Friday, September 20, 2019

Seeing Double, On Purpose

Did you grow up with one of these? I did. The ViewMaster came with little round cardboard frames holding celluloid squares of far-away places and famous people. You slipped the cardboard into the back of the viewer and held it to the light, and you saw a three-dimensional picture that transported you to another time and place.

But the ViewMaster was only one of a long line of devices. In the nineteenth century, such devices were called stereoscopes, and the pictures that you viewed were stereographs. Instead of being mounted on a circle, these cards came with a single image side by side. And they were hugely popular. At the peak of the craze, a sought-after stereograph card might be printed and sold more than 100,000 times!

Naturally, photographers were keen to have one of their images used. But a stereograph required careful composition. In the early years, a photographer would shoot two pictures, one slightly offset from the other. When viewed together, the pictures took on a three-dimensional aspect. By the middle of the 19th century, camera makers had devised a stereographic camera—one exposure, two offset pictures.

Some of the stereographs were of famous places like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. Others showed architectural or engineering wonders like the Washington Monument or a famous courthouse. Local manufacturers might issue stereographs of nearby attractions. Other cards told a story through a series of photographs, like a courtship or a trip on a sailing ship.

Here are a few for your viewing pleasure. First, Westminster Abbey

 Then one called "The Penn."

Perhaps a cowboy?

Or a child?

And of course, there's always the self-promoting card. ;-)

What place or person would you want on a card for your collection?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Pass the Popcorn, Please

We’re getting closer to the release day for my new young adult historical fantasy, Evergreen...and yes, I’m excited, in case you were wondering. Excited enough that I just had to share this with NineteenTeen readers...

I hope it intrigues you just a little!* 

Evergreen will be out on November 5 both in print and in e-book from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and GooglePlay, as well direct from its publisher, Book View Café.

Friday, September 13, 2019

And Many More!

It’s that time of year again: NineteenTeen is having a birthday!

Time for party hats...

(Hey, we’re Nineteen-Teen. Our concept of party hats may be a little out of the usual way, but did you expect anything else?)

Time for balloons...

(What? Wrong kind of balloon? But latex and mylar are so, like, twenty-first century!

And of course, time for cake!

(Lots and lots of cake, please. Especially like this one, without frosting--just pure cakey goodness. Not very historical, but one must make sacrifices where chocolate is concerned.)

This year we’re celebrating twelve years of blogging. Yeah, twelve—we can hardly believe it ourselves. It’s been a busy twelve years: between us, Regina and I have posted one thousand, one hundred and fifty-seven times (including this post), with an average of just under a hundred posts per year.  

We’re writers; story is what we’re all about. But we’re also about the stories behind the story--and that’s where our history geekitude comes in. Sharing the stories behind the stories is what NineteenTeen is all about...and we thank you for listening to our stories for the last dozen years.

Have some cake. 💖 😊

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Happy Birthday to Us!

Twelve years blogging! Who could have imagined? (Well, perhaps the little girl in the Victorian birthday card here.) Marissa and I are honored and humbled that you’ve stayed with us all this time. If you are relatively new to Nineteen Teen, or if you simply like to reminisce, we thought we’d look back at some of our most popular posts and ask you what you’d like to see in the future.

Marissa is fabulous (though she won’t admit it) with detailing the fascinating, and sometimes tragic, lives of King George’s and Victoria’s children. This post on Princess Helena has the highest number of hits over the years. 

We’ve also brought you some tidbits of history, including one on the invention of matches (surprisingly, another of the top 10 posts of all time). 

And Marissa’s fashion forecasts, like this one for 1812, remain perennial favorites. 

So, in the coming year, what would you like more of?

What would you like less of?

What else can we do to amuse you and keep you informed about the marvelous nineteenth century?

Friday, August 30, 2019

100 Years and Counting: Grand Canyon National Park

File:ENTERING THE GRAND CANYON - NARA - 544313.jpgMy father instilled in me a love and fascination with our national parks. When I was a child, he took us up camping on Mt. Rainier nearly every weekend. At least once a summer saw us in the Olympics. I’ve since toured Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Yosemite, and the Redwoods, and I currently live forty-five minutes from the gates of Mt. Rainier.

But nothing prepared me for the Grand Canyon.

My family visited for the first time in 2016. The craggy cliffs fading into the distance, the sheer drops, the silence! It is an amazing place, and one I feel fortunate to be writing about in A Distance Too Grand, out in October.

People have stood in awe of the canyon for eons. The earliest human inhabitant of the area has been dated to 12,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age. Native Americans found ways to live among the rugged cliffs and thundering rapids. Missionaries, the U.S. military, prospectors, and lumberman made brief forays into the depths. Army lieutenant Joseph Christmas Ives, in his report of his exploration partway into the canyon in 1858, called the area “altogether valueless.” He predicted that his would be the last party of Anglo-Americans to visit this “profitless locality,” which would be “forever unvisited and undisturbed.”

I’m glad not everyone agreed.

Additional explorers, such as John Wesley Powell, lauded the majesty of the canyon. In 1893, President Benjamin Harrison protected the area as a forest reserve. In 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt added federal game preserve protections. But it wasn’t until February 1919 that President Woodrow Wilson would make the canyon and its branches a national park. About 44,000 people went to visit it that year.

Today, the park boasts more than five million visitors a year. That’s quite a party. Happy birthday, Grand Canyon National Park!

P.S.—Marissa and I will be off next week, partying ourselves. We will be celebrating Labor Day and the end of summer. Look for new posts the week of September 9th.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Retro Read: Meet Mrs. Fish

Summertime, and the livin’ is...well, in early twentieth century Newport, Rhode Island, it was crazily, ostentatiously over-the-top! Here’s a summertime blast from the past appropriate for the warm, hazy days of August (though it’s feeling kind of Septemberish on Cape Cod just now) and as a gear-up to Evergreen’s release in November. Enjoy!
One of the most interesting people I’ve “met” over the course of doing research for my non-nineteenth century book is Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, known as “Mamie” to her friends. Mamie Fish, along with her frenemies Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Tessie Oelrichs, was one of THE leaders of Gilded Age society in New York and Newport—in fact, they were known as the Great Triumvirate.

She was born in 1855 to a prosperous but not particularly wealthy or socially prominent family. But little Marion (as she was christened), despite her lack of connections, married well—her childhood neighbor and sweetheart, Stuyvesant Fish, scion of an important and wealthy family. Mr. Fish was no rich idler; despite his inheritance, he worked his way up through the ranks to become president of the Illinois Central Railroad. He and Mamie were, unusually for their time and class, a devoted couple; even during the height of the social season, at least once a week Mamie made sure they dined alone at home together, usually on Mr. Fish’s favorite corned beef and cabbage. She was also an involved and loving mother to their three children, all of whom turned out shockingly normal.

If Mamie were to summarized in one word, that word would probably be "feisty". Though not a beauty nor very well-educated (it was said that she could barely read and sign her name), she made up for these defects with a quick intelligence and an even quicker wit. Born today, I could see her in politics or in entertainment; but the only career open to a woman of her class at the turn of the twentieth century was social lioness, and Mamie went for it with a vengeance. She was utterly fearless, and alas, tactless…and yet it became almost something of a badge of honor to have been insulted (and in one case, run over repeatedly) by Mrs. Fish.

She came to “power” as the former queen of society, Mrs. Astor (of The Four Hundred fame) was winding down her social career. But society had changed since Mrs. Astor’s heyday, and Mamie fitted the new freer, faster pace of society to a T. She flouted convention and never paid social calls, left parties she found boring (usually loudly announcing the fact), and went to bed if she found her own parties had grown dull. In fact, she often seemed to dislike entertaining, and once announced to her guests, “Make yourselves perfectly at home, and believe me, there is no one who wishes you were there more than I do!” To a collection of ladies arrived for a luncheon in their newest Parisian couture, she said, “Here you all are, older faces and younger clothes.”

With her friend (some called him her “court jester”) Harry Lehr, Mamie did her best to shake things up. Parties became even more elaborate and costly and outrageously themed. When an enemy of Mamie’s failed to invite her to a party given in honor of the Tsar’s brother, Mamie threw her own for the Tsar himself and stole away all her rival’s guests, eager to meet the Tsar…who turned out to be Harry in disguise. It was a huge hit, and the following day the Tsar’s brother told Mamie he wished he’d been there, too. On another occasion they threw a party for the mysterious Prince del Drago of Corsica…and the guests who arrived eager to rub shoulders with royalty found that the distinguished Prince was a monkey in evening dress. Yet when she invited Marie Dressler to entertain her guests at a party, the actress sat down to dinner first with Mamie as an equal—unheard of in that day and age. She enjoyed lambasting the snobbishness of society; her mansion in Newport boasted no marble panels or stained glass windows bought from French chateaux or Italian palazzi, but was built in Colonial Revival style and furnished with American art and antiques.

I can’t help thinking there’s something a little sad about Mamie—poorly educated, her obvious brains and wit wasted in parties and dinners--yet what other outlet did she have? I think this accounts for some of her outrageousness and her poking-holes-from-the-inside attitude. I also think that sometimes, she just couldn’t stop herself, as when her friend Alva Belmont came to her and angrily said, “I hear that you have been telling everyone that I look like a frog!” (which she rather did, if you look at her portraits…) Mamie demurred: “No, no…not a frog! A toad, my pet, a toad!”

Friday, August 23, 2019

Blast from the Past: Doggett's Coat and Badge

Life's been more hectic than usual lately, so here's a little blast from the past, 2012, in fact. I'm stilling trying to find Pickle Herring. Enjoy!

August could be a sweltering time in London in the nineteenth century. Anyone who could got out of town, to their country estates, to the seashore, to the Lake District. The Picture of London, which for many years was an annual volume of places to see and things to do in the capital, called the month a “dull season for amusement.” So what was a young lady or gentleman to do if the family chose not to rusticate?

On August 1, one might head to the Thames for the annual race called Doggett’s Coat and Badge. It had been instituted in the 1700s by Thomas Dogget, an Irish comedian who also jointly managed the Drury Lane Theatre. In keeping with the times, he endowed a wager: a crimson coat and a silver badge to the winner of a rowing race up the Thames, from The Swan at London Bridge to The Swan at Chelsea, a distance of 4 miles and 7 furlongs that could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to row, depending on the tide and the weight of the boat. 

Only six men could compete, and only if they were watermen within the first year of finishing their apprenticeships. You could put in your name and the Fishmongers Company, who had agreed to administrate the race, would draw the name of the six lucky rowers.

And not just any rowers. Watermen were like taxi drivers. Their job was the row people from one side of the river to the other in boats that ranged from sculls to heavy-bottomed wherries. Many had set routes or locations from which they rowed: Wapping Old Stairs, Westminster, and Putney, for example. One of the winners was from Pickle Herring. I want to find that spot. 

The Thames is a tidal river, meaning that the current and depth changes constantly over the day. Rowing upriver could be extremely challenging. People crowded the bridges, flocked to spots that overlooked the river, even thronged on larger boats and barges just to watch the prodigious feat.

The winner got his own parade and a banquet at the Fishmongers Hall. And the badge? It was a huge piece of silver, about the size of a dinner plate, that you wore on your upper right arm. It was engraved with symbols representing the House of Hanover, as Doggett had been a big supporter of King George.

The race is still run today, although generally in late July. This is the winner from 2010, Daniel Arnold, along with previous winners, courtesy of the Fishmongers Company's press release.

As you can probably tell, then as now, winning was considered quite the honor.

Especially if you were from Pickle Herring.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Quiet Morning...Reviewing the Troops?

While we can’t help being drawn to the wonderful evening dresses and ball dresses that make their appearances in the pages of Ackermann’s Repository and La Belle Assemblée, it’s refreshing to have a look at the clothes that Regency era ladies wore when attending to their everyday duties. And sometimes, those everyday clothes are...well, not so “everyday.”

Take this Morning Dress from the May 1812 La Belle Assemblée, showing fashions for June. First, what a charming pose: the crossed legs, the wonderful chair (love the little lion supporting the armrest!), the housewifely act of sewing. But the dress itself very much turns the “little woman at home” theme completely on its head. The description reads:

An high dress of fine French cambric or plain India muslin, richly embroidered round the bottom with a deep border; a demi sleeve, ornamented a-l’antique surmounting the long sleeve, which is finished at the wrist by a narrow ruffle; the bust adorned partly en militaire, partly a-l’antique, to correspond with the demi sleeve: the whole of the upper part of the dress ornamented by a profusion of lace, and finished at the throat by an old English ruff. Peasant’s cap, with two rows of lace set on full, confined under the chin by a band formed of the same material as the cap, and terminating in a bow on the crown. Plain black kid or jean slippers.

It seems a little curious to have a house dress decorated “en militaire”, but in 1812 hardly surprising; England’s continued struggle against Napoleon continued to wear on, though good new from the Peninsular battles gave hope that the tide was turning at last. The very martial looking bodice of this dress contrasts with the froth of lace and ruffles on the neck and sleeves.

The froth of lace and ribbon continues around the hem. I can’t quite figure out what the design is supposed to be--a curious combination of zigzags and loops that contrasts with yet complements the strict military symmetry of the bodice. I presume the “a-l’antique” decoration of the sleeve refers to the tongues of fabric around the upper arm that lend a slight medieval flavor.

So what do you think? Is this the dress you’d choose to knock around the house in while doing chores one morning?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Happy Birthday to Two Grande Dames

When readers think of Regency-set romances, they often think of two writers: Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Today, the Incomparable Georgette would have been 117 years old. She published her first book when she was 19 to much success. She went on to publish two dozen Regency romances, as well as a dozen detective novels and other historical novels. Two things I found amusing when I went looking for biographical information is that 1) copycats infuriated her and 2) she decided after her initial success that she didn’t need to court publicity. Her refusal to be interviewed never hurt. Her books are still widely read and praised to this day.

Today is also the birthday of a woman who had a profound impact on my life: my grandmother, Ruby Harris. She would have been 108. She grew up during the flapper era—I still have one of her dresses. When I was in high school, I had an assignment to interview someone who had lived through the Depression. I asked my grandmother. She immediately agreed, then asked, “When was that again?” Lest you think she was forgetful, she lived until she was 93, sharp and sassy. She wasn’t sure about the date of the Depression because it didn’t impact her much. She and her father had a job with the state of Washington, and her mother ran their family farm. My grandmother literally danced her way through those difficult times, attending balls at the local grange two to three times a week. That’s where she met my grandfather. Small wonder he was attracted to her. She was practical, wise, and witty, with a smile that made you smile back. As my mother likes to say, she could strike up a conversation with a rock.

When I was ten, she was in a horrible car accident left her crippled for the rest of her life. She credited her ability to learn to walk again to my father. We had a circular floor plan, and he would chase her from the living room through the kitchen and back yelling, “Come on, Ruby!” and clapping his hands. But I think it was her own indomitable spirit that allowed her to learn to walk again, to drive again, and to live her life on her own terms. Though she could no longer go dancing, she supported herself after her divorce in a time when women generally didn’t work outside the home. She took care of me and my brother when my mother taught school. She wrote letters for older people whose hands were shaking too much to allow them to correspond with loved ones. She also drove them to doctor appointments, until she voluntarily gave up her keys because she was afraid she couldn’t hit the brakes in time to stop if a child ran into the road. She was so proud of my writing, my books.

She was my hero, my inspiration. I still miss her.

Happy birthday, Grandma!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Regency Fabrics, Part 25

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 three samples are from the April 1812 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is excellent; the page itself is free of foxing and is only slightly toned; one of the samples shows some foxing and another some toning, but overall they’re in very good condition.

Here we go!

No. 1 and 2. An elegant and unique pattern, resembling tambour work, for gentlemen’s waistcoats, associating most pleasingly and happily with the puce or blue riding-coat. This truly spring-like and fashionable article is now in great request; and several members of the Whip Club have lately distinguished themselves by double-breasted waistcoats of this attractive article. It is furnished by Messrs. Maund and Co. wholesale and retail men’s-mercers, Cornhill; a house most justly celebrated for taste and variety in stuffs and manufactures for ladies’ habits, as well as gentlemen’s attire.

We are sorry that we could not, in this number, introduce another very elegant and chaste pattern from the same respectable house; but, as it is calculated for either winter or summer, we shall give it in out next number.

My comments: This is a heavy, very sturdy twill-woven fabric, probably of cotton, printed with stylized flowery things...though I shudder to think of this print paired with a puce riding coat!

No. 3. A cerulean blue imperial gauze, calculated for evening or dinner parties. Dresses of this article are usually constructed plain, and with little superficial decoration; they are worn over a white sarsnet or satin slip. Thread lace, white beads, or swansdown (when seasonable) are its usual ornaments. It is furnished by Mr. Wm. King, silk mercer, 44, Pall-Mall.

My comments: Very dainty stripes of solid and net weaving, in a lustrous pale blue silk, very smooth; I can’t (unfortunately) discern if this pale color is original, or if it has faded from a more intense hue. Very pretty in an evening dress.

No. 4. A most delicately printed cambric for morning or domestic wear. Robes of this article are usually formed in plain high dresses, or Grecian wraps, with no other ornament than a high plaited ruff, or Armenian collar, or muslin or lace. –This article is sold by Messrs. Hodgkinson & Co. 91, New Bond-street.

My comments: More quilting fabric! ;) This is a tightly woven cotton with nice even threads and good quality printing, with only a little bit of bleed on the colors. The tight weave means the fabric is sufficiently opaque to not require an underdress or slip.

What do you think of this month’s fabrics?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Pretty Pictures, and a Boxed Set

Life happened this week, so forgive the brevity of this blog post. However, I wanted to share a few more photos from Marissa’s and my trip to New York and the lovely Beau Monde conference. As we have shared in the past, the evening of the conference the chapter hosts a soiree, with dancing. Many members come in Regency gowns.

First up, Beau Monde royalty: starting at the noon position and moving clockwise, Ella Quinn, Kelly Neville, former chapter president Louisa Cornell, Elizabeth Essex, and former president chapter Callie Hutton. If you look closely over Callie’s shoulder, you’ll see Marissa deep in conversation, shortly before she won the Reader’s Choice Award.

Next up, the cream of Beau Monde society, from left to right: Rebecca Connolly, Elena Greene, and Gail Eastwood, amazing authors all!

And here are Elena and Gail again, showing their lovely gowns and accessories.

I was not so nearly well dressed, alas. However, I am delighted to report that I have embarked upon my first boxed set (e-books). Lady Emily Southwell and her three friends, Priscilla Tate and Daphne and Ariadne Courdebas, are determined that someday the world will speak in reverent tones of the year they made their debuts in London Society. But first they have to survive a dangerous dalliance between their beloved art teacher and an unconventional earl and determine whether Emily’s longtime betrothed has something up his arm besides a nicely muscled sleeve. Along the way, Emily might form a perilous passion for a most unlikely suitor.
The set includes two full-length novels: Secrets and Sensibilities and Art and Artifice, plus the short story “Master Thief,” never before available in e-book format. You can find it at fine online retailers such as

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Announcing Evergreen!

It’s 1901—a brave new century—and seventeen-year-old Grace Boisvert thinks it’s high time to forget that she’s a dryad; being able to talk to trees just doesn’t seem very useful in the automobile age. A little hair dye to touch up her green roots, and she’s off to join her best friend Alice Roosevelt for a visit to glamorous Newport, RI, with her family’s warnings not to fall for any human boys ringing in her ears.

As it happens, the only interesting boy in Newport, Kit Rookwood, clearly prefers Alice to her. But that changes when he and his family unexpectedly follow the girls to a secluded Adirondack camp to join the rest of the Roosevelts. All of Kit’s considerable charm is now focused on Grace, and she finds herself falling in love—and not just with the breathtaking forests.

But sometimes stern family warnings really should be heeded and ancient magical heritages not forgotten, especially when it turns out that not everything—and everyone—are quite what they seem...

That’s the premise of my new young adult historical fantasy, Evergreen, coming out on November 5, 2019 from Book View Café... and I’m very excited! Do you remember my Not the Nineteenth Century posts from a few years back, featuring profiles of people like Newport doyennes Mamie Fish and Ava Vanderbilt? This book is what inspired those posts—and oh my goodness, the research for this book was pure catnip—not only the history and culture of 1901, but the research on the locations (the Newport mansions and the camps of the Adirondacks) the natural history (trees! mountains!) and the folklore around the tree nymphs the Greeks called dryads.

And isn't the cover simply gorgeous?!

I’m delighted that this book is finally coming out, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. It will be available for preorder on most of the usual ebook vendors over the next few weeks, and a print edition will also be offered. In the meanwhile, here’s a little sneak preview...

Chapter One 


Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

July 1901

“Dorothy? Come help me, won’t you?” Grace Boisvert beckoned to her younger sister from the bathroom doorway. She wore an old brown flannel wrapper, and her long, freshly washed hair dripped down her back. “And stop making all that noise or you’ll wake Grand-mère.”
“Nothing wakes Grand-mère when she’s napping after lunch. Not even me.” Dorothy paused in her headlong gallop down the upstairs hall, brown braids flying—she’d been re-reading Black Beauty for the seventeenth time—and looked bright-eyed at Grace. “What do you want help with? And why don’t you want Grand-mère to know what you’re doing?”
Why couldnt she have had a less perceptive little sister? Fortunately, she’d learned from experience the best way to manage Dorothy: she put a finger over her pursed lips and raised an eyebrow.
It worked every time; Dorothy tiptoed to her. What is it? she whispered.
Grace gently closed the door behind them. I need to do my hair.
Dorothy perched on the mahogany lid of the toilet. “So why are you doing it while Grand-mères asleep?
Because I want to try something different. Grace paused, but it was too late to reconsider. All she could do was hope Dorothy would be interested enough that she wouldnt tattle. It would be a shame if she did, because this purchase had cost three weeks pocket money. She pulled a small, paper-wrapped parcel from one of the deep pockets of her robe. 
“Ooh, what is it?” Dorothy craned to see it.
“I got it in town at Jordan Marsh.” Grace unwrapped the parcel to reveal a bottle with an elaborate gilded label.
“‘Mademoiselle’s Secret. For the hair. Used by Famous Parisian Beauties since 1854,’” Dorothy read aloud. “‘The Most Natural Tints Beyond Those Provided by Mother Nature.’” She looked up at Grace. “Why wouldn’t Grand-mère like it? It’s French, isn’t it?”
Grace set the bottle on the marble counter by the sink and picked up her brush. “Yes, but it’s not how she does it. I’m tired of her black-walnut-hull-and-coffee-bean stuff. It smells funny and stains horribly if you get it on your skin. I want to try something modern.”
“Eighteen fifty-four isn’t exactly modern, you know.” Dorothy hopped up, took the bottle, pried the stopper from it, and sniffed. “But it does smell better.”
Anything smells better.” Grace leaned toward the mirror, peering at her hairline. An eighth of an inch of rich green showed there. She should have done her hair days ago, but guests at lunch three days running had meant disruption to Grand-mère’s nap schedule. “All right,” she said briskly. “Hand me that pail, won’t you?”
Dorothy complied. “When do you think my hair will start to turn green?”
“When it’s ready. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. It’s a rotten chore, having to dye it all the time. Not to mention wearing corsets and putting up with visits from the red-haired lady every month.” Grace set the pail under the hot water tap in the sink and turned it on, then consulted the bottle of Mademoiselle’s Secret—in “honeyed chestnut,” which she’d chosen in honor of the enormous chestnut tree outside her bedroom window that sang her to sleep every night. “It says one cup per gallon of water—goodness, that’ll be most of the bottle!—and to soak the hair until the desired shade is obtained—”
“What are you supposed to do? Stand on your head in the bucket?” Dorothy collapsed on the floor, snorting giggles.
“Hush!” Grace prodded her with one slippered foot. “Now, let’s see…if we put the pail on the toilet lid, I can sort of bend over it, and you can make sure all my hair is in it and pour the stuff over the back of my head so it gets down to the roots.” Then, because Dorothy was starting to look mutinous, she added, “And I’ll help you do the same when it’s your turn.”
“No you won’t. By the time it’s my turn, you’ll probably be off getting married or something.” Dorothy glowered up at her.
Grace stopped reading the label and looked down at her sister. “Yes, I will. Even if I’m married I’ll come and help you. You know I always keep my promises. Now, let’s see how this works.”
Without another word, Dorothy watched while she mixed the dye and helped her get all her hair into the pail, then carefully poured the liquid over the back of her head where it wasn’t fully immersed.
“What are you using to pour it?” The lapels of Grace’s wrapper had flopped down over her chin and ears, making it difficult to both see and hear. At least if Dorothy got any dye on her brown robe, no one would notice.
“Your tooth glass,” Dorothy said cheerfully. “I hope it won’t stain it. If it does, you can bury it in the trash dump and tell Mum you broke it.”
Grace closed her eyes. You’re the one who asked her to help, Miss Clever Boots.
“At least you don’t have to do what Grand-mère did and rub your forearms with lemons to bleach out the green hair there,” Dorothy continued. “I asked her why she didn’t shave ’em instead, but she said that wouldn’t be ladylike. I don’t see how rubbing ’em with a lemon is, though.”
“Neither do I.” Maybe she should be a blonde instead, and sit in the sun with lemon in her hair. But she’d always dyed her hair brown, and becoming blonde would be far too noticeable. “I wish I knew how long I need to stand like thi—”
“Did I hear the doorbell?” Dorothy paused in mid-pour.
“No, it’s just the ringing in my ears,” Grace muttered. Standing bent over the toilet with her hair in a bucket was starting to make her dizzy.
“I’ll go check.”
Grace heard the clink! of the glass being set on the marble counter and the creak the lower door hinge always made when opening. “Dorothy, get back here!” she called, loudly as she dared. “Rose will answer the door!”
But it was too late. Dorothy was down the hall, shrieking, “Who is it, Rose?” over the banister down to the front hall. So much for Grand-mère’s nap…and her French dye. Grace gathered up her hair and tried to squeeze as much liquid as possible from it, then wiped her hands on her brown robe before the dye could stain them.
Dorothy came thundering back down the hall and flung the bathroom door wide open. “Grace! It’s Alice!”
Alice?” Grace found a towel and wrapped it around her head, flipping it back as she stood up. “You’re telling tales again, aren’t you? Just like you did that time when you said Dick Aspinwall was at the door asking to take me skating.”
“I’m not!” Dorothy had the grace to look sheepish. “She’s really here!”
She wasn’t supposed to get here till the day after tomorrow!
She said she wanted to surprise you. Come on! She’s dying to see you! 
Grace looked hard at her sister. She appeared sincere… Well, the only way she’d find out was to at least peek over the banister. “Mrs. Lee isn’t here too, is she?” She hastily tipped the pail of dye down the toilet. Dared she flush it? No; Alice—if she was actually here—would hear it and tease her.
“No, just Alice. Come on!” Dorothy was practically dancing a jig. “She don’t care if you’re wearing your old wrapper. She told me so.”
“Never mind—I’m coming up,” an amused voice called from the stairs. “Where are you?”
“In here!” Dorothy danced back out into the hall, gesticulating. Grace grabbed the bottle of hair dye and plunged it into her pocket. The last thing she needed was Alice demanding to know why she was dyeing her hair—as close as they were, there were some things that had to be kept secret—like the fact that Alice’s best friend was a dryad.
“Grace Boisvert! You are still in your robe. Are you just getting up? It must have been quite a party last night. Wish I’d been there.” Alice appeared, dressed for travel in a canvas coat and hat with veil, in the bathroom doorway.
“No parties, goose. I was, er, washing my hair. When did you get here? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming today?” Grace stepped forward to give her a quick hug. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
Alice Lee Roosevelt was her dearest friend. She and Grace had known each other since they were babies and had been inseparable during Alice’s twice-yearly long visits to her maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, who lived next door. They wrote each other copious letters when Alice was away, and always picked right up where they’d left off when she arrived at the Lees’.
“Must have slipped my mind,” Alice said apologetically, but her eyes glinted with mischief. “I say, it’s not as old and tatty as mine,” she added, holding Grace at arm’s length and scrutinizing her robe.
“I’ll bet you’ve got one made out of ermine and velvet, now that your papa’s the vice- president!” Dorothy said from behind them, sounding awestruck.
“We don’t go in for ermine and velvet robes in America, though I must say I wouldn’t mind it if we did.” Alice sighed. “By George, it’s good to be back, if only for a few minutes, anyway. Life has been a whirlwind—you’ve no idea!”
“Lucky dog. I wish mine were. Let’s go to my room.” Grace tucked her arm in Alice’s and propelled her down the hall. Dorothy seemed ready to follow after them, but a high, imperious voice from the other end of the hall called, “Dorothée!” She pouted, but didn’t dare disobey. When Grand-mère called, you went.
Once in her room, Grace shut the door behind them. “Very well—what’s been so whirlwind-ish?” she demanded. “Have you already been to Washington? Your last letter was from New York.”
Alice threw herself onto Grace’s four-poster bed, careless of her modish hat and duster coat and the ruffled dotted swiss counterpane. “No Washington yet—Mother doesn’t want to bring the children there until the fall. I’ll miss New York terribly—I had such fun there this winter with Aunt Bye!—but Washington will be fun too if I have any say in the matter.” She threw her hand across her brow in mock distress. “I came here directly from the station—well, I stopped to kiss Grandmother first—but I’ve so much to tell you, I don’t know where to start.”
“Why don’t you start with telling me why you’re here two days early and what you meant by ‘if only for a few minutes?’” Grace settled in the low slipper chair by the fireplace grate. This was how they always sat—Alice on her bed, she on the chair. “Aren’t you staying for a regular visit this time?”
Alice rolled onto her side, reaching up with one hand to pull out her hatpin and remove her large hat, now rather crushed. “Almost. I’ve got plans, and you’re going to be part of them.”
“What kind of plans?” Grace knew better than to say an unreserved yes to any of Alice’s plans. Some of her previous ones had earned them scoldings and being sent to bed without supper—not that she regretted any of them, except maybe for the time they’d hidden the chicken in Mrs. Lee’s parlor organ. But Alice had never shirked her share of their punishments.
“Wait till you hear!” Alice sat up. “Grace, how old are we?”
“Seventeen, of course. What does that—”
“Yes, seventeen—and you’ve already graduated from high school. Which means we’re old enough to—to do things!”
“Like what things?”
       “Like—oh…” Alice pretended to examine her fingernails. “Like go to Newport this summer?

Evergreen. Coming November 5 from Book View Café. ☺

Friday, August 2, 2019

And Then There Was Food and Seals

Ah, what a lovely time in New York and with Marissa’s family. One of the highlights of the Romance Writers of America Conference for me is the Beau Monde (Regency) Chapter conference the day before, which Marissa covered. Another is when I am invited to tea with book reviewer extraordinaire John Charles. This year was no exception, with the fabulous tea being held at The Plaza. Marissa told me I must look for Eloise, but alas, she wasn’t in evidence in the Palm Court.

But the most wonderful tea was! Sandwiches included smoked salmon on pumpernickel with dill and chive whipped cream cheese; deviled organic egg salad on white bread; oven-roasted turkey with Granny Smith cream cheese on sourdough; English cucumber and minted goat cheese on rye; country ham with spicy mustard on a pretzel bun; and herb-roasted prime rib with horseradish and watercress on a brioche slider. Of course plain and currant scones were on hand with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and blackberry preserves. For pastries, we had passion fruit and mango s’mores, strawberry and rhubarb fool, and Mogador cake, but my two favorites were carrot cake macarons with golden raisin filling and blackcurrant and violet eclairs. Oh, heaven!

But The Plaza wasn’t the only place with interesting food. The restaurants in the Marriott Marquis hotel where we stayed raise their own greens hydroponically. Fresh herbs and various types of lettuce and edible flowers are picked daily. So cool and so delicious.

Now, just so you don’t think I spent all my time eating, I was also delighted to be treated to an afternoon on the water with my favorite Captain. We saw many fine homes, some historic, and a curious pile on the horizon. It proved to be seals all cuddled together. I had never seen so many in the wild before. Makes me think of Marissa’s Skin Deep again. 😊

All in all, a lovely trip with one of my favorite people on the planet, my dear Marissa. Here’s hoping for 2020 in San Francisco!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

We’re Baaaaaack!

Regina and I are each home from the Romance Writers of America National Conference in New York City, a.k.a. our annual girls’ sleepover...and it was just wonderful.

While Times Square is not my favorite part of NYC, we were fortunate to have a room facing away from the Square and its light show, so that we had a quiet, restful place to return to after each busy day. The room itself was quite roomy and comfortable, and not on too high a floor so that when the elevators got too crowded, we could sneak up and down the stairs (which were, admittedly, more than a little creepy.) Speaking of elevators, isn’t this a fun view?

We both arrived Monday evening, because the week kicked off with the annual Beau Monde Chapter (Regency romance) mini-conference. We heard excellent workshops, including ones on the British presence in Africa during the early nineteenth century and researching outside the box (a topic near and dear to our hearts)...and in the evening was the Soiree, a gathering for socializing and dancing (complete with a Regency era dance expert to instruct and lead the dancers.) Sir Reginald was unable to attend the Soiree this year, but the charming Lady Regina was spotted treading a measure or two.
Also at the Soiree, the Beau Monde chapter’s annual writing contest, the Royal Ascot, is awarded. I’m thrilled to report that my The Ladies of Almack’s won the Wild Regency Category of the Royal Ascot Readers’ Choice Award...which allowed me to wear pretty ribbon sashes for the day!

But the best part is, as always being able to spend time with Regina. I was extra lucky this year, as the conference’s being in New York meant that she could take a couple of extra days to visit me in Massachusetts before flying home—which was lovely. When you only get to see one of your dearest friends once a year, a few extra days are extra precious.

Altogether, we had a delightful, educational time at this year’s RWA!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

I'm Not Really Here...

Thanks to the wonderful pre-posting function on Blogger, I can type this up on Monday morning to post for you to read later on, because I won’t be here. Regina and I are off to the RWA National Conference in New York City for our annual girls’ sleepover, and by the time you read this on Tuesday, we’ll be happily attending the Beau Monde Chapter (Regency) annual one-day mini-conference. Then Regina’s coming home to Cape Cod with me for a few days, so this will be a quiet week at NineteenTeen.

But we promise a full report and lots of pictures, so toodles till next week!

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Lost Letter That Launched a Book by Guest Blogger Rachel Fordham

Lost mail? Is that story worthy? I asked myself those same questions after touring an old post office and first hearing about lost mail and how it was sent to the Dead Letter Office. I didn’t have to ask myself these questions very long. Of course, lost mail was story worthy! This was only confirmed to me when I began researching the postal system and its history.

One of the hard parts of being a historical writer is finding mounds and mounds of delicious historical details and only being able to utilize a small portion of it in your story. The first third of Yours Truly, Thomas was once longer but with each edit the start was trimmed downed in order to get our lead characters together sooner. As a result, I had to cut out some fascinating pieces of trivia. Here are just a few. For more info, I highly recommend the Smithsonian’s archives. They have an entire postal museum, and if you’re like me the vast amount of info will keep you scrolling and reading for hours.

Originally there was only one dead letter office. It was located in Washington, DC. The employees were paid decent wages for the time. Men made more than women. More women worked there than men. There are different theories for why that is. Some say it’s because the women were more trustworthy and wouldn’t steal; others said it was because of the pay difference.

These postal workers were essentially detectives. They would start with the outside of the envelope and look for clues. Often words were just spelled wrong, especially if the writer was an immigrant and was not an English speaker. If they couldn’t “solve” the mystery based off the outside they were the only postal workers that had permission to open mail. They’d scour the inside contents for clues. The amazing thing to me is that they could rehome these letters with no internet to search for answers!

Often the mail contained boring pieces: bills, taxes, legal documents…but sometimes there were live animals, rare valuables, and family secrets. Items that couldn’t be rerouted were sold at auction after a certain amount of time, and money was put in the national treasury.

When I was dating my husband, we were apart for a couple months. We wrote old-fashioned letters to each other. We’d pour our hearts into those letters and send them off assuming they’d make their way across the many miles that separated us. They always made it, but it’s not so hard to believe that sometimes even love letters were lost. This idea grew in my mind until I’d create my character Penny. She works at the dead letter office, and some letters become personal to her. Thomas’s letter was one of those. Opening that letter changed her life.

Has a letter ever changed your life? Could it?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Welcome to Rachel Fordham and Yours Truly, Thomas!

We are delighted to welcome to Nineteen Teen the talented author Rachel Fordham! Regina had the delight of reading her sophomore novel, Yours Truly, Thomas. What a sweet, tender love story, and one very likely to end up on many a reader’s keeper shelf. Here’s a little about the book:

For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail.

Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the dead letter office, and she dreams of something more--a bit of intrigue, perhaps a taste of romance. When she comes across a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love, it becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

But when Penny's undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter, and yet . . . she finds herself caring--perhaps too much--for the one who wrote it.

Please welcome Rachel and come back Friday to learn more about the intriguing setting of her novel.

Nineteen Teen: So happy to have you, Rachel! Your heroine, Penny, has an interesting vocation. How did you decide on that?

Rachel: I was touring an old post office in the Midwest, and the guide mentioned that the mail that wasn’t claimed or they couldn’t decipher was sent to the dead letter office. I immediately started googling the dead letter office and just knew I needed to write a story about it.

19T: If you could write a letter to anyone—past, present, or future—who would it be and why?

Rachel: This is a really hard question….hmmm….

As much as I’d like to write to my ancestors and ask them all sorts of things about the past, I think I’ll pick the future. I’d like to write my children and their children all the bits of wisdom I’m learning about life. We’ve gone through some deep waters as a family. For example, this picture was taken around the time our then four year old was diagnosed with Adrenoleukodystrophy. We cried and struggled through that difficult time, but we also learned and grew. I’d love knowing that when they faced their own struggles they had my words to help them in addition to God’s help and grace.  

19T: What research did you want to put in the book, but couldn’t fit in?

Rachel: There were lots of funny items that came through the dead letter office and interesting facts about how much postal workers made. Since Penny works at the postal office only for the first part of the book it was really hard to fit in as much detail as I would have liked. I think a whole series could be written inspired by this important place.

19T: This is your readers’ second visit to Azure Springs. What’s special about the little town in Iowa?

Rachel: I’ve been able to read a lot of reviews for The Hope of Azure Springs and have gotten several emails from readers who have discussed the town. I think the general consensus is that Azure Springs is the type of town we’d all like to live in. It’s not a perfect place, but it’s a place for second chances, where the eccentric cast of characters is willing to rally around one another. Connecting with people is so important to life and happiness, and Azure Springs is a place you feel like you could walk into and make real friends. 

19T: You have your own special spot to live. How did that come about?

I am lucky enough to live on a small island in Washington State. We have a bridge, so we don’t have to boat everywhere we go (I’ve gotten that question before!). I grew up in Washington, so when we were  done with school and looking for places to settle we started our search by looking near my family. We ended up finding a job a couple hours away and couldn’t be happier. Our house was an easy pick! We have a big family, and there are very few big family homes where we live so when one came up it was a done deal. I’ve always thought that great houses need great names, so we named our house on the island Green Haven. Partly because it’s green and beautiful, but mostly because green can mean young and we want our home and land to be a haven for children!

19T: What’s next for your writing endeavors?

Rachel: My 2020 release is about a teacher in the Dakotas that left her big city life six years ago but no one knows for sure why. I actually wrote this story a couple years ago and have had a great time revisiting and editing it and even though it’s a year away I’m so anxious for readers to dive into this one!

19T: Popcorn Round!
Coffee or tea? I’m so boring! I’m a water girl through and through.

Salty or sweet snacks? Sweet! I keep trying to kick the habit, but I love sugar.

Bustle or hoop skirt? Hmmmm….I think if I was to get all dressed up and travel back in time I’d have fun wearing a hoop skirt.

Buggy or horseback? Horseback!

Cat, dog, chicken, or bunny? We have a couple outside cats and chickens.

19T: Where can readers connect with you?
Rachel: My website is usually up to date and has a link to sign up for my newsletter. I’m also on Facebook and on Instagram @rachel_fordham.