Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mary Balogh: The Constant Heart

A Constant Heart was written by Mary Balogh in July 1987. Mary Balogh writes a story of heartbreak and reunited love when Rebecca's beau, Christopher, who had married another for wealth, returns to her after the death of his wife. However, she is also being courted by Reverend Everett. Who will she chooose?

Allan Kass paints a simple outdoors scene for this cover. I love the hero's periwinkle blue jacket! He seems to blend into the foilage as he leans against the tree while our heroine is bright in a simple yellow dress. I wonder if they met unawares, since her hair is down. It seems as if he's waiting for an answer; maybe from a marriage proposal!

Mary Balogh's early regencies are very hard to find and out of print. She has gone on to become one of the most popular writers of romance in the world. I think it's great that she got her start with Signet!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mary Balogh: A Christmas Promise

A Christmas Promise was written by Mary Balogh and published by Signet in December 1992. In the early 1990's, publishers realized the popularity of holiday themed books and Signet began publishing more in the coming years. This book is about Eleanor, who is wed to Lord Randolph due to her father, a coal merchant, wishes. He dies soon afterward and the couple, who married for wealth and position, learn how to love at the season of Christmas.

This is an interesting cover with our couple dancing in a drawing room during a family gathering. Note the gifts and our heroine's jewels....maybe she received them as a present! They look happy as they waltz around the room. I love the intricate sleeves of her dress and the little girl watching in the background, wishing to be dancing herself!

Mary Balogh's popularity encouraged Signet to have her author some short stories that take place at Christmas. Allan Kass illustrated a few of these Signet Regency Christmas books and I will list them soon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mary Balogh: A Christmas Bride

A Christmas Bride is another popular regency romance by Mary Balogh and illustrated by Allan Kass. This is one of Allan's later illustrations and the publication date for this book is November 1997. It's amazing to realize that he turned 80 this year and was still painting beautiful and elegant illustrations!

The scene is a beautifully cold winters day with people skating on a lake. They are probably attending a house party for the holidays. Our couple is dressed warmly with heavy coats lined with fur and our heroine carries a beautiful muff along with wearing a sprig of holly in her bonnet. Note the others wearing Christmas colors of green and red. Skating was an exercise enjoyed by young and old. In 1814, the Thames river in London froze and people skated upon it, along with a Frost Fair that had the citizens of London celebrating!

This story is about Edgar Downes, who has decided to marry. However, he meets a widow, Lady Helena, who meets none of his requirements. A Christmas miracle brings them together in this book.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mary Balogh: Christmas Beau

Christmas Beau is the next in our series of Mary Balogh's books published by Signet and illustrated by Allan Kass. This book came out in December 1991.

It has a playful cover depicting our couple on a snowy walk. Will the hero hit the heroine with a snowball? Look at the others in the background. The people are dressed in heavy winter clothing. Note the greatcoat our hero wears. Our heroine wears a beautiful eggplant colored coat and matching hat.

Christmas was a time to visit family and friends just like it is nowadays. People would host house parties that could last for a month or 6 weeks, because of the difficulties in travel and weather. A house party was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and visit with old friends.

In this book, Judith Easton is enjoying the Christmas season after the death of her husband and wonders if the scandal of her girlhood, when she jilted the Marquess of Denbigh to marry her husband, will be remembered. She has just put off her mourning. When a lady was widowed, she had to wear black for a year and forgo any balls and parties. Mourning was considered important and a time to grieve for the departed. She also could not marry within this year as a matter of respect for the dead spouse. How Judith and the Marquess meet once again and how he feels about her is the plot of this story! I always enjoyed the Signet Christmas stories and still reread them over the holidays!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mary Balogh: A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter was published by Signet in December 1985 and is an early work of Mary Balogh, one of the most popular regency romance writers. Allan Kass illustrated quite a few of her books and in the next week or so, I will focus on them.

This book is about Elizabeth who became a companion to the daughter of a family after a heartbreak with love and ends up meeting with the one man she hoped never to see again. Mary Balogh writes with great feeling and skill and her earlier regencies are hard to find and collectors items.

This is a beautiful cover by Allan. It shows the couple standing in a doorway of an older building; a church, perhaps. The hero has a look of happiness on his face, while our heroine serenely leans upon the door frame. Note her cheery orange morning dress and straw hat. I also like her bracelet; Allan is known for his jewelry. See the watch fob on the hero! Is our couple taking a break from a country walk? This is a wonderful picture and classic Kass artistry! Some of Allan's best work was done in the 1980's.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rebecca Baldwin: A Sanditon Quadrille

A Sanditon Quadrille is the last book I have illustrated by Allan Kass for Rebecca Baldwin. It is numbered 118 in the Coventry Regency series. Rebecca writes a lovely story about 2 mismatched couples who find love on the dance floor! This book was published in June 1981.

A quadrille was a dance with either 2 or 4 couples dancing in a square formation. As it became popular, the dance itself became more intricate. It was the ancestor of the modern square dance.

Allan paints a beautiful cover with our couple standing outside on a balcony while in the background you can see the inside of the ballroom and the dancers within. Our heroine wears a purple ballgown and long while gloves. Our hero is in full dress suit with intricate cravat and black jacket. Remember that Beau Brummell made the black dress suit popular. Many ballrooms had french doors that either led to balconies where a couple could get a breath of fresh air or down to a garden. Remember, there was no central air or heating at this time and the candles and many bodies in a room could get very hot. People were sometimes afraid of the night air bringing diseases and would keep windows closed.

Rebecca Baldwin named this book "Sanditon" for Jane Austen's unfinished book by the same title as a tribute.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rebecca Baldwin: Peerless Theodosia

Peerless Theodosia was published in March 1980 by Fawcett under their Coventry Regency Romance line. Note the #30 in the corner. This book is about Theodosia and her brother, who are American and come to visit the Southcote family and the havoc that reigns afterwards. Glancing through this book, it reads like a tribute to Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy.

The illustration that Allan Kass has drawn surely would fit the cover of The Grand Sophy with a heroine who adores green, is dressed well and delivers a parrot to the children of the family. This is a beautiful cover showing the heroine in a traveling dress with her large muff, which was very popular to carry, and a plumed hat. Outfits like this would have been sewn with fabrics like velvet that could be easily brushed down and also kept the wearer warm. Note the doorway! Theodosia arrives at a London townhouse with a Georgian/Palladian entrance which doesn't look out of place nowadays. Normally the butler would have opened the door and footman would help her with her things. Regency townhouses were narrow in front, but long in depth, sometimes rising 4 to 5 stories. In the US, you can see houses similar to this in Charleston, South Carolina. In the UK, visit Bath to see a preserved Regency townhouse at #1 Royal Crescent!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rebecca Baldwin: A Gentleman From Philadelphia

A Gentleman from Philadelphia is the second book illustrated by Allan Kass for Rebecca Baldwin. This book was published in 1978 and is the story of Annabella and Philip, who she has loved for years. He comes back from Philadelphia at the time she intends to make a marriage to save her family from debt.

This is an interesting cover since Allan paints not only the couple, but also an elderly lady and gentleman. Perhaps they are Anna's aunt and the butler?? I think the beauty of this illustration lies in the heroine. Her green dress emphasizes her hair color and complexion. She arranges a bowl of flowers while the others look on.

Note the lady drinking tea which was a popular (and still is) past time in England. Because dinner sometimes was held at 8 or 9 pm, a tea with dessert or cake was served around 4pm. Tea was considered a luxury and often kept under lock and key by the housekeeper or mistress of the house. Tea leaves would be reused until the flavor was gone. Pouring tea was considered part of a young lady's accomplishment.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rebecca Baldwin: The Cassandra Knot

The Cassandra Knot is the first book in our Allan Kass list of illustrations that is authored by Rebecca Baldwin. She wrote a few regencies under the Fawcett publication line. The Cassandra Knot was published in 1979 and is about a girl named Cassandra who marries Edward, Duke of Woodland, in order to protect her fortune from her greedy relatives. Of course, what happens when he lets her loose on London is entertaining.

This is an interesting cover illustration with the couple seated at a dinner table. Note the heroine's ornate dress with a special notice of her necklace. Allan is known for his beautiful portrayal of jewels. The hero is also dressed formally for the evening. This cover looks like it takes place at an intimate dinner. Maybe the most unique quality of this book cover are the candles flickering on the candlestick! It's a very beautiful cover!

The silver serving pieces on the table would have been a normal sight at any dinner. The butler of the family would have been required to see that they were highly polished and ready to use, besides keeping them under lock and key when in storage. Usually he would have either an underbutler or footman to help him with his duties.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jane Ashford: The Three Graces

The Three Graces by Jane Ashford is the last book of hers that Allan Kass illustrated. This book was published in March 1982 and is about how 3 sisters, impoverished from the death of their father and aunt, decide whether to remain spinsters or to make their own fortunes!

This is a striking cover with our couple standing in front of a harp and pianoforte. I would assume that Allan's illustrated the musical daughter, Euphie, who heads to London. I like the Wedgwood feel of the wall hanging. Also note the cat, which looks out of place in this picture! In one of Allan's letters, he remarked that he always wanted to tell a story with his art. I feel that he succeeds with his book illustrations.

Music was an accomplishment that high born girls had access to either with piano or singing lessons. Most girls knew enough to sing and play a few pieces. A truly accomplished female could teach in a school or give lessons to others. Great music was encouraged and flourished during this time and people enjoyed attending concerts and having musical evenings.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jane Ashford: The Reluctant Rake

The Reluctant Rake is 7th in a series of illustrations done by Allan Kass for author Jane Ashford. This book was published in May 1987 and is a story about Julia who is engaged to Sir Richard Beckwith, but who may have a female rival in town.

London Society during the regency was a time of entertainment, visiting, partying, and matchmaking. People came to town from their country estates to shop, go to concerts and galleries, and associate with more people than in the country. Most parents sent up their older children to acquaint themselves with polite society, to polish off their manners after finishing school, and to find them spouses. The season was also called the "London Marriage Mart" because of this purpose. Those who couldn't afford a season in London would send children to Bath or Brighton or even to relatives in hope of finding suitable matches.

This cover is pretty with the heroine a beautiful brunette in a mauve pink gown. She has a young and innocent look to her face. The hero seems to be reassuring her about something...maybe the rival she spotted! Note the sunlight shining into the room; it looks like a nice summer day! Also note Allan's full signature in the bottom right corner.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jane Ashford: A Radical Arrangement

A Radical Arrangement is the fifth book Allan Kass illustrated for Jane Ashford. This book was published by Signet in October 1983. Allan shows a couple standing in front of an ornate fireplace in a library. The plot is that both Sir Justin and Margaret are being pushed into an arranged marriage. In regency times, arranged marriages were still common among the upper classes. Marriages were made for title, position, land, and money. Most daughters had little to no choice in the matter. Marrying for love was becoming popular, though, and by the end of this century was the common reason for most marriages.

This cover is interesting with the bookcase and mirrored wall in the background. Most rooms had a fireplace since there was no central heating. The heroine is dressed in a beautiful pink, long sleeve gown and holds an ornate fan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jane Ashford: The Marchington Scandal

The Marchington Scandal was published by Signet in July 1982. It is one of Jane Ashford's earlier books and also one of Allan's earlier illustrations.

The plot of this regency is Katharine's help concerning the marriage of her cousin Elinor to Tom Marchington. A cruelly notorious countess is interfering in the lives of the newlyweds and Katharine asks for the help of Lord Oliver, a persistent suitor of hers.

This cover has a simple elegance to it with very little in the way of decoration. The focus is on the couple and the glance that is communicated between them. I love the relaxing feel of this picture with the handsome profile of the hero and the admiring response of the heroine. The fluidity of this illustration is astounding! Note in the bottom right corner that Allan Kass initials this book. Sometimes he signs his full name and at other times, just initials.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jane Ashford: The Irresolute Rivals

The Irresolute Rivals is another beautiful cover illustrated by Allan Kass for author Jane Ashford. This book was published in February 1985 and is about Georgina who is ushering her niece Susan through her first season and realizes that she admires Baron Ellerton, the man that both Susan and her friend Marianne are pursuing!

This is an outdoor illustration probably in a walled garden. Note the ornate stonework behind the couple and the peacock. The heroine is holding a flower picked from a garden out of sight. She is dressed in a morning or afternoon empire gown; very simple in design. Also note the beautiful floral planter in the background.

Flowers were an important part of life in regency times. All great houses had a flower garden and you can visit nowadays and see great planters and gardens in Bath, among other places! Many ladies used flowers for decorating at balls, parties, and even their own homes. Men would send flowers to the lady of their choice and supply their partners with flowers for balls and parties, along with delivering floral tributes to someone they admired. It was common to receive many bouquets after a ball by the gentlemen who had danced with you. Flowers were among the only gifts a gentleman could give a lady. Even a cottage would have a vine or flowers in a garden!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jane Ashford: The Impetuous Heiress

The Impetuous Heiress is the third book of Jane Ashford's illustrated by Allan Kass. The plot of this regency is the romance of a London beauty, Alicia, and the Scotsman who detests society and how they cope!

This cover, while looking at first glance simple, has much to offer. Note that the hero and heroine embrace in an elegantly appointed room: notice the curtains in the background. The statue and marble topped table attract our attention after the couple. Allan creates a portrait of a woman who wears a simple morning or afternoon dress, but has her hair down, which would be unacceptable in regency society, despite the latest Mansfield Park movie! Maybe she was resting or reading beforehand in this room. I love the blue of her dress and her earrings and ring. Our hero has a red cast to his hair denoting his Scots blood while wearing afternoon or evening dress. Note his watch fob with red ribbon! This is before the time of wristwatches, where men carried a pocket watch attached to a chain or ribbon. The fob could be considered an adornment, though Beau Brummell made male accessories little and understated. Permissible were a signet ring, watch fob, and stick pin for the cravat, but nothing further in the way of jewelry. Men could carry a snuff box, cane, and hat, but little else. Simplicity and elegance were the rule of the regency.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jane Ashford: The Headstrong Ward

The Headstrong Ward by Jane Ashford is the second book illlustrated by Allan Kass. It was published by Signet in May 1983. The cover is gorgeous with a couple standing in an elegant room. Note the side table with books, a picture, and the parrot! Again, note Allan's use of jewelry on the heroine and the blond hero! Men began dressing in a formal black suit following the lead of Beau Brummell, grandson of a valet, who, because of his elegance of dress, became a leader of fashion and friends with the Prince Regent. Beau Brummell is the father of the modern suit. Up until this time, men wore colorful long skirted coats and wigs (think George Washington). During the mid 1770's, the fashion in Paris for men included makeup, fans, and high heeled shoes!! Beau promoted bathing daily and dressing your own hair, instead of wigs powdered with flour!

The Regency (1811-1820) was a time of very elegant dress for women with fashions following a Grecian simplicity imitating the Elgin marbles and fascination with Greek and Roman antiquities.

This book is about Anne, ward to Lord Debenham, who was about to "come out" into society. Girls had a season or "came out" after they finished school or were 17 or 18. A ward was someone who was orphaned and another had legal, personal, and financial responsiblity until they came of age.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jane Ashford: First Season

First Season was the first of 8 books that Allan Kass illustrated for Jane Ashford. This book was published by Signet in January 1984. This book is about a widow named Anabel who visits her mother in London and meets 2 very different suitors. During the regency, a widow usually inherited a jointure, or settlement, that would keep her in finances. Sometimes this had to be given back to the estate if she remarried.

This is one of Allan's classic illustrations. Note the heroine's dress trimmings, jewelry, and elaborate hairdo. She reclines on a chaise lounge; a piece of furniture usually found in a boudoir or private sitting room. Note that the hero leans over her, but is not threatening. One skill of Allan's that I admire is that he could draw bodily proportions perfectly. Many book covers illustrations during the 1980's had less than skillful cover art. Some were downright scary and ugly! I believe that the Signet line had some of the best cover art and, of course, Allan Kass was the best of the illustrators!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caroline Arnett: Melinda

Melinda, by Caroline Arnett was published by Fawcett in 1975. This is a beautiful cover by Allan Kass with the couple dancing in a ballroom. Note the other couples reflected in the mirror. Allan did quite a few covers of couples dancing or scenes in a ballroom. In this particular one, you can almost see the couple moving to the dance.

Dancing was a popular entertainment during times that didn't have radio, tv, or internet. It was a time to congregate and fellowship with your neighbors and friends. Jane Austen writes about local balls that she and her sister attended and dancing was taught to children. During this time, the waltz was a new and slightly scandalous dance brought over from Austria. Many people would host impromptu dances after a dinner with 2 or 3 couples dancing. It's interesting that dancing is still a popular activity.

Melinda is about an American girl who comes to London at the urging of her aunt, who plans to marry the girl off to her son. Unfortunately for her aunt, she has other plans!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Caroline Arnett: Claudia

Claudia by Caroline Arnett is the second of three books that Allan Kass illustrated for Arnett and was published by Fawcett in 1978. This is a fascinating cover because of Allan's dominant use of green. The heroine's pink dress stands out among the darkness of the garden and green shading of the walls and balcony railing. Also note the heroine's green sash, hair ribbon, and her green ring! Allan is an artist with his use of jewelry and his beautiful rendition of hands: note the heroine's!

I like this cover since it gives the reader a "Romeo and Juliet" image. The plot of this book is a love/hate relationship between Claudia and the hero, Lord Dysart and how they remedy the situation!

In 1978, Allan had been illustrating book covers for almost 10 years. He did a majority of regency romances, but also some young adult books, westerns, gothic romances, and historical fiction. For the next 20 years, he would primarily illustrate regencies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Caroline Arnett: Clarissa

This is the first photo I'm listing of an Allan Kass illustration for Fawcett publishers. This book, Clarissa, was an early edition published in 1976. Later, Fawcett would publish a series of regencies under their Coventry Romance line, which contained 200 books published between 1979 and 1982. Allan illustrated quite a few of them. At this time in the 1970's, Fawcett published many romances and gothic mysteries with regencies beginning to be published by multiple authors and gaining popularity.

Clarissa is about a girl who is a companion to a lady and she marries Lord Lynburn to escape this confining position. The cover is elegant with a hint of danger; note the man outside the window looking inside! I love the ruby red dress and the necklace that the heroine is wearing. Allan is known for painting beautiful jewelry on the women in his illustrations! Also note the details of the room: the end table, statuette, candleholder, and french doors. What is the heroine holding in her hands?!

Caroline Arnett had 3 books illustrated by Allan Kass. She wrote 2 or 3 other books for Fawcett.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Barbara Allister: The Temporary Husband

This is the last of the books that Allan illustrated for Barbara Allister. She did write other books under the Signet line. The Temporary Husband was published in March 1987. The plot is about a girl named Amanda who needs a husband in order to keep a young child who is her ward. She marries Lord Mainwaring in order to do so.

At this time in England, middle and upper class women had very little personal rights. Before they married, they were property of their fathers and after, their husbands. Women could not vote, work (except to teach), or go to university. The only profitable way to increase your lot in life was to marry well.

This is one of Allan's outdoor illustrations and it's a beautiful one with the couple standing near the ornate sundial. The house in the background has a Tudor feel with the gardens and flowers evoking a beautiful spring day in England. The heroine wears a typical day dress, simple and cut in the empire style while the hero wears a coat suitable for dining or travel. People in the country usually wore a more sedate style of dress than those residing in London.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Barbara Allister: A Marriage of Convenience

A Marriage of Convenience was published by Signet in October 1997. This is one of the last books that Allan Kass illustrated. I noticed that his later books have the couple more prominent, but still has the delicate touch that we love. Check out the window in this photo! In Regency times, brides didn't automatically wear a white wedding dress. Many girls married in their Sunday best or chose a favorite color to make their dress. Weddings could be held in a parish church after the calling of banns for 3 weeks in a row, or by use of a paid special license, which enabled the couple to marry immediately.

Allan retired from illustrating books in 1998. Signet was wanting him to paint "gimmick covers" and to take a pay decrease. That was his sign to retire. He loved the elegance of the period and was artistic enough to want to do his best. I was sorry when I noticed that he had quit illustrating, but that encouraged me to begin hunting for his other book illustrations that I didn't own!

A Marriage of Convenience is about a girl named Jane who has 2 suitors fighting over her: Lord Langston and Stephen Middleton. Which will she choose?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Barbara Allister: The Impulsive Governess

This is another illustrated cover of Allan Kass. The Impulsive Governess was published in January 1993 by Signet. Allan did many regency illustrations set outdoors. Notice the leafy trees and river in the background and the simplicity of the couple's picnic attire. The plot of this book is that Frederica is a governess in the home of Lord Lucian, who has assumed the guardianship of 4 children. At that time, the only "job" a woman could hold was as a governess.

A Regency Romance is a book set during the years of 1810-1820, which was a bridge in history between the Georgian reign (think George the 3rd, who lost the American colonies) and the Victorian reign of Queen Victoria. It was a time of great achievements in art, music, poetry, and fashion. Famous people from this time are Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelly, Beau Brummell, and Jane Austen. George the 4th was regent, or ruler in charge, during this time since his father was insane. He was a leader of fashion and a lover and collector of art. He designed the Pavilion in Brighton and lived at Carlton House in London.

Regencies are different from other romances in the wittiness and lightness of the writing and little to no sexual scenes in the stories. Jane Austen was considered the first regency writer with Georgette Heyer her successor! Regencies became popular around the mid 1970's when Barbara Cartland and others, riding on the popularity of Georgette Heyer, began writing. The heyday of the regency romance was definitely in the 1980's with current popular authors Mary Balogh, Marion Chesney, Kasey Michaels, Joan Wolf, Catherine Coulter, and Barbara Metzger all getting their beginning with regencies. Soon as many as 10 books a month were being published by Signet, Zebra, Avon, Jove, and Harlequin publishers, but, unfortunately, not all of them were well written. The rise in popularity of the paranormal genre, along with the higher cost of books set the stage for the demise of the regency romance. Any "regencies" written nowadays are found under the historical romance genre (think Julia Quinn and Stephanie Laurens).

I'm not sure alphabetically is the best way to list Allan's bookcovers. I'd rather list by year, but I know that I'm missing some of his older book illustrations. Please feel free to comment or contact me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Barbara Allister: The Captivated Countess

This is hopefully, the first of many book covers by Allan Kass that I list in this blog! I will be publishing the book covers alphabetically by author since I'm still looking for some older illustrations of Allan's.

This book was published in April 1986 by Signet, a division of New American Library, at the height of the Regency Romance popularity! I believe that this was the height of Allan's art, also. Not only is the couple beautiful, but his attention to detail with the clock on the mantle and the trim of her shawl are magnificent! Click on the photo to enlarge!

Most of the romances published in the 70's and 80's were painted canvasses that the artists were commissioned by the publishing houses to produce. Allan wrote to me that he only had 200 of the approximately 1000 book cover canvasses in his possession, even though they were his intellectual property. Many were given to the book authors or given away by the publishing houses. One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog is that there is so little known about the illustrators of the 1970's- 1990's. Now, most romance illustrations are photographs of people, which I believe is cheaper to create, but most of the beauty is lost.

Allan Kass illustrated 4 of Barbara Allister's books. The Captivated Countess is about a girl named Catherine who, as a girl, falls in love with Dominic. He weds another and they meet later after he is widowed and she is an exile from polite society.

You can find older books like this in a used book store or thrift shop. Unfortunately, regency romances are not being published much anymore. Signet and Zebra publishers quit in 2005. Hopefully soon they will make a comeback!