Guest Barbara Monajem and #Giveaway!

NEWS FLASH: Laurie Pinell is the lucky winner! Congratulations, Laurie, and look for an email from Barbara.

Edith here, loving all the spring flowers. And happy to host fellow historical novelist Barbara Monajem again. She has a new Lady Rosamund mystery out today and is giving away a copy!

Widowed Lady Rosamund spends the first months of her mourning in the Lake District, where it’s safe and peaceful, and murders are exceedingly rare. Luckily, she is rescued from this tedium by a house party comprised of playwrights, poets, and actors—an immoral set of persons with whom no respectable lady should associate. Even so, she hardly expected to wake in the wee hours to find one of the guests lying dead.

As if that wasn’t troublesome enough, Gilroy McBrae is at the same party, masquerading as a footman to investigate a series of thefts. Was the sudden death an accident—or murder? Almost everyone had reason to loathe their unpleasant fellow guest. Rosie must set aside her confused emotions about McBrae and work with him to find the culprit before an innocent person is accused of the crime.

Here’s the problem: Corvus, one of the main characters in my Lady Rosamund series, is a caricaturist – an 1811 version of today’s tabloid photographers.

I really, really don’t like the tabloids. I mean, have you looked at the headlines? Most of what they say ranges from unlikely to impossible, and it’s usually mean and nasty. If that wasn’t bad enough, some people actually believe them, and it does a lot of harm. I often wonder if the tabloid journalists and photographers have any conscience at all.

And yet, the equivalent of two hundred years ago is one of my main characters, and as the series progresses, I have to deal with his conscience. His caricatures can be very nasty indeed, and although they always contain a grain or more of truth, it’s often exaggerated and twisted for effect. Sometimes he (hopefully) makes people think, and often he provides amusement for the beleaguered lower classes, but sometimes he actually causes harm. I want Corvus to come across as basically a good person—a man with principles who cares about the poor and has a mission to poke at the consciences of the rich and powerful—but is that possible?

Sigh. Lady Rosamund is essentially a kind-hearted person, and she’s beginning to have an influence on what Corvus draws, so far mostly for her own sake and that of her family members. On the other hand, she mustn’t be allowed to extinguish his creative spark. That wouldn’t be good for either of them, especially as their relationship deepens.

What this leads to is me, the author, wondering how far Corvus can go in mocking the upper classes in 19th century England without crossing the line from good guy to jerk. Every time I dream up a caricature for him, even if the victim deserves it, I cringe a little, thinking of the mortification the victim will suffer, and what the consequences might be. Maybe it’s a bit weird to feel sorry for people who don’t even exist, but secondhand embarrassment is normal for me. I find it hard to read scenes in books or watch movies where I know the characters are about to get hurt or embarrassed—and if I’ve read or seen it before, it’s often worse, because I know exactly what will happen next.

Readers: What do you think? Can a caricaturist be unkind and also a good guy? Do you feel secondhand embarrassment? Answer these or make up your own question and answer it. One commenter will win a copy of Lady Rosamund and the Horned God.

Rumor has it that Barbara Monajem is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason. Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so.

As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.

43 Thoughts

  1. I suffer acute second-hand embarrassment, mostly when people suffer in romantic situations. I don’t think the caricatures would bother me.
    Off the top of my head, I’d say Corvus could be a good person. Would have to read the book to be sure.

    1. Oh, yeah! Romantic situations can be so fraught. I have never understood why some guys propose in public. Imagine the embarrassment if she says no! And how embarrassing for her, too. It’s bad enough in movies, but in real life??? No way.

  2. Humans are not drawn (see what I did there?) in black and white, good and evil. They are complicated, multi-faceted and deeply wondrous creatures. Of course a caricaturist who in his work focuses on one human flaw and exaggerates and distorts can also have “good guy” qualities. Just look at the lives of so many saints! St. Augustine was quite the bad boy playboy yet became a saint.

    1. I never knew that about St. Augustine! Thank you. I read a blog the other day about why we choose to have main characters who behave heroically, when actually most people don’t. We’re all flawed, and we all do the wrong thing sometimes, often in instinctive self-preservation, and then it’s too late to change it. I still regret some unkind things I did as a teenager. In fact, when the right plot comes along, I’ll dedicate that book to the people I carelessly harmed.

  3. Oh my, I definitely share your secondhand embarrassment syndrome (SES)! Maybe it’s a part of empathy? Some caricatures I’ve seen can be pretty insulting, like exaggerating the size of someone’s nose for instance – so maybe this character Corvus has a mean streak or he is jealous of the upper class he is mocking?? Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad guy, though!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I don’t think he has a mean streak, and he’s fairly upper class himself, and often the people he mocks deserve it. He genuinely cares about justice and respect for the lower classes. But I don’t think he has much in the way of secondhand embarrassment, if at all. That will be an interesting avenue to explore. What can embarrass Corvus?

  4. I think it all comes down to why Corvus draws his pictures. Is he just doing it to be mean? Or is he trying to highlight injustices? Of course, lucky he has Lady Rosamund to help him know where the line is.

    1. Hi, Liz. I think Corvus and Lady Rosamund help each other know where the line is. He highlights thoughtlessness and unkindness as well as injustice, but he doesn’t always understand why people behave the way the do. Lady Rosamund is in a position to give him another frame of reference.

  5. I agree with Liz that intent rules the content. As for the modern tabloids, when stuck in line at the grocery, I read the headlines and marvel that anyone would buy the magazine!

    1. I know!! I can’t imagine spending my money on such nonsense. Actually, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone buy one, but of course people do. I will admit to thumbing through one occasionally if there’s an article about a famous person I’m interested in–but not if the picture on the front is of them snarling. We all grimace from time to time, and it’s so unfair to highlight the awful photos.

  6. It seems to me that Corvus is trying to do with his caricatures what Dickens was doing in his writing — trying to wake people up to hypocrisy and pomposity while also making them laugh. I would imagine that it must be incredibly difficult not to cross the line from insightful to spiteful, though. I suspect (hope) that Lady Rosamund might help Corvus develop the compassion that will help him recognize that line.

    1. Actually, the first chapter or so of Dickens’ Bleak House was one of my inspirations for the series! In it, a little girl is completely down on herself. She’s been taught that she’s worthless, and completely believes it. I don’t recall whether she’s an illegitimate child or what, but for some reason she’s looked down upon by society. That made me decide to write about a heroine who has been taught just the opposite — that as an Earl’s daughter, she’s inherently superior to almost everyone — but at the same time she feels very vulnerable. She has a lot to learn about what to accept and what to discard.

    1. Thanks, Sherry. I’m excited that Rosie’s second adventure is out in the world. 🙂

  7. Congratulation on the release of “Lady Rosamund and the Horned God”, another fabulous book is this series! I LOVE IT!

    I do think a caricaturist can be both, but if what he is reporting is true and not made up, I’d say go for it. Everyone by now knows what is done in public is open for public discussion. Corvus, aka Gilroy McBrae, is a good example of that. LOVE Corvus in both books in this series. Also admire Lady Rosamund for being able to face the truth – well as least what the public perceives as the truth – with dignity and ability to laugh at her own situation.

    IF anyone hasn’t read the first book in the Lady Rosamund mystery series, it’s also just as great at the second book. If you’ve read the first book, then you know you want to read this one. Either way both books in the series are a fabulous read!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thank you so much, Kay! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the second book as much as the first. 🙂

  8. While some caracaturists may have a bit of a mean streak most probably are just a bit more ornery. I think everyone has a dark side as well as a light side to their make up. It is when you act on the dark, and especially repeatedly, that you are evil. Congratulations on your new book. This sounds like a series I would enjoy reading. Thank you for the opportunity to win the book so I can experience yet another new to me series of books.

    1. Hi, Laurie. I think Corvus’ dark side takes over from time to time, but overall I try to make sure he has a good heart. Readers like him, which encourages me to believe he’s doing OK. 🙂

  9. I love history and have seen those caricatures that were drawn and I do believe he can be a really good guy if he is pointing out what that person needs to change. There were a bunch of nasty people who were in power and those artists pointed out their shortcomings. There is a fine line between the good and vindictive and he will need to walk that line.

    This sounds like a great series simply because I like those women who ignore some conventions and live their life their own way. May you book be a great success.

  10. Thanks, Bobbie. You’re right about nasty people in power. Sometimes all it takes is a little prod to make people change their ways, but just as often nothing works, not even a very pointed caricature. However, it may make others realize how desperately change is needed.

    Rosie struggles constantly against the rules that govern the society she lives in — as do most of the heroines in my historicals. I guess that’s a hot button for me!

  11. Hi Barbara! Welcome back to the Wickeds. The world, and literature, are full of complicated, conflicted anti-heroes. I love reading about them.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. I love that sort of hero, too, which I guess is why I’m writing about one. I find him quite irresistible, but I’m always worried he’ll cross the line before I realize what he’s done!

  12. They can be a good guy when they are mocking people *I* think need to be mocked. But cross that line, and they are evil and need to be the victim of the next book in the series. 😉

    1. Laughing out loud here! Actually, Corvus is his own victim sometimes, when he caricatures himself as passionately in lust with Lady Rosamund, who shows no interest at all in return. Poor Corvus!?

  13. Thanks for visiting the Wickeds, Barbara! I writhe under second hand embarassment! I loathe sitcoms for just that reason! I end up having to leave the room when worrisome scenes float across the television screen!

    1. Yes! I hide my eyes or bury my nose in a book when I know what’s coming. And when I don’t, sometimes I leave the room and (if I’m having a courageous day) peer around the door so I’ll know what happened.

  14. I don’t like the second hand embarrassment. I don’t think all caricatures are bad. You are anew author to me. So excited to read this book! Thanks for the chance!

    1. Thanks, B. Nice to know there are so many others in the Secondhand Embarrassment Club. Lol.

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  16. I think caricatures can be done as a form of flattery and not necessarily mean-spirited. I think it depends on the person involved. I have felt second hand embarrassment and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

    1. The first time Corvus caricatures Lady Rosamund, it’s not meant as flattery, but later it is. He always makes her prettier than she is (or so she sees it). I think it’s because that’s how he really sees her.

  17. It truly hurts me when a character tries to expose another person, holds the person up to ridicule for all the public to see. Is that kind? Not in my mind, but what would our mysteries be if we did not have flawed characters that can, if they choose to, redeem themselves? I like the premise of your book and would like to read it.

    1. Hi, Judy. I agree, I don’t like to see people ridiculed, even if they deserve it — because is the ridicule likely to help them change their ways? Probably not. It is more likely to make them dig in their heels. Maybe the ridicule will help others to examine their own motives and behavior, though… I guess that’s how Corvus sees it, but I’m not sure whether he’s right.

  18. I think you can be occasionally unkind and still be a good person but if you are consistently unkind, you are not a good person.

    1. Hi, Jenne. I completely agree. Corvus is definitely kind most of the time, in real life as opposed to in his caricatures.

  19. Congratulations on your new release! Your book sounds like a very good read, and I have not read it, but I think Corvus just might do it for fun, and that’s just his nature, he like to have fun. Some people just react differently , some are over sensitive while others can take jokes. Have a Great week and stay safe. I enjoyed learning about your new book.

  20. Hi, Alicia! You’re right — he really does like to have fun. He likes solving mysteries, too. Rosamund isn’t so sure.

  21. I think kind or unkind is defined by whether you agree with the caricature. If you agree, you probably think it is funny; if you don’t agree, you probably think it is mean and unfair. I applaud you for taking on the challenge.

    I’m looking forward to meeting Corvus. Congrats on book two!

  22. Thanks, Ginny. There are plenty of people who are upset with Corvus and want to unmask him. Actually, even the people who think his caricatures are funny want to unmask him — but mostly for the fun of finding out who he really is. 🙂

  23. Blessedly, the three caricaturists I’ve been acquainted with at most pointed gentle fun at their subjects. Better a caricature that one can, if necessary, pretend to laugh at than a portrait that one must inter in the attic! No prolonged sitting required!

    1. Gentle fun sounds like a great idea, Barbara. I’ll have to mention that to Corvus. 😉

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