I am delighted to be able to welcome back the author Grace Elliot to 'The Secret Writer'. Grace leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance)! Grace has just published her fourth novel “Verity’s Lie” and she has written a guest post for us today. Grace's post is titled 'Cats in Fiction' and in this post she will also tell us a bit about her latest novel 'Verity's Lie'. Thank you Grace for your Guest Post and we all wish you the very best of luck with your new book!
Cats in Fiction
Is it just me, or is a house not a home without a pet?
OK, I admit to being biased because I’m a bit bonkers when it comes to cats, but for me animals give a place soul – and the same is so for animals in books – their presence gives an extra dimension and by seeing how characters react to felines, give extra clues to their character. References to cats in particular can be found in classic literature from Charles Dickens to Henry James, Rudyard Kipling to Emile Zola.
Indeed, I suspect the Victorian novelist George Moore thinks much the same as me as he bemoaned the absence of pets from those most august of novels ‘Tom Jones’ and ‘Vanity Fair’. His reasoning went like this:“Both books lack intimacy of thought and feeling. No one sits by the fire and thinks…and welcomes the approach of a familiar bird or animal.”
To my view, Charles Dickens was on the right track. He knew that animals are important in making a book come to life. Take for example ‘Bleak House’ which features several cats. There is Krook’s cat Lady Jane who follows her master or perches hissing on his shoulder. Then there is Mr Jellyby’s cat who finishes his morning milk, and finally, Mrs Pipchin’s old cat who likes to purr... “While the contracting pupils of his eyes looked like two notes of admiration.”
Come to think of it, Dickens has quite an association with cats because he made several references to cat pies…but that’s another story.
Perhaps the master of feline literature is Rudyard Kipling in his “Just So” stories. He wrote a story titled “The cat that walked by himself”. In this tale the cat makes a bargain with the woman that he will accept milk and a place by the hearth, and in return will do only what he wants to do– which deliciously sums up the independent nature of the cats.
In one of my favourite novels, ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel, there is a delicious evocative passage that describing an interaction with Cromwell’s cat, Marlinspike.
“A cat may look at a king,” he [Cromwell] says. He is cradling Marlinspike in his arms, and talking to Thomas Avery, the boy he’s teaching his trade……He puts the cat down, opens the bag.He fishes up on a finger a string of rosary beads; for show says Avery, and he says, good boy. Marlinspike leaps on to his desk; he peers into the bag, dabbing with a paw. “The only mice in there are sugar ones.” The boy [Avery] pulls the cat’s ears, tussles with him. “We don’t have any little pets in Master Vaughan’s house.”
I love to find a reference to an animal in a novel. To see how characters react to it can speak volumes for their personality – things they may wish to keep hidden, leak to the surface when there’s a cat about. In my new release “Verity’s Lie” – rogue and general bad boy, Lord Ryevale, encounters a cat and in so doing, accidentally reveals a softer side that sets our heroine wondering…
Verity stepped into a bright hallway that smelt of sweet peas. A jute runner covered the flagstones and picture frames lined the walls. There was a lack of fussiness and sense of refined simplicity that appealed to Verity. Added to that, a plump back cat came padding along the corridor, mewling for attention.
"Gibbe, you cheeky boy. I might have known you'd appear when visitors arrive...making out as if no one feeds you."
The cat made straight for Lord Ryevale and rubbed around his ankles whilst purring ecstatically. His lordship stooped to rub Gibbe's ears, the purrs growing ever louder. Seeing this softer side of Ryevale moved Verity beyond words.
"You like that, don’t you? Is that the spot?" A soft light entered Ryevale's eye. Verity watched wide-eyed as the cat rolled over to display his ample belly whilst Ryevale clicked his tongue and made gooey noises.
It was Mrs Featherstone who interrupted this touching scene. "Now Gibbe, leave his lordship alone. Come into the kitchen and I'll find you some oysters. Lord Ryevale, dear, Miss Foster is in the studio. Can you see yourself up?"
"Indeed." Ryevale glanced around defensively, as if remembering Verity's presence. "This way, Miss Verrinder."
Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.
In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.
When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.
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