Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wacky Wednesday: Interview with Robert Aspinall about THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR

Welcome to Wacky Wednesday and a stop on The White Swan Affair tour with Elyse Mady! You might recall me raving over this historical romance, if not feel free to read my review - click here - but hurry back! - for today we are visiting with Mr. Robert Aspinall, a character from the intriguing and unexpected new historical romance, THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR by Elyse Mady.

Mr. Robert Aspinall has been arrested and charged with having patronized this certain common, ill-governed and disorderly house in Clare Market and in this said house committed with sundry evil and ill-disposed persons all manner of dishonest conversation and unnatural acts. This means that Robert has been charged with homosexual activity, a crime carrying the maximum sentence of death by hanging.

We are here today, at the Middlesex Sessions House, with him as he awaits the verdict of the court.

Amy:  I would like to thank Mr. Robert Aspinall for allowing us to speak with him today.
Good Day to you, Mr. Aspinall - would it be acceptable for me to refer to you as Robert for the remainder of this interview?

Mr. Robert Aspinall: I hope that you will. Your support at this difficult time is greatly appreciated.

Amy:  Thank you, Robert. You certainly do have our utmost support at this difficult time. Perhaps you will tell us a little bit about yourself for those who do not know you yet.

Robert:  I am tailor by trade. For the past four years, I have resided here in London with my sister, Hester. Our parents were taken from us very suddenly by illness. Before being taken up by the Bow Street runners I was owner of a small but growing tailor’s shop in High Holborne. I spent my youth in the small market town of Malmesbury, which is in the Cotswolds, in Wiltshire. The Aspinalls have hailed from that part of the world since before Queen Bess’ time. I was engaged to be married but the arrangement was broken upon news of my arrest.

Amy: My deepest sympathies on the passing of your parents and the misfortune of your broken engagement. It seems your life certainly took a very disturbing direction on the night of July 8th in this year, 1810 when you visited a public house by the name of the WHITE SWAN. Would you mind telling us about that night?

Robert: It is difficult for me to speak of that dreadful night but since I know that your interest is sincere, not prurient, I will try my best to lay the scene for you. As you may know, sexual relationships between men are illegal in England. Such encounters are called unnatural. Yet despite its illegality, there has been a secret community of some long standing here in London. Men who are so inclined can seek out, at some considerable risk to themselves, individuals who share the same proclivities. Some meet in alleys. St. Paul’s Cathedral is another notorious spot as are the privies around Lincoln Fields. But most prefer a greater degree of privacy, hence the proliferation of what are known in common cant as molly houses.

The White Swan, which was a public house in the Clare Market, not far from our lodgings in Great Wild Street, was one such place. Below stairs, it looked much like any other: a tap room, a private parlour and a kitchen. It was above stairs that its true purpose was revealed: there were several bedrooms, all with multiple beds. A dressing room filled with women’s clothes and accoutrements. Even, I am ashamed to say, a chapel where marriages might take place. It was always busy but Sunday nights were known to be particularly lively, as many men who lived outside the Capital, made it a practice to travel into the city on that night.

It had been in operation some six months when the raids occurred. I was in a back room, drinking with some of the other men, when the police arrived. There was a great deal of confusion and shouting. The constabulary did not hesitate to use force if they met with resistance. Those of us who had not the means to escape or the funds to pay for escape, were rounded up. We spent a miserable night in the watch tower and then Monday morning, were paraded before the magistrates to be bound over until trial.

News of our arrest caused a great deal of anger and indignation and as we were hauled in open carts to prison, a great number of Londoners took it upon themselves to mete out justice with whatever objects might come readily to hand: dung, turnips and cobblestones being the most frequent.

Amy: *pauses in an attempt to comprehend such a humiliating event* My dear sir, such humiliation should not be endured by any person. I am so very sorry that you were put through such an experience. Your sister, Miss Hester Aspinall, found you at Newgate Prison the next day. You were already suffering the ill effects of the arrest and the environmental state of your surroundings, how were you holding up emotionally?

Robert: I was furious. Scared. Humiliated. Angry at myself for allowing my base desires to supersede my better judgement. Everything I knew, everything I had planned or held dear, had been ripped away when the Bow Street officers descended on the club. I knew what happens to any man unlucky enough to be branded a sodomite – their fate is an ugly one – and my only paltry defense in the first confusing days was to deny my culpability entirely. I was not ready to accept my true identity and that was perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the whole situation.

Amy: *reaches out to compassionately squeeze Robert's hand before the guard notices*
It is sometimes more difficult to admit such things to yourself than to others. Your dear sister promised to come every day to visit yet it was some time before she returned again. Did you fear she had abandoned you or did you have great trust that she was doing all that she was capable of to gain your freedom?

Robert: Hester has been a pillar of strength through this entire ordeal. In the beginning, I will admit that I could not fathom telling her the truth: that I care for men romantically. I thought she would shun me. But over the past two and a half months, I have come to appreciate her capacity for understanding to a degree I had not thought possible. She has stood by me through every test and I thank her for it every day.

Amy: A sister's love knows no bounds. I understand she tried to make a go of your business upon your incarceration only to come under attack by a mob led by none other than Charlotte Stroud's own father. After discovering your sister's plight upon being attacked by Mr. George Stroud - your fiancée's father or rather your ex-fiancée - you heard of news that she was in the care of your landlord, Mr. Thomas Ramsey. I hear say that this angered you even though you considered this man a friend. Why should you carry such anger toward such a kind and generous man?

Robert:  *sighs* Jealousy, mostly. I am not proud of it, either. Although my sister did not see it, a man is always aware of how other men look at those they are attracted to. I knew that Mr. Ramsay liked my sister, even before he took such prodigious care of her after the riot. I resented the fact that he could act so openly towards the one that he desired, whilst I could not even acknowledge my attractions to myself, but was reduced to subterfuge and slaking my hungers in low places like the White Swan.

Amy: You've since learned that your sister loves this man. Has your opinion of Mr. Thomas Ramsey changed?

Robert: He is the best of men. Not only does he love Hester, he has done her the great honour of asking her to be his wife. There are few men who would do so, when it meant that they must call a man such as myself brother-in-law. Yet not only does he not repudiate me, he has moved heaven and earth to secure me the best representation possible and rescued my dear sister from the hands of that deceiver and fraud, Wooley. The debt I owe him is impossibly high.

Amy: Aye, Wooley turned out to be a much greater villian than yourself. It's a shame he cannot take your place here in your stead. Your experiences in Newgate Prison over the past few months have not been good ones. Was there anyone or anything that helped ease the time spent in that place?

Robert: Newgate is a hellish place. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

But yes, I have met someone who has helped ease my incarceration. Timothy is a man like myself. We were drawn to each other almost from the first moment. I have never experienced the like before. I would like to say I bravely embraced the opportunity he presented but I did not. Instead, I did everything in my power to delay the inevitable until finally, we could stay apart no longer. He has given me so much – love, acceptance and sense of self-worth and peace that for so long were lacking in my life. When he laughs, it is the best sound in the world and his presence alone makes Newgate bearable. I will spend whatever time on this earth that God and the jury give me making him happy.

Amy: *nods in approval* It is good to know you've had such comfort at such a difficult and trying time. As your trial draws to an end and you are about to face your sentence, have you the wish that your life might have traveled a different path and if so, how so?

Robert: I wish that my path might have been easier, yes, but not if it meant that I could never meet the love of my life. Timothy has changed everything. If I had not been found out that night in July, and my marriage to Charlotte had gone on as planned, I don’t think things would have been easy, either. I would have been married to a woman I cared for but could never love as she deserved and I would have never come to achieve the personal understanding I now hold so dear. I would have been living a lie and I suspect that my soul would have been the worst for it.

I can only hope that in the future, men and women such as myself, who find themselves attracted to their own sex, will find their path less tortuous than the one I now tread. That they will not be branded criminals nor threatened with death and expulsion from polite society. That their choices will be respected and their commitments to their partners acknowledged openly and with joy by their families and friends. I fear that day is as yet far off, but I will hope for it always.

Amy: As long as there are good folk such as your sister, Hester, and Mr. Ramsey, I believe there is hope for a better future. If you should be exonerated and set free, or hopefully receive a lesser punishment than transportation or worse, death by hanging, what will you do with your life? Will you return to your life as it was, living on Brewer’s Court on Great Wild Street and working your tailor's shop?

Robert: No, I will not return to Brewer’s Court. My life there would be too notorious. If I am spared by the jury today, I think I will set out for a new corner of the world. A man who claims a talent with needles and cloth enjoys a portable skill. Of course, I will miss my sister dearly but now that I know she will be protected as Thomas’ wife, I do not fear for her well-being. I understand that Upper Canada is a fertile, growing colony. York or Queenston, mayhaps? Or perhaps the sub-continent. I have not allowed myself to think that far ahead. At present, my trial consumes my every thought. But as long as I am with Timothy, I will be happy to call whatever our eventual destination is home.

Amy:  Dear Robert, Mr. Aspinall, thank you for your candid and honest responses to my inquiries. We all wish you only the best of luck with the outcome of your trial. May the love of your sister and the goodness of your acquaintances sustain you no matter the sentence handed down this day. May God be with you.

Robert: Thank you, Miss Amy, for speaking with me today. Your support means a great deal to me and my sister, Hester and we thank you for it. 
*bows his head gracefully before being led away*

Amy: I hope everyone will join me in wishing Robert, Mr. Aspinall, the very best of luck that his verdict will be a fair one and that his life may continue with Timothy and with grace.

Ah, joining me now is the author of this wonderful historical romance, Elyse Mady.

Greetings, Elyse!

Elyse Mady: I’d just like to say thank you for having me today, Amy. It’s always a thrill to get to talk to readers about my books – or in this case, for my character to talk about their experiences. I’d love to give one of your readers a chance to win a signed e-copy of “The White Swan Affair” in their choice of format.

Amy: How wonderful! Elyse, thank you so very much for the incredible insight into your character, Robert Aspinall and for the generous gift!

Well, my dear readers, here's your chance to win a signed e-copy of THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR by Elyse Mady. This is a MUST READ!! If you don't believe me, check out my review - I loved it.


London, 1810
After the tragic death of her beloved, Hester Aspinall vowed never to be ruled by her passions again. Still, she is drawn to her landlord, handsome adventurer Thomas Ramsay–but she doesn’t fool herself that a man of his station would look twice at a poor tailor’s sister.

With the sea for a mistress, Thomas has no intention of entering into matrimony. And yet, he can’t get the plain-spoken and desirable Hester out of his mind, even though she’s never tried to secure his attentions as other women do.

Everything changes the night Hester’s brother is arrested during a raid on a gay brothel, the infamous White Swan. With no one else to turn to, and terrified Robert will hang for his crime, Hester accepts Thomas’s offer to bear the cost of the defense. A true gentleman, Thomas expects nothing in return–but Hester is no longer able to deny her own desires…

She may offer her body eagerly, but can she protect her heart?

                      *                        *                     *                     *                     *

About the author:
Elyse Mady is the author of historical romances “The White Swan Affair” and “The Debutante’s Dilemma" with Carina Press and two contemporary romances. Upcoming books include the Regency novella “The Debutante’s Desire”. She blogs at You can also find her on Twitter at @elysemady, Facebook and Goodreads.

In addition to her writing commitments, Elyse also teaches film and literature at a local college. With her excellent writerly imagination, she one day dreams of topping the NY Times Bestseller’s List and reclaiming her pre-kid body without the bother of either sit-ups or the denunciation of ice-cream.

If you'd like to follow the rest of THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR tour with Elyse Mady, please check out all of the tour dates at THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR tour page. There are loads more chances to win Elyse's fabulous books at each stop. Or you can come back any time and click on the Tour Badge at the top of my blog.

Now for the Giveaway!!
As you have surmised, THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR by Elyse Mady is not your typical romance. Oh there's a lovely heroine and charming hero but there's also the other side of the coin - a man who loves men.
***For a chance to win a signed e-copy of THE WHITE SWAN by Elyse Mady:
tell me what you think - any comment will do but you MUST comment in order to be entered and you MUST include a valid email address.
PLEASE LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS or I can't contact you and if I can't contact you, you cannot win!
This Giveaway is OPEN TO EVERYONE including my International readers and will run until 11:59PM EDT on Friday, June 22, 2012. One Lucky Winner will be picked at random and notified by email -- see how important that email address is?
Happy Reading Everyone and Good Luck!



Beebs said...

Wow! Amy,

Love this post. It's hard to believe, in this day and age, that people were ever treated so severely for their sexual preferences. I know that, even now, there is still prejudice but to hang people because they were gay......the mind boggles. The book sounds amazing.


lorimeehan said...

I think this sounds like a really good book. I have an open mind and I've read several m/m romances and have enjoyed them. Love is love and when you find it you have to take that leap of faith. I like that this book has this side story going on and that the main characters are supportive.

erin said...

Thanks for a great post and giveaway! This book sounds awesome! I love reading romance and in whatever form it comes ;)


Jeannie S. said...

This sounds very good - I definitely want to read this. Love the cover too.

julie beasley said...

i really enjoyed the interview. we are very lucky we live in enlightened times. love is is love, and we should be grateful in what ever form we find it in. ive not read many m/m but this books sounds like a good read, with fine characters.

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Everyone! I'm so glad you're enjoying this Wacky Wednesday - I love this interview and have Elyse to thank for speaking for Robert.
A couple of you have referred to this as a m/m romance, it's actually not - the actual romance is between Hester and Thomas with Robert and Timothy's as a side story.
It's such an awesome story built off a true incident. There really was a Robert Aspinall who was arrested on that very night at the White Swan and tried for such a crime. I hope you all will read it whether you win the copy or not!!

Thanks for coming by and enjoying one of my favorite posts yet!! xoxo

Melody May said...

The story sounds intriguing to say the least.

Natasha Storm said...

Wonderful interview! Must get my hands on this book.

Elyse Mady said...

I'm so glad you ladies are enjoying Robert's interview. I always love visiting with Amy - we have way too much fun to actually be working :)

Can't wait to see who the lucky winner is!


Amy Valentini said...

It certainly was a lot of fun, thank you Elyse for making it so. : )

Amy xoxo

Zippy said...

I sure would love to win!

Linda said...

Guess we never quite realize how lucky we are in this liberal day and age. That's one of the reasons why I enjoy historicals; it's fascinating to read about how different things were in those days.

Stephanie Tracy said...

Oh my gosh!!! This is such perfect timing because I literally was thinking JUST THIS MORNING about how I would love to read a novel that involved some sort of unconventional romance - like this one. I want to see how it is handled in a historical context! Personally, I'm a huge fan of love stories (no matter the gender) and I think it would be absolutely lovely to read this book. I can't believe the irony. I literally thought "I'm sure I'll never find a book like that." I feel so grateful to have stumbled upon this post! I'm crossing my fingers extremely tightly right now and hoping I get a chance to read this book! It sounds WONDERFUL!!! Thanks for holding this contest!



Dalila G. said...

Hi Amy ~

This book sounds like it is one heck of a read!
Yes, I would like to get my hands on THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR, I have to know what happens to Robert.

Also, the story of Thomas and Hester and their HEA will be full of bumps, another 'must-know' storyline.

Talk about a 2 for 1 deal!
Count me in. :-)


Amy Valentini said...

I'm so glad so many of you are interested in this story. It's such an awesome historical romance and since it's based on a real incident involving Mr. Robert Aspinall, it is filled with lots of details. You get a feel for Regency England that you won't get anywhere else. Good Luck everyone. xoxo

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a lot of research went into writing this novel. I love novels rich with research! They're so informative and entertaining at the same time. (extemter at hotmail dot com)