Tuesday, December 1, 2020

19th Century Christmas Wish List, 2020

Have you been shopping earlier than usual this year? I have, partly because whatever I buy will have to be shipped to me before I ship to those I love. Yes, I could ship direct, but I want to see the items, and I like wrapping things. But if you’re still looking for the reader, or writer, in your life, or you’re interested in things that make a nineteenth century aficionado’s heart go pitter-pat, then allow me to direct your attention to some of the lovelies for this year. 

To start, there’s a nice overview of the Regency period, well-told, that I somehow missed last year: Robert Morrison’s The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writers, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern.  

For some calming thoughts and a pretty craft, try Regency Dress Fashion Coloring Book: A Fashion Adult Coloring Book in Grayscale for Fans of Jane Austen, by Caroline James. 

More interested in making a statement, Jane Austen style? Try a t-shirt proclaiming your membership in the Society of Obstinate, Headstrong Girls. (Wish I could have been a charter member!) 

And if you’d like some wonderful vintage posters and maps, look into Cartolina of Canada.  

Then there’s the “just cuz” category: 
What nineteenth-century-like goodies are on your list this year?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Parsnip in a Pear Tree?

I was recently introduced to the idea of parsnips as holiday food. I thought it a fine idea, even though I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a parsnip. But I discovered that Mrs. Beeton had a great deal to say of them in her Book of Household Management, which we’ve discussed before

According to Mrs. Beeton, parsnips are native in Britain and in season from November through June. They could be found growing wild in meadows and along the roadsides but were also cultivated. She warns that the young root is sweet and smells good, but an older root can cause vertigo and delirium. Parsnips can be used to make bread and wine as well as eaten as a vegetable. As a vegetable, they were served with salted cod and egg sauce, as an accompaniment for boiled beef, as dressing for a sheep’s head, and as garnish for boiled leg of pork.

So, courtesy of Mrs. Beeton, I give you two recipes for parsnips.

Parsnip Soup

1 lb sliced parsnips
2 oz. butter, melted
1 quart beef, vegetable, or chicken stock
Salt and cayenne to taste

Put the parsnips into the stewpan with the butter, and simmer them till quite tender. Then add nearly a pint of stock, and boil together for half an hour. Pass all through a fine strainer, and add the remainder of the stock. Season, boil, and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Boiled Parsnips

Parsnips, washed, scraped thoroughly, and black specks removed; cut into quarters if large
Water, salted at the rate of 1 heaped tablespoon of per gallon

Put parsnips into boiling water, and boil them rapidly until tender, ½ to 1 hour, depending on the size of the parsnips. Drain and serve. Serves 1 parsnip per person.

Need a little company while you’re cooking for the December holidays? Consider preordering the audiobook for Never Marry a Marquess. It’s available for preorder now and can be downloaded beginning December 8. 



Happy Thanksgiving! Marissa and I will be out next week. We'll see you on Tuesday, December 1.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Walking Out in Style

1809 through about 1812 were especially good years for La Belle AssemblĂ©e fashion plates: the illustration quality, production values, and sheer delightfulness of the clothes make them standouts in the magazine’s long history. And this Walking or Carriage Dress from the May 1809 edition is no exception.

The text reads:

English Costume

No. 1.— Walking, or Carriage Costume

A fine cambric round gown, with high collar, finished with needle-work and scalloped lace; a correspondent trimming round the bottom of the dress. A Spanish spenser of black or puce-coloured velvet, edged with gold lace. A waistcoat or wrap front of marble, or leopard satin, with collar the same as the spenser, edged also with gold lace. The Vigonian helmet, or Patriotic bonnet, composed of the same materials; the helmet edged with gold lace, and the crown crossed with gold cord, terminating on one side with a cone tassel. Hoop earrings of wrought gold; necklace of variegated amber; gloves, York-tan, and half boots of tan-coloured kid, laced with black cord.

I just love this plate—so tailored and elegant! The long points on the spenser are unusual (and unexpectedly modern), and the masculine styling on the waistcoat a charming contrast with the smooth flow and flirty lace hem of the cambric dress. The masculine theme continues in the watch and chain (complete with a fob!) at the waist, suspended from the bottom of the waistcoat. I’m intrigued by the description of the waistcoat fabric as potentially being of leopard-patterned satin—unexpected for a Regency-era dress!

The description of the quietly stylish hat also intrigued me. A “Vigonian helmet”—sounds like something from Star Trek, doesn’t it? But it turns out that “Vigonian” pertains to items of felt made from vicuña hair…though as it states that the hat is made from the same materials as the waistcoat and spenser, color me confused.

What do you think of this outfit?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Date That Word!

Many authors of historical fiction work hard to use period-correct terms. For many years, I coveted a copy of The Oxford English Dictionary, which dates the origin of words. I was overjoyed to come upon an abbreviated version (The Oxford Universal Dictionary, only 2,515 pages) at a rummage sale a few years ago. I also knew about Google ngrams, which track the use of words in digitized books held by Google. For example, from 1804 to 1810, the use of the word redingote increased, only to plummet from 1810 to 1812 before increasing again. But this week I stumbled upon the Merriam-Webster Time Traveler site, which I must admit is rather addicting!

The Time Traveler shows which words first appeared in print for a particular year. For my Nothing Short of Wondrous, set in 1886, I might have used apochromatic (describing a lens that corrects aberrations), attackman, and Broncobuster. My hero and heroine might have eaten French fries and drank milkshakes. I thought snow-in-summer particularly appropriate for Yellowstone.

On the other hand, 1804, the year my Grace-by-the-Sea series is set, debuted such gems as apiculate (ending abruptly in a sharp point), chicken-livered, shunpike, and underclothing. Dr. Bennett of The Artist’s Healer might not have been pleased to see medicinal leech come into vogue, and Rosemary Denby, who will be the heroine in the upcoming The Governess’s Earl, would not like to be called a vulgarian. But what surprised me most was that 1804 was the first year Sir Roger de Coverley appeared in print. I had thought both the dance and the fictional character to predate that time.

Then again, words that first appeared in my birthyear included biodegradable, DEFCON, hovercraft, microcircuit, radio-galaxy, and upmanship. I think I’ll take apiculate instead!

And speaking of dating words, Marissa and I are going to time it so that we take turns posting on Tuesdays, so look for a post from her next week and me the week following.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Regency Fabrics, Part 30(!)


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

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


Today’s four samples are from the May 1813 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. Two of the samples (numbers 3 and 4) shows some foxing, but overall they’re in very good condition. It's interesting to note that three of the fabrics shown are intended for morning or "home costumes," rather than for more public attire.

Here we go!

No. 1. A Smolensko striped imperial washing silk, calculated for morning or domestic wear. It is either formed in a high wrap, with full sleeve, and falling collar of lace or needlework; or in the round robe, of a demi height, bordered at the several terminations with jonquil satin. It is sold at about one guinea and a half per dress, by Mr. Millard, Cheapside.

My comments: A very finely woven fabric with white background very flat, though the yellow chevron chains have a nice sheen. It would definitely require lining because of its sheerness (unless it was for a summer dress, and even then...) Charming!

No. 2. A delicate figured sarsnet, of Persian lilac, or blossom colour, designed for the spring cloak, spencer, or pelisses, but is equally appropriate for the evening bodice or robe. Articles of this material admit only of fancy trimmings of the same nature, or those of plaited net, feather trimming, or thread lace. It is manufactured and furnished by Messrs. Sutton and Meek, 53, Leicester-square.

My comments: It is difficult to tell if the color has changed or faded, but my sample is of a soft grayish-pink that is quite attractive. It is a little sturdier than the previous sample, but not much, and would definitely require lining if made into a cloak or pelisse, if only to give it some body. The pattern is pretty, with little diamond-shapes standing out from the background, and a lovely silky hand.

No. 3. A grey and black printed striped muslin, admirably calculated for that slight sort of mourning which is usually adopted at the conclusion of a court mourning; formed in morning wraps, or high round robes, trimmed with black love ribbon, with hats of black chip and feathers, or black lace hoods, or mob caps; it composes a very pretty morning dress, or home costume. It is sold by Messrs. T. and J. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: Again, I expect this has changed color in the intervening 200+ years because my sample is now a quite lovely sky blue color and not at all appropriate for mourning! Also very light-weight, even with the stripes of slightly heavier thread woven in.

No. 4. A buff-coloured Chinese silk, calculated also for domestic wear, admitting of no trimming so appropriate as those of satin of the same colour, plaitings of net, or borders of lace. This article is furnished us by Messrs. George & Bradley, Holywell-street, Strand.

My comments: It would not be a stretch to call this "silk muslin"--the weave, texture, and weight are that of a good quality cotton muslin, but the silk gives it a sheen not seen with a cotton fabric. Again, a good summerweight fabric, though it would require lining or an underdress.

What do you think of this month’s fabrics?

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Beauty of Wonderland

“Wonderland.” That is the name given by early tourists to Yellowstone. You can see why. It’s hard to find a location in the US that features so many scenic wonders. Of course, probably the most famous is Old Faithful, the geyser that goes off on a remarkably reliable timetable. My heroine, Kate Tremaine, was more fond of the features in the Lower Geyser Basin, which she had to explain to Will and his men:

 A little farther along, she reined in beside a pool as blue as the sky overhead. His men stopped around her, and O’Reilly craned his neck to peer over his horse’s head into the depths. 

“As you can see by the steam, every pool around here is hot. This one is Celestine Spring, but most of the others are geysers. Unlike Old Faithful, they’re not predictable. If you’re riding, listen for a hiss and watch for an increase in steam. If you’re on foot, you’ll feel the rumble in the ground before they start.” 

So, that was how she’d predicted the eruption yesterday. He caught her eye and nodded. Her smile brightened the day even further. 

She led them past a group of lodgepole pines struggling to stay alive in the minerals and heat and through an area where the ground looked as if it was covered with bubbles that had hardened into rock. She nodded toward a pool as blue as blueberry preserves. 

“That’s Jelly Geyser. It’s a frequent squirter, so watch for it. Farther out, that pale white hole with the crusty sides is Jet Geyser. It will shoot almost as high as my hotel. Over there is Spasm Geyser. It’s more of a bubbler. That one with the yellow center and the green front is Clepsydra. She should go off . . . now.” 

As if the geyser obeyed her least command, water shot up from multiple vents, sending steam into the air. Except for Bess and Mrs. Tremaine’s horse, the other horses shifted, balked, and it took a moment for his men to get them under control. 

“Every three minutes,” she explained. “You’ll get used to it. But the biggest show around here is Fountain Geyser.” She nodded to the large, still, blue pool they were approaching. 

“Doesn’t look so bad,” Waxworth said. 

“You wait,” Kate said. “It will shoot twice the height of my hotel and last for more than a quarter hour. The only one bigger in this area is Morning Geyser beyond it and closest to the hotel. But it’s rarer.” 

“Who named such things?” 

That bewildered tone was Lercher’s. Mrs. Tremaine must have realized it, for she turned her head to give him a look. 

“Some were named by explorers, but many were named by the US Geological Survey. This way, gentlemen, and try to keep up.” 

Will bit back a smile as they rode past the hotel again. His men were looking more concerned by the moment, picking their way along and giving every colored patch of earth wide berth. Danny waved from the porch. Franklin waved back. 

She pointed out Twig Geyser, a creamy pool that could shoot water up a few feet for as long as an hour; the Leather Pool, which was as brown and rough as its name; and a patch of gray ground that hissed like a pot on the boil. 

Suddenly, she reined in. His men followed suit, jerking on their reins and glancing around as if expecting a geyser to go off on either side. Instead, she pointed across the geyser field to the circuit road beyond. On the other side of the dusty road, a small clearing was nestled among the pines, sage dotting the pale soil, its gray-green leaves holding the golden yellow of the fall bloom. Among them, shoulders dark and humps tawny, a dozen elk browsed. Will caught his breath. 

“Oh, for one shot,” Waxworth said with a groan. 

She swiveled in the sidesaddle to glare at him. “For shame, Private. Look at that power, that majesty, and your first thought is to kill it?” 

Waxworth flamed. “No, ma’am, my first thought is how many hungry cavalrymen one of those would feed.” 

“I’ll keep you fed, Private,” she promised. “You just make sure those beauties go on living to inspire others.” 

“Remember the rules, Private,” Will added. “No hunting on park lands.” 

Waxworth deflated with a sigh. 

But his other men were nodding. How extraordinary. They were surrounded by animals and geology meant to inspire, and the greatest source of inspiration, for him and his men, was Kate Tremaine. 

Those links once more, for your convenience: 

The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Launching Something Wondrous

Today’s release day for the second book in my American Wonders Collection, Nothing Short of Wondrous. Yay! The historical romance is set against the backdrop of Yellowstone National Park, American’s first national park, and received a starred review from Booklist.

It is 1886, and the government has given the US Cavalry control of Yellowstone. For widowed hotelier Kate Tremaine, the change is a welcome one. She knows every inch of her wilderness home like the back of her hand and wants to see it protected from poachers and vandals.

Refused a guide by Congress, Lieutenant William Prescott must enlist Kate's aid to help him navigate the sprawling park and track down the troublemakers. But a secret from his past makes him wary of the tender feelings the capable and comely widow raises in him. When her 6-year-old son is kidnapped by a poacher who wants the boy to guide him to the place where the last of the Yellowstone bison congregate, Will and Kate must work together to rescue him, save the bison, and protect the park. In doing so, they may just find that two wounded hearts can share one powerful love when God is in control.

I think the Revell staff did a phenomenal job capturing the feel of the book in this trailer.

You can find Nothing Short of Wondrous at fine online retailers and bookstores near you (the Amazon link is an affiliate link):

Baker Publishing Group
Barnes and Noble
Christian Book
Independent bookstores near you
The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide