|The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer, |
painted about 40 years prior to the time of The Captain and the Countess
Normally we feature a craft project on Mondays. Today we’re changing things up a bit with a visit from British historical romance author Rosemary Morris, here to tell us about the artist hero she created for one of her books. Learn more about Rosemary and her books at her website and blog.
The subject of this article is the effect of the hero’s artistic talents. in my novel, The Captain and the Countess.
In 1706, Edward, the Right Honourable Captain Howard, who served in Queen Anne’s navy, is on half-pay.
Edward appeared in my mind while reading The Command of the Ocean by N.A.M Rodger, in which he states: “Off-watch, seamen had time to relax, especially on men-of-war with their large crews. Music, reading and gambling were common pastimes. Some ships had bands – ‘trumpets, hautboys and violins in the case of the H.M.S. Duchess’.”
Many sailors, including the officers, put their free time to good use, learning foreign languages and developing their skills. Edward Howard took the opportunity to develop his abilities as an artist, and in that capacity he became exceptionally observant.
Edward first saw Kate, Countess of Sinclair, an acclaimed beauty, whose sobriquet was ‘The Fatal Widow’, when she stood in the doorway of his godmother’s salon, her cool blue eyes speculative.
He stared at her without blinking and whistled low, and wondered if her shocking reputation could be no more than tittle-tattle?
While Edward scrutinised her, unlike most gentlemen who took scant interest in female fashion, he noted that rumour did not lie about her Saxon beauty, which she made the most of. “Her ladyship was not a slave to fashion. She did not wear a wig, and her hair was not curled and stiffened with sugar water. Instead, her flaxen plaits were wound around the crown of her head to form a coronet. The style suited her. So did the latest Paris fashion, an outrageous wisp of a lace cap, which replaced the tall, fan-shaped fontage most ladies continued to wear perched on their heads.” Later, he sketched her from memory.
Although Kate was ten years his senior, Edward enjoyed flirting with her during their first encounter. However, his sharp eyes saw beyond her outward facade. “A frozen glimpse of despair deep in her eyes unsettled him. Did he imagine it? He could not speak. Why should a lady like the countess despair?”
Edward was consumed both by desire for Kate and determination to paint her portrait. When he visited her, “he stared at the tips of her slippers resting decorously side by side on a footstool,” and he said, “Truth to tell, I would like to paint you with your skirts drawn up a little to reveal your ankles.”
He invited her on a picnic in the country and tried to persuade her to allow him the privilege of painting her portrait.
Kate, who was accustomed to artists clamouring to paint her, refused, and explained. “At my late husband’s command, I sat for my portrait. Never have I suffered such ennui. I never wish to experience it again.”
Edward, who intended to use his artistic skills to win her, persisted, but Kate declared. “I detest picnics because it either rains when one is planned, or the sun is too hot to eat and drink in comfort.”
Undeterred Edward wagered a flask of perfume blended by the famous perfumier, Lille, against Kate’s permission to capture her in oil paint, if their picnic is not spoiled by inclement weather. Amused, Kate agreed but warned him that he would lose.
Although Kate flirted with him, she rebuffed his advances, but Edward was not fooled. His sixth sense told him she was attracted to him but would not succumb because, behind her smiles and seeming gaiety, she was the victim of deep-rooted unhappiness.
When Edward arrived on the day agreed upon for the picnic, it was pouring with rain, so Kate assumed she had won the wager.
Edward, who considered himself too young to marry, hoped Kate would become his mistress, yet, when they set out for his house in Chelsea, he was torn between desire and his wish to help her overcome the grief behind her fashionable façade.
When they arrived, it poured with rain, so Kate assumed she had won the wager. However, Edward led her to a summer house in which they would enjoy their picnic. He pointed out, that he had won because the summer house was part of the garden. “So,” he began triumphantly, “when the weather is more favourable, with your permission, I shall sketch you beneath the boughs of a spreading oak tree.”
“Captain Howard did you paint the interior?” Kate asked, intrigued by a scene of woodland carpeted with bluebells, in which she noticed timid rabbits partially concealed in the lush growth, a suspicious badger peering out from his set, and a wary fox peeping from behind a gnarled oak tree. “Were you not an officer in Her Majesty’s navy—and if you had the need to do so—you could command a living as an artist.”
There is much more to Kate’s young admirer than she had realised. As for Edward, as time passed, he fell in love with the countess and wanted to marry her; so he thanked fate, which determined that through his skill as an artist Kate, who had declared that she would never marry again, regarded him more favourably.
The Captain and The Countess
Why does heart-rending pain lurk in the back of the wealthy Countess of Sinclair’s eyes?
Captain Howard’s life changes forever from the moment he meets Kate, the intriguing Countess and resolves to banish her pain.
Although the air sizzles when widowed Kate, victim of an abusive marriage meets Edward Howard, a captain in Queen Anne’s navy, she has no intention of ever marrying again.
However, when Kate becomes better acquainted with the Captain she realises he is the only man who understands her grief and can help her to untangle her past.