Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday Treasures Guest Blog

Today I am over on fellow Pelican Book Group author Pamela Thibodeaux's blog with a guest post on the things I treasure.

Stop by and say hi!

Link to blog

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Blog Visit and a Giveaway of Suburban Dangers

Marianne Evans is hosting me and highlighting Suburban Dangers over on her blog, A Minute with Marianne.

I'm also offering a giveaway of an e-book of Suburban Dangers. Head over to her blog to enter. She will announce the winner Friday, May 26th.

Here is what people are saying about Suburban Dangers:

"This book is a page-turner that defies a reader’s ability to stop once the book is begun. Lee is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors for a good read." —Edie Melson, author and blogger

"Megan Whitson Lee has written a book that should be on the “must read” list for all teens, boys and girls, as well as their parents and grandparents."--Amazon Review

"A fast paced, eye opening, well written novel, depicting a problem that may be closer to home than you think. When you start it you will have a hard time putting it down!"--Amazon Review

Friday, April 28, 2017

Regency Respite

I will be off the map and not blogging for several weeks while I endeavor to finish book two in my Regency series. Book one, Dangerous to Know, is slated for release sometime in the fall--a novel loosely based on the marriage of Byron and Annabella Milbanke. Book two will pick up where the first leaves off, so I'm endeavoring to construct that story now.

I'm very excited about this series, and where it's going, so I hope to have more news about it in the near future.

In the meantime, my new release Suburban Dangers (not a Regency, but contemporary women's fiction addressing teen sex trafficking) comes out May 12. It is currently available for pre-order. Also, today it's being featured on Elaine Stock's blog, Everyone's Story. You can also enter a giveaway for my novel, Captives. Winners will be announced this evening.

Until next time...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Anne Bronte: The Realist

I've never read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Or Agnes Grey. I've read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights a million times, but nothing by the youngest Bronte sister. But I plan on rectifying the situation by putting both novels on my summer reading list. 

Anne Bronte was the youngest of the three and published her first novel, Agnes Grey, in 1847 at the same time her sisters published Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Over the years, neither of her books have received the same acclaim as either of her sisters, although later critics called her prose "perfect" and suggest that had she lived longer, she would have written a novel to surpass Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

(Anne Bronte, public domain)

All three of the girls were deeply affected by their brother Branwell's alcoholism. His slow death and degradation could not have been pretty. Long bouts of sickness followed him as well as debt and disgrace. When drunk (which was most of the time), he was demanding and abusive to his father and his sisters. The domestic violence of their household was no doubt the fodder for Anne's depiction of such matters in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Whereas Charlotte and Emily used their experiences with Branwell to spin more romanticized tales of wild love for a dark hero whose sins can and will be redeemed by the end of the story, Anne's view was much more realistic. Alcoholism was tragic, violence was ugly, and sometimes there were no happy endings. Charlotte Bronte's view was most likely tempered with a heavy helping of romanticism from her time in Brussels when she fell in love with a married man, and Emily may have drawn upon the notion that bad boys, like her brother, could be changed by love. 

Anne did not shy away from the stark and disturbing depiction of a woman shackled to a man in this state of degradation. Although The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a commercial success, many criticized its blunt description and graphic storytelling about such matters. To this, Anne replied,

"...when we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers? O Reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts–this whispering 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience."*

I agree. This is profound wisdom. Although many of us prefer to read the romanticized version of the Byronic hero in Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff, the idea of saving a man fallen so far from grace has led many a woman down a thorny garden path and left her trodden in the mud.

Have you ever read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall or Agnes Grey?

*Quote from A Celebration of Women Writer's biography on Anne Bronte by Mary Mark Ockerbloom

Friday, April 7, 2017

Charlotte Bronte's Marriage

In my blog last week on Emily Bronte, I wrote that Wuthering Heights is my favorite novel. This week, I'll add that Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, runs a close second.

(public domain)

Over the years, I may have read Jane Eyre more than any other novel--many times for pleasure, others for high school English or college classes. I read it with the kind of joy that accompanies reading the elements of the genre--a house settled on the untamed moors; dark corridors; mysterious screams and cries in the night. And, of course, the surly, brooding hero, who finally succumbs to the love of the gentle, plain, and staid heroine.

Mr. Rochester and Jane are iconic figures of Romantic, gothic fiction. I find it fascinating that both Emily and Jane wrote novels containing such passion when their circumstances early on were so bleak, and neither of them ever found fulfillment in real-life romance. Emily died without marrying, and Charlotte entered into a marriage of mutual respect but without love.

(Charlotte Bronte, public domain)

In 1839, when Charlotte was twenty-three, the Reverend Nussey proposed marriage. She turned him down and told him she was not practical enough to be a clergyman's wife. Instead, she worked as a governess to help support her family. Within a few years, Charlotte would go on to publish Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell and achieve great success. She would also lose all three of her siblings to death within a two-year period.

Charlotte’s father was a minister, and she was all too aware of the difficulties of being a minister's wife. But in 1852, she was courted by the Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls, curate of Haworth, who had been in love with Charlotte for some time. Charlotte would have been thirty-six years old--a spinster. At that age, any prospects at all could have been intriguing. However, her father vehemently opposed the marriage, partially due to Nicholls's poor financial state. Charlotte was not completely convinced of her regard for the clergyman either, pronouncing him conventional and stiff. However, later, when she rejected him, she was impressed with his overwhelming show of emotion (he nearly collapsed). Apparently, this suggested that Nicholls was capable of some great feeling. Afterwards, Nicholls left Haworth for many months.

No doubt this gave her time to review her reasons behind rejecting him, as well as the possibility that he might be her last opportunity. Charlotte's close friend, Elizabeth Gaskell, reminded her that marriage was profitable for women as it provided them with structure and clear duties. In this interim, Charlotte's novel Villette was published, a story based upon her own experiences and failed romance while teaching at a boarding school in Brussels. 

In 1854, Charlotte's father softened his view of Nicholls, and she accepted the clergyman's proposal. Her father initially agreed to be part of her wedding but at the last minute felt he could not, and Charlotte walked to the church alone. Although it seems Nicholls was a kind and good husband, Charlotte's letters during this period suggest her shock and bewilderment at finding herself in this new situation. She described becoming a wife as both "strange" and "perilous." As it turns out, perilous was the right choice of words, as a year later, Charlotte became pregnant, contracted a terrible illness, and died. Her death certificate shows tuberculosis as the cause, but it seems that was not the case. Scholars now believe she suffered from severe morning sickness, which brought on dehydration. She was just weeks from her thirty-ninth birthday.

Most accounts suggest that Charlotte respected Nicholls but did not love him. Marriage did not live up to her romantic expectations or the raw passion of her marvelous novels. It would seem Mr. Rochester remained an elusive ideal (as he does for so many today). Some scholars even suggest that in the end, Charlotte subconsciously willed and allowed her own death. 

Have you read Jane Eyre lately? 

For more information on Charlotte Bronte:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Who was Emily Bronte?

My favorite novel is Wuthering Heights. I first read it when I was around eleven years old and was immediately drawn to the rugged landscape, the bleak tone, the unfulfilled longing that cried out from the pages.

Masterpiece’s To Walk Invisible, a two-hour film based on the three Bronte sisters, aired last Sunday night, and in my opinion, it was extremely well done. Raw, honest, and surprising, the movie affords a stark look at these women who produced such monstrous works of literature under male pen names.

Even though Wuthering Heights has always been my favorite novel, I confess to know very little about its author (other than the fact that she wrote under the name of Ellis Bell and never married). Obviously, Emily Bronte loved the character of Heathcliff. Much like the character of Catherine, despite Heathcliff’s darkness and evil doings, Emily saw past the posturing and understood he was a tortured soul who had been deeply wounded. Some scholars believe he may have been fashioned after her troubled, severely alcoholic brother, Branwell. Or perhaps his character represented one side of a romanticized battle between the suitable, socially appropriate gentleman—like Linton—and the wild, rake of a man who was Heathcliff.

Perhaps Heathcliff represented the internal struggle—a tug of war of between what was and what could be. The movie suggests Heathcliff was born of a story she overheard from someone else, but I suspect it was more than that.

So who was Emily Bronte?

(Emily Bronte/public domain)

Her sister, Charlotte Bronte, described her in this way: “Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone.”

(Emily's dog, Grasper)

Her life was short (she died at thirty due to tuberculosis) and most of it she spent at home in her father’s parsonage in Yorkshire. When she attended school abroad with Charlotte, she was terribly homesick and longed for the moors. Reserved, shy, and stubborn to a fault, Emily was uncomfortable around people, and she was often found in the company of animals (and in her imaginary world of Gondal, created by the Brontes when they were children).

It was not easy living in the Yorkshire moors, and the Brontes were not well-off. Economics were certainly one reason for the girls seeking publication. Their house was in constant upheaval due to their brother’s alcohol and drug addiction. Emily was known to exhibit anorexic symptoms during times of extreme stress. Much like Catherine in Wuthering Heights, she would refuse to eat for days. Biographer Katherine Frank suggested that Emily spent much of her life in a state of psychological hunger in her biography, A Chainless Soul. “Even more importantly, how was this physical hunger related to a more pervasive hunger in her life–hunger for power and experience, for love and happiness, fame and fortune and fulfillment?”

It is interesting to note that Emily Bronte left behind virtually no correspondence except for two letters and a lot of raw, passionate poetry, which is extraordinarily good. Here is an excerpt from "Oh, Thy Bright Eyes Must Answer Now."

So, with a ready heart, I swore
To seek their altar-stone no more;
And gave my spirit to adore
Thee, ever-present, phantom thing
My slave, my comrade, and my king.

A slave, because I rule thee still;
Incline thee to my changeful will,
And make thy influence good or ill:
A comrade, for by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight,

My darling pain that wounds and sears,
And wrings a blessing out from tears
By deadening me to earthly cares;
And yet, a king, though Prudence well
Have taught thy subject to rebel.

And am I wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt, nor hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of visions, plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee!

The rest of Emily Bronte’s life has been pieced together through others' comments about her.

I highly recommend watching To Walk Invisible. If you didn’t catch it on Sunday, you can still watch it on Masterpiece’s website.

Have you ever read Wuthering Heights? If so, what is your opinion of the novel?

More good info on Emily Bronte found here:
Emily Bronte