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!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Regency fabrics, Part 15

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.

Today’s four samples are from the September 1810 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is pretty good, with some toning on the fabric samples but not enough to obscure their details or colors. Here we go!

No. 1. A Cashmire shawl muslin, of agreeably contrasted ground and figure, adapted for the evening robe or wrap pelisse. The latter worn over a white sarsnet slip, and embellished with white satin or thread lace; the former worn quite plain, with a wing collar, and antique cuff of lace. The satin bead, pearl, or silver filligree ornaments, can only be admitted with lively and diversified article. It is sold by T. and J. Smith, 43, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: A finely woven, very lightweight material—the weave is moderately open, and the fabric has a smooth and silky hand. A dress of this would definitely require a slip underneath! The red and green pattern, vaguely floral in this orientation, is woven in.

No. 2. A morine corded cambric muslin, adapted particularly for the morning robe, Grecian wrap, and children’s frocks and trowsers. This neat and simply elegant manufacture requires no embellishment, save a simple termination at its edges, which should either consist of a tambour scallop or narrow antique lace. It is sold also by T. and J. Smith, as above.

My comments: This is lovely: the ribbing looks almost like a rope pattern, and lends it a slightly sturdier air though it’s still fairly sheer. It’s more tightly woven than No. 1, and of finer and more uniform thread thickness. A morning dress of this would be very graceful and airy, just right for summer.

No. 3. An Indian shawl cambric, comprising much unobtrusive neatness and utility. This article exclusively belongs to the simple order of domestic costume. It is sometimes seen in the high morning robe, but is better suited to the embroidered shirt and foundling cap of the same, which most agreeably relieve it. It is sold by Joseph Ord, 77, St. Paul’s Church-yard.

My comments: I am often struck, when I look at the prints from these Ackermann plates, how much they remind me of 1930s prints. This cambric is finely and tightly woven though the hand is not a smooth as expected, and the print crisp and clear under the age-toning spots.

No. 4. A white velvet, of a peculiarly elegant texture, adapted for the fashionable and beautiful art of velvet painting, now the reigning amusement of the leisure hours of our elegant females. Chairs, music-stools, screens, borders for rooms, curtains, and baskets for flowers, are composed of this rich and attractive specimen of female genius. It is purchased, together with the colours, and all sorts of paper work, drawings, &c. &c., at Ackermann’s Repository, No, 101 Strand, at 7s. 6d. per yard.

My comments: Well, well, well—painting on velvet! No images of Elvis here, though, I presume.  The velvet feels almost like a velveteen, with a very thick, low nap, and rather stiff (though that could have something to do with how it has aged rather than the original feel of the fabric.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Watching the Ships Come Sailing In

I have a book due July 31. I have galleys to proof for my 2017 Christmas book with Love Inspired Historical. My editor would like input on the cover for my spring 2018 book. I’m weeks behind in revising The June Bride Conspiracy for reissue. So, how did I spend a good chunk of my day yesterday?

Watching the ships come sailing in.

This week marks Tacoma’s Festival of Sail. More than 20 ships sailed down Puget Sound to join in. They ranged from turn-of-the-century racing yachts to replicas of nineteenth-century square riggers. Even my beloved Lady Washington was in attendance.

Here’s some I caught on camera as they arrived. (The colors appear washed out--that's because it was pouring rain on shore and shrouded with mist at sea. My family and I were some of the few who braved the storm to watch.)

Ah, my Lady Washington, our state’s tall ship. I’ve blogged previously about my short time sailing on her.  Today, she led the Parade of Sail, her canon booming. It’s enough to set a girl swooning.

Here’s the Cutty Sark (though not the original in Britain). This one was built in 1957, the first of ten ships in the Mayflower class. She’s made of teak. Such graceful lines!

And this is the Merrie Ellen, a schooner from 1922. Oh, could she skim the waves!

Finally, the Hawaiian Chieftain, the Lady Washington’s companion ship. I’ve also had the privilege of sailing on her. Such a beauty!

Marissa kindly shared the link to the Boston Tall Ship Festival, which starts this weekend. Even though the East Coast boasts many more distinguished vessels, and some came from South America and across the Pond to visit, Tacoma has one thing Boston cannot claim.

The World’s Largest Rubber Ducky.

Six stories tall. No lie. Those are the perks of living in the wilderness.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Now—and Soon-to-be—Here!

Book news for today, dear NineteenTeen readers, on stories old and new.

Firstly, in the “old” department, I’m thrilled to report that Skin Deep has won the Paranormal Category of the 2017 Wisconsin RWA’s Write Touch Readers’ Choice Award.  One judge called it, "One of the best books I've read in a while. Kept me spellbound!” (Thank you!) It's also a finalist in the Paranormal category of First Coast Romance Writers' 2017 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award as well as in the Urban Fantasy category of Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of RWA's 2017 PRISM Award (which means Regina and I get to go to a cool party at RWA's national conference this year!)...more news on those next month.

Secondly, after a long learning curve during which I learned how to design book interiors and play with some nifty software, I’m delighted to finally offer readers a print version of my Leland Sisters novella, Charles Bewitched. You can find it at Amazon, if you’d like to give Chuckles a spot on your bookshelf next to his sisters.

And now, in the “new” department, I’ve written a short story titled “Alea Iacta Est” (that’s Latin for “The Die is Cast”) about a girl 1817 London (of course!) I’m even happier to announce that it will be appearing in an anthology titled Nevertheless, She Persisted, coming August 8 from Book View Café and edited by Mindy Klasky. It will be available in both print and e-book, and will feature “nineteen stories of persistence — in the past, present, future, and new worlds. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, these stories illustrate the power of women overcoming the challenges of other people, of society, and of their own fears.” (You can read the rest of Mindy’s announcement here.) I'll post again when it's available...and I hope you'll check it out, because it's going to be amazing.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fast Facts About Multiple Blessings

Just like last year with the sampler of stories and recipes inspired by our stories, this year my publisher has put together a sample of the Lone Star Cowboy League: Multiple Blessings series with fun fast facts about the books. I thought I'd share a few of them with you. First, from Linda Ford's The Rancher's Surprise Triplets.

I like the fact that Louisa likes to read. I know a few other ladies who fit that description. :-)

Now, for Noelle Marchand's The Nanny's Temporary Triplets.

Hm, a hero who's willing to renovate. Sign me up!

And now my The Bride's Matchmaking Triplets.

If you’d like to see the others, look for your free sampler here

And look here for a short summary of all six of the books set in historical Little Horn, Texas, which features small town ranchers with big hearts. 

Happy trails, partners!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Birthing The Bride’s Matchmaking Triplets

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that the Lone Star Cowboy League: Multiple Blessings series winds up this month with my contribution: The Bride’s Matchmaking Triplets. I enjoyed returning to Little Horn, Texas, after last year’s A Rancher of Convenience. I hope you will too.

When mail-order bride Elizabeth Dumont’s intended weds another, her only option is to take a job as nanny to abandoned triplet babies. Though she longs to provide a real home for her three precious charges, as a single woman she can’t adopt. Until her onetime sweetheart, minister Brandon Stillwater, offers a match of convenience…

It’s only for the triplets’ sake—that’s what Brandon tells himself. Insecurities once drove him and Elizabeth apart, and now small-town rumors have made them man and wife. And though Brandon doesn’t want to risk his heart again, he’s not sure he can resist the feelings that are once again starting to bloom for Elizabeth. But can he convince her that this sweet surprise family is more than just convenient?

Here's how Elizabeth and Brandon first met, and what happened when he stopped by to help he feed the triplets after she and Brandon were reunited in Little Horn:

Her aunt Evangeline had been hosting one of her famous dinner parties. It was well known around Cambridge that Mrs. Dumont, wife of the influential financier, welcomed only the most interesting people to her table, so an invitation was cause to preen. As her niece, Elizabeth had dined with senators, adventurers, novelists, artists and scientists. That evening, attendees around the white damask-draped table had included the mayor and his wife, a man who had invented some sort of circuit for conducting electricity, an award-winning poet and the dean of the divinity school with his most promising student.

Brandon Stillwater.

As the least most notable person in the room, besides her, he would have had every right to sit quietly, speak only when directly addressed. Indeed, he had been quiet the first part of the meal. Then the inventor, a Mr. Lombard, had begun a paean to man’s ingenuity.

“Why, even now, in New York, a pneumatic system brings warm air in winter and cool air in summer,” he boasted, sleeve of his black dress coat coming perilously close to dipping into his creamed asparagus as he waved a hand.

“Amazing,” the mayor proclaimed. “We may have to rethink our futures, gentlemen. Science seems to have the upper hand.”

Brandon had merely offered them all a charming smile as he reached for his crystal glass. “I think I’ll stick with the Author of invention instead of the implementer.” And he’d calmly taken a sip as if giving them all a moment to think about what he’d said.

How could she not be drawn to such a man? He was only a year older than her, yet he seemed so confident, so sure of who he was and what he was meant to do. She’d envied him that.

“Ready for this little fellow?” he asked her now, smiling on the infant in his arms. She remembered how it felt to be cradled close, those strong arms around her, making her feel safe, loved.

Elizabeth scooped up a baby and shoved him at Brandon, anything to stop these memories. “Here,” she said. “I’ll take Eli. You take Jasper.”

If he was surprised by the urgency in her voice, he didn’t show it. But as they exchanged babies, his fingers brushed her sleeve and a tingle ran up her arm.

Why was she was still so aware of him after all these years? Even as she began to feed Eli, Theo watching them, she felt Brandon beside her. He held each baby so gently, every movement effortless. No other man had ever made her feel that she could rely on him no matter what.

You can find The Bride’s Matchmaking Triplets at fine retailers including
Barnes and Noble
An independent bookstore near you
The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)

Friday, June 2, 2017

Nineteenth Century Heroines: Seeding the Future

Lilacs are a lovely flower—the scent, the color, the way they hang like plump grapes. It was a love of flowers and growing things in general that led this nineteenth century heroine to become a renowned hybridizer, developing more than 14 varieties of lilacs still treasured around the world.

Hulda Klager was born in 1863 in Germany. She was a toddler when her family immigrated to America, eventually settling in Woodland, Washington, about a half hour north of Portland, Oregon, along the I-5 corridor. They owned a farm, and Hulda grew up to marry a farmer. After reading a book by Luther Burbank about hybridizing and decided to experiment with apples. She hated having to peel so many of them to make a pie. She crossed a Wolf River apple with a Bismark and discovered a larger, delicious apple. She tried dahlias and roses as well. A couple years later, she started working with lilacs, developing deeper colors, bigger blooms, more hardy plants. By 1910, she had 14 commercial varieties to her credit, though at one time she had named as many as 100.

In 1920, she began opening her home and gardens each spring to share her lilacs with others. Her open houses were so beloved that towns around the area requested that she name new varieties after them, including the City of Longview, City of Kalama, City of Gresham, and City of Woodland. She was honored by Washington State and Harvard, among others, for her work. The death of her husband in 1922 made her rethink her work, but her family encouraged her to continue.

What happened next is best told in the words of the website dedicated to her work

“The spring of 1948 brought another great adversity when the swirling waters of the Columbia River swept across her property, wiping out her lilac gardens and nearly every other shrub on the place. Only the big trees withstood the flood but undaunted and at the age of 83, she set about rebuilding her garden. Many people who had purchased her lilacs in the past returned starts to her so she could replace her losses.

It took two years and a great deal of work but in 1950 she was able to open her gardens for Lilac Week once again — a practice she continued until her death in 1960.”

The seeds Hulda planted continue to bear fruit. Now a state and national historic landmark, Hulda Klager’s home and gardens continue to open each spring to share her legacy. Her life forms the basis for Jane Kirkpatrick’s Where Lilacs Still Bloom

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1810, What a Year It Was: The Derby

One of the big events of the London social season didn’t actually take place in London at all, but twenty-ish miles south of the metropolis, in the small town of Epsom located on the rolling, grass-covered terrain of the North Downs. I am speaking, of course, of the Epsom Derby, the undisputed Queen of horse races.

Epsom was known first as a spa town—the source of the purgative Epsom Salts—beginning early in the 17th century, and the infirm (and not-so-infirm) of London and beyond tottered there throughout the next decades to drink the water from one particular spring. Horse-racing was first mentioned as taking place there early in the century—perhaps as a pastime for the healthy young members of families who accompanied older relatives visiting the spring. I can totally understand the attraction of galloping across the miles of open, green grassland! During Cromwell’s time racing was forbidden, but was back in force when King Charles II regained his throne; Samuel Pepys noted a visit there during which he saw Nell Gwyn, the king’s cockney mistress, having a merry time, and the King himself often attended races. By the 1680s there was an official course clerk, and fifty years later, twice-yearly race meetings were taking place.

Then, in 1778, the Earl of Derby (that's him at left) and a group of friends including Sir Charles Bunbury, the playwright Richard Sheridan, and politician Charles James Fox, hatched the idea of a new race for three-year-old fillies, over one and a half miles (most races at Epsom were in the two-to-four mile range), naming it The Oaks, after Lord Derby’s nearby house. In 1780 they added a second race, for both colts and fillies, over one mile (soon expanded to one and a half); Lord Derby and Sir Charles flipped a coin for the honor of naming this new race, and Derby won the toss—and so The Derby was born. Sir Charles probably wasn't too upset—his colt Diomed became the Derby's first winner.

The races soon became popular; several shorter races over the course of the meet made for more excitement among the viewers (and thus more bets placed!), which of course had the effect of drawing more than just the racing crowd, so that eventually a sort of country fair atmosphere took over, which in turn drew more crowds (helped by the location’s proximity to London.) A verse declaims,

On Epson Downs, when racing does begin
Large companies from every part come in.
Tag-rag and Bob-tail, Lords and Ladies meet,
And Squires without Estates, each other greet.
Bets upon bets; this man says, ‘Ten to one.’
Another pointing cries, ‘Good sir, tis done.’

Our friend Prinny, the Prince Regent, was one of those spectators; in the 1790s he built the first permanent structure at Epsom, the Prince’s Stand (a larger grandstand would finally be built in the 1830s). By the Regency, the Derby was an established “event” of the season, and an audience of thirty to forty thousand was the norm.

1810’s Derby, run on June 7, was no exception, drawing the usual hordes of racing enthusiasts from the lowest to the highest. What set it apart was the horse who would win that day, a three-year-old colt with “the lowest and longest, and most-double jointed horse, with the best legs...and worst feet I ever saw in my life," according to his groom.

Whalebone, owned by the Duke of Grafton, was running only his second formal race ever; he’d won the Newmarket Stakes just the month before. But despite his unprepossessing looks, he was a grandson (grandcolt?) of the mighty sire Eclipse, and went out favored to win...and win he did, leading the field throughout the race. Though his subsequent career was a checkered one, with a pattern of grand wins followed by disappointing losses then back to wins, his greatest victories came after he retired to stud: he was the progenitor of champions straight through into the 20th century and beyond—not bad for a horse described by a contemporary as “shabby”!

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.