Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blogging from National, Part 1

Well, Regina and I are here at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, NYC for the Romance Writers of America’s 31st Annual National Conference. It’s hotter than you-know-what, but honestly, at these conferences you’re so busy that you don’t have to stir out of the air-conditioned building.

This hotel is huge. I mean, really reallyreallyreally huge. It has to be, to house this conference of 2000 attendees…but check this out!

The elevators are in a column running up the center of this huge hollow space, and they’re glass…just a trifle dizzying the first few times you go whizzing up to the 35th floor where we are, but you quickly learn to look at your feet rather than out.

We both arrived Monday night, and after squealing happily at each other (hey, we only get to see each other once a year!) we trundled down to dinner (good food, but oh the NYC sticker shock!), spent a lot of time just yakking, then called it a night, because Tuesday was…

The Beau Monde Conference
Regina and I are both members of the Regency writers chapter of the RWA, called The Beau Monde …in fact, Regina was elected chapter president for the year! Madame President and I arrived in time for a yummy continental breakfast and to help lay out the Silent Auction (an annual fundraiser for the chapter, which features research books and other fun historical and Regency-related items). Then Regina conducted the Annual Meeting, and at last we heard our guest speaker, the much-loved (and deservedly so) Mary Jo Putney.

After that, it was time for workshops! I attended one on traveling and researching in England, given by my friend Jo Ann Ferguson, then a second workshop session on the Battle of Waterloo and visiting Belgium to attend the annual reenactions of the Battle (oh my gosh, wouldn’t that be so cool?) I grabbed lunch with a group of Regency writers before coming back for a session on researching Regency interiors, and learned that there are hundreds of images from Regency magazines like Ackermann’s (where I get most of my Fashion Forecast images) available at the New York Public Library’s website (

After that, it was, of course, time for tea! We feasted on an assorted of tea sandwiches (yes, including cucumber!) and pastries, then went to get ready for the big book signing RWA sponsors each year at National to benefit literacy programs in the host city. Alas, my books didn’t arrive so I couldn’t sign, but Regina was there to sign her June release, The Irresistible Earl.

After that, it was time to get ready for…

The Beau Monde Soiree
After years of attending this event, I decide it was past time I got myself the appropriate togs…so this year, I obtained a Regency gown, with the requisite chemise and corset to wear underneath. The undergarments really are necessary to give the proper lift to the bust in these very high-waisted dresses, which modern brassieres just can’t manage. Aren’t we just a pair?

Plenty of other Beau Monders came in Regency attire as well...and danced to the live music performed by a three piece ensemble and a caller, who led everyone through Regency period dances. Neat, huh?

It's been a great couple of days...look for a further report on our further doings from Regina later in the week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How a Prince Parties

Marissa’s written several posts on George the IV, who became Prince Regent two hundred years ago, in 1811. This week marked the anniversary of his first official party, a Grand Fete to celebrate the exiled French royal family.

Wait, what?

Yes, celebrating the French does seem like an odd way to began your march toward ruling Britain. After all, in June 1811 Napoleon’s army was still madly fighting away, and British troops were dying on foreign battlefields. Then too, June was traditionally when the King, George’s father, held his birthday party, and he was too ill to attend. So partying, for any reason, seemed a bit crass.

But that didn’t stop Prinny. He invited 2,000 of England’s elite as well as the younger brothers and family of the executed King Louis XVI to join him at nine in the evening on June 19 at his Carlton House address in London. More than 60 servants in blue livery with gold lace served hot and cold soups, roast beef, and exotic fruits, and champagne and fine wine flowed. The supper table was so long it crossed the dining room and ran down the center of the conservatory beyond, the entire length groaning under the weight of all the silver serving dishes and place settings. To top things off, a stream meandered down the center of the table, bubbling from a fountain in front of the Prince. Little bridges spanned the stream, flowers and moss decorated its banks, and live goldfish wove through the waters.

Well, live for awhile. The poor things quickly asphyxiated and lay there dying, causing more than one guest to lose his appetite. But that wasn’t the only thing that gave the rest of the Prince’s subjects pause. The entire affair cost 120,000 pounds, an amount equivalent to more than 4 million pounds (or 6 million dollars) today.

Well, that’s one way to start your summer. Here’s another. If you can be in New York City on Tuesday, June 28, stop by the Marriott Marquis Times Square. More than 500 (yes, you read that right—five hundred!) authors of romantic fiction will be signing books for charity from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. Marissa and I will be among that number. We’d love to have you say hi! More on our New York travels next week.

And even if you can’t get to New York, don’t forget to comment on any post between now and July 12 for a chance to win an Irresistible Earl tote and goodies!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 1: Big White Horses

Our first summer excursion is to Wiltshire, a county southwest of London about halfway to Cornwall. Wiltshire is home to Salisbury Plain and Stonehenge, probably Great Britain’s most famous prehistorical site; it’s a place of rolling, open hills, called downs, with little farming due to the poor nature of the soil.

But it’s the nature of that poor soil that makes Wilstshire—and other places across southern England—the first stop on our Summer Tour. Forming the hills under that thin soil is chalk—yes, the white stuff formerly used to write on blackboards in classroooms. And at some point back in prehistory, someone figured out that you could cut shallow trenches in the soil to expose the underlying chalk, and create enormous pictures spreading across hillsides…like this:That’s the 374 ft. long White Horse of Uffington, (nearby in Oxfordshire, by the way, not Wiltshire) dating back to about 3000 years ago. But in historical times, chalk cutting became a popular pastime for landowners, and Wiltshire is home to several of them. There’s the Westbury White Horse, carved in the 1770s for a Mr. Gee (though it may have covered an earlier figure—mention of a horse carving there dates back to 1742):
And here’s another, the Cherhill White Horse, carved in 1780 by a Dr. Alsop and measuring about 160 feet across:The somewhat smaller--62 ft--Marlborough White Horse was carved in 1804 by schoolboys from a nearby school, and refurbishing it was a yearly school tradition. These chalk figures require upkeep—weeding and replenishing the chalk—at frequent intervals: So what inspired people to spend a great deal of effort to dig trenches hundreds of feet long to form these pictures? The 18th century was really the first great period of English landscape gardening, and carving chalk figures into hillsides was one way to play with the landscape, if you happened to own hundreds of acres in chalk down country. I am sure our young 19th century tourist misses, on their way perhaps to view the stately homes at Longleat or Fonthill Abbey (which I shall write about later this summer), enjoyed side trips to view these images, startlingly white against the green summer grass.

And enormous horses aren’t the only chalk carvings around; huge figures of men also exist such as the Wilmington Figure (which may also date to prehistoric times) and the Cerne Abbas Giant, probably carved during the English Civil War as a sort of satirical cartoon of Oliver Cromwell! The practice continues even today, as a White Horse was created just in 2003 at Folkestone in Kent, overlooking the terminal for the Channel Tunnel. And they remain a tourist attraction in the 21st century; visit to learn more about Wiltshire’s White Horses.

Don't forget--through July 12, all Nineteenteen commenters will be entered in a drawing to win Regina's Irresistible Earl beach tote. So what are you waiting for?

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Brother, the Irresistible Earl

We are pleased today to have with us Lady Phoebe Dearborn, younger sister of Chase Dearborn, Lord Allyndale, the so-called Irresistible Earl. Like her brother, Lady Phoebe was born in Yorkshire, on the edge of what today is the North York Moors National Park. She was raised at home on their family estate and, at nineteen, has just completed her first Season in London. Welcome, Lady Phoebe.

LP: Thank you so much for having me.

19 Teen: So how did you enjoy the Season?

LP: Oh, it was marvelous! All the balls, all the shopping! I was having a wonderful time until my brother cut it off short.

19 Teen: Why was that?

LP: Well, let’s just say that a certain gentleman caused trouble, and my brother thought I would be better off somewhere else.

19 Teen: So you went to Scarborough. That seems like a strange spot for someone who prides herself on being fashionable.

LP: Well, I actually suggested Scarborough, after I learned that’s where. . . um, that’s where Chase would prefer to be. Of course. He’s a bit strong on tradition, my brother. He says Scarborough is perfect because it’s full of company in the summer but close enough to home that he can pop off to the estate for the day and see to his affairs. He’s also strong on doing his duty.

19 Teen: He sounds a bit bossy.

LP: He’s terribly bossy! I suppose that’s because I’m more than ten years younger than he is. Our father died when he was only twelve, and he had to take on responsibility for me, Mother, the estate, and all our tenants. But he seems to have forgotten that I’m quite grown up now. I don’t need him to make my decisions for me.

19 Teen: Certainly not. Have you had luck convincing him of that?

LP: SIGH. Not as much as I’d like. But I have great hopes. He’s changed since he met Meredee Price. She’s had quite the civilizing influence on him.

19 Teen: Didn’t I hear you met Meredee under interesting circumstances?

LP: She saved my life! I had gone out to bathe in the waters on Scarborough Bay. You see, if you go to Scarborough, you must do two things: drink the waters and dip in the sea. It’s supposed to be good for your health. Only I slipped coming out of my bathing machine and went under. If Meredee hadn’t come along, I don’t know what I’d have done!

19 Teen: I imagine your brother was very thankful for her intervention.

LP: Very! He invited her to dinner the very next night. And then he decided to help her hunt for seashells. You see what an influence she’s had? Who would ever have thought of Chase hunting shells!

19 Teen: If he’s so strict, how did he get the nickname of the irresistible earl?

LP: You all have a saying, I believe: “Resistance is futile.” That’s pretty much Chase. But he does strike a commanding figure. I’ve heard ladies sigh when he passes. Even Meredee was smitten. I could tell. All my plans are working out perfectly.

19 Teen: Your plans?

LP: Oh, just a manner of speaking.

19 Teen: But you do have other plans for your time in Scarborough.

LP: I certainly do. But I am not at liberty to divulge them.

19 Teen: Oh, come now. Surely you can tell us.

LP: Well. . . [Glances both ways and lowers voice.] I do have hopes of attracting the attentions of a certain gentleman. But you mustn’t tell Meredee; she might think less of me. And please don’t tell Chase. He’d ruin everything.

19 Teen: Goodness, this sounds serious.

LP: I certainly hope so. [smiles]

If you’d like to know more about Lady Phoebe and her irresistible brother, check out The Irresistible Earl from Love Inspired Historical, available now online and in fine stores near you. To learn more, see Regina's website.

And don't forget--if you comment on any post between now and July 12, we'll enter your name in a drawing for an Irresistible Earl prize package. Hope to hear from you!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Well, temperatures have already zoomed up to the high nineties--unheard of so early in the season for New England!--so I think summer is here, even if the calendar says it’s still officially spring. And so it seems to be a good time to let you know what we’ll be up to this summer at Nineteenteen…and I’ll save the best part for last.

First, we thought it would be fun to launch a series on what a proper 19th century miss might have done after the Season was over…so look for posts throughout July and August on What I Did on my Summer Vacation from both me and Regina. We’ll explore the great vacation destinations around England back in, say, 1820 (so jaunting to Legoland® Windsor or popping across the Channel to Disneyland® Paris is out of the question!)

But before that, we’ll be having our annual trip to the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference, held this year in New York City. We’ll blog our adventures there which will include The Beau Monde's (Regency writers’ special interest chapter) annual conference and Soiree. Look for a lot of interesting photos from this year’s Soiree (she said mysteriously…!) But this year the adventures will continue as Regina comes to visit me on Cape Cod post-conference for a few days (hey, she isn’t on this side of the continent very often!) Look for pictures of two proper YA historical fiction writers spending a lot of time on the beach!

And now, the best part I promised…Regina’s latest book, The Irresistible Earl, arrives in bookstores this week!! To celebrate, we’re holding a contest…anyone who comments on a Nineteenteen post between now and July 12 will be entered in a drawing to win an Irresistible Earl totebag containing a lovely scarf and a sandalwood fan (an assortment of items our 19th century miss would have wished to have with her on vacation!) and of course a signed copy of The Irresistible Earl (which she definitely would have enjoyed!!).

So it’s shaping up to be a busy summer…and we hope you’ll be here to enjoy it with us. Make sure you stop by on Friday when Nineteenteen will be interviewing Lady Phoebe Dearborn, who’ll have a thing or two to tell us about her brother, the Irresistible Earl. And don't forget to comment on posts to be entered in our contest!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Career Planning, Nineteenth Century Style

Next week, I have the honor of escorting a young gentleman to visit a college in the wilds of Montana. This will be my fifth such college visit with said gentleman. He, at least, knows exactly what he wishes to study and the career he wishes to pursue. He desires to become an architect. He has been studying drafting and design in high school for several years, and he’s read up on the subject online. Career planning is part of the curriculum in his school. However, nineteenth century lads had another resource to decide which careers they might pursue: The Book of Trades, Being a Library of the Useful Arts.

Now, that surprised me. I’d always assumed that a boy would just follow in his father’s footsteps or at least continue in some family business. If your father was a baker, you’d apprentice as a baker and you’d finally take over the shop when dad had passed to his just reward or at least become too feeble to work. But it appears that many families gave their children other options.

The Book of Trades, a three-volume collection, was first published in 1804 and 1805 for Tabart and Co. of 157 New Bond Street in London, but it became so popular that by 1839 it was in its twelfth printing. With engraved pictures and text describing the attributes needed for success, the likely pay, and the working conditions, each section detailed a specific skilled occupation a young man (and sometimes a young lady) might undertake. The books were sold for three shillings each (or five shillings if you wanted hand-colored plates) from Tabart’s shop and were shelved among the children’s books and school texts. The 1824 edition, of all three books combined, totaled over 400 pages!

Here’s the entry for baker:

“The business of the Baker consists in making bread, rolls, and biscuits, and in baking various forms of provisions. Bread . . . is known in London by two names: the white, or wheaten, and the household: these differ only in degree of purity; and the loaves must be marked with a W, or H, or the baker is liable to suffer a penalty.

The life of the baker is very laborious; the greater part of the work being done by night: the journeyman is required always to commence his operations about eleven o’clock in the evening, in order to get the new bread ready for admitting the rolls in the morning. His wages are, however, but very moderate, seldom amounting to more than ten shillings a week, exclusive of his board.”

Hm, late nights and little pay. I think I’ll look further. I’ve always thought our family could use a good plumber, and it also surprised me to find that this was considered a trade so early in the nineteenth century, when what we think of plumbing today was in its infancy.

“The business of the Plumber consists in casting and working of lead, and using it in buildings. He furnishes us with a cistern for water, and with a sink for the kitchen; he covers the house in lead, and makes the gutters to carry away the water; he makes pipes of all sorts and sizes, and sometimes he casts leaden statues as ornaments for the garden. The plumber also is employed in making coffins for those who are to be interred out of the usual way. He also fits up water-closets and makes pumps. . . . The health of the men is often injured by the fumes of the lead.

Journeymen earn about thirty shillings a week; and we recommend earnestly to lads brought up to the [plumbing, glazing, or painting] trades, that they cultivate cleanliness and strict sobriety, and that they never, on any account, eat their meals or retire to rest at night, before they have well washed their hands and face.”

So we’re looking at better pay and work with variety, but definitely some serious occupational and health risks. Think I’ll keep looking.

I have an abbreviated version of the books, with only 44 of the trades. If there’s some trade in particular you’re curious about, let me know and I’ll see what I can find later this summer. And speaking of summer, stay turned next week, when Marissa tells you all about how we plan to spend our summer and how we’ll be sharing it with you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Victoria’s Children, Part 6: Princess Louise

Victoria’s sixth child and fourth daughter was born on March 18, 1848, a year that became known as the Year of Revolutions and saw violent upheavals in many parts of Europe. Little Louise Caroline Alberta (names all chosen by Prince Albert) herself was temporarily thought to be in danger as the revolutionary Chartist movement bubbled and simmered in England, ultimately coming to nothing.

From her earliest childhood, Louise was considered the most attractive of Victoria’s daughters, with a more refined version of the family’s somewhat heavy features and enough height to be considered statuesque. She was also the most rebellious, even down to preferring French to the Queen’s beloved German. Despite her naughtiness, thought, it was recognized early on that she had a real artistic talent. She was encouraged by her drawing masters, and always seemed to have a sketchbook in hand through her childhood years. Artistic ability ran in the family: Victoria herself was no mean watercolorist, and eldest sister Vicky was quite proficient in oils…but true to her rebellious nature, Louise’s preferred artistic medium was sculpture. Sculpture was not regarded as an appropriately “feminine” art; furthermore, as a royal princess, Louise could not expect to ever be able to “do” anything with her art.

But sometimes being rebellious has its uses. When Prince Albert died, Louise was, at the tender age of twelve, expected to help bear the weight of her mother’s grief, and did her best…but Victoria realized that this daughter would never be the close confidant she sought. Perhaps that was why, when Louise was twenty, Victoria listened to her pleas and permitted her to attend the National Art Training School at Kensington. This was an almost unprecedented step: no royal princess had ever attended a school of any sort.

Still, the chief duty of a princess was to marry—the question was, whom would Louise choose? Victoria didn’t want to lose her occasional secretarial services, so like her sister Lenchen, a foreign head-of-state was out of the question. Eventually, after much backing and forthing that lasted till Louise was twenty-two, another revolutionary decision was made, and Louise married a non-royal British subject—namely, the Marquess of Lorne, heir to the Duchy of Argyll. Lorne (as he was called) was a handsome blonde, perhaps not the cleverest man but certainly a pleasant one.

Though it seemed to start well, the marriage would not be an entirely happy one. No children were ever born to the couple, and in later years they often lived apart. Louise only spent a few of the years Lorne was Viceroy of Canada at his side; a bad sleighing accident sent her abroad to recuperate (though the province of Alberta and Lake Louise were named in her honor). But in their last years Louise and Lorne seemed to rediscover their earlier fondness and became devoted to each other, with Louise nursing her husband through some years of senility and illness.

She continued her art throughout her life, producing several public monuments, including a statue of the Queen at Kensington, and became a firm supporter of women’s suffrage and right to work. A bit of a fitness nut, she would tell scoffers “I’ll outlive you yet!”…and did. She survived to the advanced age of 91, dying in December 1939. Unlike the circumscribed existence most royalty was forced to live, this rebel princess’s life was a remarkably varied one.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Sights: The British Museum

Summer’s almost here, though the weather does not seem to agree. Time for school to let out, people to go on vacation, nineteenth century young ladies to be in London for the Season. So, in between all those balls and parties, what did a well educated young lady do during her time in London? One favorite with tourists then and now is the British Museum.

In 1753, the physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane had bequeathed his collection of 71,000 books, antiquities, and natural artifacts to England, provided the country could offer suitable housing and pay his heirs 20,000 pounds. Parliament held a public lottery in 1755 to raise 21,000 pounds to purchase and repair Montagu House in Bloomsbury to hold the collection. Four years later, on January 15, the British Museum was opened to the public.

Originally the museum held printed books and prints, manuscripts and medals, and a hodgepodge of other items, but slowly, through purchase and donation, the museum acquired a number of unique pieces such as an Egyptian mummy, drawings from Captain Cook’s three Pacific voyages, and a collection of ancient Greek vases. In fact, the wealthy delighted in donating interesting things to the museum, including the trunk of a tree gnawed by a beaver, a rock that looked like a petrified loaf of bread, and a live tortoise.

By the early 1800s, the museum was becoming more selective. It acquire the Rosetta Stone, various collections of classical sculpture, and portions of classical buildings like the Parthenon (the Elgin Marbles) and the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos. The collections also expanded to include artifacts from the Middle East and, under protests from national scholars, England. As the collections grew, so did the museum, expanding far beyond the original walls to the classical front visible today.

With the museum free to visit, the trustees were concerned that the building would be overrun. So, to protect the collections, the museum issued a few tickets a day, for a set time of the day to visit. If you wished a ticket, you went to the museum and applied to the Porter at the front gate. The Porter set you down for a certain day and time, but you had to return to the museum another day to get the ticket and then again at your visiting day and time, somewhere between 9am and 4pm, Monday through Friday.

No more than five people were assigned each time slot. On the appointed hour, you met with one of the Under-Librarians, who gave you a guided tour. You started up the Great Staircase to tour the upper rooms, then descended to the ground floor for a tour of those rooms. You were not encouraged to linger over the marvelous sights. Each tour was quick and sharp, to make sure to leave room for the next group.

Hm, think that might be the origin of “And we’re walking”?