Monday, March 8, 2010

NEW BOOK on Marie Antoinette Announced with Fantastic Author GP -AND-- GIVEAWAY Worldwide!!!!

A few weeks ago, here on EBJ, I mentioned that I would have a special post by new Author Melanie Clegg of that amazing blog: Kill Them All, God Will Know His own (Madame Guillotine). Melanie has written a splendid novel, in the form of a Memoir, of Marie Antoinette!

I am particularly excited about this new novel: The Secret Diary of A Princess because as you all know, I am completely fascinated by Marie Antoinette and can't read enough about her. So, you can just imagine the excitement when Melanie announced to me that she had finally published her book on this favourite queen of mine! 

Melanie has graciously written a fabulous guestpost on Marie Antoinette for my blog and has included some beautiful photos to go along.  But that's not all...Melanie has also agreed to do a Worldwide GIVEAWAY of her book!!!!

But let me stop taking up all of your time and move you along to what you really want to be reading; Melanie's fantastic post...

Without further ado, I am very pleased to bring you, Melanie Clegg:)

Many thanks to the divine Lucy for inviting me to host this guest blog! It is actually my first so I am not quite sure what happens next, to be honest! I think I need my own version of Madame de Noailles on hand to talk me through the thrilling etiquette of What A Novice Blogger Should Do On Her First Guest Blog.

I am very pleased by the interest in my first book The Secret Diary of a Princess, which was published on Lulu press a few weeks ago. I am a bit scared of agents and publishers so decided to self publish my first novel by myself. Of course, the great thing about having an agent and publisher behind you is that they can help you do all the boring marketing type stuff so I am truly thankful to Lucy for inviting me to come here and chat to you all about it!

The Secret Diary of a Princess has been described by one of its readers as 'Bridget Jones written by Georgette Heyer about Marie Antoinette', which is simultaneously worrying and also exceedingly flattering as I love Bridget Jones and Georgette Heyer is my all time favourite authoress. When I started writing it, my plan was to recreate the early years of Marie Antoinette from her life at the Viennese court to the point that she became Queen of France. It seemed to me that everyone is familiar with the hoary tale of the enchanting Queen whose life fell apart amidst sordid calumny and Revolution, but not many people knew about what had led her dainty silk slippered feet to such an awful precipice.

I was also intrigued by the young Marie Antoinette: the youngest and least important of Maria Theresa's eight daughters. At first it seemed like she was fated to be either married off to an obscure princeling or, unimaginable, consigned to a convent but a series of family tragedies which left one sister disfigured and another dead, brought her to a new prominence and ultimately led to her betrothal to the Dauphin.

It seems amazing to us now, with the shimmering, luminously beautiful image of Marie Antoinette as painted by Vigée-Lebrun before us, that the young princess was ever anything other than exquisite, with that immaculate grasp of fashion and high maintenance grooming that we scruffy English roses envy so much in our French sisters. But so it was.


When, at the age of thirteen, the young Archduchess Maria Antonia was first proposed as a match for the Dauphin Louis, she was not actually considered to be suitable French Princess material with both her wardrobe and her looks found to be wanting. The Duc de Choiseul, who was busy promoting the match in France, was informed by the French ambassador to Vienna, the Marquis de Durfort and by Maria Antonia's tutor, the Abbé Vermond that the girl was childish, disliked etiquette, had no interest in fashion and often looked unkempt to the point of scruffiness. They also reported that her teeth were crooked and her hairline was wonky. As for her bosom? Oh la la.

Anxious that the match should go ahead, Maria Theresa set to work, first of all accepting assistance from Choiseul with regard to updating her daughter's wardrobe to that of a chic and refined French girl. Parisian dressmakers, no doubt the favourites of Choiseul's fearsome sister, the Duchesse de Gramont, were despatched to Vienna, bearing legions of fashion poupées to take the Archduchess in hand and, much to her disgust, she was made to wear a restrictive whalebone corset.

'”Today it was the turn of the dressmakers. I spent several hours this morning being measured for what is to be a splendid collection of clothes. ‘Mama is determined that you should look as exquisite as any of the French princesses,’ Amalia said with a smile as she sat in a chair and watched while the dressmakers showed me swatch after swatch of silk, cotton, taffeta, brocade and velvet in all the colours imaginable, some striped, some spotted and some patterned with tiny stars, hearts, flowers and fruits.

There was a milliner as well with the most gorgeous designs for bonnets and hats, a stocking maker who showed me delicious stripped and plain silk stockings, several shoe makers who measured my feet and then made me try on beautiful shoes, the colour of delicate Spring flowers with diamond buckles and ribbons at the heel.

‘I am sure that Monsieur de Durfort will appreciate all of the effort that has been made to attract his approbation,’ Amalia commented wryly as she picked up a sample of very fine Brussels lace and examined it against the light. ‘Let us hope that he is suitably bedazzled by your transformation.’

I smiled, lifting up my green silk skirts to admire a very lovely peach silk shoe, decorated with green velvet ribbons. ‘I do not see how he could fail to be impressed.’ I turned my ankle this way and that, thinking how pretty it all was and how lovely I would look from now on. What could the French possibly find to complain about now?”

Next to be corrected were her teeth and in 1768, a French dentist by the name of Pierre Laveran arrived in Vienna bearing what probably appeared to be a hideous torture device but what was actually an eighteenth century form of brace, designed by the inventive dentist Pierre Fauchard. We can only imagine Maria Antonia's feelings on being told that she would have to wear it for many months to come!


Today, however, Joseph was waiting for me there with a new French dentist who bowed very low and then politely requested to be allowed to see ‘Madame l’Archiduchesse’s’ teeth. He had a silly wig and smelled strongly of roses and cloves, which was pleasant at first but then began to give me a headache as he stood behind me and poked and prodded inside my mouth for about ten minutes before announcing that my teeth were of acceptable quality but lamentably crooked.

‘What is to be done?’ Joseph asked with a frown. Who would have thought that my teeth would be cause of so much fuss? ‘Can they be straightened?’

The dentist grinned and bowed. ‘But of course! I trained with the great dentist, Pierre Fauchard himself and so am entirely proficient with the employment of a brace on the teeth.’ He opened a small wooden box and produced a strange contraption made of metal and silk threads. ‘It looks entirely insignificant, does it not, but this device, invented by Monsieur Fauchard himself, will straighten Madame l’Archiduchesse’s teeth in a matter of months.’

I stared in horror at the ugly brace as he excitedly waved it around. ‘You expect me to put that thing in my mouth?’ I asked, casting an imploring look at Joseph. ‘Will I have to wear it all the time? Won’t I look very ugly?’

‘Better now than later on when you are seen more in public,’ Joseph said with a shrug. ‘Just try not to smile at Monsieur de Durfort.’”

Last to be sorted out was her hair, which was a mass of often unbrushed reddish blonde curls. Of course at the time, hair was a very, very big deal and so having the perfect hair was of the utmost importance, especially in a princess of France. Once again, Choiseul's sister Béatrix, the Duchesse de Gramont came to the rescue and sent her own hairdresser, Larsenneur to the Hofburg, where he modified the style favoured by the late Madame de Pompadour so that it would disguise the Archduchess' high forehead and accentuate her youth and charm:
 “'He arrived today, Monsieur Larsenneur, a small man with a monkey face, pink taffeta coat and ingratiating manner. I did not like him at first and was unwilling to allow him to touch my hair but had to relent in the end and let him have his way, while Amalia and Elizabeth stood by and gossiped with their ladies in waiting. He started by staring at me for a while, with his little head on one side and a gleam in his eye. ‘Ah, but la petite is careless of her beauty,’ he whispered to me at last, in a very flirtatious manner that I did not really like and which made me feel hot and embarrassed. ‘Do not look so nervous, belle chérie, I shall transform you from a gauche girl into a beautiful young woman.’

‘Just by doing my hair?’ I could not help but laugh at him.

Larsenneur looked hurt. ‘But of course. A beautiful coiffure is everything nowadays! Did you not know that?’ He lifted up one of my reddish blonde curls. ‘Ah, but Mademoiselle has the most lovely strawberry blonde hair, comme une fraise. I had expected a blonde Viennese fräulein, not this.’ He tutted as he looked through my hair. ‘Do you not have maids to brush your hair? Why so many tangles?’

I jerked my head away. ‘I do not like to have my hair brushed,’ I muttered. ‘It is boring and hurts my head.’

‘Tsk, this will never do. A princesse does not have tangled hair like a… like a fille de ferme. It is not right!’ He waved his silver handled comb in my face and looked really quite upset. ‘From now on you must submit gracefully to having your hair brushed through no less than twice a day. A hundred strokes each time!’ I must have looked appalled as he pinched my chin consolingly. ‘Ah, but after only a very few days Mademoiselle will be rewarded with the most beautiful hair and be the envy of all who see her.’ He raised his voice. ‘Now, I must have gossip while I work! Someone tell me something scandalous! Do you have scandals in Vienna? I want to hear them all!’

‘Cover your ears, Antonia,’ Amalia said with a laugh.

It took a very long time and I was very weary and short tempered by the time Larsenneur had finished his work, but oh, it was so worth it. I stared at myself in the mirror for a very long time, unable to believe that the sophisticated little lady with powdered, carefully arranged hair staring back was me. ‘Mademoiselle entered this room as a gauche, untidy schoolgirl and now, voila!’ the little hairdresser crowed triumphantly as he tucked a final delicately blooming pink rose behind my ear. ‘Mademoiselle, you are a beautiful princesse at last.’”
 Of course, Maria Antonia’s transformation was not just sartorial - there were hours of dancing and etiquette lesssons to be endured as well before she was declared to have the requisite poise and majestic bearing of a Dauphine of France. For the young Archduchess, who loved to spend her time frolicking in the grounds of Schonnbrunn with her friends and pet dogs, the new improved version of herself that gazed back out from her mirror must have seemed very alien and strange at first.


Anyway, thanks so much for reading my ramblings! 
Ramblings?!  Are you kidding me, Melanie?!  Anyone even remotely interested in Marie Antoinette can't help but be totally absorbed by these wonderful details and thoughts by/ and regrding the Grand Queen.  Thank you so much for enhancing your delightful and most interesting post with excerpts of your book.  It sounds wonderful and I for one, cannot wait to read it!
THANK YOU Melanie!! 

And to this lovely GIVEAWAY of The Secret Diary of A Princess, by Melanie Clegg


I would love this precious book to land in the hands of a true Marie Antoinette fan so...this time I will open the giveaway to the Lucky Book blogger that agrees to review it on their blog.  Let me know if that's YOU.

1 Chance:  Leave a comment telling me what you love most about Marie Antoinette (and if you're willing to review this on your blog;).
 3 Chances: For new followers (regular followers get this automatically)
5 Chances for blogging about this over at your site- send me the link- or Posting it on your SIDEBAR

2 EXTRA Chances every time you tweet and come back here with the link.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!!!  Winner Announced on March 15th


BurtonReview said...

What a great FIRST guest post! An interesting look at the girl behind the queen. Good luck with your book, Melanie!

brokenteepee said...

Oh how exciting. It sounds like a great book. I would be happy to review it if you think I have enough experience.
thank you

I am a follower
kaiminani at gmail dot com

Lizzie said...

I agree what an amazing first post. I have always wanted to get more into what they did to Marie to prep her for France. I had heard of the nonsense but now can say I actually have read something on it. Amazing Lucy loved it.

Miss Moppet said...

I love the extracts and I'd love to review this on my blog. So please enter me!

What I love most about Marie Antoinette: The strength of character she showed in adversity. Having said that, I'd like to read this book exactly because it focuses on her early life, which usually gets short shrift.

I am a follower :)

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

I'd be happy to read it and review it on my blog. Always want to support a first novel published on Lulu. Photos are great, and story sounds strong.
Long time follower.

Bill ;-)

billsmith2003 (at) gmail (dot) com

Hope you'll check out my book giveaway:

Holly said...

I love MA! I think she got such a bad rap. I love that she fought back against her detractors and stood up for herself when they came after her. I would love to review this book on my blog.

I am a follower and I tweeted about it here:

Mel u said...

I like the fact that Maria kept her pride-I really enjoyed this post and would love to have the opportunity to review this work on my blog-thanks for offering us this give away

Roberta said...

Great post and what a bonus to have such a large "peak" into the book. I love Marie Antoinette and feel like she had such a tragic life...I cannot imagine having to leave my family and go to a foreign country at such a young age. And the french were so mean to her and so snooty...after all it's not like she was a poor county bumpkin. AND then to loose her family, her children...just cannot imagine.
YES I'd love to read and review this book on my always a loyal follower :D

Unknown said...

Wow, that guest post taught me a lot of things that I didn't know about her. Thanks so much for that.

Susan Higginbotham said...

I love the dignity and courage MA showed in the last months of her life. Please enter me!

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I love Melanie's blog! I so enjoy reading her historical posts. And this was a great guest post. I really want to win this. I think I've mentioned before Lucy that I adore Marie Antoinette and, of course, I will review the book on my blog. I think what I love most about Marie Antoinette was that she was a true individual, despite it all.

+3 I'm a regular follower.
+5 posted on my right sidebar in the giveaway section.
+2 tweeted:

Thanks for the giveaway!


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. If the book is anywhere as fascinating, you will have a winner. Since I do not have a blog, I cannot enter the contest. I would like to wish you the best of luck with the release of this book. Your sneak peak was most informative. I'll be looking for it.
librarypat AT comcast DOT net

Amanda said...

This sounds like a fascinating book! MA is one of my favourite historical figures. I love the little details of her life that have come down to us, like the details of her fashions, her dining arrangements etc. I'd love to be entered into the draw!

I am a follower, and I would blog a review, plus I also post my reviews on facebook and librarything.

nellista @ yahoo dot come dot au

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

This is a wonderful post! I am here via Melanie's blog, which I follow as faithfully as I can. I am very impressed with this post and with Melanie's writing abilities. Her novel sounds wonderful, and I hope I can one day be a proud reader of it! Much success to Melanie!

Karin (an alien parisienne)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lucy and everyone else for your lovely and very kind comments! I feel quite shy now. :)


Aik said...

1 Chance: I love MA's fashion sense. I'm willing to review this book if I win it.

3 Chances: Follower

5 Chances: Blogged

2 Chances: Tweeted

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Mystica said...

I think I will also go with the icon of fashion thing about MA which I like. I would be very happy to review the book on my blo.

I follow.


KristiSqueak said...

I absolutely LOVE Marie Antoinette, to the point that my friends say I'm obsessed. =D What I like most about her is her strength. She always stayed strong for the people around her. She truly was horribly misunderstood by her people, who didn't see all the things that she tried to do for them, because there were people all around her trying to ruin her reputation, which they eventually did.

I blogged briefly about the book on my blog earlier and I would definitely review it, since that's mostly what I do there. and I also started following your blog. =D

Cat said...

Congratulations on your first guest post Melanie - most interesting and the braces made me laugh. What I most like about MA is the courage in adversity she showed at the end of her life.

Would love to read and review.


Jenny Q said...

Great post Melanie! I would be happy to review the book on my blog, Let Them Read Books, which features Marie Antoinette's pictures in the header. I like to read anything I can get my hands on about the French Revolution. It's unfortunate that she was made such a target of the people's malice.

Please enter me, and I am a follower!

Amy said...

Enjoyed your post! I can't wait to get my hands on it!
Please enter me in the giveaway! I am a devoted follower.


Ingrid Mida said...

I've been sick this week with a frightful cold and almost missed this post. What an enchanting book! I can only imagine how delicious a read this book will be. I would love to review it on my blog since you know I love to write about Marie Antoinette. I love this unique approach to writing about the princess. I have read much about her transformation and can hardly wait to get my hands on the book! I'll post a button on my blog too.

Viola said...

Hi Ms.Lucy,
Please come to my blog to claim your Over The Top Award!

Best Regards,

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