Friday, December 20, 2013

Let's Celebrate Christmas!

It's nearly here, that special day!  And Marissa and I are planning to celebrate with family and friends.  So let's start the celebration right here on Nineteenteen!

First off, what’s a Christmas party without a few decorations?  Last week I explained how to make kissing boughs.  I’ve set one right in the doorway of our lovely withdrawing room, just waiting to catch that handsome earl unawares.  Are you bold enough to steal a kiss?

Marissa’s friendship with Queen Victoria has inspired us to set up a Christmas tree as well.  We have spiced cider ready and cakes and mince pies as well as fruit brought from friends in the Indies.  And one of our lovely readers has volunteered to play for us, with carols dancing in the air.

Finally, allow us to bestow upon you more than our friendship.  We have certainly treasured yours this past year!  For starters, here’s a look at the annual Jane Austen promenade in Bath from this year.  Oh, to walk that pavement!

I’d also like to offer a dainty little book, embossed with your name in gold, of the collected sayings of Lord Pompadour Snedley.  You say you are unfamiliar with his work?  My dear, he is that expert on etiquette whose wisdom is being quoted among all the best families.  Although, ahem, I do think one or two of his sayings may have been misconstrued.  For example, this one:

“Young ladies are indebted to their chaperons, those maternal sorts who hover about at balls, making sure that everything is aboveboard. Do insist that they stay away from card tables, sharp objects, and the occasional cavorting in the servant's hall.”

You can find your book here

Happy Christmas, my dears!  Please enjoy the holidays and return with us on January 7, when we will resume our normal posting schedule of Tuesdays and Fridays.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Who was this Ackermann Guy, Anyway?

Last week we had our last Fashion Forecast featuring the prints of Ackermann’s Repository (well, sort of—more on that shortly.) I thought this would be a good time to meet the man behind these delightful pieces.

Rudolf Ackermann was born in Stollberg in the Electorate of Saxony, on April 20, 1764, the sixth child of his parents Barthel and Justina. Papa Ackermann was a wealthy and well-connected saddle-maker, and it was expected that young Rudolf would follow in his footsteps and become a saddler as well...which he did, for a while, apprenticing at age 15.

But the boy was also deeply interested in drawing, so at 18 he left his apprenticeship to become a carriage designer (hmm...remember this?) He learned his trade in Dresden, worked in Switzerland for a while then Brussels, and in 1787 moved to London to ply his trade. Plying his trade there proved lucrative: young Rudolf received important commissions for designing carriages, including ones for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and a state coach for a certain President Washington in the upstart American republic. His success enabled him to marry an Englishwoman, Martha, with whom he had nine children...and it also let him return to his other passion, art.

In 1795 Rudolf opened his first print shop, later moving to larger premises at 101 Strand. Rudolf sold prints, artists’ supplies, and books, as well as holding art exhibits. It became a favorite hangout for the fashionable, who enjoyed perusing the latest political cartoons and other prints: his early adoption of gas-lighting enabled browsing and made his shop even more of a destination. Business proved good enough that he started commissioning and selling original hand-colored prints from such notable artists as Rowlandson and Cruikshank, the popular satirists. He also published art books, the best known of which is probably The Microcosm of London, an invaluable snapshot, as it were, of important London landmarks and streets.

In 1809, he embarked on a new publishing project: his Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, a monthly journal that covered all those things in the title and more. Illustrations played a prominent role in this magazine: each issue featured not only two fashion prints but also engravings of everything from furniture to embroidery patterns and English houses to foreign scenery. Altogether, nearly 1500 prints were published in the Repository over twenty years.

The Repository was published until 1828; but by that time Rudolf’s success was beginning to overtake him: he had expanded into global markets with print shops in several South American locations as well as other outlets in London, and the added work and financial burden weighed him down and broke his health. In 1829 the Repository was re-imagined as The Repository of Fashion, focusing on fashion reporting...and by mid-year had ceased publication altogether. Poor Rudolf suffered a massive stroke a few months later which more or less side-lined him, paralyzed, till his death in 1834. However, his sons remained in the print business as did their fact, the last Ackermanns in the print business only closed their doors in the 1990s!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Don't Stand Under the Kissing Bough with Anyone Else But Me

Each year, my husband eagerly awaits the first sign of the Christmas, which at my house means the decorations going up.  He’s happy to help pull down the boxes holding all the trimmings and set up the tree in front of the window.  But what he really likes is the spray of mistletoe I hang in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.  You see, my husband loves to catch me under the bough and steal a kiss.

Mistletoe wasn’t the only thing that hinted of stolen kisses in the early nineteenth century.  The more likely culprit would have been a kissing bough.  The kissing bough was a structure made from evergreens such as laurel or pine.  It was decorated with apples, paper flowers, ribbons, and dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.  Holly and ivy might be included in parts of England where those plants were prevalent. 
Sometimes the kissing bough looked like a wreath suspended flat; more often period pictures show a rounded structure like a globe.  Some hung the bough from a chandelier or high ceiling.  Others tell of boughs resting alongside a door or perhaps over it. 

However the bough was constructed and displayed, the purpose was the same:  a gentleman catching a lady underneath or next to it was allowed to request a kiss. In some households, a berry had to be plucked from the bough with each kiss forfeited.  Once the berries were gone, no more kisses could be required. As you can imagine, the young ladies and gentlemen made good use of the kissing boughs near them.

You can learn how to make your own kissing bough this Christmas from this crafters website. 
I hope the loved ones in your life make good use of your kissing bough or any mistletoe you have handy! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fashion Forecast: 1829

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in 1829?

Perhaps a very sweet Walking Dress in brown, with a full skirt ornamented with tucks and full sleeves gathered into cuffs, along with a fur pelerine lined with pink satin and a deep double-ruffled lace collar...and what a hat, decorated with ultra-wide loops of fabric in pink and black and a hanging frill of lace around the brim. And look, those enormous muffs are STILL in fashion! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, January):

Speaking of enormous hats...this show-stopping giant turban in coral pink and yellow certainly sets the tone for this Evening Dress in white with yellow trim. The puffy stuffed hem is topped with leaf appliqués that also appear on the ruffled short sleeves, and a pink shawl pulls the color scheme together. Note that most of the figures have very curled hair; lady’s maids were evidently busy with the curling tongs this year! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, January):

Another extreme hat tops off this lovely red Morning Dress, with tucks on the lower skirt, full gigot sleeves gathered to deep, buttoned cuffs, another double van dyke lace collar, and that hat, a froth of lace and yellow and blue loops. (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, February):

Here’s a harbinger of the coming excesses of fashion to be seen in the next decade: a Parisian Dinner Dress. A full white skirt, fairly plain, contrasts with the black bodice made in the pointed gothic styles, which in turn contrasts with the white sleeves caught up with gold bands at the middle of the upper and lower arms. And the width of sleeves at the shoulder line! This ain’t nothin’ yet, but you get the idea that very shortly, women will have to pass through doors sideways (I’m not kidding!) A gold passementerie belt and a dramatic black hat set at a rakish angle and ornamented with pink ostrich plumes and more gold trim finishes this ensemble (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, February):

A more sedate Dinner Dress of white satin is next, but it still manages to pack a punch with exuberant ruffled gaze trim around the hem, pretty pleating details on the bodice, full short sleeves, and a turban adorned with broad loops of fabric. Almost bridal, don’t you think? (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, March):

Now here’s a question: would you have wanted to sit behind this woman at the opera? Rumor has it that one went to the opera more to be seen than to pay attention to the actions on the stage, and you’d certainly be seen in this Opera Dress. Along with the black hat copiously trimmed with white ostrich plumes and one coquettish bow, this costume features a beautifully embroidered blue cloak with a wide collar and capelet and trimmed with gold passementerie over a fairly plain white dress with full gigot sleeves and a skirt fully made of tucks. The drama wasn't just on stage, was it? (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, March):

This English Dinner Dress includes fashion elements we’ve already seen in the 1820s...but more so. The plain skirt features a row of triangular lappets of fabric which appear again decorating the bodice...and enormous gauze sleeves cover short puffy undersleeves. Hat trimmed with ostrich plumes and lace lappets. I’m not sure what makes this dress so English, but it is pretty! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, April):

Hmm. Whatever it was that made the Dinner Dress above so English, it wasn’t restraint...witness this English Ball Dress in bright, flirty pink with rows of colorfully embroidered gauze ruffles on the skirt, topped with black and pink striped trim. Both reappear in the bodice, along with trim of black and pink. A totally Carnival kind of dress, don’t you think? (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, April):

We’ll end with a pair of Parisian Evening Dresses, with variation in skirt ornamentation (one plain, one with appliqués and bows) and full gauze oversleeves above short puffed undersleeves. But check out the elaborate hairstyles, with loops of braid and topknots stuck with flowers and jeweled ornaments. This is also a style that we’ll see much of in the 1830s...and what I want to know is how they managed to do this without hairspray or styling gel! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, June):

Though this is not the last fashion forecast, it will be the last one featuring prints from Ackermann. Next Tuesday we’ll backtrack a little and learn more about Mr. Ackermann and his splendid journal.

What do you think of 1829’s fashions?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Presenting Miss Ruby Hollingsford

Good day, gentle readers of Nineteenteen!  I am Lady Amelia, daughter of the Marquess of Wesworth, and I have the great privilege of interviewing my new friend, Miss Hollingsford, for your edification.  Ruby is the heroine of Regina Scott's new book, The Wife Campaign.  We met at a house party hosted by the Earl of Danning . . .

Ruby:  Actually, he didn't host it, as we learned.  His valet had the audacity to invite us to Fern Lodge.  I knew there was something I liked about Peter Quimby.

Lady Amelia:  Yes, of course.  But I think we should start by telling our readers a little more about you, dear Ruby.

Ruby, with an airy wave:  Why on earth would they want to know about me?  I'm the daughter of a jeweler, a self-made man, I might add.  Born and raised in London.  Hair too red and eyes too green to be considered a classic beauty.  What else is there to say?

Lady Amelia:  I don't think you're doing yourself justice.  From what I've learned, there's a great deal more to Ruby Hollingsford.

Ruby, frowning:  Such as?

Lady Amelia, counting on her fingers:  Kindness, bravery, an outstanding sense of style . . .

Ruby, patting her stylish feathered bonnet:  True.

Lady Amelia:  Loyalty, intellect . . .

Ruby, holding up both hands:  Stop right there!  If there's an intellect in the group attending the house party, it's Henrietta Stokely-Trent.  She's the one everyone calls a bluestocking.

Lady Amelia:  Yes, she is quite well read and knowledgeable.  But you were the one who first realized that someone was out to harm Lord Danning.

Ruby:  That's because I'm naturally suspicious of aristocrats.  My opinion of you all was fairly low, until I became better acquainted with you, Amelia. 

Lady Amelia, blushing:  Thank you, but I think perhaps it was your closer acquaintance with Lord Danning that made you begin to see the aristocracy differently.

Ruby:  Perhaps.  Whit is so unrelentingly honorable!  And handsome.  And sweet.  And have you seen him when he plunges into that stream after a trout?  I've never seen such grace, such fire, such determination.

Lady Amelia:  You admire him.  Admit it.

Ruby:  Fine.  I admire him.  But you know it will go no further.  What earl marries a Cit?  And why would I want to spend my life having to toady up to all his friends and relatives?  Or worse, have them condescend to me.  I would either go mad or take the pistol out of my reticule and shoot someone.

Lady Amelia:  That's right!  You're also a crack shot, and you know how to box.  I will note that on my list of accomplishments and be certain not to omit them next time. 

Ruby, eying her:  You truly are a dear soul, Amelia.  I hope you have better luck finding the right man, someone you can love and who will love you for who you are, not because you're your father's daughter.

Lady Amelia, dropping her gaze:  I don't believe such a man exists.

Ruby, nudging her:  Come now, what about Lord Hascot?  He might be the finest horseman in all of Britain, but he had eyes for no one but you when we visited his horse farm with Whit a few days ago.

Lady Amelia, blushing again:  I think perhaps that's a story for another time.

Indeed it is.  Look for Lady Amelia's story, The Husband Campaign, in April 2014.  In the meantime, you can find Ruby's story in The Wife Campaign, available at fine stores online or near you.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Campaigning for a Wife

My 26th romance story launches today!  The Wife Campaign is the second in my Master Matchmakers series:  wedding bells will ring when downstairs servants play Cupid for upstairs aristocracy.  In this case, trusted valet Peter Quimby takes matters into his own hands when his master Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning, dallies about finding a wife.

Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning, would much rather spend a fortnight fishing than entertaining three eligible young ladies. But when his valet insists that marriage is an earl's duty, Whit agrees to the house party. He has no intention of actually proposing to anyone…until flame-haired Ruby Hollingsford declares she'd never accept him anyway.

Ruby has been tricked into attending this charade, but she certainly won't compete for the earl's attentions. Yet, Whit isn't the selfish aristocrat she envisioned. And with a little trust, two weeks may prove ample time for an unlikely couple to fall headlong into love.

Here's what happened when Whit discovered his treasured fishing retreat had been invaded by three young ladies and their families and tracked down the source to his valet:

His valet entered from the dressing room, a coat in either hand. As always, a pleasant smile sat on his lean face. Though his straw-colored hair tended to stick out in odd directions, his clothes, and the ones he kept for Whit, were impeccable.

"Good," he said. "You're back. Which do you prefer for dinner, the blue superfine or the black wool with the velvet lapels?"

"What I prefer," Whit grit out, "is to know why I have guests."

"Ah." Quimby lowered the coats but never so much that they touched the polished wood floor. "I believe each of the three invitations read that you are desirous to put an end to your bachelor state and would like to determine whether you and the lady suit."

Feeling as if every bone in his body had instantly shattered, Whit sank onto the end of the bed. "You didn't."

"I did." With total disregard for the severity of his crime or his master's distress, Quimby draped the coats over the chair near the hearth. "You aren't getting any younger, my lad. And we none of us are looking forward to serving your cousin should you shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely." He glanced at Whit and frowned. "You look rather pale. May I get you a glass of water? Perhaps some tea?"

"You can get these people out of my house," Whit said, gathering himself and rising. "Or, failing that, find me other accommodations."

Quimby tsked. "Now, then, how would that look? You have three lovely ladies here to learn more about. I chose them with great care. I thought you rather liked Lady Amelia Jacoby."

It was true that the statuesque blonde had caught Whit's eye at a recent ball, but he'd never had any intentions of moving beyond admiration. "If I liked her," Whit said, advancing toward his valet, "I was fully capable of pursuing her without your interference."

"Of course," Quimby agreed. He came around behind Whit and tugged at the shoulders of his tweed coat to remove it. "Yet you did not pursue her. I also invited Miss Henrietta Stokely-Trent. You did mention you thought she had a fine grasp of politics."

He'd had several interesting conversations with the determined bluestocking last Season. "She's brilliant. But perhaps I want more in a wife."

"And perhaps you've been too preoccupied to realize what you want," Quimby countered, taking the coat to the dressing room.

"Rather say occupied," Whit corrected him, unbuttoning the waistcoat himself. "Parliament, estate business, the orphan asylum…"

"The sailor's home, the new organ for the church," Quimby added, returning. "I am well aware of the list, my lord. You are renowned for solving other people's problems. That's why I took the liberty of solving this problem for you." He unwound the cravat from Whit's throat in one fluid motion.

"Dash it all, Quimby, it wasn't a problem!" Whit pulled the soiled shirt over his head. "I'd have gotten around to marrying eventually."

"Of course." Quimby took the shirt off to the dressing room for cleaning.

Whit shook his head. "And why invite Miss Hollingsford? I don't even recall meeting her."

Quimby returned with a fresh shirt and drew it over Whit's head. "I don't believe you have met, sir. I simply liked her. I thought you would too."

He had liked her immediately. All that fire and determination demanded respect, at the least. That wasn't the issue.

Whit closed his eyes and puffed out a sigh as his valet slipped the gold-shot evening waistcoat up his arms. "Have you any inkling of what you've done?"

He opened his eyes to find Quimby brushing a stray hair off the shoulder. "I've brought you three beautiful women," he replied, completely unrepentant. "All you need do is choose."

Whit stepped back from him. "And if I don't?"

"Then I fear the next batch will be less satisfactory."

Whit drew himself up. "I should sack you."

"Very likely," Quimby agreed. "If that is your choice, please do it now. I understand Sir Nicholas Rotherford is seeking a valet, and as he recently married, I should have less concern for my future with him."

Whit shook his head again. If Quimby had been anyone else, Whit would have had no trouble firing him for such an infraction. But he'd known Quimby since they were boys. The two had been good friends at Eton, where Peter Quimby, the orphaned son of a distinguished military man, had been taken in on charity. When Whit became an orphan, and the new Earl of Danning at fifteen, he'd offered his friend a position as steward.

"Who's going to take orders from a fifteen-year-old?" Quimby had pointed out. "Make me your valet. They get to go everywhere their masters do. We'll have some fun, count on it."

At times over the past fifteen years, Whit thought Quimby was the only reason Whit had had some fun, even when duty dogged his steps. He couldn't see sacking his friend now.

"Rotherford can find another valet," Whit told him.

Quimby smiled as he reached for the coats.

"But don't take that to mean I approve of this business," Whit insisted. "I'll do my best to clean up the mess you've made. I will be polite to our guests but expect nothing more. You can campaign all you like, Quimby, but you cannot make a fellow choose a wife."

"As you say, my lord," Quimby agreed, though Whit somehow felt he was disagreeing. "Now, which will you have tonight, the black coat or the blue?"

"Does it matter?" Whit asked as his valet held out the two coats once more. "By the time this fortnight is over, I'm the one most likely to be both black and blue, from trying to explain to three women that I don't intend to propose."

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