Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Such Language! Part 32

More wonderfully wordful wackiness, courtesy of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (a copy of which can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg so that you can embark on your own wordly wanderings. Enjoy!

Coker: A lie. (Henry told his tutor the most frightful coker about why he was unable to do his lessons yesterday: he claimed that all the ink in the schoolroom had been drunk by the giant octopus that lives in the ornamental lake.)

Sit upon thorns: To be uneasy, impatient, anxious for an event. (And now Henry is sitting on thorns waiting for his tutor to come up with a suitable punishment for both lying and shirking his schoolwork.)

Nocky Boy: A dull simple fellow. (I don’t suppose one can call Henry a nocky boy for coming up with such an elaborate story, but the temptation is there.)

Aground: Stuck fast, stopped, at a loss, ruined; like a boat or vessel aground. (Sir John may not be completely aground, but from what I hear the bailiffs are circling.)

One of the Faithful: A tailor who gives long credit. (My brother heard as much from Sir John’s boot-maker, who is not one of the faithful.)

Here and Thereian: One who has no settled place of residence. (However, being such a here-and-thereian has allowed Sir John to reduce expenses by going from house party to house party.)

She Napper: A woman thief-catcher.

This last selection from Mr. Grose’s dictionary stopped me cold, then set my mind a-teeming. The fact that there was a slang name for such a person makes one wonder if it wasn’t all that uncommon… Anyone smell a new series? ūüėä

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Twenty-Five Years Ago This Month

I have wanted to be an author since about third grade, when I first realized that the wonderful stories I was reading were written by someone, and I could be that someone! But it wasn’t until many years later, with the tough-love encouragement of my husband, that I submitted my first Regency romance to Kensington. I was working as a communications manager for the environmental arm of a large research and development laboratory at the time. My husband had gone home for lunch and listened to a message on our answering machine (yes, those used to be a thing). He promptly called me and held the phone to the machine so I could hear it too.

“This is John Scognamiglio of Kensington Books. I’d like to talk to you about your manuscript.”

I knew enough to know that when an editor calls, it’s with an offer.

I was a mess. I ran around the corner of the building to where my critique partner worked and blabbered out my excitement.

“By the time you get home, New York will be closed,” she said. “Go now. We’ll cover for you.”

I went. And I called, and he offered me a two-book deal.

And so, 25 years ago this month, The Unflappable Miss Fairchild was published. She has had a couple of updates since, as you can tell by the covers, but she’s still one of my favorites, and readers tell me she’s one of their favorites as well.

The ever-practical Anne Fairchild knows the proper way to seek a husband. So why is it one moment in the presence of the dashing Chas Prestwick, and she’s ready to throw propriety to the wind? Chas excels at shocking Society with his wild wagers and reckless carriage racing. But his bravado masks a bruised and lonely heart. Can the sweet-natured Anne convince him to take the greatest risk of all—on love?

You can get her ebook for 99 cents

Directly from me through my store 



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Already have her? What about The Emperor’s Aeronaut, the first book in my Regency-set steampunk trilogy co-authored with Shelley Adina? Until March 25, the ebook is free on all major retailers. It will be up on my store later in the week.

In 1819, Celeste Blanchard, daughter of the Emperor’s disgraced Air Minister, is blown off course in a daring and desperate test flight to prove a balloon can reach England and washes up in the heart of enemy territory. Loveday Penhale, cosseted daughter of gentry, has her own inventions to build, even as pressure mounts to behave like a proper young lady. But when she helps rescue an unconscious young woman on the beach, she discovers an aeronaut and an inventor as skilled as she is. Could their collaboration result in the first air ship? And does this war hinge on the bravery and daring of a Cornish debutante and the Emperor’s aeronaut?

“A witty and whimsical flight of fancy.” Booklist


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Google Play 

Happy anniversary!

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Retro Blast: Queen Victoria Goes to Kokomo


I wish I were going somewhere warm where one can unironically drink things with slices of pineapple and little umbrellas stuck on top! It's the time of year when spring seems so close, but still so far...an opinion shared by Queen Victoria. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Well, not quite. But sort of. :)

I’m lucky enough to be looking forward to a visit to warmer climes in the near future—when you live in the chilly north, a few days spent in a place where it’s not necessary to wear heavy down coats is a Very Good Thing.

I’m not the only one to think so. Queen Victoria started taking an annual holiday somewhere in sunny southern Europe, usually for six or seven weeks from the beginning of March to mid-to-late April. Her first trip, in 1879, was shortly after the death of her daughter, Princess Alice; the Queen felt that she needed a complete change of scene, and decided it was high time she visited Italy, which she had never seen. She was lent a villa, Villa Clara, at Baveno, on Lake Maggiore, which though close to the Alps has a mild, Mediterranean climate year round.

The Queen was delighted with her decision. The scenery was gorgeous (though she invariably compared it to Scotland), so she spent a lot of time sketching and painting watercolors, went boating on the lake all the way up to its end in Switzerland, visited Milan to see the artwork (not a success as she was mobbed while visiting the cathedral). It whetted her appetite for more travels, and three years later, she went to the French Riviera, a trip that eventually became an annual event.

Her first visit there was to Menton, where she saw the Mediterranean for the first time. Once again she compared the scenery to Scotland, but as anything that reminded her of Scotland was definitely a good thing, it was high praise indeed. She was an indefatigable sightseer, taking little trips to Monte Carlo (though not to gamble) and other places, with her English coachman and Scottish servant, John Brown, in full Highland regalia (how the sight must have bemused the French!)…perhaps to visit a quaint nunnery, or a pottery factory, or to have a picnic in a secluded spot by the side of the road. In future years she stayed at Hy√®res, Grasse, and Cannes before finally settling on the Hotel Excelsior Regina (it added the “Regina” to its name with the Queen’s permission), in Cimiez, Nice. She always travelled “incognito” as the Countess of Balmoral, which of course fooled nobody but permitted her to avoid making visits of state—this was, after all, supposed to be a vacation. Family members descended on her for visits while on their own winter vacations, so that at times the poor Queen was quite exhausted from entertaining.

Her last visit was in 1899; the Boer War kept her home the following spring, which was her last before her death in January 1901. I’m sorry she had to miss that last year; she took great delight in her annual visits south, away from “the sunless north”. I know I’ll enjoy mine!

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Granddaddy of All Confidence Schemes: Poyais

Confidence schemes have been in the news lately, and I know there have been some doozies in the past. But I never dreamed when I was researching (lovely, lovely research!) for Never Beguile a Bodyguard that I would find one of the most audacious and chilling schemes ever enacted in the Western World.


Never heard of it? According to its guide for immigrants, it was a paradise. The 8,000,000-acre Republic of Poyais lay along the Caribbean. Its capital city, St. Joseph, had tree-lined streets, mansions, and an opera house. It was the center of culture and elegance. The fields surrounding it would grow any manner of food, three crops a year. The oceans in front of it teemed with fish. The mountains at its back were so filled with gold and gems that one might merely bend to pick them up.

Better yet to the people of nineteenth century England, its Cazique (leader) was a decorated hero of the Napoleonic Wars! Colonel (or General, depending on who was his biographer) Gregor MacGregor had gone on to fame in South America, fighting battles for independence there. He was said to have been given charge of his own country in thanks for his services to the king of Mosquito Coast: Poyais.

So when the colonel arrived in London in 1821, graciously seeking investment and immigrants for his new country, hundreds jumped at the chance. Banks offered him loans in astronomical amounts for that time (as high as a quarter of a million pounds). The gentry feted him in their homes. Would-be settlers quit their jobs, sold all they owned, cashed in their savings for notes from the Royal Bank of Poyais, and prepared to set sail. They had been promised positions like clerk, military leader, or banker in the new government. A few had been given titles. They had paid for lands on which to farm or ranch. More than 250 left on two vessels in September 1822.

Only 50 ever made their way back to England.

You see, Poyais didn’t exist.

The first settlers arrived to find no city, no country, no anything! A storm ended up sending their ships back out to sea for safety, stranding them on an inhospitable shore. Most died from sickness or starvation. The king of the Mosquito Coast denied he had ever given MacGregor a kingdom. A few hardy souls stayed in neighboring countries, and the other survivors ultimately found their way back to England in October 1823.

Amazingly, many refused to blame Colonel MacGregor! They were certain they’d simply mistaken their way and that Poyais was out there somewhere, beyond the horizon. They blamed the captains of the ships and MacGregor’s agents, who had come with them, for misleading them.

MacGregor swore he was innocent, but he still fled from England to France, where he continued his scheme. He was arrested in 1825 and tried for his crimes but gave such a passionate defense that he was acquitted. He retired to South America and lived out his life in style, though not in his beloved Poyais.

It seems even he could not find his way back to it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Celebrity Endorsements, Regency Style

In November we looked at a riding habit from La Belle Assembl√©e for June 1816. That was clearly a good month for fashion plates, because we’re going to have a look at the month’s other plate, The Cobourg Walking Dress.

(Does anyone but me think it funny to depict a walking dress on a seated model?) Here’s the accompanying text: Round dress of fine French cambric under a pelisse of amber shot sarsnet, elegantly ornamented in a novel style with blue satin ribband. Oatlands hat to correspond with the pelisse, tied with a chequered ribband of blue on white, and the hat surmounted with a bunch of tuberoses or Passion flowers. Morocco shoes or half boots of light blue the colour of the pelisse trimming. Limerick gloves; and the hair dressed forward in curls.

What’s going on here is a royal wedding: Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent, married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (or Cobourg)-Saalfeld on May 2, 1816. This particular issue of La Belle Assembl√©e included lengthy articles on gowns in the princess’s trousseau and on the Queen’s Drawing-Room held in honor of the wedding, both copiously descriptive…which was hardly surprising given the magazine’s target audience and the large number of silk warehouses and other stores given to fashion who advertised with it. And of course, the inimitable Mrs. Bell, “inventor” of the fashions depicted in La Belle Assembl√©e’s plates, had to get in on the act…which is why we have a Cobourg pelisse and an Oatlands hat, Oatlands being the country estate of the Duke and Duchess of York, where Charlotte and Leopold spent their honeymoon. And of course Passion flowers…need one say anymore?

Let’s have a look at what can see of the outfit (can I say I’m very cross that we can’t see the front?) The back is very handsome, however, with what looks like ruched ribbon in a yoke over the shoulders and on the garment’s edges (and even sewn into the shoulder seams. The gathering at the back of the waist is attractive as well: I wonder if the garment is actually gathered by the ribbon, or if the gathers are sewn in.

I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the hat, however. It starts out as a conventional straw bonnet trimmed with the blue ribbon…but what’s going on at the back of the crown? It rather looks like a large bag has been sewn into it… Any thoughts on what’s happening here?

We all know that Charlotte’s happy marriage was short-lived—sadly, she would die in childbirth a year and a half later. Reading the account of her trousseau and the celebrations around her wedding make for melancholy reading: they’re so full of excitement, of fairy-tale magic “and they lived happily ever after”, and of hope—Charlotte was the heir presumptive to the throne after her father. I wonder if Charlotte herself ever paged over a copy of this edition of La Belle Assembl√©e and examined this plate, and the walking dress created in her new husband’s honor? Alas, we’ll never know.

What do you think of the Cobourg Walking Dress?