Monday, March 2, 2015

So Just What Was The Belle Époque? Guest Post by Robert Stephen Parry, Author of The Hours Before

The Hours Before, A Story of Mystery and Suspense from the Belle Epoque, releases today! As many fans of historical fiction have probably noticed, the term "Belle Époque" has shown up in the descriptions of a lot of novels...but what exactly does it  mean? I am delighted to say Robert Stephen Parry has stopped by to let us know just that! So please read, enjoy, and find out how you can enter to win a copy!

Elegance, like beauty, is probably best described as being ‘in the eye of the beholder.’ We all have different ideas in this respect.  The period of history called The Belle Époque - which in translation means ‘the beautiful era’ is just such a battle-ground of differing opinions. For some it is the ultimate in stuffy formality, for others the apogee of style and panache.

Spanning the years between around 1870 to the onset of the First World War in 1914 (coinciding with the late Victorian and Edwardian periods in Britain), the Belle Époque was an era in which people strived for a ‘certain something’ - a pleasing countenance with long, clinging lines and sensuous silhouettes to the fashions, enhanced by the accessories of parasols, canes and the most extraordinary and extravagant of hats. Gorgeous. I chose it without hesitation as the backdrop to my latest novel: The Hours Before - A Story of Mystery and Suspense from the Belle Époque.

The Belle Époque was only named as such in retrospect, when people looked back at it from later decades. As the song goes: ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone.’ It wasn’t perfect, of course. Like most periods of history, it had its fair share of poverty and deprivation, inequality and injustice. But the Belle Époque was also largely a peaceful era, without any major wars or revolutions in Europe. People felt good, literacy and numeracy increased and the arts and sciences flourished.


As you can see from the above composite picture, it was not only about they way people dressed, but also the widespread use of the ‘art nouveau’ styles in art and design that were blossoming at this time - curvaceous, sinuous lines in everything from jewellery to glassware, from architecture to furniture.

In social terms, there was a self-confident, modern, forward-looking attitude - yet also combined the sophistication of manners from bygone times. A great combination. Advances in technology gave us improved health and hygiene, and there were fast communications via the telegraph. In the home, gas lighting, some early uses of electricity and decent plumbing made life comfortable if not quite luxurious for the privileged few - while travel, usually by rail, was extensive, reliable, safe and comfortable.
The characters in the novel 'The Hours Before' lead anything but comfortable lives, however. Theirs is a story of drama, mystery and suspense. Beginning in 1899 as the turn of the century approaches, there is a feeling that all is perhaps not entirely well with the world. Set in London, Vienna and various other locations in Europe, the age old conflicts of good and evil take to the field.

About The Hours Before

In darkness, late at night, a woman returns to her hotel to discover her usual maid has been replaced by a stranger. What begins as an icy exchange, born of weariness, becomes within minutes one of the most extraordinary encounters of her life. It will take her on a journey deep into her past and towards the fateful assignation that already awaits her on the other side of the night. Set amid the elegance and sophistication of the Belle Époque, and the Gothic splendour of late Victorian England, ‘The Hours Before’ is a story of drama, mystery and romance, revealing a hidden world of vice and malevolence – but also a pathway of transformation and knowledge.

About the Author

Robert Stephen Parry is a UK writer of historical fiction with interests in Tudor, Elizabethan and Georgian England; Victorian Gothic and the Belle Époque. A fresh and original voice in historical fiction, his work combines reality, mystery and imagination within a well-researched and vivid historical setting.



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