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.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Dead Letters and Live Authors

Back in February 2013, I wrote a post that included information about the Dead Letter Office. Little did I know that I was one day to read a fabulous book about a heroine who works in that office. Please come back next week to hear more about Rachel Thomas and her new book, Yours Truly, Thomas. In the meantime, here’s a little more about England’s Dead Letter Office.

During the Regency period, letters were paid for by the recipient, as we’ve mentioned, so sometimes a recipient simply refused to accept the letter. There are stories about plain girls refusing valentines that insulted them, women refusing letters from their sisters because they could tell by the writing on the outside that all was well. Then too, someone might refuse a letter if it was clearly not theirs.

Those letters ended up in the Dead Letter Office. Post Office employees would try to determine the rightful owner and see the letter on its way.

But in the early nineteenth century in England, Post Office employees were allowed to open and read your mail under other circumstances too:

  • Perhaps you were suspected of being a traitor to England (“Dear Napoleon—I love you! Please come visit soon. I'll leave the candle burning.”).
  • Perhaps you were rumored to be evading Customs (“Dear Aunt Charlotte, that case of French lace is safely stored in the cave under Peasbury Chapel. Do avoid the Excise men when going to fetch it, and give my thanks for the rector for allowing the use of the premises.”)
  • Perhaps you were involved in a robbery (“Dear Susan, I am delighted to relate that I was able to make away with that diamond ring you always wanted. Her ladyship only protested a little when I pulled it off her finger.”).
  • If you were in jail for bankruptcy, the Post Office even sent all your mail to the solicitor in charge of prosecuting the case!

I think if the Post Office was monitoring my mail today, the employees might get an inkling as to what I do for a living, what with author copies, contracts, and business cards coming in. And all those lovely reference books. 😊

Looking forward to visiting with Rachel Fordham next week! I hope you are too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Retro Blast: Bathing Place Assembly Ball Dress

I'm away from home (and my research books and prints) for another few days yet, in what might quaintly be called a "Bathing Place", a.k.a. Cape Cod, so this blast-from-the-past post seems appropriate for the occasion. I hope your summer plans will bring you to the Bathing Place of your choice...and that you'll have an equally delightful costume to wear while there!

Now, I ask you, dear NineteenTeen readers: is this print not perfectly wonderful?

I’m not absolutely certain of the date of this marvelous “Bathing Place Assembly Ball Dress” print from La Belle AssemblĂ©e. One source lists it as being from January 1813...but would anyone really be interested in “bathing place” attire in winter? On the other hand, the placement of description of the dress at the top of the plate is in keeping with other La Belle AssemblĂ©e prints from 1809-1810, so I’m going to go with August or September of one of those years.

It shows a young woman strategically posed before a full-length mirror so that the viewer very conveniently gets a look at the back of this delightful dress. I can’t begin to guess the materials used, but the style gives more than a passing nod to drapery techniques—the ribbon drawing up the overskirt and the peplum-like decorations  in back make me think of custom window treatments. Note the tops of the sleeves—strips of the green fabric, woven in a lattice—and the frill of lace extending all around the neckline, and the little lion’s head belt buckle.

And her hat! It’s a delightful cross between a Nelson bicorne and a Carmen Miranda head-dress (do I spy a pineapple in there?) and utterly made of win. Notice too how her hair is arranged, with a braid across the forehead ending in a fetching little curl!

We’ve seen another “bathing place” costume recently—the evening dress that was actually a walking dress, also from La Belle AssemblĂ©e. I’ve yet to discern what it is that separates an everyday ball dress (if there is such a thing!) from a Bathing Place ball dress. Perhaps a touch more informality than one might expect in a London ball dress? Whatever the difference, I think it can be agreed that this is quite the outfit!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Camping with the Americans, the Pig War, Part 3

So, we’ve discussed the engagement between Britain and the U.S. that started with a pig, and we’ve talked about the highly civil camp the Brits built to the northwest on San Juan Island, so civil that they hosted the Americans for Queen Victoria’s birthday. This week I’m finishing the series with a little about American camp.

While the Brits were snuggled into a sheltered bay, American camp was on the southern end of the island, strategically overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. But that location was also in line with the prevailing winds, which can sweep through at an alarming clip. And, while the Brits were surrounded by forests, the American were essentially camping in a field.

That didn’t stop them from building. Materials from an abandoned installation on the mainland (Fort Bellingham) were brought in for officers’ quarters, an enlisted barracks, cookhouse, bakehouse, carpenter’s shop, school, hospital, and guardhouse. Soon, neat, white-washed buildings dotted the headland, in places surrounded by a white picket fence. As many as 30 buildings were erected.

But the sweeping winds weren’t the only things to trouble the Americans. The Brits had only two commanders during their time on the island. The Americans changed commanders 15 times, and the infantry companies stationed there changed 8 times. Their leadership complained about bootleggers in the area selling the men rot-gut whiskey, the consumption of which made them unfit for duty. When the Civil War began, some officers like Pickett resigned to go serve the Confederacy. Those soldiers who remained may have wondered why they were stuck on a peaceful island while their colleagues were fighting and dying. Some no doubt were thankful to avoid the battles. Others fretted about loss of friends, loss of ideals, and loss of opportunities for advancement. A soldier doesn’t ride for glory while standing in a field running bayonet drills to pass the time.

Though no battle was ever fought on San Juan Island, American camp lost 16 soldiers during the 14 years of the encampment. Half died of injury or illness, but three died by suicide. Still, their presence served its purpose. And when Kaiser Wilhelm, the arbitrator in the disagreement between the two nations, decided the island belonged to the Americans, there must have been a celebration.

Like the valiant soldiers at American camp, Marissa and I will be celebrating Independence Day next week, but look for posts from us the week of July 8.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Universal Advertising Sheet, Part 3

Let’s see what interesting shreds of personal and social history we can read about, courtesy this week of the Monthly Compendium of Literary, Fashionable, and Domestic Advertisements from the March 1, 1807 edition of La Belle AssemblĂ©e...

First, another Jane Eyre moment:

The attention of Parents and Guardians is requested. A Lady is desirous of taking ONLY TWO young ladies, from three to eight years of age, to instruct with every comfort and advantage of paternal Education; she does not propose giving any Holidays –Letters (post paid) addressed to A. Z. Post Office, Laytonstone, Essex, will be duly answered.

Well. I said this sounded like a Jane Eyre moment...but from whose point of view? No holidays? That seems a tad harsh for students of pre-school and elementary age, I think; A.Z. was quite the taskmistress.

These advertising supplements are full of ads for hair products (in this issue, there’s one for Russia Oil, for the growth of hair...but here’s one for a stylist, which I found interesting. Cropped hair was still quite fashionable, and would be yet for another few years:

Ladies’ Head Dress Maker and Hair Cutter, No. 6, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden,
has the honour to acquaint the Nobility and Gentry, that he has completed an assortment of elegant Head-Dresses; that need only to be seen to be approved of.
The Royal Crop is a specimen of superior elegance.
Ladies that honour him with their commands, will please to say, if for young, middle aged, or elderly Ladies. The price from two to five Guineas.
Gentlemen’s Crops made to a perfection in fitness very rarely to be met with, at two Guineas and a half.
The Nobility and Gentry’s hair cut with every attention to style and the improvement of their hair.
Ladies and Gentlemen will please to give their servants very particular directions to his house, as Vickery’s name is placed very conspicuously at shops in the neighborhood, with which he has no connection.
Vickery’s establishment, formerly of Bond-street, Bishopsgate-street, and Cheapside, (but now of Tavistock-street only) upwards of thirty years standing.

I suppose that if one was using too much Russia Oil, Mr. Vickery’s services would be frequently required... ;)

Now, this one is the most interesting of the issue:

The delicate and restrained condition which custom imposes on females, subjects them to great dis-advantages, —Mrs. Morris offers to remove them. Ladies or Gentlemen who have formed predilections may be assisted in obtaining the objects of their affection; and those who are unengaged may be immediately introduced to suitable persons; but she cannot assist applicants in any marriage if their characters are not irreproachable, and their fortunes considerable and independent. She will not admit any others.
Apply or address (post paid) at the Bow-window, next door to Margaret Chapel, Margaret-street, Cavendish-square. Ladies who require it, may be waited upon at their own houses.

Oh, my writer’s mind is teeming! Was Mrs. Morris a marriage broker? Did she have the Regency equivalent of an overstuffed Rolodex because she was perhaps a lady of once-high social status now fallen on hard times? Was she in the business of match-making for noveaux riches cits looking to marry into a higher social class?  What do you think?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Camping with the Brits: the Pig War, Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I started telling you about the Pig War, an engagement between Britain and the U.S. in my own backyard, and asked you who you’d root for. I must admit I felt more affinity for English Camp than American Camp when I visited San Juan Island recently. Maybe it’s the anglophile in me.

But look at that vista.

English Camp is situated on a sheltered bay at the northwest corner of the island. The beach leads to a wide meadow that served as a parade ground. The British marines and soldiers cleared that ground and built neat white structures such as a commissary, hospital, and enlisted men’s barracks as well as a solid blockhouse that still stands on the very edge of the stony shore. They also built fancier houses for the officers, surgeon, and commander on a bluff overlooking the water.

At one time, the western edge of the meadow contained the enlisted men’s vegetable garden, where they grew potatoes, carrots, and greens. But Captain Delacombe, the second commanding officer, insisted that it be moved elsewhere and replaced it with a traditional English boxwood-hedged garden so his wife could view it from her lofty veranda. One story claims the garden appeased her homesickness for England. She had come with him to these far shores, bringing their three children.

One of the things the Brits found when they first arrived was a huge mound of shells left by the Coast Salish people, who had lived on the space for generations before. The military men ground up the shells and used them to line the paths between buildings, further giving the space a neat, clean appearance. When the Marines proved fractious from the inactivity, their captain set them to work mining limestone and building kilns to burn it into lime, which was shipped back to England for use in making cement, mortar, and fertilizer.

The two sides were remarkably civil to each other. The Brits invited the American soldiers to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. The American’s reciprocated with a grand celebration on Independence Day. They’d host athletic contests and treat the community to a dance.

During the 13 years at the site, no men were lost that I have been able to find. But the story was different at American Camp. Come back next week to learn why.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Unexpected

Sometimes, life throws unexpected curve balls at you. Even if they’re not completely unexpected, those curveballs can mess you up...which can interfere with things like, say, writing blog posts.

Since I’m trying to juggle a curve ball or two right now (how d’ya like that for a mixed metaphor?) this won’t be much of a post; I hope life will be calmer next week. In the meanwhile, I offer this very unexpected print of fancy dress costumes (examples of which we've seen before) from an unknown French journal, probably ca. 1830 to judge by the sleeves and hairstyle of the lady wearing the “Danish” costume at left...

...but it’s the Indian costume at right that surprises and delights me. How about you?

Enjoy! And I hope next week will meet your usual expectations.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Marrying a Marquess

The final (for now) book in the Fortune’s Brides series arrived on online retailers this week and has already earned several five star reviews! I’m thrilled!

Never Marry a Marquess tells the tale of shy Ivy Bateman, who has always felt more comfortable behind the scenes than front and center. She is happiest caring for her family and baking sweet treats. She certainly never expected the wealthy Marquess of Kendall to propose marriage, especially a marriage of convenience. It seems his baby daughter needs a mother, and Ivy cannot deny the attraction of the role, or the attraction she feels for the handsome marquess.

Kendall had asked Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency to find him a particular sort of lady. His heart went to the grave with his first wife. Now, all he cares about is ensuring his frail daughter doesn’t follow it. Installing Ivy Bateman as his next marchioness will not disrupt his life or make him question his love for his dead wife. But as he comes to appreciate Ivy’s sweet nature, he begins to wonder about their future. When an old enemy strikes at Miss Thorn and all her ladies, a grieving lord and a shy lady must work together to save the day. In doing so, they might just discover that love, and a good cinnamon bun, can heal all wounds.

Here's a little taste:

Her eyes were brown, a lighter shade than his, and he had never noticed how thick her lashes were, like strands of gold against her cheeks. They fluttered now, and her skin turned pink, as if she recognized his attention.

He shifted, and her hand fell to the velvet of the carriage seat.

“You asked about the house earlier,” he said. Yes, that was the ticket. The weather, the estate. Anyone might have commented on them. There was nothing overly familiar about the topics. And he could look away without diving into her gaze.

“Yes,” Ivy said. She sat taller, as if gathering herself as well. “What’s it like? What do you love about it?”

There was that word, the word that could not be spoken between them. But it was perfectly fine to share what he admired about his home. In fact, it was remarkably easy.

“I think I appreciate the history of it most,” he told her. “The estate has been in my family for seven generations, but the first evidence we have found of a settlement dates back to Roman times.”

“Romans.” She seized on the word. “I’ve read about them. They were a mighty army that had swept across the Continent, across even England. Did they build a fortress on your lands?”

He removed his hat and tossed it across to the empty seat. “Not a fortress. We believe the area to have been used as a clay works.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Clay works? As in trade? I thought marquesses were supposed to be above such things.”

“We never practiced the trade,” he said with an answering smile. “We merely protected the remains of it. The first Marquess of Kendall conducted the initial investigation. My great-grandfather took it one step further, enclosing the ruins in an Italian villa, Villa Romanesque.”

Her brows went up. “An Italian villa, in Surrey?”

He imagined the owners of the neighboring estates had initially reacted the same way. “There are others—Marble Hill House, Nympton. In any event, my father and I have worked to ensure the remains are protected for future generations.”

She licked her lips, and now his gaze latched onto the rosy pink, as soft looking as petals. “Remains. Dead bodies?”

He jerked his gaze away. “No, no. No bodies. Whoever left this establishment moved on, as we found few belongings. The most marvelous piece is a mosaic pavement. I’ll show you when we reach the house.”

She nodded eagerly. “I would greatly enjoy seeing that.”

Perhaps as much as he would enjoy showing her. His passion, Adelaide had teased him. The only thing capable of taking him from her side for long. Until she had left his side forever.

Ivy was watching him expectantly. Had she asked him a question?

“Sorry,” he said. “Woolgathering.”

She titled her head to one side. “And what marquess gathers wool with the farmers?”

How easily she made him smile. “What else can I tell you?”

“An Italian villa sounds like a cozy home. How many rooms are there, all told?”

He frowned, skimming over the plans of the house in his mind. “Forty to fifty, I suppose, around the center plaza.”

She stared at him. “Forty to fifty?”

“Yes, nothing too ungainly. I know some of the larger country houses boast more than two hundred rooms, but I never saw the need for anything larger. I hope you don’t mind.”

She visibly swallowed. “No, I don’t mind. It sounds quite large to me. I would not want to clean so many rooms.”

Her voice had a breathless sound to it, as if she feared he might set her to such a task.

He waved a hand. “I leave the cleaning and maintenance to Mrs. Sheppard, our housekeeper. Though I imagine she will want your direction. You are the marchioness.”

All color fled. “Yes, I suppose I am.”

And she did not look the least bit happy about it.

You can preorder the book at fine online retailers and purchase in print at Amazon:


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ooh La La, La Belle Assemblée!

Now this is quite the light summer frock! May I present to you the Kensington Garden Fashionable Promenade Dress, courtesy of the July 1, 1811 edition of La Belle Assemblée?

There’s a great deal going on here, so let’s see what the description says...

“A round robe of white jaconot muslin, with a bodice of violet sarsnet, trimmed with rich silk Brandenburgs of Austrian green, a half pelisse of fine transparent muslin, with Bishop’s sleeves, fancifully tied with a green ribband. A Hymen hat of purple brocaded ribband and lace, ornamented with a green military plume; a Chinese parasol of purple sarsnet, shot with green; gloves and shoes of York tan.”

Well. The first thing that I noticed about this dress is the waistline: it falls more or less at the natural waist, which is unusual...but one thing I love about the clothes from these years is that they weren’t as strict as, say, the 1820s would be in terms of line and structure—so there was some room for creativity. The dark violet bodice contrasting with the soft white muslin of the skirt and half pelisse makes a striking statement; I wish it was possible to see how long the sleeves were under that pelisse. The frogging and tassels crisscrossing the bodice are striking as well, and rather emphasize the bust.

I don’t think I’ve run across a half pelisse before: it’s almost like an open cardigan, and seems to end in fanciful points. The sleeves tied with ribbon down the length of the arm is a style that will persist on and off now through the 1820s, until the enormous sleeves of the 1830s will make such a look impossible.

The hat is curious, I thought. The drawing is a little awkwardly done so it’s difficult to see exactly what is going on here; it looks rather like a box perched on the back of her head, but the green plume over the top of the forehead is quite dashing. And since this is a promenade costume, note the quizzing glass: one must see as well as being seen!

What do you think? Would you wear this on your next jaunt to Kensington Gardens?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Who Would You Root For? The Pig War, Part 1

One of my favorite bits of Washington State history involves a pig that brought the U.S. and England to the brink of war. The Pig War was "fought" on San Juan Island from 1859 to 1872.

You see, America and England had long argued over where the boundary would rest between the British Territories in North America (aka Canada) and the U.S. Territories. The decision was made to place the border along the 49th parallel north. But there was a problem when the line reached the West Coast. It would cut Vancouver Island about in half. The British didn’t want that. They had major trading posts and the burgeoning town of Victoria on that island. So, they negotiated that the boundary would run “in the middle of the channel” through the San Juan Islands and down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific.

Whoever wrote that line didn’t have a map handy. There are two major channels through the San Juan Islands: one lying to the east of archipelago, one lying to the west. The British thought islands were theirs. The Americans were determined the islands belonged to them. San Juan Island in particular became a kind of no-man’s land, hiding outlaws and smugglers who thought they would be free from any law there.

The Hudson’s Bay Company started a sheep farm on the island to further British claims. A handful of Americans started farms of their own. Then, one day, a pig belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company went rooting in the garden of an American settler. The American shot it. Hudson’s Bay threatened arrest and eviction. The Americans banded together and appealed to their government for support.

The Army sent George Pickett (before he became famous for his Civil War charge) and 64 infantrymen to protect the citizens. They landed on July 27, 1959. The British sent three warships totaling 62 guns, 400 Royal Marines, and 15 Royal Engineers to roust them out. The Americans refused to budge. A military leader on both sides negotiated a draw down of troops, so that the Americans agreed to no more than 100 soldiers, while the British made do with a single warship. The British commander was given strict orders not to fire unless he was fired upon first.

The Americans set up camp at the southeast end of the island on grassy fields that had belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company. 

The British built a fort on the northwest corner along a sheltered cove.

And there they stayed for 12 years while the two governments wrangled.

I’ll share more about American Camp and British Camp in the coming weeks. For now, who would you root for?

Besides the pig.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Children of George III: Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex

The sixth son (and ninth child) of King George and Queen Charlotte made his way into the world on February 16, 1773, at Buckingham House in London. Although very much a “middle” child in terms of birth order, Augustus would wind up very different from his eight brothers...but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

He was lumped in with his brothers Ernest and Adolphus, in the way that the children of this large family seemed to be grouped into subsets by their parents—there were only three years between the youngest and eldest of the trio. After leaving the nursery, the three were given their own house at Kew Green, near to their other siblings’ establishments. Augustus seems to have been an intelligent, bookish child, a tendency that was reinforced by the fact that he was subject to severe asthmatic attacks and could not lead as boisterous a life as his brothers.

In July of 1786 at age thirteen, Augustus was bundled off to the University of Gottingen with Ernest and Adolphus to perfect his German and to prepare for military service like their older brothers. But for Augustus, this was not to be; though he harbored romantic dreams of joining the navy, his health would not permit it...and thus he became the only one of George III’s sons not to have a military career.

Indeed, his asthma was sufficiently bad that it was decided that he should spend winters in a warmer climate, and so for the next several years he was shipped off to Italy to avoid winter cold. He enjoyed his Italian travels, soaking up art and architecture as well as sunshine. He had hopes of perhaps returning home and becoming an academic...but what happened instead was that he fell in love, at age twenty, with Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dunmore, who was traveling in Rome in the spring of 1793 with her mother and sister. Lady Augusta was some years his senior and, it seems, perhaps a tad on the predatory side...for by April, she’d gotten him to propose, and they were secretly married.

What Lady Augusta seems to have forgotten is that any marriage contracted by a child of the sovereign without his permission was immediately void. The couple returned to England and remarried there—by which time Lady A. was pregnant—but the result was the same. Eventually Augustus was sent back to Italy, his tail between his legs, while Lady Augusta was hauled before the Privy Council  where the marriage was declared invalid and the first of the king’s 50-odd illegitimate grandchildren was formally declared a bastard.

Augustus mostly continued to live abroad for the next few years, which included a brief reunion with Lady Augusta which produced a daughter (though some dispute that the child was the prince’s) until the continental situation and a certain French general named Napoleon made that impossible; thereafter, he moved into Kensington Palace and began to accumulate an enormous library. He was made a royal duke in 1801, and seems to have spend much of his time with his books and with patronage of various societies, from Masons to orphans’ hospitals to the Society of Arts, of which he became president. In 1806 he received custody of his children, and was a gentle, loving papa to them.

These years were quiet ones for him, for if he was unlike his brothers in not having a military career, he was also unlike them in being an avowed liberal Whig and spoke in Parliament in favor of many Whig causes, including Catholic Emancipation. He did not get on well with his eldest brother, the Prince of Wales (due in great part to his siding with Princess Charlotte in her marriage travails and with his estranged wife, Princess Caroline) and so kept to himself and his books until George IV’s death. Though his asthma eased, he remained something of a hypochondriac all his life, and insisted on wearing a black skullcap at all times to protect his head from drafts. With William’s ascension, he had more of a public life: William made him Keeper of St. James and Hyde Parks, and he was named president of the Royal Society in 1830 and was an active participant in its meetings.

In 1830, Lady Augusta Murray died, and a year later, Augustus was married again—once more without formal permission—to another earl’s daughter, the widowed Lady Cecelia Buggin, whom Queen Victoria later created Duchess of Inverness in gratitude to her uncle’s giving precedence to Prince Albert (and by the way, Augustus gave the bride away at Victoria's wedding.) Augustus and his second wife had a happy marriage for the next thirteen years, until Augustus was felled by an attack of erysipelas, a bacterial skin infection, in 1843.

On the whole, he sounds like the best of George and Charlotte’s sons (with the possible exception of his younger brother Adolphus). Unlike his brothers he was not a spendthrift (aside from his collector’s passion for books—his library exceeded 50,000 volumes!) and seems to have been a genuinely good—if at times eccentric—person.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Celebrating a Duke's Birthday

One year ago this month, Fortune’s Brides debuted in Never Doubt a Duke at fine online retailers around the world. It was the first time I tried putting my own books into print as well. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s been a lovely year. The book earned a Gem award from Kathy’s Review Corner as one of the best books of 2018. It was also chosen by reviewers at Hope by the Book as one of the year’s best reads.

To celebrate the book’s birthday, I’ve put it for sale for 99 cents for one week only—May 30 through June 5. If you have a copy, you might let someone who would enjoy one know. If you haven’t read it, here’s a little about the book:

After spending the last ten years following her late husband on campaign, the irrepressible Jane Kimball finds herself badly in need of a position to support herself. Marriage holds no appeal; she’s not likely to find a husband like her Jimmy again. But when Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency offers her a post with the Duke of Wey, Jane feels drawn to help the lonely widower with his three daughters. He may seem a bit aloof, but Miss Thorn’s cat Fortune approved of him. Why should Jane doubt a duke?

Alaric, Duke of Wey, commands his staff, his tenants, and the halls of Parliament, managing vast holdings in England and across the seas. Why is it he cannot manage his own daughters? As an old danger rears its head, he comes to rely on Jane’s practical nature and her outspoken ways to navigate the waters of fatherhood. And when necessity dictates he take a wife, thoughts turn to an unlikely governess who might make the perfect bride.


Happy birthday, Duke!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Regency Fabrics, Part 24

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

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

Today’s four samples are from the January 1812 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is very; the page itself is free of foxing and is only slightly toned; two of the samples (in white) have suffered some foxing.

No. 1. is an article of peculiar neatness and of great durability, particularly appropriated for ladies’ morning dresses, and children’s frocks and trowsers, the figure never being removed by washing. We are favored with this delicate article from the house of Millard, in Cheapside, where it may be obtained; and where it forms a part of the many elegant articles peculiar to that celebrated establishment, which certainly is unrivalled, both in the variety, richness, and elegance of its supplies; and possesses, at the same time, the advantages of a superior economy. We believe our fair fashionables are well acquainted with this Repository of foreign and British manufactures; but for the information of our correspondents who reside in the country or in distant climes, we must observe, that this house furnishes the greatest choice of fashionable articles for ladies’ wear and household use, as well as rich furniture for drawing-rooms, bed-rooms, &c. These may be purchased from the singularly low price of one shilling per yard, and upwards. The most costly and best productions of India are to be found here. Their Indian shawls, we understand, are offered from eight, to one hundred and fifty guineas each. Their linens of Russia, Irish, German, and Valenciennes manufacture, are of the first fabric. Their printed silks, bettillas, and muslins are of a unique description. Their white chintz, anjengos, and long cloths for children’s wear, are of singular durability and beauty. This house is of the first respectability, each article is warranted, and all goods purchased by the piece, or demi, are obtained at the wholesale price, as well as those purchased by the entire case of package.

My comments: Wow, that was quite a puff-piece, Mr. Ackermann! As the for fabric sample itself, it’s an attractive corded weave, with a pattern woven into the cording. It’s a little hard to judge how long-wearing this might be for children’s clothes, as the ground fabric is of very fine thread, like a muslin, though the threads are evenly spun. But it’s certainly pretty. A couple of definitions, by the way: bettilla is a muslin woven in southern India, and anjego appears to be a similar product of India; I found references to anjengo and anjengo longcloth.

Oh—and 150 guineas for one shawl?!

No. 2. is a delicate and animated printed cambric, for morning or domestic wear. The style of this article must be necessarily simple and plain, as will be obvious to the purchasers. It is sold by Messrs. Smith and Co. Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: More quilting fabric. ☺ The cambric is tightly and evenly woven, and the printing clear and well done...and, um, yeah, definitely no trimming needed on a dress made from this!

No. 3. A white cotton velvet of a peculiarly delicate fabric, designed for the fashionable amusement of painting, an art now particularly in vogue with our fair fashionables, who have wisely relinquished the inelegant and unprofitable employ of shoe-making and book-binding in favour of their industrious, half-ruined, and more humble brethren*. This article, as well as the colours for painting, are sold at Ackermann’s Repository, No.101, Strand; and it is a peculiar advantage to the public, that they may obtain at this house drawings and patterns for copying on the following terms:
Yearly subscriptions, 4 guineas.
Half-year do............ 2 do.
Quarterly do............1 do.
The money to be paid at the time of subscribing, &c. &c. Printed particulars may be had at the Repository of Arts, 101, Strand.

*See the speech of PETER CORDOVAN, vol.4, page 16, Repository of Arts, &c.

My comments: Oh my word, more painting on velvet. I think I feel a blog post coming on...and a little research into the footnote as well! As for the sample of velvet itself, it’s very like what we would call cotton velveteen, with a short, plush nap.

No. 4. A fine Merino cloth, of Wellington bronze, a colour in the highest esteem in fashionable circles. It may be termed the orange colour sobered. It is adapted for robes, pelisses, and mantles, and should be trimmed with a tastefully contrasted fur, variegated chenille, or swansdown. We have seen the Carmelite mantle composed of this material, lined with white sarsnet, with white raised chenille borders, and confined at the throat with rich correspondent cord and tassels, to have a very tasteful effect. This cloth is furnished by Mess. Ghrimes, of Ludgate-hill, whose house is famed for producing the most brilliant in-grain colours in cloth ever exhibited. The present article measures two yards wide, and the price 36s. per yard.

My comments: Ooh, nice fabric! The color is a dark pumpkin—a brownish orange—but it’s the fine twill weave that makes this noteworthy—pliable and nicely drape-able, but sturdy. It would make a cozy winter gown, if a slightly scratchy one (so definitely a lining would be needed in the bodice.)

Any comments on this month's fabrics?

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Tall Ship in the San Juans

I had the delight of renewing my acquaintance with one of the most beautiful areas of my state recently: the San Juan Islands. My husband and I honeymooned and spent our fifth wedding anniversary there, and I have camped on one of the islands several times in college and during my early career days. But it had been a long time. The verdant green islands rising from a sapphire sea I expected. What I didn’t expect was to combine the visit with one of my true loves: tall ships.

My friends and I were staying in Friday Harbor, the largest city in the archipelago, on San Juan Island. After a sumptuous dinner overlooking the harbor, we strolled the docks looking at the marvelous crafts riding at anchor. (One is even a bed and breakfast—new bucket list item!) I kept seeing these tall cedar masts rising above everything else. We finally found her: the Spike Africa.

Isn’t she lovely? I envied the owners and crew. Then my wonderful critique partner, Kristy J. Manhattan, discovered that the ship was available to take visitors out on the water during the tourist season. She contacted the owner, who agreed to start his season a week early so we could sail Saturday evening.

Oh, what a lovely sail!

The Spike Africa is a two-masted gaff-rigged schooner. She was originally built in 1977 to designs reminiscent of 18th century coasting schooners. She takes her name from a famous West Coast sailor. She has won racing trophies, served as a support boat for other races, and been featured in a number of films (such as Joe Vs. the Volcano) and television shows. Can you imagine standing on her deck in a gentle breeze?

Olympic Mountains beyond the islands, anyone?

Perhaps another ship passing?

As many of you know, this is the third tall ship I’ve had the privilege of sailing on. She did not have all her sails up at the time of our passage, and one of the crew told us that she was fighting the tide, so the pace was more leisurely than on my previous jaunts. But the view and her sleek movement through the water was nothing less than spectacular.

If you are ever in the San Juans, I highly recommend a sail. You can find out more information at www.schoonersnorth.com. My thanks to the owner and Captain Kenny for allowing me to post pictures.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On Fire!

Oh my goodness, what a cloak! It looks more like a prop from Game of Thrones than a Walking Dress from the April 1811 fashions in La Belle Assemblée...but a Regency miss and not a mother of dragons got to wear this beauty.

Let’s have a closer look: the text reads Round dress of cambric muslin, with a ruff collar, trimmed round the bottom with narrow purple ribband; cassimere crimson mantle, confined close to the back, lined with purple silk, embroidered round the neck, cape, and sides with purple fancy border; a deep cape falling from the shoulders, sloping to a narrow point, with tassels. A crimson velvet bonnet, turban front, and trimmed with purple to correspond. York tan gloves. Yellow kid boots.

Wow. It’s quite a garment, isn’t it? It reminds me a little of the Jubilee cloak we saw from 1810 with the purple-lined red, but this takes things a step further: the deep V detail on the back, the tassels, the purple embroidery—very striking! The fabric is cassimere, or kerseymere, a very fine, soft fabric woven of merino wool.

The accompanying hat is also striking: part turban, part Phrygian cap, and of crimson velvet to match the cloak. It rather reminds me of a very gorgeous seashell!

I do confess to being a tad disappointed that the boots are not also scarlet, but one can’t have everything. ☺

What do you think? Would you like a cloak like this?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Never Say Never, to a Marquess

So, this author sets out to write a Regency series about a matchmaking cat…

I can’t believe we are at the final book (for now, at least) in the Fortune’s Brides series. A huge thank you to those who have followed along as Miss Thorn and her beloved cat Fortune attempt to find positions for gentlewomen down on their luck, all of whom somehow end up married!

Never Marry a Marquess is now available for preorder. Shy Ivy Bateman has always felt more comfortable behind the scenes than front and center. She is happiest caring for her family and baking sweet treats. She certainly never expected the wealthy Marquess of Kendall to propose marriage, especially a marriage of convenience. It seems his baby daughter needs a mother, and Ivy cannot deny the attraction of the role, or the attraction she feels for the handsome marquess.

Kendall had asked Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency to find him a particular sort of lady. His heart went to the grave with his first wife. Now, all he cares about is ensuring his frail daughter doesn’t follow it. Installing Ivy Bateman as his next marchioness will not disrupt his life or make him question his love for his dead wife. But as he comes to appreciate Ivy’s sweet nature, he begins to wonder about their future. When an old enemy strikes at Miss Thorn and all her ladies, a grieving lord and a shy lady must work together to save the day. In doing so, they might just discover that love, and a good cinnamon bun, can heal all wounds.

You can preorder the book at fine online retailers and purchase soon in print:


I’ll share more when the book launches in June. Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

She Doesn’t Look a Day Over 180, Does She?

Cake? Check.
Party hats? Of course.
Two hundred candles? Umm...maybe we ought to call the fire department, just in case...

This coming Saturday is the 200th birthday of my favorite British monarch, one who should bewell known by now to NineteenTeen readers.

We’ve learned about theextraordinary circumstances surrounding her birth, her rather lonely upbringing, the challenges she faced as she grew ever closer to the throne during her uncle’s(King William IV) decline, and her triumphal ascension as Queen Regnant shortlyafter her eighteenth birthday...as well as some of her early missteps. Sometimes controversial, often admirable, always fascinating (how often has a woman come to embody a historical era?)...let’s wish Queen Victoria a very happy 200th birthday!

And in case you want your piece of birthday cake home-baked...try this recipe for a Victoria Sponge, which was evidently one of her favorites for afternoon tea, courtesy of the New York Times:

Enjoy! And eat a slice for Her Majesty!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Four Things on a Friday

Hello, my dears! Several things related to the nineteenth century have come across my desk or screen recently, and I thought I would share them with you.

This post by Susanna Ives details information on nursing your nineteenth-century infant. Loved the pictures of the baby bottles! 

I have a board on Regency pets on Pinterest now. The 90 pictures are portraits and other paintings from the late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century, showing pets of some kind, including dogs, cats, birds, and--yes Marissa--bunnies. 

A very talented group of authors has created a wonderful resource to find romance novels written by writers of color. You can sort by theme or time period. Here’s the historical romance section. You might just find your next great read!

Eight authors of sweet but sizzling Regency romance have banded together to host Regency Kisses: Lady Catherine’s Salon, a Facebook group for readers. Join Gail Eastwood, Charlotte Henry, Mary Kingswood, Martine Roberts, Anna St. Claire, Catherine Tinley, Lynn Winchester, and yours truly. In fact, I’ll be the featured author Monday, May 13, through Friday, May 17, 2019.

And speaking of Friday, I am heading off today to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands to the north of me. I hope to come back with many more historical insights to share.

Happy Friday!