The Courtesan’s Ball – a new fact/fiction project

Catherine Walters: courtesan, brilliant equestrian, long-term friend of King Edward VII
Catherine Walters: courtesan, brilliant equestrian, long-term friend of King Edward VII

During last year’s lockdown my creativity dried up. This year’s lockdown, things are very different.

As you might have seen from your international news, Melbourne now has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most locked-down city. We have a curfew, can’t travel beyond 15km (extended recently from 5km), and the only place we can see anyone is in a park, or outside, with a couple of others. Soon that number will rise to 10 vaccinated people – but still outdoors.

Basically, that’s not going to change until the whole of Australia has 70% double vaccination though we won’t open our borders to interstate – or the rest of the world – until we’ve achieved 80% vaccination. That’s because our hospitals are pretty much at capacity, and our health care workers are exhausted, understandably. And the government doesn’t want more people to die.

Anyway, there’s nothing like isolation and lockdown to get one thinking creatively (although that wasn’t the case in the first lockdown when my creativity dried up).


But, here’s what’s now happening in my creative world…

Fair Cyprians of London

October is my big promotion month for my six-book series about Madame Chambon’s girls and their second-chance-at-happiness romances. On Goodreads the Fair Cyprians of London series has more than 1500 ratings with a 4.01 average.

Now, I’m doing something a bit different with book 7 which will be on pre-order in the next few weeks. As you may know, these stories were influenced by nineteenth-century journalist Henry Mayhew’s interviews with fallen women in his London’s Underworld.

Book 6 of my Fair Cyprians series – Loving Lily – was inspired by Lady Audley’s Secret, first published in 1861 and written by the celebrated Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who was regarded as the ‘leading light of sensation fiction’,  a position she shared with Wilkie Collins, who wrote The Woman in White. (You might have seen the 2018 mini series starring  Jessie Buckley, Ben Hardy, Olivia Vinall, Dougray Scott and Charles Dance.)

Well, book 7 is going to be in two parts – fact and fiction.

The ‘Fact’ part will be about the famous courtesans and sensational figures of the day such as the fascinating and controversial English courtesan Cora Pearl, who could command the equivalent of 90,000 pounds in a month; and Catherine Walters – known as Skittles – who was looked after into old age by Edward VII but who, as a young woman, drew massive crowds to watch her drive her famous phaeton in London’s Hyde Park.

The fiction part will feature all the characters in the six books in the series – Grace, Faith, Hope, Charity, Violet and Lily – taking part in a Christmas gathering at a ‘Courtesan’s Ball’ where a dramatic event will take place.

I haven’t decided what – whether it’ll be a murder, or an mismatched elopement – but it’ll be a chance to meet up again with all these characters who’d been at their lowest ebb at Madame Chambon’s House of Assignation when readers first met them.

And there’ll be photographs!

Catherine Walters
Catherine Walters – an accomplished equestrian who used to be sewn into her riding habits and who fascinated all stratas of mid to late Victorian society.

So, stay tuned for ‘The Courtesan’s Ball’. That might be what it’s called. I’m not sure, yet. If you have any suggestions for either the title OR the kind of dramatic event at the centre of the story, then I’d be happy to hear them!