Friday, December 20, 2013

Let's Celebrate Christmas!

It's nearly here, that special day!  And Marissa and I are planning to celebrate with family and friends.  So let's start the celebration right here on Nineteenteen!

First off, what’s a Christmas party without a few decorations?  Last week I explained how to make kissing boughs.  I’ve set one right in the doorway of our lovely withdrawing room, just waiting to catch that handsome earl unawares.  Are you bold enough to steal a kiss?

Marissa’s friendship with Queen Victoria has inspired us to set up a Christmas tree as well.  We have spiced cider ready and cakes and mince pies as well as fruit brought from friends in the Indies.  And one of our lovely readers has volunteered to play for us, with carols dancing in the air.

Finally, allow us to bestow upon you more than our friendship.  We have certainly treasured yours this past year!  For starters, here’s a look at the annual Jane Austen promenade in Bath from this year.  Oh, to walk that pavement!

I’d also like to offer a dainty little book, embossed with your name in gold, of the collected sayings of Lord Pompadour Snedley.  You say you are unfamiliar with his work?  My dear, he is that expert on etiquette whose wisdom is being quoted among all the best families.  Although, ahem, I do think one or two of his sayings may have been misconstrued.  For example, this one:

“Young ladies are indebted to their chaperons, those maternal sorts who hover about at balls, making sure that everything is aboveboard. Do insist that they stay away from card tables, sharp objects, and the occasional cavorting in the servant's hall.”

You can find your book here

Happy Christmas, my dears!  Please enjoy the holidays and return with us on January 7, when we will resume our normal posting schedule of Tuesdays and Fridays.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Who was this Ackermann Guy, Anyway?

Last week we had our last Fashion Forecast featuring the prints of Ackermann’s Repository (well, sort of—more on that shortly.) I thought this would be a good time to meet the man behind these delightful pieces.

Rudolf Ackermann was born in Stollberg in the Electorate of Saxony, on April 20, 1764, the sixth child of his parents Barthel and Justina. Papa Ackermann was a wealthy and well-connected saddle-maker, and it was expected that young Rudolf would follow in his footsteps and become a saddler as well...which he did, for a while, apprenticing at age 15.

But the boy was also deeply interested in drawing, so at 18 he left his apprenticeship to become a carriage designer (hmm...remember this?) He learned his trade in Dresden, worked in Switzerland for a while then Brussels, and in 1787 moved to London to ply his trade. Plying his trade there proved lucrative: young Rudolf received important commissions for designing carriages, including ones for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and a state coach for a certain President Washington in the upstart American republic. His success enabled him to marry an Englishwoman, Martha, with whom he had nine children...and it also let him return to his other passion, art.

In 1795 Rudolf opened his first print shop, later moving to larger premises at 101 Strand. Rudolf sold prints, artists’ supplies, and books, as well as holding art exhibits. It became a favorite hangout for the fashionable, who enjoyed perusing the latest political cartoons and other prints: his early adoption of gas-lighting enabled browsing and made his shop even more of a destination. Business proved good enough that he started commissioning and selling original hand-colored prints from such notable artists as Rowlandson and Cruikshank, the popular satirists. He also published art books, the best known of which is probably The Microcosm of London, an invaluable snapshot, as it were, of important London landmarks and streets.

In 1809, he embarked on a new publishing project: his Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics, a monthly journal that covered all those things in the title and more. Illustrations played a prominent role in this magazine: each issue featured not only two fashion prints but also engravings of everything from furniture to embroidery patterns and English houses to foreign scenery. Altogether, nearly 1500 prints were published in the Repository over twenty years.

The Repository was published until 1828; but by that time Rudolf’s success was beginning to overtake him: he had expanded into global markets with print shops in several South American locations as well as other outlets in London, and the added work and financial burden weighed him down and broke his health. In 1829 the Repository was re-imagined as The Repository of Fashion, focusing on fashion reporting...and by mid-year had ceased publication altogether. Poor Rudolf suffered a massive stroke a few months later which more or less side-lined him, paralyzed, till his death in 1834. However, his sons remained in the print business as did their fact, the last Ackermanns in the print business only closed their doors in the 1990s!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Don't Stand Under the Kissing Bough with Anyone Else But Me

Each year, my husband eagerly awaits the first sign of the Christmas, which at my house means the decorations going up.  He’s happy to help pull down the boxes holding all the trimmings and set up the tree in front of the window.  But what he really likes is the spray of mistletoe I hang in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.  You see, my husband loves to catch me under the bough and steal a kiss.

Mistletoe wasn’t the only thing that hinted of stolen kisses in the early nineteenth century.  The more likely culprit would have been a kissing bough.  The kissing bough was a structure made from evergreens such as laurel or pine.  It was decorated with apples, paper flowers, ribbons, and dolls representing Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.  Holly and ivy might be included in parts of England where those plants were prevalent. 
Sometimes the kissing bough looked like a wreath suspended flat; more often period pictures show a rounded structure like a globe.  Some hung the bough from a chandelier or high ceiling.  Others tell of boughs resting alongside a door or perhaps over it. 

However the bough was constructed and displayed, the purpose was the same:  a gentleman catching a lady underneath or next to it was allowed to request a kiss. In some households, a berry had to be plucked from the bough with each kiss forfeited.  Once the berries were gone, no more kisses could be required. As you can imagine, the young ladies and gentlemen made good use of the kissing boughs near them.

You can learn how to make your own kissing bough this Christmas from this crafters website. 
I hope the loved ones in your life make good use of your kissing bough or any mistletoe you have handy! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fashion Forecast: 1829

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in 1829?

Perhaps a very sweet Walking Dress in brown, with a full skirt ornamented with tucks and full sleeves gathered into cuffs, along with a fur pelerine lined with pink satin and a deep double-ruffled lace collar...and what a hat, decorated with ultra-wide loops of fabric in pink and black and a hanging frill of lace around the brim. And look, those enormous muffs are STILL in fashion! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, January):

Speaking of enormous hats...this show-stopping giant turban in coral pink and yellow certainly sets the tone for this Evening Dress in white with yellow trim. The puffy stuffed hem is topped with leaf appliqués that also appear on the ruffled short sleeves, and a pink shawl pulls the color scheme together. Note that most of the figures have very curled hair; lady’s maids were evidently busy with the curling tongs this year! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, January):

Another extreme hat tops off this lovely red Morning Dress, with tucks on the lower skirt, full gigot sleeves gathered to deep, buttoned cuffs, another double van dyke lace collar, and that hat, a froth of lace and yellow and blue loops. (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, February):

Here’s a harbinger of the coming excesses of fashion to be seen in the next decade: a Parisian Dinner Dress. A full white skirt, fairly plain, contrasts with the black bodice made in the pointed gothic styles, which in turn contrasts with the white sleeves caught up with gold bands at the middle of the upper and lower arms. And the width of sleeves at the shoulder line! This ain’t nothin’ yet, but you get the idea that very shortly, women will have to pass through doors sideways (I’m not kidding!) A gold passementerie belt and a dramatic black hat set at a rakish angle and ornamented with pink ostrich plumes and more gold trim finishes this ensemble (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, February):

A more sedate Dinner Dress of white satin is next, but it still manages to pack a punch with exuberant ruffled gaze trim around the hem, pretty pleating details on the bodice, full short sleeves, and a turban adorned with broad loops of fabric. Almost bridal, don’t you think? (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, March):

Now here’s a question: would you have wanted to sit behind this woman at the opera? Rumor has it that one went to the opera more to be seen than to pay attention to the actions on the stage, and you’d certainly be seen in this Opera Dress. Along with the black hat copiously trimmed with white ostrich plumes and one coquettish bow, this costume features a beautifully embroidered blue cloak with a wide collar and capelet and trimmed with gold passementerie over a fairly plain white dress with full gigot sleeves and a skirt fully made of tucks. The drama wasn't just on stage, was it? (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, March):

This English Dinner Dress includes fashion elements we’ve already seen in the 1820s...but more so. The plain skirt features a row of triangular lappets of fabric which appear again decorating the bodice...and enormous gauze sleeves cover short puffy undersleeves. Hat trimmed with ostrich plumes and lace lappets. I’m not sure what makes this dress so English, but it is pretty! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, April):

Hmm. Whatever it was that made the Dinner Dress above so English, it wasn’t restraint...witness this English Ball Dress in bright, flirty pink with rows of colorfully embroidered gauze ruffles on the skirt, topped with black and pink striped trim. Both reappear in the bodice, along with trim of black and pink. A totally Carnival kind of dress, don’t you think? (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, April):

We’ll end with a pair of Parisian Evening Dresses, with variation in skirt ornamentation (one plain, one with appliqués and bows) and full gauze oversleeves above short puffed undersleeves. But check out the elaborate hairstyles, with loops of braid and topknots stuck with flowers and jeweled ornaments. This is also a style that we’ll see much of in the 1830s...and what I want to know is how they managed to do this without hairspray or styling gel! (Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion, June):

Though this is not the last fashion forecast, it will be the last one featuring prints from Ackermann. Next Tuesday we’ll backtrack a little and learn more about Mr. Ackermann and his splendid journal.

What do you think of 1829’s fashions?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Presenting Miss Ruby Hollingsford

Good day, gentle readers of Nineteenteen!  I am Lady Amelia, daughter of the Marquess of Wesworth, and I have the great privilege of interviewing my new friend, Miss Hollingsford, for your edification.  Ruby is the heroine of Regina Scott's new book, The Wife Campaign.  We met at a house party hosted by the Earl of Danning . . .

Ruby:  Actually, he didn't host it, as we learned.  His valet had the audacity to invite us to Fern Lodge.  I knew there was something I liked about Peter Quimby.

Lady Amelia:  Yes, of course.  But I think we should start by telling our readers a little more about you, dear Ruby.

Ruby, with an airy wave:  Why on earth would they want to know about me?  I'm the daughter of a jeweler, a self-made man, I might add.  Born and raised in London.  Hair too red and eyes too green to be considered a classic beauty.  What else is there to say?

Lady Amelia:  I don't think you're doing yourself justice.  From what I've learned, there's a great deal more to Ruby Hollingsford.

Ruby, frowning:  Such as?

Lady Amelia, counting on her fingers:  Kindness, bravery, an outstanding sense of style . . .

Ruby, patting her stylish feathered bonnet:  True.

Lady Amelia:  Loyalty, intellect . . .

Ruby, holding up both hands:  Stop right there!  If there's an intellect in the group attending the house party, it's Henrietta Stokely-Trent.  She's the one everyone calls a bluestocking.

Lady Amelia:  Yes, she is quite well read and knowledgeable.  But you were the one who first realized that someone was out to harm Lord Danning.

Ruby:  That's because I'm naturally suspicious of aristocrats.  My opinion of you all was fairly low, until I became better acquainted with you, Amelia. 

Lady Amelia, blushing:  Thank you, but I think perhaps it was your closer acquaintance with Lord Danning that made you begin to see the aristocracy differently.

Ruby:  Perhaps.  Whit is so unrelentingly honorable!  And handsome.  And sweet.  And have you seen him when he plunges into that stream after a trout?  I've never seen such grace, such fire, such determination.

Lady Amelia:  You admire him.  Admit it.

Ruby:  Fine.  I admire him.  But you know it will go no further.  What earl marries a Cit?  And why would I want to spend my life having to toady up to all his friends and relatives?  Or worse, have them condescend to me.  I would either go mad or take the pistol out of my reticule and shoot someone.

Lady Amelia:  That's right!  You're also a crack shot, and you know how to box.  I will note that on my list of accomplishments and be certain not to omit them next time. 

Ruby, eying her:  You truly are a dear soul, Amelia.  I hope you have better luck finding the right man, someone you can love and who will love you for who you are, not because you're your father's daughter.

Lady Amelia, dropping her gaze:  I don't believe such a man exists.

Ruby, nudging her:  Come now, what about Lord Hascot?  He might be the finest horseman in all of Britain, but he had eyes for no one but you when we visited his horse farm with Whit a few days ago.

Lady Amelia, blushing again:  I think perhaps that's a story for another time.

Indeed it is.  Look for Lady Amelia's story, The Husband Campaign, in April 2014.  In the meantime, you can find Ruby's story in The Wife Campaign, available at fine stores online or near you.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Campaigning for a Wife

My 26th romance story launches today!  The Wife Campaign is the second in my Master Matchmakers series:  wedding bells will ring when downstairs servants play Cupid for upstairs aristocracy.  In this case, trusted valet Peter Quimby takes matters into his own hands when his master Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning, dallies about finding a wife.

Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning, would much rather spend a fortnight fishing than entertaining three eligible young ladies. But when his valet insists that marriage is an earl's duty, Whit agrees to the house party. He has no intention of actually proposing to anyone…until flame-haired Ruby Hollingsford declares she'd never accept him anyway.

Ruby has been tricked into attending this charade, but she certainly won't compete for the earl's attentions. Yet, Whit isn't the selfish aristocrat she envisioned. And with a little trust, two weeks may prove ample time for an unlikely couple to fall headlong into love.

Here's what happened when Whit discovered his treasured fishing retreat had been invaded by three young ladies and their families and tracked down the source to his valet:

His valet entered from the dressing room, a coat in either hand. As always, a pleasant smile sat on his lean face. Though his straw-colored hair tended to stick out in odd directions, his clothes, and the ones he kept for Whit, were impeccable.

"Good," he said. "You're back. Which do you prefer for dinner, the blue superfine or the black wool with the velvet lapels?"

"What I prefer," Whit grit out, "is to know why I have guests."

"Ah." Quimby lowered the coats but never so much that they touched the polished wood floor. "I believe each of the three invitations read that you are desirous to put an end to your bachelor state and would like to determine whether you and the lady suit."

Feeling as if every bone in his body had instantly shattered, Whit sank onto the end of the bed. "You didn't."

"I did." With total disregard for the severity of his crime or his master's distress, Quimby draped the coats over the chair near the hearth. "You aren't getting any younger, my lad. And we none of us are looking forward to serving your cousin should you shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely." He glanced at Whit and frowned. "You look rather pale. May I get you a glass of water? Perhaps some tea?"

"You can get these people out of my house," Whit said, gathering himself and rising. "Or, failing that, find me other accommodations."

Quimby tsked. "Now, then, how would that look? You have three lovely ladies here to learn more about. I chose them with great care. I thought you rather liked Lady Amelia Jacoby."

It was true that the statuesque blonde had caught Whit's eye at a recent ball, but he'd never had any intentions of moving beyond admiration. "If I liked her," Whit said, advancing toward his valet, "I was fully capable of pursuing her without your interference."

"Of course," Quimby agreed. He came around behind Whit and tugged at the shoulders of his tweed coat to remove it. "Yet you did not pursue her. I also invited Miss Henrietta Stokely-Trent. You did mention you thought she had a fine grasp of politics."

He'd had several interesting conversations with the determined bluestocking last Season. "She's brilliant. But perhaps I want more in a wife."

"And perhaps you've been too preoccupied to realize what you want," Quimby countered, taking the coat to the dressing room.

"Rather say occupied," Whit corrected him, unbuttoning the waistcoat himself. "Parliament, estate business, the orphan asylum…"

"The sailor's home, the new organ for the church," Quimby added, returning. "I am well aware of the list, my lord. You are renowned for solving other people's problems. That's why I took the liberty of solving this problem for you." He unwound the cravat from Whit's throat in one fluid motion.

"Dash it all, Quimby, it wasn't a problem!" Whit pulled the soiled shirt over his head. "I'd have gotten around to marrying eventually."

"Of course." Quimby took the shirt off to the dressing room for cleaning.

Whit shook his head. "And why invite Miss Hollingsford? I don't even recall meeting her."

Quimby returned with a fresh shirt and drew it over Whit's head. "I don't believe you have met, sir. I simply liked her. I thought you would too."

He had liked her immediately. All that fire and determination demanded respect, at the least. That wasn't the issue.

Whit closed his eyes and puffed out a sigh as his valet slipped the gold-shot evening waistcoat up his arms. "Have you any inkling of what you've done?"

He opened his eyes to find Quimby brushing a stray hair off the shoulder. "I've brought you three beautiful women," he replied, completely unrepentant. "All you need do is choose."

Whit stepped back from him. "And if I don't?"

"Then I fear the next batch will be less satisfactory."

Whit drew himself up. "I should sack you."

"Very likely," Quimby agreed. "If that is your choice, please do it now. I understand Sir Nicholas Rotherford is seeking a valet, and as he recently married, I should have less concern for my future with him."

Whit shook his head again. If Quimby had been anyone else, Whit would have had no trouble firing him for such an infraction. But he'd known Quimby since they were boys. The two had been good friends at Eton, where Peter Quimby, the orphaned son of a distinguished military man, had been taken in on charity. When Whit became an orphan, and the new Earl of Danning at fifteen, he'd offered his friend a position as steward.

"Who's going to take orders from a fifteen-year-old?" Quimby had pointed out. "Make me your valet. They get to go everywhere their masters do. We'll have some fun, count on it."

At times over the past fifteen years, Whit thought Quimby was the only reason Whit had had some fun, even when duty dogged his steps. He couldn't see sacking his friend now.

"Rotherford can find another valet," Whit told him.

Quimby smiled as he reached for the coats.

"But don't take that to mean I approve of this business," Whit insisted. "I'll do my best to clean up the mess you've made. I will be polite to our guests but expect nothing more. You can campaign all you like, Quimby, but you cannot make a fellow choose a wife."

"As you say, my lord," Quimby agreed, though Whit somehow felt he was disagreeing. "Now, which will you have tonight, the black coat or the blue?"

"Does it matter?" Whit asked as his valet held out the two coats once more. "By the time this fortnight is over, I'm the one most likely to be both black and blue, from trying to explain to three women that I don't intend to propose."

You can purchase the book from
The publisher, Love Inspired
Barnes and Noble
An independent bookstore near you
The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)


Friday, November 22, 2013

Being Thankful for Custard (And Fish Fingers)

Marissa and I are thankful for much in our lives.  Our families will be close during the holidays, and we'll be taking next week off blogging to spend time with them.  We each are writing and publishing books we love, and we have lots of ideas still simmering at the backs of our minds.  And so many of you have dropped by to comment on this blog the last few months.  Thank you for the encouragement!

I personally am also thankful that tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of a British classic, Dr. Who!  So, in honor of the Doctor and Thanksgiving, here's an early nineteenth-century recipe from famed cook Mrs. Beeton for Baked Apple Custard (like traveling with the Doctor, I advise you to try at your own risk!).

1 pint of milk (heavy cream can be substituted for half the milk)
1/4 cup of sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 dozen large apples
1 small teacupful of cold water
Sugar to taste
Grated rind from one lemon
Dash of nutmeg

Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the quarter cup of sugar and the vanilla. 
Stir gently and heat on low until the flavors are blended. 
Bring the mixture to the point of boiling, then pour it into the top of a double boiler and let it cool. 
While it is cooling, whisk the eggs well and peel, cut, and core the apples. 
Put the apples in another saucepan with the cold water on medium heat and bruise them to a pulp as they heat.
Sweeten them with a little sugar to taste and add the grated lemon rind.
When the milk has cooled, stir in the eggs and heat the mixture in the double boiler. 
Keep stirring the custard one way until it thickens but do not let it boil.
Allow the apples to cool and put them into a pie dish.
Pour the custard over the apples and sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top.
Bake the dish at 350 degrees F from 25 to 35 minutes.
Serve while warm.

And yes, if you are a true Whovian, you will need to find some fish fingers (fish sticks) to dip in this.  Of course, a true Whovian will probably sneer at the apple part, but allow me some creativity.

And speaking of creativity, do come back after Thanksgiving, when we will be launching the second book in the Master Matchmakers series, The Wife Campaign!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema: PERSUASION (1995)

Welcome to "Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema" at NineteenTeen! Today we're discussing the 1995 Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion, starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds!

(As an aside, can I mention how magical the mid-1990s was for Jane Austen fans? We had one fabulous adaptation after another...delightful!)

Ah yes, Persuasion! Lost love, pride and class, vanity, and lots of dashing naval men.

So, whether you watched this movie recently or long ago, please tell us what you thought of it!

Did you like the cast? Did you root for Root, or sigh for Wentworth?

Did you like how the director gave us the silences and low-indoors-lighting of the period, to really put us in that world? Or were you frustrated by that, finding the movie slow, or low-energy, or even at times hard to follow?

If you've read Austen's novel, what did you think of this interpretation of it? Did you think it captured the soul of the original? Did you mind any changes?

And if you have any other comments or insights, please share!!! We bluestockings love to discuss things while sipping our tea (and perhaps enjoying some caraway cakes and ratafia biscuits...)

And to aid the discussion, here are the major actors and creators:


Director: Roger Michell

Screenwriter: Nick Dear


Anne Elliot: Amanda Root

Wentworth: Ciaran Hinds

Lady Russell: Susan Fleetwood

Sir Walter Elliot: Corin Redgrave

Elizabeth Elliot: Phoebe Nicholls

Mrs. Clay: Felicity Dean

Mary Musgrove: Sophie Thompson

(Interesting fact: Sophie Thompson had a role in another Jane Austen movie--she played Miss Bates in the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma! She is also the sister of Emma Thompson, who played Elinor (and wrote the screenplay) for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility. Austen royalty!)

Charles Musgrove: Simon Russell Beale

Louisa Musgrove: Emma Roberts

Henrietta Musgrove: Victoria Hamilton

Captain Benwick: Richard McCabe

Admiral Croft: John Woodvine

Mrs. Croft: Fiona Shaw

Mr. Elliot: Samuel West

So....what did you think? All opinions welcome!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Stories That Won't Let Us Go

It seems an odd thing to say, but some stories simply won't let go of an author, even after those books have been published.  Authors are some of the only people who are generally not deemed mad for listening to the voices in their heads.  Books haunt us, calling, beckoning, until we give in and dive in.  It's the same for passionate readers.  And then we're never sure how the book, and our very selves, will turn out in the end.

Such was the case for my 2008 young adult novel, La Petite Four.  I know some of you were first introduced to my writing through that book, and I've received a number of lovely e-mails from readers about it.  But the thing was, I was never entirely satisfied with it.  No, that's not quite true.  I was glad to see it published.  Lady Emily wasn't entirely satisfied with it.

Lady Emily, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Emerson and the heroine of La Petite Four, remains the loudest character I have ever written, even after finishing more than 25 manuscripts for publication.  It isn't that she runs about shouting.  She tends to have a great deal more class than that.  But she speaks in my mind so clearly that I could swear she was standing right next to me.

Here's the first thing she ever said to me:  "I despise pink.  It neither makes the bold statement of red nor whispers the purity of white, yet I am convinced that I would make my father the happiest of all men should I dress in nothing but that color.  Pink, he thinks, is singularly feminine.  It is simply not me."

Opinionated much?

She wasn't content to recite narrative or dialogue.  During the process of completing La Petite Four, she argued quite strenuously with me over certain parts of the story my editors felt were very important.  For instance, the editors wanted a more exciting first chapter.  Sounds reasonable enough; good advice, actually.  I was on my third revision, struggling, fighting with Lady Emily every step of the way, when she said, purely out of spite, I might add, "I want to run away."  So, in the version of La Petite Four that saw publication, I had Lady Emily run away from her boarding school to reach her father before her betrothed so she can change the duke's mind about her having to marry.

Lady Emily was not amused.

When the rights to the story were returned to me, I decided to revise the story to her liking and reissue it along with its prequel, the former A Dangerous Dalliance and now Secrets and Sensibilities, where Lady Emily first learns her sleuthing skills.  Here was her chance, her opportunity to tell her story, her way.  Did she cooperate?

"I am tired of being rewritten," she complained, pointed nose in the air.

I promised her this was the last time.  And so, in hopes of finally doing Lady Emily's story justice, this week I published the ebook, Art and Artifice, a retelling of La Petite Four that I am happy to say Lady Emily endorses heartily.  Perhaps that's because this time I let Bow Street Runner Jamie Cropper say a few words as well.  He's a gentleman, for all he's been raised in poverty.  He wasn't nearly so strident about how he was portrayed, but then, he likes to have a little fun.

Have I finally silenced Lady Emily?  No.  Now she won't let me be until I finish the sequel, Ballrooms and Bribery.  That will have to wait until next spring. 

This time I get to listen to my own voice for a change.   


Barnes and Noble


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It’s Name that Book Time again...

Aaaaand it’s time to play everyone’s favorite game, help Marissa come up with a possible title for her new book because she’s reeallly bad at titles.

This one is forthcoming from Entangled Publishing some time in the first half of 2014 (the first round of edits is in, and I hope to have a release date for you soon!) There are some slightly different rules in play this time, though. For one thing, this isn’t a young adult story or set in 19th century England—it’s an adult contemporary fantasy set in Boston with some slightly spicy content. Here’s a blurb...

It’s been two thousand years since the fires burned out on the altars in the temples of Greece. So what’s a god to do?

Teach, of course.

Theodora Fairchild has had it with teaching Latin to apathetic middle school students and enrolls in the Classics program at prestigious John Winthrop University to get her Ph.D. and pursue a serious academic career. Falling in love with brilliant but mysterious visiting fellow Grant Proctor isn’t what she expected to find on the syllabus—at least she thinks they’re in love...nor is her flirtatious relationship with the charming head of the department, Julian d’Amboise.

Soon Theo finds she's been assigned a new major—divinity! She’ll need to learn how to be a goddess fast in order to rescue herself and Grant from Julian’s clutches. After all, Julian’s track record with his women was spectacularly bad—they generally ended up turning into cows or burning to a crisp...and Grant’s last meeting with the department chairman left him chained to a mountaintop for thirty thousand years having his liver pecked out by an eagle. Drugged Riesling, power shopping with Aphrodite, and an eerie labyrinth all make an appearance as Theo struggles to win her eventually happily-ever-after fate—with a twist.


So what do you think, dear readers? The tone of the story isn't terribly comedic though it does have its light, tongue-in-cheek moments...but nor is it dark and gritty because I just don't do dark and gritty. I’m trying to avoid titles with the word “god” in them or other overtly religion-associated words since we don’t want the algorithms at on-line booksellers to assume this book should be listed under Christian Romance and possibly offend innocent readers. But mythological or classical references are definitely a possibility.

Anyway, have fun suggestion is a bad one, because it might inspire the perfect title. And most of all, thank you!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Get Cozy by the . . . Coal?

November always marks a change in the seasons where I live.  Summer lingers well into September, October sees a glorious burst of color, and November is gray, gray, gray.  Seems like a perfect time to bring in the firewood, strike up a blaze, and get cozy.  It's easy to think of the young ladies and gentlemen of nineteenth century England sipping tea and reading books, perhaps in that lovely library Marissa sketched out for us this week.  But I have to keep reminding myself that the fire I enjoy is not necessarily the one they enjoyed.

For one thing, fireplaces back then could be a great deal larger than the one in my home, although the London townhouses certain boasted smaller, more compact models, often courtesy of the Adams brothers.  My fireplace happens to be made of red brick with a slate hearth, but theirs was more likely to have been made from stone, perhaps framed in wood.  If you were wealthy, that stone might be marble in shades from pristine white, midnight black, or serpentine green or perhaps granite. 

If you were poorer, it was more likely to be of a lesser stone, or even those gathered from the land around you.  The older and larger the house, the more likely the fireplace might be large enough to roast an ox inside.  Townhouses might have inserts of cast iron with decorative tiles at the back.  They might also have bricks inserted in the flue to help guide the smoke upward, a design perfected by Count Rumford.

The fuel might also be different from today.  I tend to burn wood scavenged from downed or pruned trees, but my fire is mostly ornamental, not for heating or lighting my house or cooking my food.  The amount of wood needed by a large household for heating and cooking purposes would be prohibitively difficult to procure and store.  So, many households in England burned coal brought around by industrious individuals or peat cut from nearby bogs.  The glow might be similar, but the crackle of burning wood is very different from the pop of coals or the hiss of peat.  And coal fires were at least partly responsible for the choking fogs that enveloped London later in the century.

Makes me want to curl up by my fire with a good book.

(Lead picture by P.G. Champion)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Fantasy Library

Some people fantasize about dream vacations. Others fantasize about jewelry or cars or sports teams. Me? I fantasize about the library I would love to have. It would look something like this—a room I was privileged to visit daily while in college— and I think I’d furnish it with the help of our friend Rupert Ackermann.

First, I’ll need many of these Gothic Bookcases (Ackermann’s Repository, 1827) lining the room to hold my books. The glass doors will help keep dust at bay...but I’ll cheat and put UV-filtering glass in to further protect my treasures (which will, of course, include a complete collection of first editions of all of Georgette Heyer’s books):

To reach the top shelves, a few Metamorphic Library Chairs might be handy: the seat and top hinge over forward, creating a handy ladder to scurry up while searching for the right book (July 1811):

Then again, I could also store some of my books (I think there will have to be a complete set of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey books as well) in this delightful Circular Moveable Bookcase (March 1810):

I’ll definitely need a comfy place to sit and maybe in this Gothic Sofa (December 1825):

Or one of these Gothic Chairs, looking very throne-like but probably not very comfortable (November 1825):

Reading isn’t the only thing I’ll do in my fantasy library...I’ll be writing, of course! Maybe at one of these Cabinet Globe Writing Tables--how much fun are these?! (February 1810):

Or at this slightly more conventional writing table (January 1810):

Though this Secretaire Bookcase (September 1822) is also pretty awesome, as well as having room to store more books:

How about you? Do you have a room of your own you like to dream about? What would you furnish it with?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beware the Wrecker!

I hope you had a lovely time last night on Halloween!  I thought today might be a good day for a scary story from nineteenth century England, and few things are scarier than a wrecker.

Wait, a wrecker?

Yes, a wrecker.  Many of you are likely familiar with lighthouses or lighted buoys placed along waterways to guide sailors to safe harbor.  The concept wasn't lost on some dastardly criminals either.  They would post lights along England's shore in hopes of luring ships in to some nasty rocks or shoals.  When a ship floundered, the wreckers would swam aboard and take everything.  And if anyone survived the shipwreck, well, that was a shame.  Can't leave witnesses, can we now?

Do you have the chills yet?

Then let me tell you a story about Chambercombe Manor in Devon, which was once the home to a particularly dangerous wrecker named Alexander Otway.  His son William learned the trade from his father and actually married a beautiful girl he rescued from a ship his father had wrecked.  He apparently foreswore to follow in his father's footsteps at that point, and he and his wife were blessed with a lovely daughter whom they named Kate.  When Kate grew up, she fell in love with an Irish sea captain and moved to Dublin.

William and his wife fell on hard times, and the temptation to return to wrecking proved too great.  Soon he was turning a tidy profit from the misfortunes of others.  One night, a ship was wrecked on his shore in a terrible storm, and he went aboard and took what he could, including a woman so badly battered that he could not make out her face.  He carried her home, where she died, and stole her jewelry, saying nothing to anyone about finding her.  But this time, William hadn't finished his grisly work.  A few of the sailors from the ship had escaped its sinking and reported a passenger missing--a young lady named Kate who was traveling to the area to visit her father.  William Otway had engineered his own daughter's death.

Now there's a tale to chill the blood on All Hallows.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Such Language! lot

More linguistic shenanigans from The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue...enjoy!

Barkshire: Someone is said to be standing as candidate for Barkshire if he is troubled with a bad cough, vulgarly known as barking. (“Mr. Jermyn’s cold was so bad that it sounded as though he was standing as candidate for Barkshire at the opera last night; only Papa’s snoring was louder.”)

Leaky: Apt to blab; one who cannot keep a secret is said to be leaky. (“If you are planning on running away to Gretna Green, on no account tell my sister Sally, who is leaky as a sieve.”)

Nose: to give evidence, to inform. (“Cynthia might have made it to Gretna Green with her very handsome but very poor suitor if Sally hadn’t nosed about it to Lady Biggpurse at Almack’s last night.”)

Bounce: To tell an improbable story; also, bouncer, a great lie. (“Cousin Agnes’s bouncer about the number of proposals she’s received is exceeded only by the one she told about the number of young men she danced with at her ball.”)

King’s Bad Bargain: A malingerer or soldier who shirks his duty. (“I’m glad Georgie decided not to take that commission in the Hussars—he raises such a fuss over a hangnail that I’m sure his colonel would have considered him one of the worst of the King’s bad bargains.”)

Slubberdegullion: A dirty, nasty fellow. (“Isn’t it amazing how charming and elegant a fellow Harry has turned out to be, after being such a slubberdegullion when he was at school?”)

Corporation: A very large belly. (“Lord Pudgeton’s corporation is so very prominent, I have to wonder how many years it’s been since he caught sight of his feet.”)

To flash one’s ivory: To laugh and show one’s teeth. (“Arabella will insist upon flashing her ivory every time Lord Dimkeeping makes one of his feeble jokes...of course, as he’s worth twenty thousand a year, perhaps it isn’t to be wondered at.”)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Storm of the [Nineteenth] Century

Today marks an anniversary--154 years ago, England saw one of the worst storms on the nineteenth century.  The Royal Charter Storm struck the Irish Sea with nearly the force of a hurricane, resulting in more than 800 deaths. 
An abrupt change in the direction and force of the wind mid-afternoon on October 25, 1859, heralded the arrival of the storm.  It was soon howling along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, with structures taking heavy hits before the storm rode north into Wales and finally Scotland.  At their peak, the winds reached more than 100 mph.  The storm sunk 133 ships and left 90 crippled.  Many people were killed by falling rocks or stones from buildings.

Nearly half the deaths, however, came from one source, the source from which the storm took its name.  The SS Royal Charter was a huge iron-clad steamship also capable of traveling under full sail.  She'd gained fame by carrying passengers to the Australian gold rush and had indeed traveled home from there around the Cape of Good Hope and up the coast of Africa.  When she reached England on that fateful day, she was carrying more than 400 passengers--men, women, and children--and over half a million pounds of gold bullion. 

As the storm freshened, Captain Taylor ordered the sails up, the engines shuttered, and the two anchors dropped off the north coast of Anglesey, Wales.  It is thought that he felt the chances of survival were greater riding out the storm there than continuing to the harbor in Liverpool.  Unfortunately, he was wrong. 

The storm broke both anchors free and drove the Royal Charter onto rocks only fifty yards from shore, breaking her into two pieces.  The villagers of nearby Moelfre awoke to find a sinking ship the morning of October 26.  Some of the passengers tried to swim for it but refused to leave their gold behind and sank to the bottom to drown.  One of the sailors managed to reach shore with a rope around his waist, then used it to help 39 men reach shore.  The villagers were also able to rescue about a dozen passengers before the Royal Charter was lost beneath the waves.

The nation went into mourning, with reports in every newspaper for months.  One of those chronicling the sinking was Charles Dickens.  But the Royal Charter Storm had one benefit.  After seeing the devastating results, the British Meteorological Office developed the first gale warning service, which debuted in June 1860, to give people time to prepare and respond to such events, saving countless lives in the decades to follow.

Now there's a tale to tell as we approach Halloween. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Young Bluestockings will discuss Persuasion!

When other young ladies and gentlemen doze on the sofa or stare admiringly at their reflections in the looking-glass, young bluestockings gather together with like-minded souls and have merry debates about novels, ideas, and that delightful (yet futuristic) invention, the cinema.

So please join us here next month (November 19) for our next "Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema" virtual outing, which will be...


The 1995 film of PERSUASION, starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds!

Ah, yes.  Jane Austen!

Young bluestockings do love Jane Austen, with her wit, her wisdom, and her romances.

This version of Persuasion is a gorgeous, atmospheric movie, and if you haven't ever seen it, you're in for a treat!

But don't let me influence you -- what we're asking for are your honest opinions on the movie.  (What did you like, or dislike?  What would you have done differently?  Which home would you most like to live in?  Which actors or actresses are the most swoon-worthy?  Did you spot the person who later played a relative of Harry Potter?)

So please stop by here on Tuesday, November 19, and join our lively discussion!  We promise to brew you a fresh pot of virtual tea when you arrive...

Please join us!

The 1995 PERSUASION is available through Netflix, iTunes, Amazon (DVD or digital), and quite possibly at your local library.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ratafia: Not as Weak As You Might Think

Writers of books set in the early nineteenth century often talk about how there's history--facts and dates chronicled with exacting care--and then there's the shared world readers have come to expect based on countless other books set in that period.  One of those shared-world ideas is the notion that ratafia--a fruity drink--is weak disgusting punch that causes any heroine worth her salt to turn up her nose.  I certainly have used a character's response to ratafia more than once to show personality.  So I was surprised this week to run into a recipe for red ratafia, dated 1764, that didn't quite match my own expectations.

Take of black-heart cherries 24 pounds; black cherries, 4 pounds; raspberries and strawberries of each 3 pounds.

Any liquid that includes three pounds of raspberries is okay in my book.

Pick these fruits from their stalks, and bruise them, in which condition let them continue 12 hours; press out the juice, and, to every pint of it, add a quarter of a pound of sugar.

A quarter of a pound of sugar per pint?  Now we're talking.

When the sugar is dissolved, run the whole through the filtrating bag, and add to it three quarts of clean proof spirits.

Tradition has it that ratafia was made with brandy, but I consulted a chef I know and she said that "clean proof spirits" might have been a clearer alcohol like gin.  Either way, it's still a relatively small amount compared to the amount of juice from all that fruit.

Then take of cinnamon, four ounces; of mace, an ounce; and of cloves, two drams. Bruise these spices, put them into an alembic, with a gallon of clean proof spirits, and two quarts of water, and draw off a gallon with a brisk fire.

Now, there's the first mention of water, which in my mind is what would have made the ratafia as insipid as it is usually described.  But notice that those two quarts of water are going against a gallon of alcohol, plus it's being boiled away over a fire.  I understand this is considered a distillation.  According to my friendly chef, today's alcohol might be distilled several times along the way, making it more potent.

Add as much of this spicy spirit to your ratafia as will render it agreeable to your palate; about one fourth is the usual proportion.

So, we're adding spiced liqueur to fruit juice and sugar in alcohol.  It is possible compared to other alcoholic drinks at the time that this would be considered a weak drink, but it would still have packed plenty of punch (pardon the pun).

I wondered too whether ratafia might have evolved over the years.  Perhaps what was a strong drink in 1764 had weakened considerably by the middle of the nineteenth century.  However, I found nearly identical recipes in a popular British encyclopedia from 1797 until at least 1823.

And now I have a whole new respect for those frilly little ladies sipping their ratafia!