It is 10 years since The Illicit Love of a Courtesan was first published and she is celebrating with a new jacket

10 years ago I travelled over to the USA alone, on my first trip to America, to attend a promotional event for the release or Illicit Love, as it was called then. I attended the Romantic Times Conference in Kansas City. The magazine review team had read the story and scored it 4.5 stars, which was quite an accolade at the time, anything above 4 stars was rare.

It was a point in my life that was exciting and scary at the same time. I was in a room signing books among authors I’d read and admired for years! I travelled in a lift with Mary Balogh 🙂 I was sitting next to E.L. James in a conference panel session. I also still clearly remember how much my hand shook when I signed the first book for someone. I was terrified I’d spell their name wrong. It was a moment of childhood – life-long – dreams being fulfilled.

In the years since, there have been many more moments. My first visit to the Harper Collins offices and seeing my book displayed in the entrance hall. Signing next to Stephanie Laurens in New York City. Being invited to the Harper Collins parties to celebrate with their other authors, like Philippa Gregory, who I spoke to. Listening to actresses performing my work in audio additions. Changing genre to write thrillers and securing another contract with Harper Collins, in their Killer Reads Imprint at the time. Seeing book after book, from regency romances and new adult stories, to my thrillers rise up into charts time and again.

On the day of the release of Illicit Love I crazily didn’t live in the moment, but ended up being in my hotel room for most of the day thanking people online for posting about the story. So to celebrate the 10 year point, instead, I went out for a meal with the local authors from Romantic Novelists Association who have become some of my closest friends over the years, and there are so many more authors who I’ve met here in the UK, out in America and online who I am lucky enough to consider my friends. These friendships really are the best thing about my publishing journey of the last 10 years.

However, I am now taking the time to say thank you to all the bloggers who took part in my celebration online too, because books are nothing without readers. Thank you for some fantastic reviews – here are some of the highlights of the 10 year tour…

‘This was such an engaging novel that I was thinking about it when I was not reading it, and it was so beautifully written that I could picture the scenes with such vibrancy. The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is a stunning tale of love, loss, family and forgiveness.’ Jo ~ Book Mad Blog

‘A romance with a series of clever twists. Fans of historical romance should add this fabulous novel to their reading lists.’ Cathie ~ Ruins and Reading Blog

https://ruinsandreading.blogspot.com/2023/05/review-illicit-love-of-courtesan.html

‘As the pages flew by and I inched closer to the end, I knew I was going to miss Ellen and Edward, I was so wrapped up in their romance. I think I might have to read the other books in the series, if only to get my does of steamy romance mixed with drama.’ Sharon ~ Beyond the Books Blog

‘The undeniable sexual attraction between Ellen and Edward absolutely sizzles on the page and whilst the story is unashamedly romantic, with some sensual encounters, there are also elements of danger and that is what makes this regency romance such an intriguing and passionate read.’ Jo ~ Jaffa Reads Too Blog

http://jaffareadstoo.blogspot.com/2023/05/book-birthday-blitz-illicit-love-of.html

‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is a superb historical romance that is so moving, it could seriously sever your heartstrings.’ Julie ~ Bookish Jottings Blog

https://bookishjottings.com/2023/05/03/the-illicit-love-of-a-courtesan-by-jane-lark-book-birthday-blitz-review/

Happy Book Birthday to this fantastic read! I absolutely adored it, and was hooked from the first page.” Jennifer ~ Historical Fiction With Spirit Blog

‘I found myself submerged in this bittersweet tale of two characters who find each other, and find the strength and courage to fight the wrongdoings… This author was a real delight to discover and I cannot wait to read more from her!’ Tiziana ~ Tiki’s Book Reviews Blog

Attending the theatre in Jane Austen’s life-time

In my Regency period novels I often set scenes in theatre boxes, and for some that may seem a strange place when there would be little conversation between characters, yet, for the 19th Century that wasn’t true. As I learned from descriptions in the diary of a courtesan, Harriette Wilson.

Writings that talk about the every day life in that era are rarer, and I usually search this information out in letters between family members, but it was Harriette’s diary that helped me visualise what going to the theatre meant at the time. For the middle and upper class, it was a place to meet people, to see people and be seen, in the same way we might use a night club now. The rich paid to retain a box for months. Though, if they were not using the box they may let others hire their seat for an evening. The owner of the box often saw entertainments numerous times, and so they had no desire to listen, or men may pop in to listen to one particular element of a performance that they loved most and leave again. Those with no interest in the performance often talked through a whole performance. Something Harriette laughed about when someone became annoyed with her, because talking was why people used the boxes. She told the couple they should have sat in the seats below. For Harriette, the theatre was also part of her shop window. It was one of the best places where she and her fellow courtesans could meet new men, they clubbed together to rent a box and dressed up to be admired and deliberately laughed and conversed loudly to sell themselves as good company. They needed to be admired because the more men who were interested in them the higher price they could charge the men they agreed to enter into a relationship with.

So then, with all of these comings and goings, and the continual conversation, and I’m sure the actors shouting to be heard, the theatre would have been a very different place than it is today, and it’s one of those regency ways of life that fascinates me. I was, therefore, thrilled when I saw these prints hiding high up on the stairway of a 17th Century pub in the Lake District which depicted exactly what I have imagined from Harriette’s descriptions.

The Interior of the Royal ~ as it appeared on the night – New Theatre Hay Market – of it’s opening night 4th July 1821, published London 1 January 1823

This first print, which is contemporary to the time, shows exactly what I have read described, look at how many people in the boxes are seated with their backs to the stage, and are clearly talking, it displays how much of a social event theatre going was for those with money. While in the pit, we see those who may have their one and only opportunity to see the entertainment facing forward and concentrating on the stage.

The image of the second theatre, The Royal Theatre Cobourg Surrey dated as the opening night in 1818 published 1 January 1819, is not anywhere near as busy a picture, and yet again it portrays that the people attending are talking, some with their backs turned on the stage. Both images portraying the theatre was a social hub.

A wonderful insight, so, if you love insights into history as I do, keep your eyes peeled for those interesting wall-filling prints in old hotels and pubs. I always have a walk around and a good look.

For more information on the history of theatres take a look at the UK’s National Archives here https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/19th-century-theatre

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