Friday, July 21, 2017

Christmas in July, for Only 99 Cents!

Do these hot days and humid nights make you long for snowflakes and winter wonderlands? Well, you’re in luck. My True Love Gave to Me, my Regency Christmas story that begins The Marvelous Munroes series, is on sale for 99 cents at all major online retailers worldwide through July 30.

Genevieve Munroe is determined to give her newly impoverished family one last happy Christmas, including making peace with their long-time rivals, the Pentercasts. Then the handsome oldest son Alan proposes a wager: if he can give her all the gifts from the Twelve Days of Christmas song, she must marry him.

Alan’s wild gambit is intended to win Gen’s heart. After all, no Munroe would ever marry a Pentercast. But perhaps the joy of Christmas can open her eyes to the man behind the wager, a man determined to turn the twelve days of Christmas into a lifetime of love.


Merry Christmas, in July!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Retro Blast: Flirting with Parasols

I am not a sun-worshipper. In summer I can usually be found seeking any available patch of shade, slathered in sunscreen and wearing a large hat. I heartily wish parasols would make a comeback: they're fun and stylish...and evidently, one can do a lot more with them than use them to ward off unwelcome UV rays, as we learned from this 2009 post about Daniel Shafer's 1877 Secrets of Life Revealed. Enjoy!

I must say that I regret that parasols are no longer in fashion—a pity, as they have a long history stretching back to the ancient world (yes, Babylonian and Greek women—and men!—used parasols to fend off the fierce middle eastern sun.) The thing is, they’re just incredibly useful: you can carry around some shade with you on a hot summer day, create your own flattering lighting by carrying a parasol of just the right color, or make a decided fashion statement by coordinating your parasol with the rest of your ensemble. And when furled, a parasol makes a fine instrument of self-defense that doesn’t require a license to carry!

And of course, they’re such fun to flirt with—peeking coyly from underneath them, or swinging them insouciantly at one’s side…the possibilities are endless! Daniel Shafer certainly recognized this fact, and furnishes the following tips on how to flirt with parasols:

Like the Handkerchief, Glove, and Fan, the "Parasol" has its important part to play in flirtations, and we give the following rules regulating the same: 

Carrying it elevated in left hand:  Desiring acquaintance

Carrying it elevated in right hand: 
You are too willing

Carrying it closed in left hand: 
Meet on the first crossing

Carrying it closed in right hand by the side: 
Follow me

Carrying it over the right shoulder: 
You can speak to me

Carrying it over the left shoulder: 
You are too cruel

Closing up: 
I wish to speak to you

Dropping it: 
I love you

End of tips to lips: 
Do you love me?

Folding it up: 
Get rid of your company

Letting it rest on the right cheek: 

Letting it rest on the left cheek: 

Striking it on the hand: 
I am very displeased

Swinging it to and fro by the handle on left side: 
I am engaged

Swinging it to and fro by the handle on the right side: 
I am married

Tapping the chin gently: 
I am in love with another

Twirling it around: 
Be careful; we are watched

Using it as a fan: 
Introduce me to your company

With handle to lips: 
Kiss me

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips on how to secretly communicate with fans, gloves, handkerchiefs, and parasols…it’s rather like a 19th century form of texting, isn’t it?

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Emperor's Water Fountain

There is something majestic about a fountain, the sparkle, the cool mist on your cheek, the bubble mimicking a natural waterfall. But it wasn’t an eye toward nature that prompted the building of the Emperor Fountain at Chatsworth, home of the Dukes of Devonshire. It seems to have been a little old-fashioned one-upmanship.

William George Spencer Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, had been notified that no less than Czar Nicholas I of Russia planned to visit his home in 1844. Devonshire is known as the Bachelor Duke, for he never married, causing quite a few ladies to sigh with regret. He had ascended to the title at the tender age of 21. An avid horticulturist, he made friends with the equally young Sir Joseph Paxton and convinced him to take the position of chief gardener at Chatsworth. The Duke wanted a fountain, and it was Paxton who conceived of a way to create a gravity-fed one along the Great House’s south face.
You see, the Czar had a fountain at Peterhof Palace. It’s still among the biggest tourist attractions in Russia. Big being the operative word—jets and cascades and gilded statues. Devonshire wanted one that would shoot even higher.

He got it.

The Emperor Fountain at Chatsworth sits at the northern end of the Canal Pond, surrounded by natural boulders. It has shot as high as 300 feet. (In contrast, the highest fountain at Peterhof only reaches 60 feet.) The power comes from water pressure, the water dropping from an artificial lake 350 feet above the house through a narrow iron pipe. Since 1893, the pressure has also been used to generate electricity for the house.

Although the Czar never did come to visit, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia did stop by and marvel. So should we.

Do I hear another item being added to a bucket list?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recent Acquisitions: Bathing Place Evening Dress

Just in time for summer...

Isn’t this a delightful print, from the September 1810 edition of La Belle Assemblee?  I mean...she’s wearing what we would call pantalettes, complete with a triple lace frill round each leg...not to mention sandals. The style itself is surprisingly simple, buttoning up the front. It’s cute as a bug, but certainly unlike any early 19th century evening dress I’ve seen before. Since no text accompanied it. I dug around on-line and found this in Google Books:

A gown of white French cambric, or pale pink muslin, with long sleeves, and antique cuffs of thin white muslin, trimmed with Mechlin edging; made high in the neck, without a collar, and formed in points at the center of the bosom, with three rows of letting-in lace; confined down the front of the dress with small buttons; and hemmed round the bottom with three rows of deep Mechlin lace; made rather short, and worn over trousers of white French cambric, which are trimmed the same as the bottom of the dress. A cap composed of lace and light green silk trimming, tied under the chin, with a bunch of natural flowers in front. Hair in full ringlet curls, divided in the front of the forehead. A figured short scarf of pale buff, with deep pale-green border, and rich silk tassels; worn according to fancy or convenience; with gloves of pale buff kid; and sandals of pale yellow, or white Morocco, complete this truly simple but becoming dress.
And there you have it—the reason it’s unlike any other evening dress is because it’s actually a walking dress...and perfect for that. Evidently an engraver for La Belle Assemblee took a mental vacation while working on this print, and gave it an incorrect title. Can’t you see a fashionable young lady out in society, visiting Brighton at the end of the London season, tripping blithely down the sands (not that Brighton has a very sandy beach), kicking at the waves, picking up pretty seashells, and generally having a time of it?☺

Friday, June 30, 2017

A June Bride Again

Once upon a time, a previous publisher invited me to write a story for an anthology on the theme of June Brides. Perhaps it was that song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (“Oh they say when you marry in June, you’re a bride, all your life,” perhaps it was all the talk about brides being such a “thing” in romance, perhaps it was the humor that pokes up from time to time in my writing. But the title that sprang into my head was The June Bride Conspiracy.


The story quickly grew, centered around a Regency James Bond who wanted to retire and his sweetheart who wasn’t so sure she could compete with the glamor he’d once known.

I guess I’m old school, but I can’t imagine a more dashing James Bond than Sean Connery, with the possible exception of Pierce Brosnan. My father was a huge James Bond fan—he had me read Ian Flemming when I was in high school and see all the movies even if we had to rent them. So it’s little wonder that Allister Fenwick, Lord Trevithan, should bear a striking resemblance in word, action, and looks to an idealized James Bond.

The novella was hands down the easiest story I ever wrote. The words flowed, the plot came together, the characters sparkled. When people ask me my favorite among the stories I’ve written, The June Bride Conspiracy is always near the top of the list. It was earned my first “Top Pick” from RT Book Reviews, a rare honor for the industry publication.

But as I drew the story out to polish up for republication, I found myself surprised. The novella seemed to have changed, or, better stated, I’d changed. Places that had to be tightened to fit the space for a novella cried out for more.

So I gave it more--15,000 words, to be precise.

The June Bride Conspiracy is now available, deeper, stronger, and more vibrant than ever before. I hope you’ll give it a try.

Engaged to the dark and dashing Lord Trevithan, Joanna Lindby should be the happiest of ladies in Regency London. But every once in a while she wonders—why would this enigmatic lord choose her? She’s shy, quiet, unassuming, never arguing, always polite. But when a note arrives calling off the wedding, Joanna vows that she will be married in June, no matter the cost.

England’s top intelligence agent Allister Fenwick, Lord Trevithan, is shocked when his demure fiancĂ©e demands an explanation. He never sent that note. Someone is trying to come between them. Though Allister promised himself he would leave the world of espionage behind, he cannot help but be drawn into this case, if only to protect his surprisingly headstrong bride-to-be. Yet, is it an old enemy or an old friend causing the mischief? Can a little espionage unmask hidden hearts in time for a June wedding? 

You can find it at the following online retailers:

Coming shortly to Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Kobo as well. Enjoy, and happy Independence Day next week. Marissa and I will be celebrating with our families, so we’ll catch up with you the week of July 10th.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Retro Blast: A Royal Wedding

Today’s post is a re-run of a post from April 2011—a re-run because I’m busy today celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary with my dear husband. Though my wedding was nothing like Queen Victoria’s (I emphatically did not have a wedding cake nine feet in diameter!), I, like the little queen, was—and still am “so very happy!”


Surely one of the most momentous royal weddings of the 19th century was that of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Victoria had proposed to her cousin in October—as a reigning monarch, she far outranked him—and the wedding was set for February 10, 1840—a scant three months later. Victoria had hoped for a private wedding, but her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, over-ruled her and so it was the first public royal wedding in decades—since George III’s wedding, back in 1761. The weather was beastly that morning, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds of people who came out to watch the queen drive from Buckingham Palace to the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. The Chapel was stuffed with as many seats as possible for visiting dignitaries and as much of the whiggish side of the British nobility as possible (of the Tory nobility, only the Duke of Wellington and Lord Liverpool, a former prime minister, were invited).

Albert, dressed as a British Field Marshal, entered the chapel first, and awaited Victoria, who walked down the aisle on the arm of her uncle, the Duke of Sussex. Her dress (viewable in the London Museum) was of her own design and fairly simple, of British-made white satin with a trim of orange blossoms. Her veil, worn with a wreath of orange blossoms, was literally one of a kind: it was made by lacemakers in Devon, and the design was destroyed so that the pattern could never be copied. She wore her Turkish diamond necklace and earrings and a sapphire brooch Albert gave her as a wedding present.

There were a multiplicity of clergy on hand, with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London all there to officiate. What there hadn’t been was a rehearsal, so that the dowager queen Adelaide was heard whispering to Albert about the proper order of the procession, and Victoria’s twelve bridesmaids (dressed in simple gowns also of Victoria’s design, with wreaths of white roses on their heads) struggled to hold onto the queen’s short train without stumbling over each other. Though Albert often seemed unsure and agitated—his English was not very good at this point, so following the service may have been difficult—Victoria was poised and calm and, as she wrote in her journal, “so very happy!” There were amusing family touches, too: Victoria’s uncle the Duke of Cambridge kept up a very audible, if cheerful, commentary on the proceedings. Her uncle Sussex, who gave her away, still wore his customary black skullcap which he always wore to keep his head warm. And like many mothers of brides, the Duchess of Kent was seen to shed tears.

After the ceremony the married pair returned to Buckingham Palace for a small wedding breakfast (relatively speaking) of family members and their households, the prime minister and a handful of cabinet members, the Royal Household, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. Over a hundred wedding cakes were made, to distribute to various family members, Royal Household members, officers of state, and foreign ambassadors. The main cake was nine feet across and sixteen inches high, and decorated with all sorts of allegorical symbols of marriage and of the queen…oh for a photograph! And then it was time to change (Victoria wore a white satin cloak trimmed with swan’s down and a white velvet bonnet with plumes and Brussels lace) and head off to Windsor for their two-day honeymoon. Yes, two days. As Victoria reminded Albert, “You forget, my dearest Love, that I am the Sovereign and that business can stop and wait for nothing.” Not even true love, it seems!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Four Things on a Friday, Summer Edition

So many interesting things, so little time! Here are four that came past my gaze in recent weeks I thought you would want to know about as we move into summer:

  • A free Regency paper doll to print and color. Flora looks like she would be oodles of fun, besides being nicely period correct. Find the doll here and her clothing here.
  • Summer reading. Not sure how long it will last, but one of the lovely Timeless Regency anthologies, Spring in Hyde Park, is on sale for 99 cents. 
  • Eye candy when you’re inside hiding from the heat. I’ve been slowly adding to my Pinterest boards, with nearly 300 tall ship pictures, more than 200 cowboys, and nearly 150 of drool-worthy English estates. I generally don’t go mad for a certain designer, but oh, the House of Worth! That board has more than two dozen historical gowns and more coming.    
  • More ideas on dealing with the heat. Check out this lovely video on how historical ladies and gentlemen stayed cool.

Here’s to a lovely summer!