Friday, May 26, 2017

Little Big(elow) House

I've said it before: my side of the country has less Anglo history than Marissa's. So I'm always tickled when I get to step back in time earlier than 1900. A few months ago, I had the privilege of visiting Bigelow House in our state’s capitol of Olympia. Built in the 1850s, Bigelow House is oldest house in that city, and one of the earliest still in existence in the Puget Sound area. It was the original home of lawyer and legislator Daniel R. Bigelow and his wife Ann Elizabeth White. The Bigelows were dedicated packrats. Nothing that didn’t have to be thrown out was. And that leaves us with a veritable treasure-trove of items dating to the earliest days of the territory.

Our charming docent Kristin shared a number of stories as she led us through the collection. One of my favorites involved Ann Elizabeth. She came to the Northwest with her family via wagon train on the Oregon Trail. Along the way, they spotted many graves of cholera victims. Finally, they came across a woman who’d been abandoned by her party to die of the disease. Ann Elizabeth’s family felt it wasn’t right to leave her alone to die. They left Ann Elizabeth instead, with a horse and a rifle. Ann Elizabeth was a teen at the time. She stayed with the woman until she passed away, buried her, then rode to catch up with her family, crossing miles of territory. Now, that’s a nineteenth century heroine!

Given that kind of gumption, it didn’t surprise me that Ann Elizabeth became a schoolteacher when she was seventeen, walking miles to teach her handful of students each day before returning home to her family. Docent Kristin is holding her school bell. She married Daniel when she was eighteen. He was already an influential member of territory at the time. He joined her in becoming an ardent supporter of women’s rights, hosting Susan B. Anthony for dinner when she came through on crusade (the chair at the top is where she allegedly while at the Bigelows’).  He went so far as to introduce legislation that would have given Washington women the vote decades before the rest of the nation. Sadly, it didn’t pass.

It was at Bigelow House that I saw something unexpected. Marissa and I have talked about mourning jewelry used in the nineteenth century. Often times a piece of the deceased’s hair was woven into a broach or put inside a locket. This is something different. This watch chain is woven entirely of human hair, a gift from Ann Elizabeth to Daniel, while she was still living. Waste not, want not!

Many pictures of Bigelow House are copyrighted, but you can see the exterior and some of the interior in this video:

It’s a little house with a lot of history behind it! And I appreciate that!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Newer Additions to my Collection: 1812

It’s been a while since I started doing (and finished up) regular Fashion Forecasts here...and one corollary of that is that I’ve since acquired a lot more prints for any given year. Since the last time we looked at fashions in the year 1812 was back in 2010, I thought I’d post some more prints from my collection...because, eye candy.

All prints are from Ackermann’s Repository, many with the original descriptions. Enjoy!

First, a Walking Dress for February of what looks like muslin topped with a short hooded cloak of taupe and crimson, and what looks almost like a cloche hat lined with crimson matching the mantle. Note the cute little purple reticule and what looks like gauntlet-length gloves ofYork tan.

Also probably of muslin is March’s Indoor Morning Dress, which looks almost as if it were made jumper-style. It’s a little hard to discern what’s going on with the neckline—is that a tucker of pink fabric or a fichu? The cap of lace and matching pink ribbon is adorable, though.

Pink seems to have been a fashionable color this spring, as it now appears in a Ball Dress for April. Love the bobble fringe at hem and bodice, the faux lacing in the bodice, the lace shawl, and the Phrygian cap-style hat complete with tassels.

June brings a Promenade or Walking Dress, consisting of “A round robe of jaconot or fine cambric muslin, with long sleeve and high waist, with fan ruff of lace, ornamented up the front with borders of needle-work or lace, and finished at the feet with ball fringe. A Spanish hussar cloak of deep amber sarsnet, lined with sea green or white, an trimmed with broad thread lace, put on very full. Hair disposed in bands and waved curls; a large square veil of white lace, thrown over the head and shading the face. Half-boots amber-coloured kid, and gloves a pale primrose. Small French caps of lace, ornamented with a small cluster of spring flowers, on one side, are often seen in this style of costume, and have an appropriate and pretty effect beneath the long veil.”

Also from June is this Morning or Domestic Costume, “A plain muslin or cambric round robe, trimmed round the throat with net lace, or rolls of muslin. A loose Circassian pelisse of cerulean blue sarsnet, with low curved bosom; epaulet and cuffs of antique lace, and the skirt trimmed entirely round with a fancy floss fringe or gimp, and confined at the bottom of the waist with a ribbon, tied with short bows and ends in front. A foundling mob cap, composed of lace, and ribbon the colour of the pelisse. A small sprig of geranium placed in the hair on the left side. Spanish slippers of cerulean blue kid, and gloves of a lemon colour or pale tan. Prevailing colours are, primrose, lilac, or blossom colour, and pale pink.”

Ooh, pretty! I love this Evening Dress from July, of what might be a print or embroidered muslin, with perhaps a shot sarsnet wrap and every elegant classical hair worn with flowers.

Another Evening Dress, this time from August, consists of “A white crape robe, with short Circassian sleeves and demi-high waist, with full frills of lace—the robe worn over a white satin slip. Epaulets of variegated gold ball-fringe, ornamented at the feet, and bottom of the waist to correspond. A Moorish turban of Indian gold muslin, with a cluster of flowers on the left side. Necklace, ear-rings, and bracelets of brilliants., pearl, or sapphire set in gold. Gloves of white French kid below the elbow. Slippers of white satin, with gold rosettes and fringe. Occasional scarfs of white lace.”

A Promenade Costume also for August, is “A plain jaconot or imperial cambric muslin round dress, formed high in the neck, and trimmed round the bottom, up the front, collar, and sleeves, with full borders of plaited muslin. A white satin hussar cloak, ornamented with deep capes and antique floss trimming and tassels. A Lavinia hat of fine moss straw—a small cap of lace beneath, ornamented on one side with a small bunch of flowers, and tied with cerulean blue ribband on the other. A rosary cross and bracelets of the coquille nut. Boots, or Roman shoes, of blue kid. Gloves a lemon colour; and parasol of correspondent shot sarsnet, with deep ball-fringe awning.”

September’s Walking Dress is “A Parisian wrapping dress of plain jaconot muslin, or fine cambric, trimmed on each side, round the neck and wrists, with double borders of fine mull muslin. The sleeves very full, confined at the wrist with gold bracelets and drop snap. A Wellington hat, composed of blended straw and white satin; confined under the chin with white ribbon, and decorated with a wreath of flowers round the crown. A small lace cap beneath, with a flower on the right side. A small pelerine of blue satin, trimmed with broad black lace. A long sash, or bracer, of blue-figured ribbon, passed over the shoulders, and tied in front of the waist. Roman shoe of buff-coloured kid or jean—gloves the same colour. Parasol of blue shot silk, with deep Chinese fringe.”

A surprisingly contemporary look in this Promenade Dress from October: “A plain muslin robe, finished at the bottom with a border of needle-work, long full sleeves, and formed high in the neck, with simple collar, confined in the center of the throat with a topaz broach, and buttoned down the bosom; an amber-coloured sash, tied in irregular bows and ends in front of the figure. A rosary and cross of the coquille nut. A lappelled cloak, of bright amber or yellow crape, faced with satin, and edged with fluted ribband of the same colour. A Wellington hat of straw, trimmed with white ribband. Gloves and shoes of yellow kid.”

Here’s a Morning Costume for October, featuring a plain muslin dress topped with a spencer of somewhat military aspect (the frogging up the front and sleeves)...but the martial air is somewhat compromised by the full, fluffy frill at the neck. A lacy cap and purple reticule complete the look.

Oh, my. Check out this slinky blue Parisian Opera Dress, strikingly unadorned except for the fur trim! A matching hat with equally fluffy feather trim tops matters off. Très chic for November (and hey, wasn’t England at war with France? Amazing how many of these plates refer to French fashions...)

We’re back to pink in this Evening Dress for December, with rosy ribbons trimming the bodice along with some sort of ecru or brown lace which also recurs at the sides near hip-level and around the hem.) And what a gorgeous shawl!

Which was your favorite piece of eye candy? ☺

Friday, May 19, 2017

Your Input Needed: If I Could Write Anything, What Would You Want?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the publishing industry after more than 35 books, it’s that nothing is static. Reader preferences vary, genres fall in and out of favor, editors move on.

And publishers close their doors.

Authors for Love Inspired Historical, my current publisher, were shocked this week to hear that the line is folding. Current contracts will be honored, which means I’ll get to finish the Frontier Bachelors series with Mail-Order Marriage Promise (John Wallin, September 2017), His Frontier Christmas Family (Levi Wallin, December 2018), and the tentatively titled The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (Beth Wallin, spring of 2018). But the last books will hit the stores in June 2018.

Some of the authors will be invited to submit to other lines, but Harlequin, the parent company, doesn’t have many (read any) slots for an author who writes less-than-sexy historical romances. My editor won’t be able to talk to me about it until next week at the earliest, so I don’t know whether she’ll encourage me to write for the Love Inspired Contemporary Romance line instead. It may be I’ll have to start shopping my books to other publishers or move more aggressively into self-publishing.

So, I have some choices to make. And I’d very much like your input. Many of you read my books. If I could write anything you wanted (with the caveat that I want to keep my stories sweet, though not necessarily faith-based, and I cannot do horror), what would you like?

Do you want more Regency romances?

Should I lean on my plotting and produce historical mysteries?

Should I veer into contemporary romance?

Cowboys? Historical or contemporary?

Frontier stories?

Men on Mars?

Don’t be shy. Haven’t you ever wanted to suggest to an author what you’d like her to write? (I know I have!) No promises (because so much is beyond my control even in this market), but it may just be that if enough voices are heard, my agent and I can find a way.

So let me hear from you. I’m all ears. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Children of George III: The Princess Royal

After the birth of three bouncing boys in four years, George III and his consort, Charlotte, were more than ready for a daughter when the Queen again found herself pregnant in 1766. Their hopes were realized on September 29 with the birth of Charlotte Augusta Matilda, who was immediately declared Princess Royal by her delighted papa. It is a style bestowed on the eldest daughter of a reigning monarch—and Royal more or less became her nickname from then on. It was an appropriate name: she would in time be the eldest of six sisters, not to mention six other younger brothers.

Royal and her two next sisters, Augusta and Elizabeth, were raised more or less at their mother’s knee; the Queen involved herself in all aspects of their education, which was rigorous but also emphasized the arts and “womanly” accomplishments such as sewing, painting, and other handiwork. Royal in particular was carefully educated in history and languages, for she was destined to make a very grand European match one day—or so it was planned.

By the time Royal was of marriageable age, however, Europe was a very different place: unrest in France was brewing, unsettling most of Europe...and in 1788, George III suffered from his first attack of “madness,” which lasted a year and changed the dynamics of the family forever. The Queen clung to her daughters, not wishing to lose them to foreign marriages; the King himself, in fragile health, also was reluctant to let them marry, possibly influenced by the terrible experience of his own younger sister’s marriage to the King of Denmark.  So Royal languished, longing for a home of her own; she and the Queen did not bring out the best in each other, and tempers grew short as the Queen continued to treat her grown daughters like children and the King to refuse offers of marriage.

But in 1797, after nearly two years of backing-and-forthing, the King finally consented to allow Royal to marry. Her groom was the widowed Hereditary Prince Frederick of Württemberg, heir to the reigning Duke of Württemberg; though he was enormously fat, rumored to be bad-tempered, and had a previous marriage which had ended mysteriously, Royal was delighted to finally be escaping. Their wedding was in May, and in June the couple left for the continent.

By August, Royal was delighted to write home that she was pregnant; in addition, her father-in-law’s death a few months later made her and her new husband the Duke and Duchess of Württemburg. But a quiet life was not to be theirs: war between France and Austria often overspilled into the duchy, and then Royal’s child, a daughter, was born dead. She had no more children, but became a very loved step-mother to the Duke’s children and indeed was very popular among her new subjects.

In 1800, Württemburg was overrun by the French, and Royal and her new family fled to Austria. The Duke chose to negotiate with Napoleon, and in time was reinstated as Elector of Württemburg and then in 1806 as King, joining the Confederation of the Rhine. Royal’s step-daughter Catharina was married to Napoleon’s brother Jerome. Poor Royal was now officially the enemy of her birth country, which she felt deeply. So it was probably much to her relief that the Duke switched sides again in 1813, and rejoined the Allies. After Napoleon’s fall he was re-confirmed as king of his enlarged kingdom but did not have long to enjoy his position; he died in 1816, leaving Royal a very wealthy widow thanks to her large dowry.

Royal professed herself heartbroken, but her family wondered; rumors over the years of his abusive treatment of her had reached them even during the war years. But she settled into a comfortable widowhood, being very attached to her step-grandchildren, two of whom she was raising, and growing so fat that she was forced to adopt the use of a Bath chair to get around. Various brothers and sisters came to stay with her, and finally, in 1827, she herself returned for a visit to England, thirty years after she'd left it. Her reunion with her remaining siblings and the chance to meet their children, among them Princess Victoria, was on the whole a happy one...and didn’t take place too soon, for growing ill-health was to catch up with her; she died in 1828, and was buried next to her lost daughter.

Note: for anyone interested in Royal and her sisters, I can't recommend highly enough Flora Fraser's excellent group biography, Princesses: the Six Daughters of George III--a highly readable and sympathetic view of these quintessential "poor little rich girls."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Spying Out a Spy: The Husband Mission

The elegance and charm of early nineteenth century England seems to cry out for the daring espionage agents embodied by the works of Ian Flemming. It was one of the few disappointments of my research into the Regency period of England to find that espionage wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the movies make out. Oh, there were code breakers, determined men who cracked the secret messages being employed by the French. There were even code makers, who created similar languages for the British to pass critical information without fear of the enemy learning the truth.

However, actually carrying those messages, or, worse, prying into people’s lives to uncover their darkest deeds, was seen as a dirty business by the British. That sort of spy was generally considered a  dishonorable creature. Certainly no gentleman would serve in such a function.

Or would he?

Enter Lord Hastings, a fine, upstanding gentleman, father to Lord Leslie Petersborough from The Unflappable Miss Fairchild and The Irredeemable Miss Renfield. Affable, charming even, with big brown eyes, a walrus mustache, and a nose for trouble. He recognized early in the war effort that French spies found it terribly easy to pry secrets out of the aristocracy. Therefore, hee recruits among the aristocracy, to keep watch over the aristocracy, and few know which men and women are truly his. He is loyal, determined, practical. He is England’s spymaster.

And he is a hopeless romantic.

I have several books in which his lordship and his cadre play a part. I’ve now revised the three key books and am reissuing them under the series title, Spy Matchmaker. The first, The Husband Mission, is out now. Formerly titled Lord Borin’s Secret Love, it is one of the books of which I’m most fond, and one that tends to get overlooked. Here’s a little about the book:

Katherine Collins is on a mission. With no means and few prospects, the spirited spinster is financially beholden to her stepsister Constance, who stands to inherit a large fortune--if she marries in the next six weeks. What better than to present Constance with the perfect husband, Alexander Wescott, Lord Borin? After all, Katherine has been spying on the handsome, wealthy viscount, just to make sure he’s the man she hopes.

Alex cannot understand why he’s under surveillance, but it seems to have something to do with the intriguing Katherine. Rejected for service by England’s spymaster and encouraged to set up his nursery instead, he ought to be searching for a wife. But what wife can compare to the excitement of international espionage? Unless, of course, she’s up for a little espionage herself.

The Spy Matchmaker: all the intrigue of love.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Such Language! Part 17

Time for more 19th century verbal shenanigans, courtesy of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Enjoy!

Cork-brained: lightheaded, foolish. (My friend Eliza was cork-brained enough to order all her spring dresses in the same shade of purple because someone once said it suited her, and her mother was even more cork-brained to agree.

Chub: A foolish fellow, easily imposed on. (Eugene may be a silly chub who thinks that Australia doesn’t really exist, but his friends love him anyway.)

Gutfoundered: Exceedingly hungry. (My little brother was gutfoundered enough to eat two of Aunt Agatha’s beet-and-celery scones without blinking, but that’s twelve-year-olds for you.)

Bubble: to cheat. (No, I shan’t ever play croquet with Miss James again as she bubbles her opponents shamelessly by kicking their balls into the shrubbery.)

Square-toes: An old man: square-toed shoes were anciently worn in common, and long retained by old men.  (Great-uncle Ambrose was so annoyed when my little brother called him Uncle Square-toes that he went to Hoby’s and ordered the pointiest-toed pair of top-boots you’ve ever seen.)

Royster: A rude, boisterous fellow. (Mr. Clark was such an appalling royster at Lady Hume’s ball—did you hear what he said about the dowager countess’s nose?—that I doubt he’ll ever be invited back.)

Fly: Knowing, acquainted with another’s meaning or proceeding. (Our old nurse was so fly when it came to Henry’s lapses of plague that he seemed to suffer at the end of his holidays from school that she would often remind him when it was time for him to start manifesting symptoms.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Surprising Music of the 1890s, by Noelle Marchand

I was over the moon at the idea of being able to make the heroine of The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets, Caroline Murray, a music teacher. I love music and having grown up watching classic musicals, I was totally envisioning scenes along the lines of Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien’s adorable performance of “Under the Bamboo Tree” in Meet Me in St. Louis

Then I started to research. Famous last words, right?

I discovered the heyday of Tin Pan Alley (aka the amazing explosion of popular music which laid the groundwork for so much of today’s music and left generations sighing in nostalgia over Vaudeville tunes like the aforementioned, “Under the Bamboo Tree,” “In the Good Ole Summertime,” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”) took place in the early 19th century. The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets takes place in 1896—maddeningly just a few years shy of the music I’d hoped to have Caroline and the hero’s daughter, Maggie McKay, singing.

What kind of music was popular in the 1890s then? To my abject horror, Coon songs. Yes, coon. As in, what defines as, “Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person.”

There was no way on God’s green earth that I was going to have Maggie and Caroline singing songs like that! After my little Black self was done cringing and had thanked the Lord that American culture has come as far as we have since the 1890s, I realized I faced a dilemma. How could I be faithful to the times and still feature music of the day?

I turned to other sources both in research and in music genres. Leaving pop music behind except for the harmless “Daisy Bell” song for Maggie, I refocused specifically on my characters and the music they would have been exposed to through their specific life experiences.

For my classically trained heroine, there would have been a whole canon of arias and operas to pull from, but I chose to highlight something that was relatively new and exciting at the time—an operetta. In the world of musical theater, operettas fall somewhere between operas and musicals. In fact, it’s often considered the precursor to modern musicals.  (More information about the differences between operas, operettas, and musicals can be found here.)

The Pirates of Penzance is definitely one of the silliest operettas in the canon and, conveniently, was performed in New York on December 18th 1879. That gave it plenty of time to work its way into the musical theaters of Austin, Texas, where Caroline is from. You can check out a scene from The Pirates of Penzance on YouTube.

One of the main ways that Caroline and the hero, David McKay, connect is through their love of music and their faith. Hymns provided the perfect fodder to make that connection stronger. Thankfully, there were many hymns for me to choose from, songs still familiar and beloved today such as “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” “Blessed Assurance,” “I Need the Every Hour,” and “Amazing Grace.”

Although comfortable singing hymns, David has had no classical training. Everything he knows about singing, he learned from his mother, who plays the piano, and his ranch hands. The longs days in the saddle and lonesome night by a campfire or in a bunkhouse were conducive to the creation of melodies and lyrics based on the cowboy’s life and work—Cowboy Songs. 

Unlike popular music, cowboy music celebrated diversity even in the 1890s. Many of the most sought after cowboys and, thus most highly paid, were Black and Mexican cowboys whose beautiful singing would soothe nervous cattle. NPR did a fascinating music interview about Cowboy Songs several years ago. You can find it here

Obviously, the music I feature in The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets was not at all what I first thought it would be when I tackled the story. However, I think what I ended up using was even better. The music now doesn’t just reflect the era in which the story takes place, it reflects the individual characters, their worlds, and their culture rather than the world and the culture.

Better yet, I learned so many fascinating things about diversity in culture and in music. I hope you did too. Be sure to read The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets to see how I used music to create and flesh out the characters, their romance, and the world they live in.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Nineteen Teen Welcomes Noelle Marchand!

I hope you all had a chance to read The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets by Linda Ford. The next story set in Little Horn, Texas, is The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets, by Noelle Marchand, out now. I’m tickled  to have her join us this week. Look for an intriguing post from her on Friday.

In the meantime, here’s a little about Noelle:

Noelle’s love of literature began as a child when she would spend hours reading beneath the covers long after she was supposed to be asleep. At fifteen, she completed her first novel and hasn’t stopped writing since. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, learning about history, watching classic  cinema, dancing, and deep conversations. She’s a Houston-native with an insatiable curiosity and love of learning. Her book, A Texas-Made Match, won the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.

19T: You write faith-filled romance with a twist of adventure. What made you decide on that combination?

Noelle: Thank you so much for having me here today, ladies! I’ve always adhered to the old adage of write what you want to read. I love reading stories filled with faith, romance, and adventure. As for the “twist,” most of books have featured some sort of plot twist because the reality of life is that unexpected things happen and events or people aren’t always what you first think they are, which definitely adds to the suspense and excitement of literature and life.

19T: You’re written about quite a few cowboys from your native Texas. What draws you to Western settings and the nineteenth century?

Noelle: Part of it is that I am exactly what you said, a native Texan, and quite proud of that fact. I have always been fascinated by the state’s diverse history. Otherwise, I love how Western settings provide so much freedom for so many people groups that would be far more restricted in any other time or place. Women could and did own land and run their own businesses. They had much more control over their own fate in the West than they did in the East. That independent, resilient spirit is fascinating to me.  

19T: I know from working with you on the Lone Star Cowboy League: Multiple Blessings series that you love to delve into the rich details of the past. What surprised you the most about the research you did for The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets?

Noelle: The heroine of The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets is a piano and vocal teacher. I was surprised by how hard it was to find appropriate songs for her to sing. I’ll get into the reason behind that on Friday, so stay tuned for that!

19T: We will! What’s your favorite classic movie and why?

Noelle: I’m not sure I can pick. There are so many good ones! My favorite changes quite often depending on what I’ve watched most recently or what mood I’m in. I tend to favor romantic comedies and musicals, but also enjoy suspense and the occasional western. They’ve taught me so much about storytelling, how to create believable, intriguing characters and riveting dialogue. I most recently watched How to Steal a Million with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. It’s one of my favorites because of the humor and twist and turns in the storyline.

19T: What was the hardest thing about writing this series?

Noelle: Everything! Haha. I’m kidding. It was fun, but quite a challenge since, with these continuity series, the plot is pretty much given to you already. Usually, my plot is driven by the characters and their internal conflict, so I sort of had to work backwards to make the characters, their conflicts, and motivations fit the plot.

19T: What was the easiest thing about writing this series?

Noelle: Working with my fellow authors! I thought it would be hard for me because I tend to write very independently with no critique partner or anything. It was so much fun and so helpful to brainstorm with other writers on this! I really enjoyed having you, Regina, and Linda to offer ideas, support and keep me grounded.

19T: Tell us a little about The Nanny’s Temporary Triplets.

Noelle: This book is about learning to trust the Lord over your feelings and fears. The back of the book says it best…

After fleeing to Little Horn, Texas, when she discovered her fiancé was a con man, Caroline Murray agrees to act as the temporary nanny for her brother's handsome neighbor. Though caring for David McKay's daughter and the orphaned infant triplets he's fostering is just a charitable gesture, she's falling for the children and David. But if there's one lesson Caroline won't forget, it's that her feelings can't be trusted.

With children to care for and a ranch to run, David definitely needs help—though he doesn't want a new wife. But his affection for Caroline runs deeper than mere appreciation of her skills as a nanny. She was only supposed to be a temporary solution, but will Caroline find a permanent place in David's heart?

19T: What’s next for Noelle Marchand?

Noelle: I’m excited to announce that I am working on a novella for Barbour Publishing’s Mail Order’s Bride Collection  that will be coming out early next year!

19T: Awesome! Congratulations! Now, how can our readers learn more about you?

Noelle: Readers can find me on social media or email me at

Friday, April 28, 2017

You Can't Make That Up!

I’m researching my next series, which I hope to propose to my publisher this summer. You know I love the Regency period, but so many places call to me right in my own backyard. The famed Pig War in the San Juan Islands, the orphans who traveled the Oregon Trail alone to be adopted at the Whitman Mission, the soldiers who were dispatched to the forests during WWII when loggers couldn’t chop down trees fast enough for the war effort. You can’t make this stuff up!

Most recently, I’ve been concentrating very close to home. I live in an area south of Tacoma, on the way to Mt. Rainier National Park. Our local library had a number of books you likely won’t find elsewhere. One was a collection of remembrances from those who were children of the first pioneers, along with newspaper clippings and bits of state- or census-compiled data. I found a couple of surprises there. One was that school lasted anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and children as young as 4 and as old as 21 were admitted. I don’t know about you, but my vision of a pioneer schoolhouse featured children from about first through fifth grades. Not here!

Another surprise had to do with immigration routes. As you may know, the famous Oregon Trail led valiant travelers down the Columbia River and into the Willamette Valley of Oregon Territory. Getting from there to the towns along Puget Sound was difficult. For one thing, you have to cross the mighty Columbia, no small feat when there were no bridges or ferries. For another, there were no roads or trails leading north. Most people took a ship up the coast, through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and down into Puget Sound. However, the Longmire Party blazed a trail over the Cascade Mountains, through what is now Naches Pass, to be among the first to come straight into the south Sound area in 1853, less than 2 years after the Denny party landed on Alki Beach (the start of Seattle). The book gave the location of a marker to commemorate the achievement.

It’s six blocks from my house. (It’s also on private property, so I haven’t found a way to take a picture of it, but I will!)

Another book was a Master’s Thesis by a student at Pacific Lutheran University, just north of me. He chronicled the life of one of the local pioneers, a man named James Sales. Sales had quite an impact on the area, selling his original Donation Land Claim for schools, starting civic and professional organizations, and chartering churches. But what I found most fascinating about him was his beginning.

You see, before James was born, his parents moved to the new city of Tacoma. They lived next to Ed and Martha Croft. The poor Crofts had had a difficult marriage, having lost two babies before the baby they currently had. That boy died shortly after they moved to Tacoma. Mrs. Sales, pregnant with James, was so saddened by the couple’s loss that she offered to give them James when he was born. After all, she reasoned, she already had a healthy son.

Now, I’m struggling with this concept. I cannot imagine the sacrifice of the woman, giving away one of her children to a woman who had none and likely never would. But James was born, and weaned, and given to the Crofts to raise. They moved out my way, a distance of some 15 miles from Tacoma, to the cabin you see above. While James kept his birth name, it appears he never saw his parents again.

You can’t make this stuff up!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

History Has Never Looked So...Unhistorical

And that’s what’s so cool about it!

This is going to be a short post, because the best thing I can do is give you a link and let you do your own exploring...but first, here’s the background. A few weeks ago, my awesomely awesome nephew sent me a link to an amazing thing: a collection of 19th and early 20th century black and white photographs that have been, after much research, carefully and sensitively colorized by professional artists.

I suspect that most of us have an unconscious idea in our heads that the world was black and white before ca. 1960.  It’s so easy to look at old daguerreotypes and cartes de visite and early photos and think of them as just that—dead images of dead people.

But the images here will change that idea—and blow your mind.  Czar Nicholas and his daughters...immigrants at Ellis Island...D-Day...dozens of Civil War images of soldiers and generals, both posed and casual...ranchers and polar explorers and Manhattan newsboys.  Scroll through these images, and come back and tell us what you’ve seen. But make sure you’ve got a spare hour before you start.

You’re welcome. ☺

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Mother's Book

I inherited my love of reading from my mother. A schoolteacher by trade, she encouraged me to read from an early age, recommended books, and ultimately read the same books and exchanged thoughts with me. She’s the one who first introduced me to Regency romances, which became my passion. I had published several before she came to me, piece of scratch paper in hand.

“I have an idea for a Regency romance,” she explained. “It’s about a widow with three young sons who enters into a marriage of convenience with a man, then sets about improving his life and realizes she’s just might have married a gem.”

Now, people have approached me in the past, wanting me to write a story they’ve envisioned. Let me state plainly: I don’t do that. There are already so many stories running around in my head that adding another non-organic one could quite possibly make my brain explode. And it is very, very hard to do justice to a story that isn’t your own. So, knowing she was not only a huge fan of the genre but a well-educated, well-read woman, I suggested she write it herself.

She lowered her gaze. “Oh, I couldn’t.”

I encouraged her, but it was plain the idea of writing a book was simply daunting. I took the slip of paper from her, promising to think about it, and went on with my writing. A few months later, my editor called.

“We’d like you to write a novella for a collection,” he said. (I love it when editors call with that sort of suggestion.)

“Sure!” I said. “When do you need it?”

He named a date, which was very tight, but doable, if I could find the right idea. Then he said, “But it’s for a Mother’s Day-themed anthology [even though Mother’s Day was unknown in the Regency], and the heroine has to be a widow with children. Can you come up with an idea like that?”

“Yes,” I said with a smile. “I can.”

So, I wrote my mother’s story. It wasn’t easy. Every characterization, every scene, I kept wondering whether it would live up to her hopes. The book was published the following May, and I presented it to her on Mother’s Day. She cried.

And she loved the story.

I’m very happy to report that the novella I wrote for my mother, Sweeter Than Candy, has been released as part of The Marvelous Munroes series and is now available at fine online retailers. This is the first time it's been available outside an anthology.

Widowed Cynthia Jacobs will do anything to support her three young sons, left impoverished by their father’s sudden demise. Anything, that is, but marry one-time suitor Daniel Lewiston. Cynthia’s family and Daniel’s conspired to match them up years ago, but Cynthia struggled to see the shy boy next door as the dashing husband of her dreams.

Wealthy Daniel Lewiston always admired the beautiful Cynthia, even knowing she’d never settle for him. But when her sons beg him to court her so he can be their father, his heart melts and Cynthia reconsiders. Perhaps what starts as a marriage of convenience for the boys can turn into something more, something that is far sweeter than candy.

Barnes and Noble

I hope you enjoy it as much as she did.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Regency Fabrics, Part 14

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like. So here we go!

Today’s four samples are from the July 1810 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is not very good, and when I went searching online for a less toned and foxed example, I couldn’t find one that was much better.  So here we are, in all its spotted glory:

No. 1 is a real India muslin*, of uncommon delicacy, calculated for half or full dress robes. In the former order it is worn plain, and over white sarsnet; in the latter over coloured gossamer, satin, or sarsnet slips. Long sleeves, cut obliquely, are frequently composed of this article; and the Persian robe, with white satin bodice and petticoat, boasts much elegance and delicacy when formed of this tasteful material. It is sold, from 6s. to 3 guineas per yard, by Mr. Millard of Cheapside; whose ware-rooms are not to be exceeded in taste, fashion, and variety, by any in the metropolis.

*The article of India muslin is well known to have been for many years in high and deserved estimation, and it has been considered by the India Company of the first consequence as an article of commerce, and by the government as a great and principal source of revenue. The improved state of the British manufactured goods has, for some time, enabled many persons to substitute the one for the other, and so well have they been imitated, that even many inexperienced vendors themselves have not been able to distinguish them whilst new. From these combined causes, for two or three years past, the India goods have sunk in the estimation of the public, because British goods have been substituted through ignorance or design; and it is a well known fact, that, in some of the leading streets of the metropolis, as well as in different parts of the country, British muslins have been constantly exposed for sale with large labels on them as real India. This has proved a serious evil to the India Company, to the revenue, and to the public. The establishment of the warehouse by Mr. Millard, in Cheapside, is likely to prove a check to these impositions, as the India goods are there sold direct from the India warehouses, not only in bales, but in single and half pieces. Here the public cannot be deceived, the honour and the reputation of the house entirely precluding the possibility of such a transaction, and those valuable articles will no doubt soon regain their wonted celebrity.

My comments: Okay, if this is real India muslin, I can see what the big deal is about bewaring knock-offs—it’s an amazingly finely woven, dainty, smooth fabric. It’s hard to judge if the patterning is machine woven or hand-done, but it’s lovely—so light and finer than the finest linen. I’m a little amused by the long footnote warning against domestically-made muslins trying to pass themselves off as imported—a bit of a reverse from what we’re used to!

No. 2. A most elegant permanent green cambric muslin, of most delicate pattern and happily contrasted shades. Morning wraps, summer pelisses, and high military gowns, have an uncommonly attractive and appropriate effect, when formed of this elegant print. It is sold by F. and I. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: A very pretty minty green fabric (assuming it hasn’t changed color over the intervening 200 years since it was printed!) The fabric itself reminds me of a lightweight percale; it’s fairly opaque, and has a pleasantly smooth hand. The subtle leaf print is attractive.

No. 3. A beautiful lilac embossed muslin, composing much appropriate and  unique elegance. This article is best calculated for the dinner and  evening party and must be worn over white satin or sarsnet slips, with ornaments of diamonds, pearls, or white beads. It is sold by Messrs. Waithman and Everington, 104, Fleet-street.

My comments: This displays more as pink than what we would consider lilac; it’s hard to judge whether the color in the sample has changed, or how the word is used. It’s fairly loosely woven, but the evenness of the threads keeps it from feeling coarse. The light blue flowerets look almost painted on.

No. 4. A sea-weed or rock muslin, appropriated [sic] also for evening dress, and which should also be worn over white satin or sarsnet. The observation with regard to the ornaments to be worn with dresses of the preceding article, applies to the present. This muslin is sold by F. and I. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: This sample has not aged well; looking at another example of this page I found on line the print is dark tan and black on a brown background, in a sort of loopy, tentacle-ish pattern; my guess is that the dye had degraded the material, so it’s hard to make a judgment about the weight and hand. The fabric body itself is very loosely woven of fine threads and any garment would indeed have to have been worn over an underdress.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The History of County Fairs by Linda Ford

My book The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets features a county fair which the Lone Star Cowboy League hopes will raise money enough to fund their many projects. Ironically enough, I have another book out in July 2017 that also includes a county fair.  I suspect most, if not all of us, have attended a county fair, a state fair, or even a local fair.

I hadn’t given the history of fairs much thought, but my curiosity was aroused. The earliest record of a fair that I could find was in Ezekiel Chapter 27."Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the kinds of riches with silver, iron, tin and lead, they traded in thy fairs." But from the description, it sounds more like our modern-day farmers markets. Other research verifies this, such as this picture by Flemish artist Gillis Mostaert 1590 (as found on Wikipedia).

According to my research, the first known agricultural fair in North America took place in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1765 and continues to this day. The first American fair is thought to have been organized in Pittsfield, MA, in 1807 by Franklin Watson. It became known as the Berkshire County Fair and still operates as such today.

Over the years the fair developed into local exhibitions of new agricultural implements and techniques, and plowing contests and horse pulls.
Entertainment soon became part of the scene with horse racing, balloon ascensions, games of chance, and midway rides.

I couldn’t find definitive dates as to when the fair began to include exhibition and competition of domestic products such as jams and jellies, handicrafts, baked goods, and garden produce. The prizes were usually rosettes –blue for first, red for second, and green or white for third.

I find the bench show fascinating. There are samples from gardens, flower arrangements, pickles, and jams. There's baking—pies, bread, rolls, biscuits, cookies, and cakes (all with a bit taken out for testing). There's sewing. The quilts are beautiful, the crafts unique. And there's artwork—paintings, drawings, and photography. The adult entries leave me overwhelmed, but the children's entries blow me away. The level of expertise in their work, the creative energy evident is amazing. One entry I once saw was a Lego model depicting Main Street with the parade going by. There was such detail—a man in a wheelchair, children picking up candy, a garbage can at the corner—imagination and attention to detail evident in every piece. I find the bench show a veritable feast for the senses. The animal and machinery display not quite so interesting to me.

The fairs began and continue as a means of informing others of developments and local availability of goods and services. They include tribute to those who excel in various crafts and skills. I love a fair. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nineteen Teen Welcomes Linda Ford!

This spring, we’re off to Little Horn, Texas, again, with a new three-book series featuring some of the characters you knew and loved from 2016’s A Rancher of Convenience. This year’s trio starts off with The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets, and I’m pleased to have Linda Ford join us this week. Look for a great post from her on Friday.

In the meantime, she sat down with us at Nineteen Teen to tell us more about the book, her writing, and the marvelous nineteenth century. Here’s a little about Linda:

Linda Ford grew up devouring books and making up stories in her head, often late at night when she couldn't sleep. But she hadn't planned to write. Instead, she dreamed of running an orphanage. In a way, that dream came true. She married, had 4 homemade children, adopted 10 and lived her dream. She lives on a small ranch in western Alberta, where she can see the mountains every day. She and her husband continue to enjoy their children and grandchildren. Linda also provides care for a paraplegic, double amputee man. She still finds a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction in creating imaginary worlds only now she does it on paper or rather, at the computer.

19T: You’re one of Love Inspired Historicals most beloved authors for Western historicals. What draws you to Western settings and the nineteenth century?

Linda: I grew up reading about cowboys, horse, and pioneers. My father often took us to museums. My husband rancher loves western movies and when we were dating, I watched many westerns with him. Plus I live in cowboy country so I guess you could say it’s in my blood. I know the good old days were not without their challenges, but I like the idea of a simpler life where family units were strong, where roots went deep, and where a man’s word was his honor.

19T (Regina): I know from working with you on the Lone Star Cowboy League: Multiple Blessings series that you value historical accuracy. What surprised you the most about the late nineteenth century?

Linda: What surprises me the most about this era is how few rights women and children had. How little protection. If a father beat or abused his children, no one had the right to interfere. If a woman was abused or neglected by her husband she had no recourse.

19T: With 14 children, many of whom were adopted, you know the importance of family. How does that play out in your books?

Linda: My stories often have homeless or abandoned children. They frequently contain adults who have never known the security of a forever home. I get to give them all a new, loving family.

19T: What was the hardest thing about writing this series?

Linda: Having it set in Texas. I have never been there. Thank goodness for Google.

19T: What was the easiest thing about writing this series?

The story concept and many of its components are laid out by the editors who created the continuity. That makes it somewhat easier to plot as there are already some perimeters in place.

19T: Tell us a little about The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets.

Linda: Bo finds the abandoned babies. They are sick so he takes them to the doctor’s daughter, Louisa, who is also the doctor’s assistant, to be cared for. Because of a traumatic past he has no plans to marry. Ever. Louisa is also committed to remaining single so she can care for her ailing mother. Not that anyone is particularly interested in her. Not only is she plain, she is old enough to have earned the role of spinster. However, life has a way of upsetting the best laid plans, as these two learn.

19T: What’s next for Linda Ford?

Linda: The third book in my 6-book Big Sky Country series is out in July. It is Montana Cowboy’s Baby—a story about a baby left on the doorstep of the hero with a note saying the baby is his. He knows it’s not. This series is set in Montana—in case you didn’t catch that and features three Marshall young men, their sister and two close friends. Montana Cowboy Daddy was out in Oct. 2016. Montana Cowboy Family was out Jan. 2017. The fourth book—Montana Bride by Christmas—will be released in Oct. 2017. I am really looking forward to that story. It has many sweet elements. At least I think so. I’ve just turned in the fifth book and it’s about Annie Marshall’s friend, Carly, who is prepared to do anything to save her ranch and her home…including marrying a complete stranger.

Following the completion of that series in 2018, I will be doing a 3-book series on travels on the Santa Fe Trail.

19T: Thanks so much for joining us, Linda. Readers, here's how you can learn more about Linda and her wonderful books:

Blog and website: