Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas, and Presents Too!

Here we are, at Christmas again. Thank you so much for being with Marissa and me. We’re going to slip out next week and most of the first week of January to spend time with family. But, before we go, we have some presents to give out.

First up, the Jane Austen Festival Regency Promenade of 2016. Is attending one of these on your bucket list too?

Maybe you’d prefer to dream about owning a Regency townhouse. Check out the advertisement for this one on the market in Kent!

If your tastes run more toward Americana, browse through these wonderful photos of Christmas trees, from around the turn of the century.

And, however, you spent your holidays, remember to find the joy, the wonder, the excitement of the season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fish, Precioussssss...

Ah, holiday customs. At my house, we’ve developed a new one over the last year or two: after exchanging presents and eating Christmas dinner and pulling crackers (we lurrrrve Christmas crackers!) and nibbling at dessert, we usually play a rollicking game of Cards Against Humanity (my 81-year-old mom is a huge fan!)  Although I would dearly love to write a Regency version of CAH some day (imagine the scurrilous things one could come up with to say about Prinny’s personal life!), Regency family games were themselves somewhat less, er, naughty...and also a lot prettier.

Those of you who obsess over details in books (umm, like me) might remember certain references in Pride and Prejudice to family games: “...Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won....”  and in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy: “...Gertrude...and Amabel...cast themselves upon their brother, with loud professions of delight at seeing him, and rather louder reminders to him of a promise he had made them to play at lottery-tickets the very next time he should spend an evening at home....The card-table had been set up, and Amabel was already counting out the mother-of-pearl fishes on its green-baize cloth.”

(Pause to re-read the hilarious ending of The Grand Sophy.  Ahem.)

No, Lydia was not crowing over winning anchovies. Nor was Amabel handing out minnows, but these handsome little guys. The game was called “lottery tickets,” and was a game of pure chance; utilizing two decks of cards, it was played in rounds, and fish-shaped markers were used for placing bets (sort of), with the winner of each round getting the fish.

Aren’t they lovely? These are of mother-of-pearl (which is darned difficult to photograph well, I’ll have you know!), likely made in China, but they were also made of bone and ivory. Nor were they restricted to just fish shapes (I haven’t been able to discover ‘why fish?’)  Here are several circular ones from my collection—again, Chinese mother-of-pearl, some very elegantly engraved. The wealthy would have theirs custom-carved with their coats of arms or other heraldic devices.

And more, not round. Squares, rectangles, and other shapes are also seen:

I wonder if there's any way to incorporate my fishy collection into our upcoming Cards Against Humanity game on Christmas? Hmm...

While I ponder that question, I hope all NineteenTeen readers will enjoy a splendid upcoming holiday week full of your own happy family traditions, whether they involve fish or not. 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Favorite: Oysters?

I’ve been reading up on Christmas dinners for my next pioneer Seattle Christmas book (ah, lovely, lovely research). Most of the items reported on tables in the nineteenth century in England and America didn’t surprise me. Roast beef, goose, turkey, and ham were staples. Depending on who you were and where you were, you might have one or more of them for your Christmas dinner. But one item that appeared even some poor tables did surprise me.


Apparently oysters were quite the thing at Christmas. Those along the coasts bought them fresh. Those inland could sometimes buy them packaged in tins, at a hefty price. During the middle of the nineteenth century, they were transported by the gallon across country by stage and later train. Stories abound of hawkers on the corner in London crying “Oysters! Fresh oysters!”

Even my Seattle pioneers would have had the opportunity. You see, Puget Sound natives had harvested oysters for thousands of years before Europeans happened upon the scene. The small Olympia oyster was indigenous to the area. When the first Seattle settlers arrived at Alki Point, boats were already shipping out of the area, taking cargo of oysters to San Francisco. One estimate for 1851 puts the poundage at more than half a million, and the same amount was sent each year for the next ten years!

Oysters were served in a variety of ways, from scalloped to roasted, stewed, or fried. You might serve oyster sauce, oyster soup, oyster pie, or oyster patties. You might even stuff them in your turkey or goose.

So, never mind the roast head of boar or the plucked goose. If you want an authentic nineteenth century Christmas dinner, put some oysters on your table.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Newer Additions to My Collection: Fashions 1810

It’s been a while since I started doing (and finished up) regular Fashion Forecasts here...and one corollary of that is that I’ve since acquired a lot more prints for any given year. Since the last time we looked at fashions in the year 1810 was back in 2009, I thought I’d post some more prints from my collection...because, eye candy.


1810 was the year of the child, at least as far as Ackermann’s Repository was concerned: this particular year features multiple images of children, which gives us a nice look at what the fashionable child was this instance, from January, not all the much (someone give that child a sweater!) Mom’s Evening Dress looks much warmer.

My oh my, the fur-lined cloak in this Carriage or Promenade Dress from January looks cozy!

Another fur-lined cloak in February’s Opera Dress—perhaps because there was no central heating in theatres. Note her opera glass in one hand, the quizzing glass around her neck, and a copy of the libretto in her hand (at least, I am assuming that’s what it is).

That’s one chunky toddler...but what a sweet pose! Note mom’s Morning Dress includes long sleeves and a high neck—possibly a blouse or a tucker underneath the dress proper. (February)

This print from April is the ONLY one in Ackermann’s twenty-year run featuring men’s clothing—a pity, don’t you think? The accompanying text reads
Full Dress.—Superfine corbeau colour coat, with covered buttons; white Marcella waistcoat, single-breasted; light sage green, or cream-coloured kerseymere breeches; also those of black florentine silk are very fashionable and consistent in this style of dress. Dark blue coats, with plain gilt buttons, are likewise considered fashionable. The cravat is still worn high and full.

April’s Walking Dress is truly multinational, if you read the description! It always surprises me that even though they’d been at war for decades, French fashions were still all the rage in England.
A round high robe of French cambric, with Armenian collar, and cuffs edged with narrow antique lace; three rows of appliquéd lace beading round the bottom. An Egyptian mantle of lilac shot sarsnet, trimmed with broad Spanish binding, and deep thread lace. A Parisian bonnet of the same material, ornamented with narrow stripes of white satin ribbon, and trimmed at the edge with lace, or a plaiting of French net. A small French cap, and flowers appearing in front of the forehead. Chinese parasol, with deep awning of white silk. Ridicule to correspond. Lilac kid slippers or half-boots. York tan gloves. Child’s dress of nankeen or buff kerseymere, of the Highland order.

A three-fer! July’s Promenade Dresses are interesting: in particular, the purple one reminds me of dresses one hundred years in the future, ca. World War I.  The veil in the middle dress is, er, interesting.

Mom’s Full Dress (September) is very Renaissance inspired, with the slashed sleeves, broad, framing collar, and lacing in the bodice. The children’s clothing is charming, I think.

Another first (and only) for 1810: a plate using a church as the background. The description for this Morning Dress reads:
A plain cambric high gown, with surplice sleeves, and van dyke border round the throat. A Spanish robe of pea-green muslin, crape, or sarsnet, bordered with cable trimming, and buttoned to the shape in front. A winged mob cap, composed of white crape and beading. A bee-hive bonnet of fine moss or plaited straw, ornamented with white sarsnet ribbon. Limeric gloves, and Spanish slippers of sea-green kid.

What I’ve loved about the fashions of 1810 is that they’re different and interesting—not all alike (1820-22, I’m looking at you)—the Full Dress looked nothing like the Promenade Dresses, which look nothing like this Evening or Half Dress, with its embroidered bodice and hem and an embroidered Indian shawl.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My True Love Gave to Me One More Time

I’ve known I wanted to be an author since I was in the third grade. Growing up, I dabbled with everything from horror (my first novel was called Mummies by the Lake—don’t ask) to fantasy and historical romance. In college, when I stumbled upon my first Regency romance, I decided that was where I’d focus my passions. In late 1996, the Regency special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America reported that Kensington had a hole in its publication schedule and was rather desperate for Regency romance manuscripts. I sent in The Unflappable Miss Fairchild and was offered a two-book deal, with the stipulation that the second book be set at Christmas.

“You can write a Christmas book, right?” my new editor asked.

Of course I could. Couldn’t I?

I didn’t have an idea. I wasn’t even sure how Christmas was celebrated during the Regency. I remember a squirming feeling in the pit of my stomach. I ignored it. I was going to be published, and I had been given the chance to write Kensington’s Christmas Regency. I could do this.

And I did.

After considerable research, I submitted the manuscript for My True Love Gave to Me eleven months before the intended publication date of December 1998. My husband proclaimed it the best book I’d ever had published (since it was only my second, I’ll take that with a grain of salt). To this day, he still laments it was never made into a movie. But the Sales Department at Kensington thought my title wasn’t romantic enough. They retitled it The Twelve Days of Christmas. It entered the world and quietly sank like a stone tossed into a snow-shrouded pond.

You see, I didn’t know much about promoting in those days. I was an unknown author. The cover was anachronistic and didn’t even have the right hair color for the characters. No review magazines deigned to review it.

But to this day, it is one of the books my readers love most.

I’m delighted to report that I’ve buffed it up (I have learned something in 35 books); returned it to its original title; given it a new, more accurate cover; and reissued it for Christmas this year. I hope those who love it will remember why, and those who haven’t had a chance to read it will enjoy it.

And who knows? Maybe it will be made into a movie someday.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In Which Marissa Waxes Philosophical about History

This post has nothing to do with the nineteenth century—very much not. But it's still about history, albeit in slightly different way from what we usually do around here.

I’ve been in my town for almost thirty years now (gulp!) And practically every day of those thirty years—at least, the days when I’m not wearing tatty sweats and hunkered down in front of my computer writing books—I drive by a large Raytheon plant located on one of the main roads through town. Raytheon is a high-tech and defense contractor headquartered in Massachusetts, so yeah, it’s no big deal, it being there—it has been since the 1950s. I know people who’ve worked there, and kind of wished my engineer husband had decided to work for them because then he’d have a 7-minute commute and not the 55-minute one he’s had for years.

Until a couple of years ago.

In 2014, Raytheon announced it would be closing this plant and merging operations with another Raytheon plant just down the road in the next town. It makes perfect sense, of course—why operate two separate plants within 5 miles of each other? And my town is working with developers to use the 50-acre plot of land on which the plant is located to build affordable housing units and apartments for the elderly as well as a vibrant new shopping center. It’s an excellent use of the property and will be a wonderful addition to the town.

So, some of you might know I’m a closet space nut. It started back when I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon a few days after my birthday as a small child...and after that, I watched for news of every Apollo launch and paid attention, at least as much as an elementary school kid does. Even now, I haven't lost my fascination for space exploration.

Bear with me, now. There is a point to all this meandering.

I drove by the old plant this morning on my way to my gym as usual and saw that they’re really moving along with the tear-down. And as much as I applaud this new use for the property, it made me sad. Because that Raytheon plant was where the guidance computers for the Apollo spacecraft were made, in conjunction with engineers and scientists from MIT. Right here, in this town. And while something new and wonderful is being built, we’re also losing a place where a little bit of history was made—at least to me, a grand and exciting bit of history.

And the point of all this? Don’t forget that history is something we live, before it ever becomes history. I’m sure the scientists and engineers still around from those heady days in the 1960’s at Raytheon are thinking that about now. I know I am.

Okay, I'll go back to the nineteenth century (well, early twentieth, for now) and stop philosophizing. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nineteenth Century Christmas Wish List, 2016 Edition

Are you shopping yet? I know, I know, it’s barely December, but here in the states we’ve just passed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and Christmas can be seen, heard, and smelled around every corner. So, as I have for the last few years, I thought I’d look into what nineteenth century-inspired things might be out there for your gifting pleasure. You might even find a few to put on your own Christmas wish list.

I will admit to having developed quite a fondness for Etsy. My, but people are creative! Primrose Prints, for instance, features framed antique prints, including a fascinating one of chemical equipment from 1820 for those of a scientific or engineering bent. I can see Sir Nicholas Rotherford of The Courting Campaign putting this on his Christmas list. 

Gift For Book Lover - Book Earrings - Chapter One The End - Secret Santa - Literary Jewelry - Gift For Writers - Christmas Gift For Reader
Then there’s the Old Junkyard Boutique, with steampunk and Victorian jewelry. But the one that really has me drooling is Jezebel Charms—literary-inspired gifts for book lovers. I did inquire about these darling earrings. Alas, they only come in pierced. (And I wear only clips.)   

Of course, you can often find interesting items at novelty sites. Though they are apparently out of stock as of this writing, I did find Jane Austen bandages, supposedly as soothing to your wounds as her words are to your heart.

Wedgwood® Palladian Countryside Accent PlateYou can even find nineteenth century-inspired items at more conventional stores. I love the muted coloring of this Palladian display plate at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. And I am already hinting to my husband about a Wedgwood ornament set, particularly the nativity.

And no Christmas wish list on this site would be complete without a few books on it. Miss Jane Austen's Guide to Modern Life's Dilemmas: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and What to Wear) from the Great Jane Austen Herself by Rebecca Smith caught my eye. I’m certain Jane has words for every dilemma. I’m also quite intrigued with a new book on the history of Brooks, one of the main gentlemen’s clubs in the Regency, taken from period sources.

So, there you are, a smattering of delightful nineteenth century items, just ready for someone’s Christmas present. Care to share what you’ve seen this season that piqued your interest?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Accessories, Part 6: More Fans

We’re back for another installment in our fashion series on NineteenTeen focusing not on dresses and gowns (gorgeous as they are) but on the little things that complete a fashionable ensemble—hats, shoes, gloves, purses, and other accessories

Back in October we looked at fans from the first two decades of the 19th century, and they were...well, kind of on the dull side, even if a vital thing for ball-going ladies to carry. Fortunately for us, fashionistas of the 1820s and beyond woke up to the fact that fans could be a lot more fun.

Look for lots of images rather than commentary, though I’ll try to supply original text if I have it—the point is to be able to examine multiple examples of each item. Images are drawn from my collection of prints from British publications including Ackermann’s Repository, La Belle Assemblée, and others. However, Ackermann’s had the most detailed plates, so the majority of images you’ll see will be from that publication.  These date from 1822-1828.

Happy accessorizing!

Ball Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, June 1823

Full Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, December 1823--peacock feathers!

Ball Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, August 1824. Carved wood or ivory, perhaps?

Ball Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, March 1825. This looks like a Chinese paper fan, does it not?

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, September 1825-- a "rainbow-shaded gauze fan."

Dinner Dress, Ackermann's Repository, March 1826--another Chinese folding fan, perhaps?

 Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, July 1826. Fan of red lacquer, perhaps? It would have been striking against this white and blue dress.

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, February 1827. This is a mourning costume, so of course the fan would be black (note the black gloves as well.)

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, March 1827. Another red lacquer fan--these appear in several plates over the next year.

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, May 1827. Dyed feathers?

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, June 1827. This isn't a mourning costume, so the choice of a black fan is interesting--again, a strong contrast ti the white and yellow dress.

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, September 1827

Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, August 1828

 Evening Dress, from Ackermann's Repository, October 1828

Which fan would you like to carry at your next ball?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cook Thankfully This Thanksgiving

My Regency characters would never have celebrated Thanksgiving—it is an American holiday, after all. My characters in pioneer Seattle would have known of the national day, though Abraham Lincoln had proclaimed it only three years before the time their stories are set. By the era of the cowboys of Little Horn, Thanksgiving was a cherished tradition. So, Marissa and I are off next week in celebration. As a thank you for your readership, we leave you with a nineteenth century recipe, updated for today. I have cooked it. It was a little bland for my taste (and I like less spicy things), but very filling!

Macaroni and Tomatoes

Ingredients for 2-quart casserole
10 oz elbow macaroni, boiled and drained
8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz bread cubes (stuffing)
1 14.5-oz can of stewed tomatoes, excess liquid drained
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter, plus some for buttering the casserole
¼ cup milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter the casserole and line the bottom with some of the bread cubes.
Add a layer of macaroni and sprinkled some of the grated cheese over the top.
Add a layer of stewed tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add another layer of bread cubes, more macaroni and so on until the dish is nearly filled.
Crunch up the remaining bread cubes and sprinkle them over the top.
Dot with butter.
Pour milk over it all.
Bake until nicely browned, about 35 minutes.

I will also leave you with one other piece of news. Utterly Devoted, which is recommended in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Ultimate Reading List, has been reissued as The Unwilling Miss Watkin, book 4 in the Uncommon Courtships series. It is one of my most highly acclaimed books, featuring one of my personal favorite heroes. I am very thankful to have it available for readers once more.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

So That’s What One Looks Like

I’m going to post a word, and I want you to tell me what mental image you get when you read it. Ready?


So what picture did you get in your mind? Maybe an object with short blades that fold up out of a protective cover? Or a Swiss Army knife with seventeen other bits and bobs on it beside a blade or two?

Well, had you been a nineteenth century miss, this is what you would have thought of:

Not much like today’s penknives, is it?  That’s because it wasn’t. In the 19th century, a penknife was exactly that—a knife used to make or trim pens.

Up until the mass production of the steel-nib dip pen in the early 1820s (though metal pens had been around since the early 18th century), the chief type of pens in use were made from quills, usually the primary flight feathers of large birds like geese, hawks, eagles, or turkeys. They actually make good pens; the hollow shaft of a quill serves as an ink reservoir, and a properly prepared quill can last a long time (though not as long on today's wood-pulp based paper which can quickly wear down tips; they do best with parchment and vellum.)

Unlike what you might see in movies, a quill prepared for writing usually has most of the fluffy bits—the barbs—removed, so that they don’t chafe the writer’s hand. The shafts are heat-treated, which makes them stiffer (different methods can be used, from placing the quills in hot water or heated sand or ashes from the fire.) Then, one gets out one’s penknife and prepare the tip. There’s a great explanation of how to trim a quill here, for the truly curious...and it explains the fine, thin shape of a penknife’s blade since the blade was inserted into the quill at one point. Note on the photo of my penknife the shape of the handle—curved to fit comfortably against the fingers when shaving off bits of quill.

So that’s what a penknife is. And though I’m very happy with my laptop for writing, I can’t help sighing a little for the pretty desk accoutrements of the nineteenth century.  Maybe I could find someone to make me a pretty mother-of-pearl cover for my mouse?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nineteenth Century Heroines: A Beacon to All

It’s been a while since we talked about a real-life heroine of the nineteenth century, but I hope you agree that Flora Augusta Pearson Engle fits the bill. Flora was one of the Mercer Belles, those ladies who traveled west with Asa Mercer to help civilize Washington Territory. Her sisters and father came on Mercer’s first trip in 1864. Flora, her mother, and her brother came on the second trip that brought my heroines Allegra Howard (The Bride Ship), Catherine Stanway (Would-Be Wilderness Wife), Rina Fosgrave (Frontier Engagement), Maddie O’Rourke (Instant Frontier Family), and Nora Underhill (this month’s A Convenient Christmas Wedding). Flora was only 16 at the time. I wish I had a picture I could post, but you can see one at Find-A-Grave.

Born in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, Flora was the daughter of Daniel Pearson and Susan Brown Pearson. Daniel worked as a supervisor in the local cotton mill until the Civil War interrupted. By 1864, he was unemployed and in poor health, so travelling west must have looked good. The plan was for him and Flora’s sisters Georgie and Josie to move out first, and then to send for Flora, her brother Daniel, and her mother once they were settled.

Right away fate intervened. Georgie and Josie were immediately assigned to teach school on Whidbey Island, in the town of Coupeville, but Josie died suddenly walking home from class one day. Daniel, who had been working across the Sound, moved to Coupeville to be near Georgie. He was appointed keeper of the Red Bluff Lighthouse, what is now known as Admiralty Head. Georgie, then 17, became his assistant lighthouse keeper, the first woman to do so in Washington Territory.

By the time Flora arrived, however, Georgie had a serious suitor. They were married in the lighthouse parlor less than a year later, and Flora stepped into her sister’s shoes as assistant to her father. She earned approximately $625 a year for the post.

For the next ten years, Flora kept the lighthouse log, recording incidents both important and trivial, and sending a report to Washington, D.C., every month. It wasn’t hard for her. She had kept a diary for years, including chronicling the voyage that had brought the Mercer Belles to Washington. She was a society reporter for the local newspaper and later wrote many articles about local history. Legend has it she spelled the town of Coupeville without the middle e, and it took the government to change the name back years later.

According to Lighthouse Friends, Flora occasionally joked in the log, as in this notation from 1875, right before she was married: “By order of Lt. Commander Louis Keurpoff (inspector): Be it hereby known, to whom it may or may not concern: All light keepers, either principal or assistant, in this domain of our beloved Uncle Samuel, are expressly forbidden to depart from the Territory of Single Blessedness and take up their abode in the populous State of Matrimony unless said departure be permitted and sanctioned by the Lighthouse Inspector.”

Sounds to me like Flora had a few suitors herself.

I'm not sure what Flora was looking for in a husband. At that time, she could have taken her pick. In 1876, when she was 26 years old, however, she married a local farmer, William Engle, nearly 20 years her senior. They had a lovely honeymoon in San Francisco. But even the birth of her son, Carl Terry Engle, a year later didn’t stop her from reporting to work. He was born at the lighthouse, and she noted it in the log. She continued working at the lighthouse until her father’s retirement in 1878, staying on one more month to help the new lighthouse keeper get oriented.

Flora and William moved to his farm, but that wasn’t the end of her contributions to the community. She championed the building for the first board sidewalks in Coupeville and led efforts to restore the Davis Blockhouse, a fortified cabin built around 1855. She appears to have been a member of the Ladies of the Round Table, a local club I’m eager to learn more about (future book, perhaps?). When her mother died in 1890, she took in her father until he died seven years later.

Flora lived until she was 85. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren remembered her as a woman of indefatigable energy. She may have made a name for herself as a lighthouse keeper, but I think it was her light that shined the brightest.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Regency Fabric, Part 12

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

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

Today we have four fabrics from May 1810; their overall condition appears to be good, though a few show brown age stains.

No. 1. A French knotted muslin, calculated for morning wraps and the Austrian frock. No introduction of needlework or lace can be admitted with propriety into this rich article, except an edging round the bottom of the latter, and down the sides of the former. This novel article is sold by Messrs. Waithman and Everington, corner of New Bridge-street, Fleet-street.

My comments: Being white muslin, of course any dress made of this material would require an underdress or lining...but the ground fabric itself is of a fine, fairly tight weave. I wish I knew more about the manufacture of fabrics, because when I look at the reverse side, I wonder if the knotting was hand or machine done. I suspect hand done since there are no threads between the groups of French knots, which would make this a rich article indeed!

No. 2. A fancy convent striped muslin; an article entirely new, and offering a neat and appropriate change for the morning or domestic habit. Pelisses for young ladies are occasionally formed of this simple material, and for undress are, perhaps, more genteel than when composed of sarsnet. We are indebted for this article to the house of Messrs. John Satterfield and Co., Manchester (where only it can be had), and who, our readers may recollect, furnished us with a beautiful cotton velvet introduced in our last January number.

My comments: The faint diamond pattern woven into this fabric makes it look almost like a waffle-weave fabric, but it’s anything but that—indeed, it is very smooth and finely woven, and quite light-weight—lovely for a summer frock.

No. 3. An imperial waved lilac shot sarsnet. This very fashionable and seasonable article is alike calculated for the military spencer, pelisse, and robe. The high gown, with Arminian stomacher and collar, or with French aprons of Paris net, are exceedingly attractive when formed of this article. It is sold by Messrs. D. and P. Cooper, Pall-Mall.

My comments: The color is more dusty rose than lilac, but that may be due to fading—after all, this is an over two hundred year old piece of fabric! The pattern is handsomely woven, the hand silky, and though it is light-weight I expect it would drape beautifully.

No.4. A permanent green shawl print for gentlemen’s waistcoats. The extreme delicacy and coolness of this fancy article is too obvious to need a comment; we shall therefore only add, that the extra-ordinary demand for the permanent green print, since its first introduction in out number for February has been unprecedented in any newly manufactured article, and arises from the utility and qualities, as well as from the novelty of the article, which is highly creditable to the taste and perseverance of the inventors, Messrs. Kestevens and Co., York-street, Covent-Garden, where only it is sold.

My comments: A very sturdy, slightly stiff, ribbed fabric, almost the weight of what we would use today for trousers (though not actually a twill); the printing is clear and sharp and has an almost a foulard-like appearance. Very dapper indeed for gentlemen’s waistcoats!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Christmas, Frontier Style?

A Convenient Christmas Wedding, out now from Love Inspired Historical, isn’t my first Christmas story. I’ve written two others, both set in Regency England. Now, admittedly, the characters in my Regency stories and those in my Frontier Bachelors stories not only come from different sides of the Pond but different social strata. So, I was a little surprised by the similarities, and the differences, between how the two celebrated Christmas.

As Marissa and I have shared, Christmas in the early part of the nineteenth century in England wasn’t nearly as elaborate as it became later. But by 1866, when my story, A Convenient Christmas Wedding, takes place, both England and America were fond of celebrating. As you can imagine the grand Christmas tree that might grace an English country home didn’t exactly fit in a frontier cabin. And not everyone who celebrated Christmas came from the English/Scotch/Irish traditions that included plum pudding.

My Wallin family originated in Sweden, though Mrs. Wallin, the matriarch, has some English blood. So it seemed logical to me that their family celebration would be an amalgam of the traditions, with a few American favorites thrown in. So, they bring in the Yule log, as some of my English characters did, but they also hang stockings by the fire on Christmas Eve for Father Christmas (not Santa Clause) as was becoming popular in America. Here’s the scene where Nora, my heroine, first becomes aware of the custom.

“We were just waiting for you and Simon,” Mrs. Wallin said, coming to take Nora’s cloak. “But I think I see something in your stocking.”

She couldn’t help the tingle of anticipation as she looked to the hearth. Sure enough, her stocking bulged. She glanced at Mrs. Wallin, who nodded toward the fire. “Go ahead, dear. See what Father Christmas left for you.”

Nora ventured to the hearth, even as Levi and Beth pounced on their stockings, and the others moved closer to inspect theirs as well. Nora pulled the stocking from the nail and reached inside to find a tangerine, a handkerchief embroidered with her initial, a knit scarf of a familiar-looking purple heather yarn and a book of poetry.

Simon’s stocking, hanging next to hers, looked significantly less thick.

Glancing around to make sure no one was looking, she slipped her hand in his stocking. Her fingers met the rough edge of a rock.

Oh, no. She would not stand for Simon getting coal. She pulled out the rock and tucked it in her pocket. Then she put in her tangerine. She couldn’t very well give him the handkerchief or the scarf, but after a moment’s thought, she slipped in the poetry book as well.

The door opened just then for Simon, a bucket of milk in hand, and Nora scampered back from the hearth. Fleet bounded in on his heels, going from person to person and saying hello. The others were examining their gifts and exclaiming over the thoughtfulness. Mrs. Wallin had a new comb for her hair, edged with pearl beads that looked suspiciously like the ones Beth had purchased. Beth had received the latest issue of Godey’s and was already curled up in her mother’s rocker scanning the pages of the famous ladies’ magazine. John was fingering a fishing lure. A loud metallic hum proved that Levi had found a harmonica in his stocking and was trying it out.

Nora could hardly wait for Simon to peer into his stocking. But he didn’t go near the hearth even after he left the milk in the kitchen. Instead, he came up to her with a smile.

“And did Father Christmas reward you for your kindness?”

“Yes,” she said, holding up her handkerchief and scarf. “Aren’t they lovely?”

“Not as lovely as you,” he murmured.

Nora caught her breath.

“Go on, Simon,” James called. “You haven’t looked in your stocking yet.”

Simon turned and looked to the stocking. Then he frowned and wandered closer.

Nora let out her breath. He was only being kind. She knew she wasn’t lovely. But the words had sounded so sweet.

His mother looked over as Simon scrutinized the book of poetry. “It seems Father Christmas was a bit mixed up this year,” she said with a look to James.

“I’ll say,” James agreed, tossing his tangerine in the air and catching it. “First time in years Simon hasn’t gotten coal. But I’m not sure love poems are any more use to him.”

Love poems? She should have paid more attention to the title!

Simon pocketed the book. “I can assure you, James, that I’ll find a use for them.” He looked to Nora.

Oh, my!
Now, that sounds like a Christmas worth celebrating, in any time period. For your convenience, here are the buy links one more time:

Barnes and Noble
A bookstore near you
The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

You Are Invited to A Convenient Christmas Wedding

Christmas and weddings—two special times. Combine them, and my hope is you will find a very special book. Industry review publication RT Book Reviews seems to agree, offering Simon Wallin’s story a coveted 4.5 stars and a top pick for November.

“This is a sweet marriage-of-convenience tale, and Scott’s love of history is apparent. Along with the fully fleshed out storyline and characters, the vivid descriptions and balance between the hero and heroine make this an engaging and truly enjoyable read. The drama will keep the reader turning the pages until the end, which comes all too soon.”

This is the fifth book in my Frontier Bachelor series set in pioneer Seattle, but, if you’re new to the series, you’ll still feel right at home.

Proposing a marriage of convenience to a rugged logger is the boldest move of Nora Underhill’s sheltered life. In return for Simon Wallin’s protection from her overbearing family, the unassuming seamstress offers prime frontier farmland. But their paper marriage changes when Nora’s greedy brother tries to draw her back into a life of drudgery. Her only option: move to Simon’s farm, and into the center of his loving, unruly family.

Years of shouldering responsibility have left Simon cynical and reserved. But little by little, Nora’s warmth opens his shuttered heart to joy. With their marriage claim under threat, can this practical arrangement blossom over the holidays…and become a love for all seasons?

You can find it at fine online retailers starting today and on book store shelves next week:

The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide 

Friday, October 28, 2016

It Has a Ring to It

Oh, that precious ring, the one handed to our beloved in pledge of eternal devotion. While engagement and wedding rings are commonplace today, young ladies and gentlemen of the nineteenth century generally only had a single ring, the band of gold for the wife only. However, I was surprised to find that the October 1810 issue of La Belle Assemblée, that arbiter of all things fashionable, had much to say about rings and the mindset of the day.

It was the custom at Rome, to send to the bride, before marriage, a present from the bridegroom of an iron ring, without any stone, to prove how long lasting, durable, and firm their union ought to be, and the frugality requisite to be observed in the married state, in order to provide for a family: but luxury soon gained ground; the old custom was abolished, and the iron rings gave place to those of more cash and expence.
Not sure how I’d feel about being given what amounts to a shackle. But there are certainly ladies who hold out for a diamond, the bigger the better.

The Roman knights were distinguished from the senators by their gold rings, and it was customary, as a mark of honour, to present ambassadors with them when they received orders from the senate to depart for foreign states. After the regal power was put aside in Rome, gold rings were worn as a sign of liberty; and Hannibal, when he had gained a signal victory, sent to Carthage a bushel of gold rings taken from off the fingers of the Roman nobles and knights who were slain in the field of battle.
Okay, TMI.

Though the first inhabitants of England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the ancient Gauls were accustomed to wear the wedding ring on the forefinger, the use, at last, prevailed amongst all nations, to place it on the next to the little one on the left hand, called the annulary finger; because, according to the opinion of the Egyptians, a small nerve runs from this finger to the heart.
You can see who’s taking the credit here, all mentions of Egyptians aside.

The piece goes on to talk about an old tradition of making sure the precious stones were set in such a way that the jewel itself touched the finger. The reason? Some jewels were supposed to possess virtues:

  • Diamond—preserves against poison and the plague, expels anger, and ensures victory
  • Ruby—banishes sorrow and averts ill thoughts
  • Amethyst—gains the wearer the favor of princes
  • Jacinth—fortifies the heart and preserves against thunder and lightning
  • Emerald—cures epileptic fits and renders harmless the bite of any venomous animal
  • Opal—preserves against infectious air and prevents fainting fits.

Queen Victoria’s oldest son Edward Albert (King Edward VII) had another idea about the purpose of wedding and engagement rings. The engagement ring he gave his bride, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, carried six precious stones: a beryl, an emerald, a ruby, a turquoise, a jacinth, and a second emerald. The initial letters of the gems spelled out his nickname: BERTIE.

Perhaps he should have consulted La Belle Assemblée.

All these reputed virtues, whether real or imaginary, serve to shew that the first wearing of rings had in it something holy, honourable, and talismanic: the small golden fetter which binds the wife to the husband, is now reckoned the most sacred of all. The mourning ring, for a departed and dearly valued friend, or relative, claims the next place; and though valuable rings are often given as pledges of love, respect, and amity, yet there are only two, the wedding and the mourning ring, which possess and retain, through every age, the symbolic solemnity of their first institution.