Noble Satyr cover reveal—from concept to publication
Hello dear readers
A ntonia and Roxton's Happily Ever After has a new cover! Above is the finished artwork, and isn't it the most Gorgeous Georgian image you've ever seen? You'll find the new covers for the various formats at the end of this post, along with links and also a link to the Behind The Scenes (BTS) video. But first let me take you on the wonderful journey that resulted in this spectacular portrait of our Duke and Duchess of Roxton.
Nicole Russack and Andy Peeke
It took months of searching but I finally found my Antonia and Roxton. Nicole has Antonia’s cat’s eyes, her youthful exuberance, intelligence, famous décolletage, and of course she is very beautiful. Andy has the Duke’s particular aristocratic nose and strong jaw, and he exudes a handsome enigmatic arrogance.
I imagined Roxton would commission a painting to celebrate his wedding to Antonia, and their first official portrait as Duke and Duchess of Roxton.
If you look at the paintings of the Georgian aristocracy, couples and family groups were painted with opulent backdrops that befitted their pre-eminent place at the apex of society. Their surroundings are populated with classical marble columns, urns and statuary, swathes of luxurious drapery with silken cords, and architectural details, all symbols to reinforce the permanence of their status. Often the backdrops are darkened and muted which allows the subjects in their sumptuous textile finery to be the focus without distraction.
The portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Roxton is painted in the 1740s, and the backdrop is an interior of the Duke’s Parisian home. It is darker hued and slightly forbidding, like the Duke himself, and there are touches that reference his past (Can you find them???). The light in the room is clearly Antonia, his duchess. The couple are looking out to the future, the Duke’s murky past is behind them.
Posture and Posing
Gentlemen in the 18th century were painted presented in a particular way, so much so that even were they to be stripped of their clothing and placed in fancy dress it would be easy to spot a Georgian. Posture and posturing were all important. So was being immortalized in oils. How feet were placed, heads held, legs crossed to showcase calf muscles, hands and fingers positioned—these are subtle clues that a gentleman has refined manners and taste. Clothing was often draped in a particular way to display the textiles and embellishments to best effect, and so they were not crushed. And no matter how restricting the cravat, the waistcoat or the frock coat, the wearer always looks out on the world with ease and elegance.
And thus the Duke of Roxton sits ramrod straight, his back not touching the chair back, yet he appears at his ease. The skirt of his black silk frock coat with its silver thread and diamond embellishments is carefully arranged. The voluminous skirts drape through the arm of the chair. And the wide cuffs are on full display over the chair arms. His legs are crossed, allowing the viewer to see the silver and diamond buttons of his breeches, and the diamond knee buckle, and to admire the width of calf muscle encased in white stocking. One hand is relaxed, the other—the one with the ducal emerald ring—is poised in contemplation. The overall effect is a juxtaposition of informality and formality. The Duke knows, as do his peers, his unrivalled place in the world, and he is making certain through this portrait that everyone else down the ages knows it too.
I wanted the gown and its color to reflect Antonia’s youthful exuberance. She is looking forward to the future at the Duke’s side. Roxton’s favorite stone is emerald, so we chose an ice green for the silk gown, and a plain silk because her beauty needs no distraction, nor does her jewelry.
Here are a couple of examples from the 1740s used for reference.
Antonia’s robe à la française, also referred to as a sack-back gown, is of Italian silk imported into England. Serpentine ruching (known as robings) made from the same silk intertwine on the matching separate stomacher, and also down the front panels of the open robe. The under petticoat is also of matching green silk with a scalloped ruffle. A box pleated green silk train that reaches down to the floor is attached at the shoulders, at the center back of the gown. It adds fullness and drama to the silhouette from behind. The three-quarter sleeves end in a graduated scalloped cuff under which is attached lace engageantes (ruffles). The neckline is square cut and low, the lace of her chemise just visible along its edge; the sleeves and little lace ties of the chemise show at the elbow.
As you will see in the BTS video, under her robe à la française, Antonia wears white stockings, a chemise, stays (corset), and a bum roll at her hips to enhance an hourglass silhouette. The matching silk stomacher is pinned to the front of the stays with straight pins, and then the robe is shrugged on, much like putting on a coat. The two sides of the robe are then pinned to the stomacher also with straight pins, gradually drawing in at the waistline. This gives the wearer an exacting fit.
Antonia’s gown is complemented by matching green silk mules, and various pieces of bespoke jewelry. More about the Roxton Jewelry Collection below.
This gorgeous silk robe à la française was custom-made to the model’s measurements by the supremely talented and very patient Karen Bowler of Classic Costume—Reproduction Historical Dress, who is based in Plymouth, England. Karen went above and beyond to make this wonderful gown in record time (there were many back and forth emails and the gown had to be constructed without the model ever having a fitting!). Karen then shipped the gown to New York for the photo shoot.
The Duke of Roxton
Roxton is known to wear only black and white garments with silver embellishments. His best friend calls him ‘a magpie’.
The ensemble for every gentleman had remained unchanged since the beginning of the 1700s: Frock coat, waistcoat, breeches, white shirt, knee-high stockings, and a stock (cravat). Often lace or plain ruffles were worn at the wrists by noblemen, and the front of the shirt had a ruffled edge. Shirts were always put on over the head and most only had two buttons at the throat for closure. Some men wore a shirt buckle to add extra closure at the chest. The choice of costly fabrics such as velvets and silks and the embellishments to the garments such as embroidery, and silver and gold thread and precious stones, set a nobleman apart from his fellows. This was the age of the gentleman peacock, and the more showy the outfit, the better. And just as important was how the gentleman carried himself while wearing such garments. He had to be elegant and fluid in his movements at all times.
In the mid 1740s frock coats and waistcoats were long in the skirts, often to the knee. The skirts of the frock coat were full, and the upturned cuffs large.
A significant factor in getting the details right for this cover was finding a costumier willing and able to make the Duke’s 1740s outfit. It was not easy, and took many months of searching, and then I was recommended the wonderfully talented Mr. Beau Robbins. A re-enactor supreme himself, he took on this daunting task with patience and enthusiasm, and I am so grateful to him and his extraordinary sewing talents in creating an ensemble fit for a duke!
The cloth for Roxton’s frock coat and breeches is a black silk floral jacquard, and the waistcoat is a silver silk jacquard. While the term ‘jacquard’ did not come into existence until the early 19thC, the fabric used here is similar to the damask woven silks of Roxton’s time.
The breeches are finished with crystal buttons and silver knee buckles. The white linen shirt is an 18th Century reproduction from Darcy Clothing in England. The white and the black cravats, and the white knee stockings are from Townsends.
The silver embellishment to the front panels, pockets and back skirts of the frock coat is a hand embroidered silver zardosi thread trim created in India. I spent weeks searching for the perfect trim and found this one on Etsy. We needed 9 yards to finish off the coat, and that’s all the supplier had, so we got lucky.
The Roxton Jewelry Collection
Antonia wears Roxton’s birthday gift of a diamond and emerald choker. She also has a matching bracelet and earrings, and because it is an official portrait of them as a married couple, she wears her diamond and emerald wedding band. In her hair is a gold hair ornament and to the front of her bodice is pinned a magnificent diamond and emerald stomacher brooch, a wedding gift from the groom to his bride. The Duke wears the ducal emerald ring.
These wonderful 18th Century reproduction pieces were created exclusively for the Roxton Family Saga book covers by Kimberly Walters of At the Sign of the Gray Horse Reproduction and Historically Inspired Jewelry.
Even more exciting is that Kimberly and I collaborated to create the Roxton Family Saga Jewelry Collection so that you, my fab readers have the opportunity to own your very own piece of Roxton Georgian jewelry. Every book in the series has its own dedicated jewelry collection—pieces which are mentioned in the story are featured in the BTS videos and on the book covers. And each item has a Roxton Family Saga Jewelry Collection tag of authenticity.
I can’t tell you how beyond excited I am to offer you this opportunity to own your very own stunning piece from the Roxton Family Saga Jewelry Collection. Any profits from the sale of jewelry items in this collection will go to support the upkeep of Kimberly’s rescue and adopted horses.
Details make the difference!
Here are few of the accessories used in the photo shoot. The fan has a lace edge (unusual for the time) and is painted with an 18th Century scene. There are also a number of ‘Easter eggs’ on the cover flat. Can you find them?
A huge amount of work went into the preparation pre-production for the photo shoot. And then after the big day of photo taking there is the post production. And it is in post production where the final image comes together. I won’t go into the technicalities but it does involve the magic of Photoshop. For example, we modified Roxton’s hairline. The wig was too low on Andy’s forehead. While the wig was perfect from behind with the Duke’s long black braid of his own hair tied off with white ribbons (see photos above), the hairline required modification, and the hair curled in front, which was more in keeping with the Duke’s coiffure.
We also brightened Antonia’s gown. The silk was a delicate ice green. But for a book cover the color needed to pop more so the gown was given saturation and vibrancy. And we replaced the two large diamonds in the stomacher brooch with emeralds, something the Duke would have insisted upon had he commissioned the jewelry piece.
You may be wondering why there is a second chair in the complete artwork; why there is a second fan, and Roxton’s frock coat appears a second time over the arm of the chair, as well as Antonia’s discarded mules and her favorite book—Tacitus. These appear on the back cover of the print books. Although these elements, and the train of Antonia’s gown, are part of the one image, the back cover tells a separate narrative that follows the formal portrait sitting— the Duke and Duchess now leave the room hand in hand with her gown trailing behind them, the discarded items the only evidence they were ever there…
A team effort
I put in the hard yards regarding the research, costume and accessory sourcing, and overall historical vision. But this stunning portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Roxton could not have been realized without a team of dedicated individuals fully invested in the project.
First and foremost are Gene Mollica and Sasha Almazan - the dynamic duo of Gene Mollica Studio. This project owes so much to them I don’t know where to begin or how to adequately express my gratitude for their dedication. Gene is a creative genius. He and Sasha embraced my vision with enthusiasm and patience, going above and beyond in so many ways to make my vision a reality. There were countless emails, FaceTime discussions, behind the scenes meetings, models to herd, mail boxes collected, and so many organizational details, and all this before the photo shoot had even taken place, that I am in awe of their capabilities! A special mention to Charles Kliment, the videographer on the Mollica team, who also went the extra-mile to make the BTS video so engaging and complete. Without the Gene Mollica Studio team this project would not have happened. Without them this fabulous artwork would not exist. I thank them from the bottom of my heart…
Gene Mollica and Sasha Almazan—Gene Mollica Studio
Sprigleaf Pty Ltd
Charles Kliment, BTS Video
Karen Bowler, Classic Costume—Reproduction Historical Dress, Plymouth, UK
Kimberly Walters, At the Sign of the Gray Horse Reproduction and Historically Inspired Jewelry, USA
Mr. Beau Robbins, Wyoming, USA
Now enjoy the BTS Video…
Until next time… Julian and Deb’s Happily Ever After in Midnight Marriage.
Noble Satyr: Roxton Family Saga Prequel: Roxton and Antonia’s Happily Ever After
1740s France and England. The age of hedonism and enlightenment.
Abandoned at the Court of Versailles, Antonia Moran attracts the lascivious attentions of the predatory Comte de Salvan. She orchestrates her escape through her familial connection to the all-powerful Duke of Roxton, a nobleman she has been warned against. But is Roxton a noble savior, or a satyr most despicable. Her unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation.
Winner of the $10,000 Woman’s Day/Random House Romantic Fiction Prize
Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Medalist
B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree
Finalist for Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Novel of the Year
A homage to Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades, Noble Satyr is a classic love story in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast.