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Although The Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide is a different type of book from the Era of Jane Austen series, all the stories are set in the Regency era!

​​Enjoy an Exc​ept

copyright © 2016 Jody Gayle


So, basically, I love the Essex sisters because they’re not perfect—in fact, they’re rather like me. We even have the same sort of nontraditional backgrounds. I grew up in the 1980s in a tiny town of five hundred people in northern Missouri. The walls in my house were standing due to the layers of wallpaper, and the frigid winter winds seemed to always find a home in my bedroom. Baths were taken in a metal washtub in the kitchen, with the water drawn from the well and heated on a wood­burning stove. My summers were spent running barefoot around the farm. See why I like the Essex sisters so much? We were poorer than they were . . . but still, I related so well to four girls growing up far from the glitter of London and suddenly thrust into the limelight. ​​​​​​


In my case, when I turned twenty, I “married up,” as they might have said in the past. I married a military officer, and moved to an exclusive area of Tampa, Florida—a city with a population of over three million. The Essex sisters went from poor to comfortable, small to large, wilderness to civilization. Me too.


When I reread the stories of the Essex sisters, I always think about how far I have come. When I make a fool of myself or suffer through a particularly challenging day, I come home and cuddle up with a book. Historical romances are my favorite, and thank goodness there are so many of them, because I have a lot of those days! I love to escape into a different time and place.


I think Eloisa’s books are a special treasure in the genre, because she expands and educates the reader by introducing new historical details in her stories. Regency London is my favorite setting for historical romances, and yet novels often seem trapped in a microcosm, a mini­world of Almack’s and a townhouse or two. In the Essex Sisters series alone, Eloisa mentions over thirteen actual publications from the Regency era and over sixty assorted real­life places in England. Still, every time I finished one of her novels, I wanted more: more about the characters, more about the world they live in, more about the author’s thoughts as she created the book.


After a while, I started wondering if other readers might share my curiosity, and I got the idea of creating a comprehensive, easy-­to-­read guide that included all sorts of bonus Essex Sisters material, as well as historical essays on everything from fashion to newspapers.


When Ms. James was scheduled to appear at a book signing near my home, I pulled myself together and decided to ask her if I could write a companion piece to her books. Frankly, I was petrified. Even though she is an internationally acclaimed best­selling author, she talked to me! She was so delightful and approachable. What’s more, she agreed to assist me, although she is beyond busy every moment being a writer, professor, mother, and wife.


She even agreed to write a brand ­new novella set in the Essex Sisters world, to include in my guide—and that novella eventually became two (hurrah!): A Midsummer Night’s Disgrace, which you’ll read right here in the companion, and A Gentleman Never Tells, which is being published in tandem.


Eloisa wrote Part One of this companion, which traces the Essex Sisters from her very first idea right through to a bonus chapter that revisits the sisters ten years after Pleasure for Pleasure. One of the most exciting moments for me, reading Eloisa’s account, was discovering that Kiss Me, Annabel exists in two versions—the published one, and another, with a very different second half. Eloisa had completely rewritten the last nineteen chapters for the published version. It took some persuasion, but you’ll find that alternate ending in the Appendix. Parts Two through Four sprang from my curiosity. As I quickly discovered, I am too curious, because it would take me a lifetime to research and discover all the little details Eloisa includes in her books. My essays look at fashionable attire, different theatres mentioned in Eloisa’s novels, and as many rich details about life in London as I could manage.


These essays are illustrated; I looked for images from the time period, as I personally love to see an actual book or building that’s mentioned in a book. My primary objective is to add depth to the visualizations we each create while reading a novel. My prediction is that, given the growing technical advances in publishing, novels will soon include illustrations. But until that happens, here’s my gesture in that direction.


I do have to note that some of these illustrations are very old, so images aren’t necessarily as clear as we may want. Ever since reading Eloisa’s books, I have been uncovering tens of thousands of old publications from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries now available on the Web. I’ve included etchings from those historical documents. Even when the reproductions are necessarily imperfect, I think they add to the idea of traveling back in time. The pictorial and accompanying descriptions are collected exclusively from these very old publications and Eloisa’s researcher extraordinaire, Franzeca Drouin. No Wikipedia or shortcuts. Most entries include publications or websites for you to explore further.


The guide is designed as a great companion to pick up after you’ve read all the novels—you definitely don’t want to read the author’s notes or the final bonus chapter until you’ve finished the last page of each of the novels!


Eloisa has been a huge help in making my parts of this companion guide a reality, and obviously, much of this book is straight from her work. I must stress that any mistakes or oversights are mine alone.


I hope you enjoy the companion guide as much as I have loved putting it together!

​​​​​​​Introduction


[Rafe] had done his best as guardian of four penniless girls,

and it wasn’t his fault that they had turned out to be the sort of

young women who create scandals with the ease with which

other ladies embroider handkerchiefs.


Kiss Me, Annabel


Hello! My name is Jody, and I’m the author of the Essex Sisters Companion Guide that you’re about to read, which means that I’m crazy, eccentric, and impassioned enough to think that there are other people out there like me— people who love Eloisa James’s series enough that they want to live in her world rather than their own, and think it would be fun to learn more about how Eloisa came up with the characters and what the clothes in the period were really like, not to mention read original material found only here that I either wrangled from Eloisa’s files or begged her to create!


I’m a huge fan of all Eloisa’s books, but I chose the Essex sisters for this companion because, frankly, I adore them. I particularly love the ease with which they create scandal. To my utter dismay, I have come to realize that Trouble! would be an appropriate title for a sitcom about my life. The actor portraying me would have to play an exaggerated personality who falls into ridiculous situations of her own making. I talk a bit too loudly, my hands wildly flying, and I find nearly everything funny. Can you imagine me in a Regency ballroom?




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Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen