel takes place.

 Welcome Grace!

Grace Elliott:
On the south side of the Thames, the New Spring Gardens first opened to the public in 1661. It started out as little more than a tavern set amongst wooded ground and market gardens, but went on to become the Vauxhall Gardens, a destination fit for royalty. Frequented by acrobats, buskers, magicians and strolling musicians, the attraction was to escape London smog for fresh air and entertainment – to spend a few leisured hours away from duty and work.

It was Jonathan Tyers, a young London tradesman, who had the vision that transformed the New Spring Gardens into Vauxhall. Tyers's plan was to make Vauxhall an ‘Elysium’ or paradise, within reach of the city. From the journey across the Thames on special wherries, to pleasures within the gardens – his aim was to make a sensory feast away from the smelly and noisy streets of London; an escape from daily reality into an illusion of heaven.
Vauxhall survived in one form or another for two centuries, from 1661 until 1859. Its success was such that the format of a pleasure gardens was copied throughout Britain and overseas to America, Australia, Europe and New Zealand. Vauxhall also spawned a number of successors in circuses, music halls, park bandstands, and seaside piers.

Vauxhall appealed to the senses. Tyers played an optical trick on the visitor who approached through a long gloomy corridor to emerge into verdant grotto sparkling with the light of hundreds of lanterns. Impressive vistas stretched along long avenues to distant sculptures. There were gravelled walkways and colonnades, each with a different theme.

During the day the park like atmosphere was a safe place for families, but at night Vauxhall took on a different persona. Under the artificial light of the hundreds of oil lamps hanging in the trees, it became a place of adult entertainment, a place to drink, dance and carouse. It was to this place of sensory delight, that the hero of my latest release, Verity’s Lie, takes the heroine of the title – in order to broaden her education.

Excerpt from Verity’s Lie
Together they entered an unlit tunnel, running through the width of the house.  There were no lanterns and, as they left the road behind, a black velvet blackness blanketed their senses.  Uncertain of her footing, Verity clung to Ryevale to guide her forward.
            "Nearly there," he said, his voice soft and intimate in the darkness.
            From up ahead came the sound of a trilling bird: a lazy, sweet song as beautiful as life.
            "Is that a nightingale?" she marveled.
            "It is indeed."
            They edged forward, drawn on by a distant glow.  Then the drifting lilt of a waltz lifted on the breeze, and Verity couldn't help but smile at the music.  As they approached the light even the air changed; scented with roses and ladies perfume...and another odor that puzzled her.  But at the end of the tunnel, as Ryevale pushed the gate open, she realized she smelled burning oil from hundreds, no thousands, of lamps hanging in tree lined avenues so long they disappeared in the distance.
            Verity gasped as she struggled to take in the vista.
            "Vauxhall Gardens."  Ryevale stood back and grinned.
            Verity drank in the sights.  Lanterns hung from tree branches, an amber glow falling on strolling couples.  She swallowed hard; her father would definitely disapprove of such shocking familiarity, but then that's why she was here—to form her own opinion.  She looked again with fresh eyes; the people looked happy and relaxed.  From somewhere to her right came the music of a string quartet.  Her gaze roamed along rows of supper boxes, statues and a Chinese pavilion.
            "There is much to see," Ryevale whispered.  "Where would you like to start?"
            "I...don't know.  What is your suggestion?"
            "Well, depending on your mood, there are jugglers, acrobats and fire-eaters, or we could dance in the rotunda, or take supper or merely stroll."
            "Oh, I think perhaps a walk."
            "Then you would be more comfortable without your cloak."
            Indeed, within its folds Verity felt a little warm.  Glancing around at the other ladies, her shoulders relaxed for flimsy gowns seemed the norm, some no more than whispers of silk with bodices no wider than a ribbon.  Reassured, she nodded and reached for the fastening, but Ryevale's hand closed over hers in a way that made her heart leap.
            "Allow me.  'Tis only gentlemanly."
            Eyes bright in the lamplight, he leant closer to see the clasp.  She caught a waft of  cologne and bergamot on his skin and her pulse jumped in her throat.  Strong fingers unpinned the brooch; his closeness made her feel fluttery inside.  The intensity of his concentration, working with tenderness as if unwrapping something precious, disarmed her.  The cloak slid from her shoulders, and cool night air caressed her limbs.  She might have well stood there naked for all the protection her gown offered from his gaze.
            Ryevale took a step back, drinking the creamy expanse of her bosom, a look of wonder dawning across his face.  "My, my, Miss Verrinder.  You are a surprise."

Grace Elliot 
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). Verity's Lie is Grace’s fourth novel.
Verity’s Lie - Synopsis
Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.

In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.

When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.

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Shelley Munro said...

Vauxhall Gardens and the other pleasure gardens have always fascinated me. It's a wonder someone hasn't recreated one.

Unknown said...

That is an cracking idea, Shelley. In some places elements of the pleasure gardens still remain - such as the Blackpool illuminations (well, I like to think they hark back to the coloured lamps at Vauxhall!)I suppose theme parks such as Alton Towers and Thorpe Park would be the modern equivalent.
Grace x

Unknown said...

Thank you for hosting me today, Linda. The colours of the page look great with the cover to Verity's Lie - serendipity!
Grace x

Linda Banche said...

You're welcome, Grace. Glad to have you here. "Verity's Lie" sounds great!

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

If there is one place I wish I could go back in time and visit it's Vauxhall Gardens. Great post, Grace. Tweeted and shared on FB.