Friday, December 21, 2018

Happy Christmas!

The day is fast approaching, my dears, which means Marissa and I will be taking time off the blog to celebrate with family and friends from today through January 3. That also means it’s time for presents! 

You will have seen Marissa’s lovely present a few weeks ago, but if you missed the announcement, go here to see how to read Marissa's free short story, “A Perfect Night for a Trip on the Lake.” 

For my own part, I have made available a short story I wrote for a dear friend of mine, the inspiration for Hannah Alexander in the Lady Emily Capers. “Hurry Santa” is one of the only contemporary romances I ever wrote (don’t hold that against me!). You can find it on a secret page on my website. 

And if you simply cannot wait for the next Fortune’s Brides story, you might want to know that the fourth book, Never Vie for a Viscount, is now available for preorder.

Lydia Villers wants to leave behind her life as a social butterfly and pursue a career in natural philosophy. A shame the only scientist available to assist her is the man she had once hoped to wed. Viscount Worthington has been betrayed once too often, including by the bubbly beauty who now wants to work at his side. How can he believe Lydia’s intentions are true this time? With the help of Miss Thorn and her beloved cat Fortune, an enthusiastic young lady and a wary lord might just discover that only together do they make the perfect chemistry.

You can preorder the e-book at the following online retailers. The print edition is available at Amazon.


May your Christmas be filled with wonder, and your New Year with hope. See you in January.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Popping in for Popovers

I’m drawing up my grocery shopping list for my family’s Christmas dinner (it’s just a week away—eek!) We always have a roast beef at Christmas, served with the traditional horseradish sauce. Queen Victoria evidently enjoyed a good piece of roast beef herself on December 25. But because I live in New England, not the old one, our roast beef is eaten with those lovely bubbles of bready goodness, popovers.

For those who haven’t had the good fortune to be acquainted with popovers, they are muffin-shaped, mostly hollow rolls made from a thin, eggy batter; they are baked in either muffin cups or in special high-sided popover pans. Cooked in a very hot oven, the thin, liquid batter releases lots of steam, which creates the hollow effect, rather like a soufflé. When done, you slather popovers with butter and enjoy...honestly, given the choice I’d rather skip dessert on Christmas and just eat more popovers.

The origin of the popover is in Yorkshire pudding, the traditional accompaniment to a beef roast, which follows a similar recipe but is cooked in a pan (originally set under the spit on which a roast was cooking, so that the dripping juices from the roast fell into the pan of batter, enriching it.) For some reason, cooks in the new world came up with the idea of cooking the batter in individual, small servings and using butter rather than meat drippings...and the rest is delicious culinary history.

Being huge popover fans in my family, we have the special popover pans, but 5 oz. Pyrex custard cups will work as well.


Set your oven rack to the middle of the oven, because these babies rise.


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter

Generously butter a dozen or so small Pyrex custard cups; set them in a baking pan, which makes the whole thing easier to handle. Whisk together all the above ingredients, preferably in a mixing bowl with a spout. The batter should be thin—rather the consistency of heavy cream—and don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy. Pour the batter into the prepared cups till they’re about half to two-thirds full—don’t fill them completely or they won’t puff. Put them in a cold oven and turn it on, setting the temperature to 425°. Set the timer for 45 minutes, and go do something else to take your mind off them, because you can’t peek—if you open the door, kittens will sob, puppies will turn their backs on you, flowers will fail to bloom...and your lovely popovers might collapse. Only after 45 minutes can you check on them, to make sure they’re deliciously golden brown; depending on your oven, a few more minutes might be necessary. When done, remove them immediately from their cups, and serve at once with butter.

If you feel like gilding the lily, finely grated Parmesan cheese and/or herbs can be added to the batter. Or you can serve them with herbed garlic butter—but I digress... 😋

Enjoy...and I hope your year-end celebrations are warm and wonderful. See you next year!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Another Christmas Tradition: Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

When you think of a nineteenth century Christmas, you might think about muffled carolers going door to door, couples meeting under the kissing bough, and Yule logs burning in massive stone fireplaces in country houses built ages ago. But chances are, you don’t think about sitting in a lecture hall listening to a natural philosopher extol the virtues of chemistry.

That happened.

The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 by members of the Royal Society who wanted to see their scientific advances be turned beyond the acquisition of knowledge to improve industry and medicine and to interest people outside their exalted sphere. From the beginning, they planned on giving lectures and demonstrations. Sir Humphry Davy, a noted chemist who is, sadly, most often associated with the discovery of laughing gas, insisted on the Royal Institution conducting scientific research as well. Good thing too—research there led to discoveries of new elements and the development of the electric motor.

But lecturing and demonstrating remained a key component of the Royal Institution. The founders built a large lecture theater in 1800, holding lectures for adults. By 1816, they were also holding lectures for medical students in the laboratories themselves. Davy was succeeded by William Thomas Brande in 1813, and he was succeeded by Michael Faraday in 1821. It was Faraday who conceived of the Christmas lectures, a special series of talks given during Christmas holidays, with “spectacular demonstrations,” for youngsters.

The first few years, the lectures were given during all school breaks, but eventually only the Christmas lectures remained. They have been given every year from 1825 until this year, with a break during World War II. Early lecturers shared general information on natural philosophy (all of science), astronomy, chemistry, architecture, electricity, geology, and zoology. Around 1839, however, topics began to narrow, with such intriguing titles as “First principles of Franklinic electricity,” “The chemistry of non-metallic elements,” “The properties of matter and the laws of motion,” and “The chemistry of coal.”

Many of these lectures were given by Faraday, but others were given by his contemporaries. Faraday gave his last lecture in 1860, “On the Chemical History of a Candle,” which later was published in book form. The book is still in print. Prince Albert and two of his sons attended. Queen Victoria did not attend, but if you look closely in the pictures, you will see women at the lectures.

Beginning in the 1870s, the topics once again narrowed. Titles now promised to explain “Burning and unburning,” “The motion and sensation of sound,” “Heat, visible and invisible,” and “A soap bubble.” The 1880 lecture focused on atoms.

Since the 1960s, the lectures have been televised. You can catch up on them at the Royal Institution website.

A new Christmas tradition, perhaps?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Merry Bookmas?

Christmas and books. They just sort of go together, don’t they?

Well, they do when it comes to my Christmas shopping list.  I don’t give as many as I used to within my immediate family because we all have Nook e-readers and share a Barnes and Noble account—you don’t want to know how many e-books we have! But I always save a few special selections for Christmas giving: daughter #1 is a manga fan (and loves wolves), so she’s getting Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki; daughter #2, who is studying jewelry making, gets the enormous new release Jewelry: The Body Transformed and Indian Jewelry Making, and the whole family is getting some of the newer Asterix books, continued by a new artist and writer team now that Uderzo and Goscinny are no more.

I also have other family that I always get books for at the holidays like my mother in law, to read on the plane as she makes her annual trip to warmer climes. This year it’s A Well Behaved Woman by Therese Ann Fowler, historical fiction about Alva Vanderbilt, and The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck, set during and after World War II.  And my dear friend Liz is getting White Mughals by William Dalrymple, about 18th century East India Company agents who fell in love with India—and with Indian women.

And—ahem—I may have ordered one or two books for myself, too...The House at Lobster Cove by Jane Goodrich—about an extraordinary house that was destroyed and then rebuilt, each time by two extraordinary people, and The Shepherdess of Elk River Valley by Margaret Duncan Brown, who single-handedly ran her Colorado ranch for nearly fifty years, somehow found their way into my basket.

Are you a holiday book giver? What books are planning to give (or hoping to receive?)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Nineteenth Century Christmas Wish List, 2018 Edition

Almost done with my Christmas shopping (don’t hate me, and don’t tell me you finished in October). 😊 As we have in past years, I thought I’d alert you to presents that any aficionado of the nineteenth century and avid bookworm might enjoy.

Let’s start with books. Fabric a la Romantic Regency appears to be a lovely glossary of fabric terms from the early nineteenth century. Ever want to know the difference between sarsnet and lustring? This ought to tell you.  

There’s also an interesting tome, Jane Austen’s England, that promises to look closer at the places and situations depicted in Jane Austen’s novels.

And this one tickled my fancy: How Jane Austen Kept Cool, all about Georgian ice cream!

Perhaps your more in the mood to make sure your favorite books remain in the family. Check out this embosser, which will tastefully mark the books with your name.

Mugs always seem a popular gift. This one has a unique slant. 

Need something to put that new mug on? Try these coasters of Jane Austen books.

Or perhaps you’d like to step up your organization approach. Love these file folders from the Victorian Trading Company.

Finally, you can be reminded of all your favorite British authors, from Shakespeare to Tolkien, with this decorative plate. There’s only one, I’m afraid. 

Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Some Good News, and a Thank You

Sometimes, good things happen when you least expect them.

I’ve been completely preoccupied with family issues this fall—preoccupied to the point that I haven’t written anything new since the summer or even thought much about writing. Life is finally calming down to the point that I was starting to think that maybe one of these days I could get back to writing again...but I’ve been afraid that I won’t be able to—that I’ve lost the knack of putting words on paper and telling stories...or worse, that I won’t have any stories to tell because they’ve dried up while I’ve been busy elsewhere. I know that sounds irrational...but writers are funny creatures. Look up “imposter syndrome” when you have a moment. 😟

Then, a week or so ago, I received some unexpected good news: “Alea Iacta Est”, my story in the Book View Café Anthology Nevertheless, She Persisted, won second place in the Short Historical Fiction category of the International Digital Awards, which I’d completely forgotten I had entered last summer. It was a nice piece of was the email that arrived a couple of hours later, informing me that Between Silk and Sand had won the Young Adult Novel category in the same contest. But more importantly, it reminded me that yes, I really am a writer...and while I’ve been temporarily unable to write anything new due to circumstances beyond my control, nothing can prevent me from getting back to work when time and mental space permits. 

And the “thank you” part? That’s simply because I’m grateful to all of you who visit NineteenTeen and who’ve read my work, bought my work, borrowed it from the library, lent it to friends...without you, this whole writing thing would be a lot less fun.  As a further thank you, I’ve posted a brand new short story, not available anywhere else, on my website for newsletter subscribers. It’s a romantic contemporary fantasy short titled “A Perfect Night for a Trip on the Lake”—to access it, go to
Here’s to more words shared. Soon.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Peek into London Life: the London Gazette Online

I was recently made aware of a treasure trove of information original to the nineteenth century we love so much and available for searching online: The London Gazette. Oh, the joys of research, lovely, lovely research! (Must. Force. Self. Back. To book in progress!)

But you can play. You see, the Gazette started during the Great Plague of 1665, when, according to that news source’s website, couriers fleeing from a grisly death in London refused as to so much as touch a London newspaper for fear of contracting the disease. The Gazette began publishing information that had arrived as dispatches at the royal court—reports of ships captured or sank, battles won and lost, military valor, and ambassadorial splendor. Indeed, a gentleman did not count his deeds complete until they had been “gazetted.” And, wonder on wonders, every issue dating back to its origin is available online!

Published every few days, the Gazette carries intriguing insights into life in the court of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and Regent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. For example, in the issue covering Saturday, September 19, to Tuesday, September 22, 1812, we learn that the “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary” from Sweden had his first private meeting with the Prince Regent (wouldn’t you love to know how that conversation went?). We also learn that the ships of no less than 24 American privateers were captured by the British navy in the last few months (I never realized we had so many privateers during the War of 1812!). You can learn their names, the names of the captain, the name of the captain and ship who captured them, and what sort of ship (brig, sloop, etc.). Talk about scope for fiction!

But juicy tidbits abound.

File:Sir Ralph James Woodford.jpgHave you heard? Sir Ralph Woodford, Baronet, has been appointed governor of Trinidad.

And the poor Mayor of Plymouth! He’s been receiving death threats from an anonymous source (and the Gazette reprints a few). The Prince is offering 500 pounds, a princely (cough, cough) sum, for information leading to the villain’s capture. He will also graciously pardon you if you happen to be an accomplice squealing on a friend.

And, oh my! Two Frenchmen escaped England after giving their parole as prisoners of war. His Royal Highness is offering 200 pounds for information on which British subjects aided the enemy. Someone has already determined the Frenchmen were ferried away by a smuggler, whose ship was seized as it returned from France loaded with contraband.

The paper also includes notices of impending bills in Parliament, with most penned by solicitors. The bills deal with building and expanding roads, enclosing commons, and changing rules for companies (guilds). Then there are lists of prize payments to be made for various ships captured and notices to sailors when to report to pick up their share.

Toward the back are sadder notices of estates being sold for debt and estates going bankrupt. Pages are devoted to insolvent debtors owing less than 2,000 pounds and more than 2,000 pounds, which prisons they resided in, and how creditors can come make claims.

See what you can find.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Newer Additions to my Collection: 1814

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 1814 was back in 2010 (!), I thought I’d post some more prints from my collection...because, eye candy.

All prints are from the 1814 Ackermann’s Repository, with the original descriptions when I have them. Enjoy!

Let’s begin with a rather cozy looking Morning Dress for January, perfect for quiet days at home when it’s too beastly to venture out of doors. A button-front bodice fastened at the throat with a gold brooch, a ruffle-edged over-robe, and matching ruffle-edged cap complete the ensemble.

Ball Dress time! This February number features a white skirt topped with a pale aqua bodice (a look we’ve already seen this year) with aqua accents in the sleeves (note the puff of fabric in the cuffs) around the hem, and even on the slippers. The costume is completed with a gauzy lace scarf  or wrap and a charmingly simple bunch of flowers in the hair, as well as elbow-length kid gloves.

1814 is the last of the interesting years of ladies’ dresses as depicted in Ackermann’s; after this year I find them a bit on the dull side for several years. But this Walking Dress from February is anything but dull: I love the fawn-colored cloak edged with maroon ad a small capelet at the back, over a spencer of the same fabric. A maroon hat covered with a froth of feathers tops it all off.

Another Walking Dress with a cloak is up for March, but this one takes a leap into the dramatic: blue-gray edged with fur (sable?) and lined in scarlet cloth with a capelet/hood, tying at the throat with a matching ribbon. The dress underneath features a high neckline edged with vandyked lace, and the scarlet cap is ornamented with twists of lighter colored cloth and a rope-and-tassel trim. And the scarlet half-boots peeping out at the bottom are adorable.

Ruffles seem to be the order of the day for Morning Dresses; this one features rows of ruffles trimming the sleeves, cuffs, bodice, and neckline, as well as a cap consisting mostly of—you guessed it—ruffles. Only the hem isn’t ruffled: it is trimmed in a much more tailored fashion, with tongues of fabric punctuated with buttons. (April)

May’s Opera Dress is of plain cut and decoration (a quiet band of embroidery adorns the hem and cuffs), saving all the drama for a capelet of scallops of lace, tied at the throat with cords and tassels. The hairstyle is charming, a Psyche knot with lovelocks at the ears and back of the neck.

Another Walking Dress with a cape for May, this time of green edged with a deep flounce of white lace, a rather dashing military-style hat edged with green ribbon and a plume of feathers, and a scarf tied across the breast (which looks a tad awkward, but that may just be me.)

June’s Walking Dress is capeless, instead featuring a Pomona-green spencer decorated with little clumps of tassels down the sleeve. The front is filled with a flounce of ruffles; the skirt trimmed with rows of Vandyke lace. The bonnet is also ruffle-trimmed, with ribbons and flowers, and the red reticule makes a pop of color.

I do like this Full Dress from June, speaking of interesting and creative designs, and wish the front were visible. But the cut-away lilac overdress, the striped sleeves, the decorative details around the waist and the back of the bodice, and the floofy frilled neckline make this a very attractive costume.

Which dress did you like best?

Friday, November 16, 2018

Cooking Vegetables in Nineteenth Century Britain? A-Maizing!

Ah, yes, it is nearly Thanksgiving here in the States, and thoughts turn to the meal about to be served. I am the most fortunate of women—my husband chooses, purchases, thaws, dresses, cooks, and carves the turkey. It generally looks like something from an ad for the perfect Thanksgiving. The grain and vegetables of the meal fall to me or anyone I can wrangle into helping. (I am also blessed with good friends and family members who cook.) I recently turned to that expert in household management, Isabella Beeton to see what she had to say about vegetables in her 1859 cookbook. The results, were, ahem, a-maizing. 

Mashed potatoes are a classic with turkey. Mrs. Beeton notes that different potatoes have different flavors. The names tickled me: the Shaw, Kidney, Bread-fruit, Tartan, Red-apple, and Lancashire Pink. But though she provides a recipe for mashed potatoes and even mashed turnips, she had a strong opinion about “vegetables reduced to a puree.”
Persons in the flower of youth, having healthy stomachs, and leading active lives, may eat all sorts of vegetables, without inconvenience, save, of course, in excess. The digestive functions possess great energy during the period of youth: the body, to develop itself, needs nourishment. Physical exercise gives an appetite, which it is necessary to satisfy, and vegetables cannot resist the vigorous action of the gastric organs. As old proverb says, ‘At twenty, one can digest iron.' [Note from Regina—please do not attempt to digest iron.] But for aged persons, the sedentary, or the delicate, it is quite otherwise. Then the gastric power has considerably diminished, the digestive organs have lost their energy, the process of digestion is consequently slower, and the least excess at table is followed by derangement of the stomach for several days. Those who generally digest vegetables with difficulty, should eat them reduced to a pulp or purée, that is to say, with their skins and tough fibres removed. Subjected to this process, vegetables which, when entire, would create flatulence and wind, are then comparatively harmless.” 
Word to the wise!

Corn on the cob is generally past its prime for most of us in the U.S. around Thanksgiving, but her advice on how to cook it was fascinating. I had no idea that, even in 1859, the word "corn" wasn't used in Britain, and the plant itself was rarely grown!

INGREDIENTS.—The ears of young and green Indian wheat; to every 1/2 gallon of water allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt.
Mode.—This vegetable, which makes one of the most delicious dishes brought to table, is unfortunately very rarely seen in Britain; and we wonder that, in the gardens of the wealthy, it is not invariably cultivated. Our sun, it is true, possesses hardly power sufficient to ripen maize; but, with well-prepared ground, and in a favourable position, it might be sufficiently advanced by the beginning of autumn to serve as a vegetable. The outside sheath being taken off and the waving fibres removed, let the ears be placed in boiling water, where they should remain for about 25 minutes (a longer time may be necessary for larger ears than ordinary); and, when sufficiently boiled and well drained, they may be sent to table whole, and with a piece of toast underneath them. Melted butter should be served with them.
Note.—William Cobbett, the English radical writer and politician, was a great cultivator and admirer of maize, and constantly ate it as a vegetable, boiled. We believe he printed a special recipe for it, but we have been unable to lay our hands on it. Mr. Buchanan, the present president of the United States, was in the habit, when ambassador here, of receiving a supply of Indian corn from America in hermetically-sealed cases; and the publisher of this work remembers, with considerable satisfaction, his introduction to a dish of this vegetable, when in America. He found it to combine the excellences of the young green pea and the finest asparagus; but he felt at first slightly awkward in holding the large ear with one hand, whilst the other had to be employed in cutting off with a knife the delicate green grains.
However you choose to celebrate, Marissa and I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving. We will be off next week, celebrating with our family and friends. We hope you can do the same.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chairs That Go Bump in the Night, Part 2: More Gothic Furniture

Are you ready for more Gothic fashions for your home?

Of course, every well-appointed castle home needs a Gothic Flower Stand. As the accompanying text says, “Among the various decorations of modern apartments we can reckon none, perhaps, more pleasing than a flower-stand: it diversifies and enlivens the appearance of almost any room; and the odoriferous perfume proceeding from the flowers, and the beautiful appearance of their variegated hues, tend at once to delight and charm the senses. There is no style more appropriate for this sort of decoration than the gothic: its crockets, finials, foliage, pendants, &c. all flowing and pliable, seem to be a continuation of nature; while its open and fanciful traceries contribute to the lightness of the effect.” The text goes on to say that it cannot be determined if flower stands are “of any great antiquity”, but that any well-appointed modern home should have one...and now we know the Regency origin of this very popular Victorian style. (Ackermann’s Repository, August 1826)

The preoccupation with finding some link to the ancient past in the descriptions of furniture is noteworthy and more than a little amusing; somehow, linking the day’s furniture to the past somehow made it better (as we saw a few weeks back with the Gothic pianoforte.) In the text accompanying this illustration of Candelabras from September 1826’s Repository (which look like an ancestor of the floor lamp) the anonymous author discusses at length their use in Roman household décor and how they lend themselves to Gothic styling for modern “elegant furniture.” Gotta say, though, that the candelabra at right, complete with two tiers of flying buttresses, is just a tad on the silly side...

And speaking of Gothic pianofortes...another example, this time of an upright pianoforte complete with coverings of crimson silk to set off the brass and rosewood. The music stand, with its candles, is a re-imagining of an example found at King’s College in Cambridge, and the chair includes a screw seat that can be raised up and down at the convenience of the pianist.

The description of a Gothic Sofa in the November 1826 Repository is worth, I think, quoting in full: “The annexed plate represents a sofa in the Gothic style. This piece of furniture is comparatively of modern date, and undoubtedly of Eastern origin; but in adapting it to European customs, it has been found necessary to vary the decoration in some degree from that of the original model.

“In the Oriental countries a sofa is but little elevated from the floor, and consists of soft cushions covered with silk and other costly materials. Two of these are generally piled upon one another, and a third is placed against the wall to recline upon. These cushions are thus ranged round an apartment, and the heat of the climate renders them indispensible, either for public meetings or private assemblies. They are also well calculated for the sitting posture of the Eastern nations, which requires an easy couch. As none of these conveniences are adapted to the climate and customs of Europeans, the artist has been obliged to make some change from the original; so that the modern sofa presents quite a different appearance from its Oriental original: it nevertheless possesses a comfort which entitles it to rank among useful furniture. From its flowing and easy form, it is more calculated for the Italian than the Gothic style: the latter character has nevertheless been attempted to be given in the present design, which is composed from the best authorities in the florid style.”

And finally,  January 1827’s issue brings a Gothic upright moveable (see the little wheels?) Looking-glass, with a description containing familiar text about a looking-glass of this size being a luxury unknown to “our ancestors” but admirably adapted to the florid style...

Any favorites this time around? I just keep thinking of the poor maids who job it would be to keep this furniture dusted and polished...!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Cool 19th Century Places to Visit: The Thorne Rooms

Sometimes the coolest things are the smallest. That’s certainly true of the Thorne Rooms, a series of miniature interiors painstakingly recreated. While the rooms were constructed between 1932 and 1940, they depict lifestyles from the late 13th century to the 1930s, in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

The visionary behind the work is Narcissa Niblack Thorne, wife of James Ward Thorne connected to the Montgomery Ward department stores. She designed the rooms and commissioned artisans to create the various pieces to populate them. The scale is one inch equals a foot, and the details are exquisite. I recall touring the rooms held by the Art Institute of Chicago. In a tiny library of the Georgian era lay a pair of spectacles on a side table before the hearth.

Peering through the glass boxes that house the collection, one is transported to another time, another place. Many date around the late 1700s/early 1800s. A Regency hero or heroine would be right at home. I certainly feel at home. Thorne’s English Dining Room of the Georgian Period formed the basis for Sir Nicolas Rotherford’s dining room in The Courting Campaign. Margaret Munroe slept in Thorne’s Massachusetts Bedroom, c. 1801, at the Marquis deGuis’s home in the Lakes District in The Marquis’ Kiss.

The Art Institute of Chicago holds the most of these wonderful rooms (68 in all), many of which you can find online to view. The Phoenix Art Museum and the Knoxville Museum of Art also have collections.

Highly recommended. You may never look at a room description the same way again.

Photos in this post were used under a Creative Commons license and taken by Joseph Reagle

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

What’s on Your TBR Pile?

Ah, books.

They’re lovely things, aren’t they? Lying provocatively on coffee tables, just inviting visitors to leaf through them...standing at attention spine-out on shelves, their colorful bindings drawing the eye...and of course, piled in tottering stacks next to bedside tables, patiently waiting their turns to be read. And we aren’t even going to discuss e-readers, which lose in the aesthetic appeal department but gain in the sheer number of volumes that can be hoarded stored on one device.

For extreme booklovers, TBR (To Be Read) piles can often assume alarming proportions. Friends of mine on the book cataloguing site LibraryThing (if you’re a member, come and friend me there!) refer not to their TBR piles but their TBR hills and mountains (my favorite nickname for a TBR pile there is “Mount Toober.”) ☺

With a TBR pile of such epic proportions, the problem is a complicated one: how do you choose what to read next? Some acquaintances close their eyes and try for a random pick (possibly dangerous if choosing a tome near the bottom of the pile.) I’m not made of such stern stuff; I have to be in the mood for a particular type, so pulling out a cozy mystery won’t do when I’m in a humorous fantasy or a historical non-fiction mood.* Which means I often get lost in my TBR pile, looking for exactly the right book to scratch the reading itch of the moment. It can take a while...

So tell me about your TBR piles, NineteenTeen readers. Are they actual piles lovingly accumulated, or neatly typed lists of your next library borrows? Do you have a system for choosing what next to read, or is it a spur of the moment thing? And after you’ve posted here, go check out the Twitter hashtag #TBRDive, where readers are posting about their latest forays into the wilds of their TBR piles.

Have fun!

*Contrary to what I wrote here, my current reading is actually in the mystery realm--the Calleshire novels by mystery writer Catherine Aird, a series of semi-cozy procedural mysteries set in a fictional English county in the 20th century. Though I may pause my sojourn in Calleshire for Kim Newman’s new release, The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School. Decisions, decisions!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Always Kiss at Christmas

Yes, it’s true. There’s something special about a Christmas Kiss. And a Christmas Regency collection, featuring a Fortune's Brides prequel.

Curl up by the fire, sip your favorite hot drink, and enjoy A Yuletide Regency: six brand new Regency romance novellas by Sarah M. Eden, Jen Geigle Johnson, Annette Lyon, Krista Lynne Jensen, Heather B. Moore, and yours truly.

Mary Rose has one goal for her mother’s annual Christmas Eve party: convince her childhood friend Julian Mayes to marry her. She has always admired Julian. Surely one moment under the kissing bough will convince him they were meant to be together. Newly hired by a prestigious London law firm, Julian is ready to shake the dust of the countryside off his polished boots. But he’s always had a soft spot for Mary. As the danger to her future becomes clear, will one kiss be enough to prove to him how far he will go to protect her?

Famed matchmaker to the ton, Adelaide Northrup cannot imagine a more perfect way to spend Christmas than answering the desperate call of Mr. Porter Bartrum: widower, young father, dunderhead. The young gentleman’s first marriage was an arranged one and he hasn’t the first idea how to find a wife on his own. His dear friend, Chloe Munson, has watched his attempts with amusement and finds this latest approach, the clandestine hiring of a matchmaker, his most entertaining yet. If Adelaide plays her cards right, and she always does, she might very well manage to secure two happy endings.

THE FORBIDDEN DUKE by Jen Geigle Johnson
They weren’t supposed to meet, but now that they have, nothing will ever be the same. The Duke of Salsbury blames her family. Lady Catherine blames his. Will an age-old dispute between the Salsburys and Asters rip apart any hope they have to be together? In this game of secrets and lies, can their love for each other conquer even the most tightly held family prejudices?

On Christmas Eve, Eleanor Hadfield, who works as governess at her childhood home of Willowsmeade, is stunned to learn that the love of her youth, Julian Phillips, is coming back after a decade’s absence. Once the gardener’s son, he has elevated his station to navy captain. Making a match with a mere governess would lower his position, if he were to still love her as he did as a young man, which is unlikely. Unable to bear the idea of noble Julian keeping an old promise out of obligation or pity, Eleanor decides to leave the only place that has ever been a home.

FOLLOW THE RIVER HOME by Krista Lynne Jensen
With her beloved home entailed away to a wealthy cousin, spirited Arabelle Hyatt has resigned herself to marry the arrogant man, if only to save her family from destitution. But before an understanding is reached, a childhood friend returns from war, wounded in more ways than one. With Christmas coming—what may be their last at Hybrigge—holiday traditions are celebrated, memories are revisited, and Arabelle learns what lies in a man’s words is not always what lies in his heart.

THE NEW EARL by Heather B. Moore
Celia Thompson knows she can’t live with the new earl who’s come to take her brother’s place. Before she can pack her belongings and reconcile herself to a fate of living as a spinster in her aunt’s home, the new earl arrives. Yet, Aaron, now Lord Banfield, is not the pompous, arrogant man she’d imagined. In fact, he’s quite . . . interesting and handsome. Celia decides to help the man acclimate to his new role. But the longer she stays on at Banfield, the more she realizes the new earl might be the answer she’s been looking for. 

What more excellent company could you ask as we near the holiday season?

You can find the book in ebook and shortly print at fine online retailers such as

Happy early Christmas!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Chairs That Go Bump in the Night: Gothic Furniture, Part 1

Literature wasn’t the only thing that was influenced by the Gothic craze in 18th and early 19th century England.  Horace Walpole, who’d started the whole Gothic thing with The Castle of Otranto, built and decorated his home, Strawberry Hill in Twickenham as a sort of fairytale homage to the middle ages... and for the next hundred and fifty years or so, this fanciful style fell in and out of fashion.

Even the Prince Regent himself was caught up in the early nineteenth century’s “in” cycle of Gothic love: his splendid London home, Carlton House, featured Gothic rooms such as the cast iron and stained glass conservatory (and it is a serious downer that he decided to demolish Carlton House and focus instead on Buckingham Palace; the existing illustrations of it are amazing.)

Well, if it was good enough for Prinny, it was good enough for the rest of society...and our old friend Mr. Ackermann followed suit in The Repository with a series of illustrations of Gothic furniture, suitable for fashionable homes everywhere...even if your house wasn’t Strawberry Hill.

The series started in 1825, but the interest in Gothic decor was already well underway, as demonstrated by this State Bed from the September 1823 issue. The description is interesting: The authors who have written on the arrangement of furniture in olden times, have given to the common bed a width of six feet, and to state ones an altitude quite unknown to the present day, except as we see it exemplified in some of our very ancient mansions, whose chambers exhibit the four-post bedstead at from 20 to 30 feet in height.... The recurrence to such sources for designs of furniture for buildings in the Gothic style is to be desired, because they afford the means of assimilating them to such edifices, in accordance with the practices of the times which they are intended to imitate. 

Here we have an Episcopal Chair in The Repository's November 1825 issue (...the wood is of light oak with gilt mouldings, relieved by rich crimson velvet cushions and tassels. This chair may be introduced with propriety into a church, prelate's mansion, or an extensive library.) The Drawing-Room light oak, and the mouldings gilt; the tracery should be filled up with velvet of the same colour as the room; perhaps it would be more appropriate if it were of rose-wood or cedar. And the Table for a Boudoir (can I pretty please have a boudoir some day?) is also of oak or rose-wood.

This Gothic Sofa (Ackermann, December 1825) would appear to be completely at home (so to speak) in a gothic novel, conveniently located, perhaps, for the beleaguered heroine to swoon onto... This piece of furniture, in which the modern form is preserved, is embellished according to the style of the 13th century; or rather the parts are adapted from Gothic tracery executed at that period, so as to combine the peculiar features of Gothic art with the form that is now considered to afford the best accommodation for its purpose.)

I do like the griffin-like beasts guarding the pedestal of this Gothic Table from March 1826, as well as the illuminated manuscripts and books so artfully displayed on its surface...because of course, doesn’t everyone just have to have a table like this to display their 14th century psalter collection? Somehow this plate really brings home that these plates are truly advertisementsthat they are selling a "look" to which readers longing to be fashionable should aspire.

More delicious Gothic Chairs...I find the right-hand chair with the blue seat to be most interesting, as it marries aspects of the previously fashionable Classical influence with Gothic decoration. I think I'll skip the middle one, though, as it doesn’t look very comfortable. (The Repository, May 1926)

And to end on a high note (see what I did there? ☺) we have An Horizontal Grand Pianoforte (July 1826’s Repository). Even the editor who wrote the descriptive copy accompanying the plate is forced to recognize the irony of decorating a pianoforte, a relatively recent invention at the time, in the style of many centuries past: This instrument being totally unknown to our ancestors, and only invented within the last half century, we can merely decorate the given forms by traceries and other Gothic ornaments best calculated to assist the sound, and to fulfil the intent of the instrument.

I’ll post more Gothic furniture in coming weeks...which was your favorite?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Beauty of Wedgwood, Now Mine

I have a lengthy bucket list of places I want to see, many of them in England. I have a much smaller bucket list of things I long to own, including a period-correct (a good reproduction would do) quizzing glass, a stereograph of the Grand Canyon taken before 1900, and a piece of Wedgwood. I have looked for the first and last many times but was always turned away by either the price or the poor quality. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover at the back of an antique mall in the cozy little town of Kalama, the stuff that dreams are made of.

I have blogged about my obsession with Wedgwood before. I had no illusions that I could afford a piece dating from the nineteenth century. But it wasn’t so much the age of the piece but the classical rendering that was important to me. It had to be the famed Wedgewood blue, with white embossing, the color and shape so reminiscent of the Regency period I love.

So, without further ado, here she is:

You can see I got my wish—blue and white, classical pattern--cherubs embracing. I have researched the maker’s marks on the back and can safely say while mine is genuine Wedgwood, it isn’t an antique. It proudly sports a registered trademark symbol, which wasn’t used until 1974.

But I still love it. One down. Two to go. 😊

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Publisher That Went Bump in the Night

It’s October (also known as Pumpkin Spice Month 😛) and we are fast approaching Halloween and the spooky season, when people seem to enjoy a good scare. But as we’ve discussed before, liking a good scare isn’t solely a modern phenomenon: the nineteenth century equivalent of the slasher film was the Gothic novel. We’ve had some discussion of Gothic literature here on NineteenTeen in past years, but did you know that there was a whole publishing company devoted to publishing books that go bump in the night?

It was a dark and stormy night, and in an eldritch, dimly-lit chamber of cyclopean architecture whose angles were all wrong  (oops, sorry—I started parodying the wrong author) a certain London building at Cree Church-Lane, a handsome, flashing-eyed man brooded over his desk...

William Lane, born some time around 1745, began his career as a printer in London then opened a circulating library in 1774, becoming sufficiently successful to commence publishing books in the 1780s. He obviously kept a weather eye on what was selling well, and in the 1780s, what was selling well were books like The Castle of Otranto and The Old English Baron—works that allowed readers to be surprised, spooked, and titillated without ever leaving their comfortable chairs by the fireside.

So William began to include similar titles in his publishing list, which he now named the Minerva Press, moving his operations and circulating library around the corner to Leadenhall Street...and business took off. Calling his imprint the Minerva Press was a stroke of marketing genius: the name Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom) lent a certain respectability and a highbrow, classical veneer to the endeavor, though his books were firmly in the popular literature camp. And while his list included non-Gothic romance, earlier 18th century fiction, and even some non-fiction, the Gothic novel is what Lane’s Minerva is remembered for.

Of course, he had his detractors. The quality of his books was derided; evidently, production values were not high...but that enabled him to sell his books much more cheaply (and in larger quantities.) And also of note was the fact that many of his most popular authors were women—Regina Maria Roche, Eleanor Sleath (whose books were among those recommended by Isabella Thorpe to Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey)*, and Eliza Parsons were among his top names. Though they did not make much money from selling books to Minerva Press because the profit margin was a slim one, multiple women authors got their toes in the publishing door through Minerva.

Business boomed through the 1790s, enough that the aging Lane took on partners to share the workload: John Darling and Anthony King Newman joined him in 1799 preparatory to his retirement in 1804, whereupon Newman took over Minerva Press. Newman continued to publish, though after Lane's death in 1814 and by 1820 the “Minerva Press” name had been retired in favor of “A.K. Newman & Co.”

So...are you wondering just how spooky some Minerva Press’s novels were? You need wonder no longer: Valancourt Press has reprinted dozens of Lane’s titles as well as a good helping of other Gothic fiction. You too can settle in a comfortable chair by a good fire, and be terrified most deliciously.


*Amusingly, it was thought that Jane Austen had made up many of the titles of Gothic novels mentioned in Northanger Abbey, until some scholarly detective work in the 1920s revealed that they had all, indeed, been realio, trulio published works.