Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas at the Governor’s Mansion, Complete with Presents

This week I had the delight of touring our state’s Governor’s Mansion, which was all decked out for Christmas. The State Trooper who greeted us had us turn off our cellphones and warned us that absolutely no pictures were allowed inside the mansion. But when I explained to the docents that I write historical fiction, they graciously granted me the right to photograph a few of the wonders inside this beautiful brick mansion.

The Washington State Governor’s Mansion was built in 1908. However, because it was built in the Georgian Revival style, it closely resembles homes our beloved nineteenth century characters would have inhabited. The grand entry hall has a sweeping stair with a grandfather clock dating from the late 18th century. To the right is the withdrawing room. Behind it is a room that was once the breakfast room but is now a library. (I caught myself wondering whether they’d accept one of my Seattle stories for the collection. 😊) On the left of the entry hall is the dining room, with a polished wood table that seats twelve easily. Next to it is the ballroom. That was the other room where I was allowed to photograph.

Interesting thing about the ballroom. It has never hosted a ball, because it is too small! However, it has a wonderful alcove above for a trio to play, and musicians have used it for other events. Also interesting is the color scheme throughout the house: green for the forests of Western Washington and gold for the wheat fields of Eastern Washington. Lighting throughout is by gorgeous crystal chandeliers. This one and its sisters in the ballroom are original to the house.

The other treat for me besides being able to photograph things was a chance to sit on a real horsehair sofa dating from the nineteenth century. Surprisingly firm! All in all, the visit ended up being a wonderful Christmas present.

And speaking of presents….

Here are a few for you to enjoy:

Dressing a Regency Cavalry Officer. Such a dashing fellow!

Love this Regency ball. I have a hunch more looked like this than the well-practiced ones we see in the movies. 😊

Wonderful photoshoot at a Regency-era home.

Marissa and I will be taking off most of the next two weeks to spend time with family and friends but look for a post from me on January 3 to kickoff the New Year. Until then, Happy Christmas and a very joyous New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

History Geek Christmas Wishlist, 2019

My goodness. By some fortuitous stroke, the publishing world has released a slew of books this fall that are setting the heart of this history geek to going pitter-pat. If you too happen to proudly claim the history geek moniker, it might not be too late to ask Santa to make some of these appear under your tree.

Dress in the Age of Jane Austen by Hilary Davidson

Just released in November from Yale University Press, this is a look at the clothes worn by all classes, male and female, during the “long Regency”, 1795-1825. It’s lavishly illustrated with formal portraits, fashion plates, amateur sketches and drawings of the era, and photos of extant examples. Awesome book; I already got a copy (yay for Barnes and Noble coupons!) and I’m making myself wait till the day after Christmas to dive in, because I know I will be totally engrossed.

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern by Robert Morrison

Published in April, here’s another broad overview of the history and culture of the Regency in England (covering the actual Regency years, 1811-1820). There have been a few of these published in the last five years or so; reviews are generally good, but I haven’t yet had a look at it. Anyone?

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England by Rory Muir

I’m very much looking forward to reading this one. Fiction is full of dashing young noblemen who will one day (or already have) inherited their family titles, wealth, and properties...but what happened to their younger brothers who might receive a small inheritance (perhaps from their mothers) but who, overall, usually had to make their own ways in the world? From the book’s description: “If they were to remain ‘gentlemen’, only a few options, such as joining the Church or the army, were available to them. Each of these careers had its own attractions, drawbacks and peculiarities, and Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune is the first exploration of the lifestyle and prospects afforded by these different professions.”

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern

I love me a good graphic novel...and even more, I love me a good, funny, Regency-set graphic novel featuring a vampire-hunting Lord Byron and a motley fellowship including an adventure-hungry young debutante and a mysterious bounty hunter and their increasingly outlandish escapades. This one I may crack on Christmas night, after the dishes are in the dishwasher and the leftovers tucked away in the fridge.

How about you? Any good history geekish books you’ve got on your wishlist?

Have the happiest of holidays, dear readers!

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Gorge White House

No, that title is not political commentary. I had the delight of touring the Hood River country in Oregon this fall. The driving route, which starts in the Columbia River Gorge and follows the Hood River up the valley, is called the Fruit Loop, because it circles around family-owned orchards and farms that sustain generations. There are delicious tasting opportunities all along the way. And one house that stood out.

The Gorge White House is a 1910 farmhouse. From the front porch, you can see Mt. Hood. From the backyard, you can see Mt. Adams across the Columbia River in Washington. It was originally built by Martin Hill, who went by his initials, M.M. M.M bought 50 acres of land in the Hood River Valley and promised his wife he would build her the finest house in the valley. He made good on his promise. His daughter sold the house to the grandparents of the current owner in 1947.

The house is Dutch Colonial Revival. You can see the gambrel roof and balconies. The leaded glass windows still remain. While the interior wasn’t open for visitors the day we toured the area, here’s how the owners describe it:

“The interior main salon has original quarter-sawn white oak columns, coffered ceilings, floors, staircase, newel posts, doors, windows, moldings and baseboards are original in finish, patina and materials.”

The Gorge White House farm offers three kinds of pears, some heirloom apple varieties, and gorgeous flowers such as daffodils and tulips in the spring and dahlias in the summer through fall. They also grow five kinds of blueberries, three kinds of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries and stock local wines in their winery. One son, Jack Kennedy, an internationally trained chef, cooks up some amazing food at his “food cart” across the courtyard from the winery. It was absolutely delicious!

You can learn more about the family-run Gorge White House and working farm here.

And speaking of families, I was delighted to learn that His Frontier Christmas Family (2017) is now available as a large-print hardcover volume. You can find it on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

From My Collection, Part 2

I’ve been an inveterate haunter of antique stores and junk shops since my teens, because...well...old stuff! I love antique china and glassware and jewelry as well as fashion prints and dance cards, and make time at least once a month to check out my local consignment shops.

Last month, I hit the jackpot.

This delightful miniature of a young man (what do you think? I put him at about age 18 or 20) measures 2 ½ inches inches long by 2 inches wide. It looks to be painted on ivory; there’s a bit of damaged paint around the edges and on on his shirtfront. The craftsmanship is good but the style to me feels perhaps a little naive; it’s possible to see in he close-up at right where the lower contours of the face were corrected, evidently having initially been painted in too full. Notice the delicate points of his shirt just peeping above his stock; no dandy, this lad!

The case appears to be brass, well made with a fine rope detail around the face. What is interesting is the back of the case: there’s another smaller framed opening, in which there’s a scrap of black cloth; of course, I immediately started speculating on why it’s there (was it from the young man’s coat, maybe? Snipped off by a sweetheart, or saved by a doting mother or sister?)

Alas, there is no identification accompanying the piece. Based on the clothing (the high lapels and sloping shoulders of his coat, the black stock rather than a cravat) and hairstyle, my guess is that this miniature is from some time later in the 1820s to perhaps a year or two into the 1830s. Again, stories begin to well up as I look at it: was this perhaps a young man about to leave for university to study for the church (those modest shirt points again) painted for a doting parent? Was it (sorry to be a downer) painted after his untimely death, as his image has a certain air of fragility about it (plus that scrap of cloth...was that white stain left by tears?)

What do you think?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Nineteenth Century Wish List, 2019 Edition

I’m getting close to finishing my Christmas shopping, but I’m hoping those shopping for me are thinking about gifts for lovers of the nineteenth century. Here’s a few that might make your list too:

Some wonderful Pride and Peppermint tea, complete with bookmark.

Just how foxy do you prefer your Regency dandy? Perhaps this foxy.

Or perhaps a Regency alphabet book: A is for Almack’s. Why yes, yes, it is.

A lovely necklace reminiscent of the Regency period, and at Kohl’s no less.

Proud to show your love of Jane Austen even on chilly days? Try this sweatshirt.

And, until December 12, you will find the first book in my Marvelous Munroes series for free at major retailers. Not an e-book fan? My True Love Gave to Me is also back in print for the first time in 20 years. You might mention that to your library.

Genevieve Munroe is determined to give her newly impoverished family one last happy Christmas, including making peace with their long-time rivals, the Pentercasts. Then the handsome oldest son Alan proposes a wager: if he can give her all the gifts from the Twelve Days of Christmas song, she must marry him.

Alan’s wild gambit is intended to win Gen’s heart. After all, no Munroe would ever marry a Pentercast. But perhaps the joy of Christmas can open her eyes to the man behind the wager, a man determined to turn the twelve days of Christmas into a lifetime of love.

Best wishes on your holiday shopping success!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Retro Blast: Let There Be Light

Life, alas, has not been easy this week; those of you who have elderly parents and are involved in their care know that sometimes everything else needs to be laid aside. All I can do is offer my apologies, beg your indulgence, and promise to return next week with more of the usual. In the meanwhile, may I offer a blast from the past, appropriate in these days of early evening-fall?

- - - 
It’s early evening as I write this and getting a little dim in my just now I leaned forward and with a small movement of my hand turned on the lamp on my desk. Lovely, clear light now floods this part of the room, strong enough to read by several feet away. Electricity—it’s a beautiful thing. Had this been 1813 rather than 2013, I would have had to do a great deal more to achieve this amount of light.

 In the early 19th century, light came from fire. Period. That fire might flicker and bounce at the end of a candle—perhaps a tallow candle made from sheep or beef fat, which tended to smoke and sputter, could lend an odor of eau de barnyard to a room, and not give forth very much light. Tallow candles required snuffing—that is, their wicks had to periodically be trimmed as the candles burned in order for the candle to burn properly—with snuffers, which looked like an odd pair of scissors (see image above).

Or it might shine from a more expensive beeswax candle and provide a much steadier, longer-lasting light that didn’t require snuffing and smelled much more pleasant than a sheepy tallow candle.

Candles might sit in holders on a table or desk, singly or in many-branched candelabras. Or they might be in sconces attached to the wall, perhaps with a plate of polished metal or a mirror to reflect and increase the light they gave. Or they might perch in a chandelier (from the French word for candle) and give light from above...but alas, also drip on people and objects below them.

However, candles were expensive and heavily taxed—one pence a pound for tallow candles, 3 ½ pence a pound for beeswax. So for the very poorest, their light might come from rushlights—basically a rush (a marsh plant) dipped in drippings or some other greasy substance—that could be made for free, but didn’t provide much illumination.

Or the fire that was giving you light might come from an oil lamp, in its most basic form consisting of a chamber to hold some type of oil and a wick that served to draw up the oil and burn...but by the 19th century had grown fairly sophisticated, with special holders to lengthen and shorten the wick and so provide more or less light. Plant oils like olive oil and palm oil might be used, but whale oil was probably the most popular oil for lighting—not only in houses, but in businesses, theaters, and on the streets, where lamplighters made their rounds every evening and morning to light and then extinguish streetlamps.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Mange, of Various Sorts

Many Regency novels talk about blancmange, either as part of a dinner or as a comparison to someone’s complexion, character, or personality. But beloved author Gail Eastwood recently made me realize there are more than one type of mange. Who knew? 

Blancmange is pale and quivering, so you can see why being compared to it might not be a good thing. It’s a milk-based pudding (in the sense we use pudding today in America), hence the blanc or white name. It’s also often flavored with almonds, though the Incomparable Mrs. Beeton, in her Book of Household Management (1861, after the Regency), recommends arrowroot or laurel leaves to season it. Think of it as rather bland panna cotta. Regency folk were quite fond of pouring it into molds and putting it on the table during the dessert course, though Mrs. Beeton seems to think it could be your supper. (Dessert for supper—my kind of lady!)

Jaunemange is yellow but almost as quivering. It’s still a pudding, but the base is egg yolks and it’s flavored with lemon or orange juice, hence the name jaune or golden, yellow. Another key ingredient was isinglass, a gelatin-like substance made from the bladders of sturgeon or other fish. It too was poured into a mold, but it was placed on the table at an earlier course to go with meats like lamb, veal, or prawns.

So, if you are seeking another dish to consider at your next feast, Thanksgiving or otherwise, you might consider adding a little mange. There are a number of contemporary recipes out there like this one and this one

And speaking of Thanksgiving, Marissa and I will be off celebrating next week. Come back in December for more tidbits about history and writing. And presents. ;-)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Making My List, Checking It Twice...

My shopping list for Thanksgiving dinner, that is. I can’t even begin to think about that holiday beginning with “C” that is rolling toward us like a freight train with no brakes...

But I digress.

Of course I’m planning on the usual turkey and gravy. Green beans with almonds are a must. We do chopped potatoes tossed in oil and herbs and garlic and roasted in a pan on the grill rather than mashed potatoes, a very small dish of squash cooked with butter and onion salt rather than anything sweet, and always a Waldorf salad because we loooves us some Waldorf Salad. I may experiment with a savory bread pudding (Parmesan/garlic) instead of stuffing this year, just because it sounds like a neat idea. Desserts are variable; we’re not a big sweets-eating family, and are usually happy with peppermint stick ice cream with hot fudge sauce and a pie or two (apple or pumpkin with coffee ice cream because this is New England and we eat coffee ice cream by the half-gallon.)

But there’s one dessert I simply must have every year. It’s light and just sweet enough to be satisfying without being cloying. It doesn’t even have a name; I adapted it from a recipe my favorite aunt used to make when she was the family’s Designated Thanksgiving Hostess. She made hers in a pie shell; I’ve ditched the shell and serve it instead in a pretty crystal bowl. I’ve fiddled with the proportions of ingredients and added the ginger because ginger and pineapple go really well together. And every year, I look forward to making (and eating) it.

Pineapple Floof

·        2 eight-ounce packages of Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese)
·        ¼ cup sugar
·        2 cups heavy cream, whipped
·        2  large (not the soup-can size) cans crushed pineapple
·        At least ½ teaspoon ground ginger (I usually use more, because I lurve me some ginger, but you might not be so enamored of it)

Leave Neufchatel out on the counter an hour or so to soften;  at the same time, put the (preferably steel) bowl you’ll be whipping the cream in into the freezer to chill, along with the beaters—a chilled bowl helps the cream whip up better and keeps it from turning into butter. Dump the pineapple into a colander to drain.

When the Neufchatel is softened, beat the sugar into it till well blended. Blend the drained pineapple and ginger into the cheese mixture. Beat the heavy cream in your chilled bowl till it looks like huge fluffy cumulus clouds on a summer day, then fold it into the pineapple gloop till all is blended together. Pour it into a serving bowl or into individual dishes, dust the top with more ginger because it’s pretty, and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

Just lovely.

So what Thanksgiving dish can’t you live without? Want to share the recipe?

Friday, November 15, 2019

Never Doubt a Duke, Out Loud

Audio books are an exciting frontier for literature these days. In an industry where flat is the new up when it comes to sales, audio books continue to see double digit increases. I admit I was not much of a connoisseur. The few I listened to never seemed to capture the story for me. And then Jannie Meisberger approached me about producing an audio book of Never Doubt a Duke, and I fell in love.

Jannie was born in England. She attended a British boarding school, where she studied elocution. She has university degrees are in Modern Languages (French and German) and Communication & Theatre Arts. How perfect for a narrator! I was just as delighted to discover that she now lives across Puget Sound from me. I thought you’d enjoy learning more about her and the audio book process.

What made you decide to become a narrator? I had studied music and acting in school in England and worked for an international organization in Europe before moving to America and raising a family. I inherited my mother’s ability to pick up accents and dialects and had great fun ‘performing’ bedtime stories to my children as they were growing up! 

After a career in international education, I decided to get back in acting, this time voice acting. I completed a number of projects, including children’s concert narration and recording public domain poems and short stories for LibriVox, before deciding that my passion was audiobook narration. I recorded my first audiobook in 2014 and have now recorded 36 audiobooks with number 37 in production.

What do you love best about being an audiobook narrator?  I get to travel through time, journey into different worlds, real and imagined, voice a myriad of characters, and bring all these wonderful stories to the world of audiobook listeners. It is also a joy to collaborate with a group of creative authors that I am honored to call friends.

What drew you to Never Doubt a Duke and the Fortune’s Brides series? As a schoolgirl in Bath, England, I fell in love with Regency period novels, notably Georgette Heyer, as well as the classic Regency authors including Jane Austen. I have narrated a number of Pride and Prejudice variations, so you can imagine how delighted I was to come upon Never Doubt a Duke and the Fortune’s Brides series and discover that they had not yet been made into audiobooks. I was even happier to discover that Regina lived not far from me, so I had the opportunity to meet and chat with her about her writing career in general and Never Doubt a Duke in particular.

What’s your secret for creating an audiobook that captures the characters and the story?  Lots of careful preparation! The average time a narrator spends per finished hour of the audiobook is between 4-8 hours preparation, sometimes more. This includes requesting character descriptions and pronunciations of names from the author, as well as reading the manuscript several times through, listing all the characters and voices for each. I make short recordings of each voice for reference and check various online resources for pronunciations of certain words. Being English, this means checking both the English and American pronunciations of many common words, to ensure whichever pronunciation I choose remains consistent throughout the book!

What was the most challenging about recording Never Doubt a Duke? I always keep in mind that the author has spent many months, even years crafting each book, and it takes a leap of faith to trust a narrator to give just the right voice to the story. I truly believe we are a team. The author’s words are the stars, and I hope my voice allows the listeners to be enthralled by the story. When Regina and I met, she shared her concerns about an audiobook version of her book, and I am so happy she trusted me to record this first book in the Fortune’s Brides series. It has been a true pleasure to narrate, and I’m looking forward to narrating the continuing journey of Miss Thorn and dear Fortune through the peerage!

So, stay tuned! Jannie is currently recording Never Borrow a Baronet too!

You can learn more about Jannie at

And you can find her marvelous recording of Never Doubt a Duke at

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A History Geek Moment

You all know by now (I should hope!) that I collect early nineteenth century fashion plates. As items to collect, these are pretty harmless.  They aren’t expensive, don't take up vast amounts of space in my house, are easy to care for...and they're fun. The best part is when they come with text—not only the descriptions of the plates themselves, but other articles and features and commentary on what was happening in the world. To us, those pages in old magazines are history. To the people of the past, it was what was happening in the moment. 
I was reading through the text that came with one of my prints, from the April 1813 Ackermann's Repository. It included part of an article about Napoleon's having given one of his generals the title of Prince of Moscow, and an article about the agricultural outlook for the spring.  And then there was this brief item, which I'll quote in full:


It is with feelings of more than the keenest grief, we have to pollute our pages with the record of another victory of the Americans over the proud, the hitherto invincible navy of Great Britain.  By American journals recently arrived, we learn, that, on the 29th Dec. last, at about ten leagues from the coast of the Brazils, our frigate the Java, Captain Lambert, in her way to the East Indies, was met by the American frigate Constitution, Commodore Bainbridge.  An action of nearly two hours duration ensued, in which the British frigate lost 60 killed and 101 wounded; had her bowsprit and every mast and spar shot away; was altogether reduced to an unmanageable wreck, and compelled to strike to the enemy, whose loss is stated not to have exceeded nine killed and twenty-five wounded.  The British commander, Captain Lambert, is reported mortally wounded, and among the prisoners who were released on parole, is Lieutenant-General Hislop and his staff, who were proceeding to Bombay in the Java.”
File:USS Constitution edit.jpgSounds pretty boring apart from the hyperbolic language in the first sentence.  But were you paying close attention?  The American ship mentioned in this two hundred and six-year-old article was the Constitution...which this very day is still a commissioned ship in the United States Navy, her home berth being Boston Harbor, about twenty miles from where I sit typing this. You might also know her by her nick-name “Old Ironsides.”  She was one of the newly-independent United States’s first naval vessels.  Think about that. It’s not often that a two hundred year old news item still resonates so materially through the intervening centuries, is it?

Just had to share.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Sneak Peek of Evergreen!

I’m still celebrating the release of Evergreen, my new young adult historical fantasy just out from Book View Café.

While I've posted a first chapter sneak-peek sample of Evergreen on my website, I thought it would be fun to give NineteenTeen readers a further peek into the the point in Newport when things begin to get complicated for my heroine, Grace. Enjoy!

* * *

An hour later Grace had managed to put Alice’s magics and most everything else out of her head on a beautifully groomed grass tennis court at the Casino. She and Alice were gently lobbing a ball back and forth over the net so that they could chat if they felt like it. Alice was still complaining about her stepmother’s stricture against balls, so Grace let her blow off steam, responding suitably whenever it was required but not really paying much attention.
It felt good to move and stretch. Grace realized that, whenever Mrs. Rennell was around, she held herself stiffly, probably out of sympathy to their highly strung hostess. It was a beautiful morning—no need for her to alter the weather today. Out of sheer high spirits she returned Alice’s patted ball with a hard drive to the far side of the court that she knew Alice would never be able to return.
She was right. “Very funny, you,” Alice called. “Just for that, you can go find where it went. Anyway, let’s stop for a moment. I need to retie my shoes.”
“All right,” Grace said amiably and started round the net to the lawn beyond while Alice headed for a bench next to their court, strategically set in the shade of a small maple tree.
She hadn’t gotten past the back line when a tall, white-flannelled figure came strolling toward her, racquet on shoulder, tossing a ball casually in one hand. “Lose something?” Kit Rookwood called. His smile brushed past her and came to rest on Alice, who hastily finished tying her shoe and leapt up to join Grace.
“Mr. Rookwood!” she said. “Is that our ball? You angel!”
“Well, not really,” he replied, his smile widening. “At least, angel’s not the role I usually aspire to. Are you done playing, Miss Roosevelt?”
Alice seemed to melt under the force of that grin. “Not at all. I had to tie my shoe and sent Grace to fetch our ball since she hit it so abominably past me—”
“I did not!” Grace was stung into retorting. “You missed the return!”
“Well, anyway, we’re here.” She smiled at him, head tilted to one side. “Are you playing this morning?”
“I’d like to,” he said meaningfully.
“In that case, won’t you play with us? If you’re not busy, of course.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. After all, you promised me a game.”
“Did I?” Alice pretended to look vague, not very successfully—she was never vague.
“Need I remind you exactly when you promised that, Miss Roosevelt?”
“I’ll go and have a seat, shall I?” Grace said to no one in particular, but they didn’t even notice. She almost stomped over to the tree-shaded bench—insofar as one could stomp while wearing tennis shoes—and slumped onto it, her good mood all but evaporated. Alice was suddenly acting as though she weren’t even there, and Kit Rookwood wasn’t any better. She watched while Kit squinted up at the sun and gallantly offered to change sides with Alice so that the glare wouldn’t be in her eyes, then sent a gentle forehand over the net.
“Think I’m a softie, do you?” Alice called, hitting it back to him.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he replied, returning an incrementally harder shot.
“He’s going to let her win. I know it,” Grace muttered. Was this really how flirting went? Imagine a boy at home letting her win at tennis! Whenever anyone beat her, he’d jolly well earned it. It was one thing to let Dorothy win now and then…that’s what you did with a little sister. But to let a person of one’s own age win, as one would a child…well, it didn’t imply much respect for the other person, did it? She’d expected better of him…but between this and his obvious making up to the vice-president’s daughter, maybe she’d been wrong—
I have watched here for many years, and still I do not understand, said the tree behind her.
“Oh!” Grace started. “Forgive me, cousin. I should have spoken,” she added more quietly. She’d been so occupied with watching Alice and Kit that she’d forgotten her manners. It was nice to talk to a tree for a change. They were calm and gentle and didn’t dissemble. “Greetings to you; it is a pleasure to rest in your shadow. What don’t you understand?”
The tree was silent for a moment. A few of its upper leaves fluttered, then were still. This thing men do—the sending of an object back and forth between them.
“Tennis, you mean,” Grace murmured. “It’s not the only thing they do. It’s a game—a pastime. It’s done for enjoyment.”
A ‘pastime’. Does not all time pass, no matter what one does?
“I suppose it does.” Alice was laughing at something Kit had said, and she wasn’t sure if she’d wished she heard it or not.
Yes. The tree fell silent. Grace watched the play and wished Alice would try harder, but she kept missing balls that she would never have missed playing with her. She wasn’t trying to let him win, was she? How funny, the pair of them doing their best to let the other win. Except it wasn’t funny. It was nauseating.
It is strange, this tennis, the tree said.
“You’re telling me,” Grace muttered.
I have seen men who profess the greatest amity toward each other do this tennising. Yet when they tennis, it is clear that their amity is all on the surface, and they are tennising as a way to best each other. Do men often do one thing and use it to mean another?
“Happens all the time.” Like right now. She settled herself more comfortably in the tree’s shade and resigned herself to watching. It would be interesting to see who won this battle of wills.
To her surprise, Kit Rookwood did—that is, he managed to lose to Alice. It must have taken some doing on his part, for it was clear he was a strong player.
“Well played, Miss Roosevelt,” he said as they shook hands over the net.
“Piffle.” She tapped him with her racquet as they strolled toward Grace. “You let me win, you bad creature. I shall get a swelled head and be insufferable, and you’ll deserve it.” She pulled out her handkerchief and fanned herself with it.
He was immediately all concern. “Is it too warm for you? May I bring you a cool drink? Or escort you back to the piazza?”
“No, I want to sit in the shade for a few minutes.” Her eyes lit on Grace on the bench, and she smiled. “I say, why don’t you play Grace while I take her shady-looking seat?”
Grace sat up. Play him, after that? “Alice, I don’t really—”
“Oh, humor me. You’ll have to do a proper job of beating Mr. Rookwood, since he was so gallant as to let me do it badly.” She sent him a sly sideways look.
Kit barely even glanced at Grace. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go back to the club?” he asked Alice again. “It’s really gotten quite warm—”
“I’m sure.” Alice prodded Grace with her racket. “Go on. It’s your turn.”
Grace tried not to scowl as she rose. It would look childish to continue to refuse…and anyway, why shouldn’t she play him, even if he was so…so pusillanimous as to intentionally lose? “Mr. Rookwood?” She looked at him.
“I’m waiting,” Alice called. “Entertain me.”
Kit bowed. “At once, ma’am.” He didn’t meet Grace’s eyes as he escorted her back to the court. “Do you have a preferred side?”
Grace smiled sweetly. “I’ll take this one.” She indicated the side he’d played on. It would mean playing with the sun in her eyes, but she would rather be boiled in oil than accept any advantage from him.
She watched while he crossed to the other side of the court, catching Alice’s eye and smiling at her as he took position behind the service line. She flexed lightly up onto her toes, waiting.
“Cooler over there?” he called to Alice, and served.
Did he even notice she was here on the other side of the net? Grace narrowed her eyes and returned his serve hard, just beyond his reach if he wasn’t paying attention enough to meet it.
Alice laughed as the ball flew past him. “Oh, I’m quite cool. I think you’re the one who’s in hot water now, Mr. Rookwood.”
He stalked off to retrieve the ball without replying, but by the time he returned, his smile was back. “I wish you would call me Kit. Every time you say ‘Mr. Rookwood’ I keep expecting to see my father.”
“Very well, Kit,” Alice drawled. “And you may call me…Miss Roosevelt.” She laughed at his expression. “Oh, don’t be silly. Of course you may call me Alice.”
“Your serve, Mr. Rookwood,” Grace said. He hadn’t asked her to call him Kit, after all.
He hesitated and, for the first time that day, actually looked at her. She returned his regard steadily so that for a moment they stared at each other just as they had earlier that week, and again Grace felt that pull between them like an elastic band trying to snap them together. What are you doing? she wanted to ask him. Who are you, really?
And then he served.
The play that followed was fast and intense. Grace understood as soon as the ball crossed the net that he had no intention of letting her win, as he had Alice. And she’d been right: he was a good player. He hit hard and straight and controlled. But she was good too.
She won the first furiously played game. Alice laughed and clapped. “There you go, Kit. Beaten by two girls in one day. What a comedown!”
“It’s not over yet,” Kit replied lightly. “Best of three?” he said to Grace. She noticed that he was back to not quite meeting her eyes.
“If you wish,” she replied.
He won the next game, though not easily. Grace knew she was tiring but she guessed that he must be also; he no longer took time to smile at Alice but concentrated wholly on the ball. As they prepared to start their last game, she remembered what the maple tree had said and smiled. It had been right about men and tennis, hadn’t it?
Her smile seemed to unnerve Kit. He’d been about to serve, but paused before swinging his racquet up and took a few seconds to resettle his feet. He was off-balance for the rest of the game, which Grace won easily.
“Hurrah!” Alice jumped up. “I knew you’d do it, Grace!”
“Glad one of us did,” Grace muttered to herself. She was hot and sweaty and her hair under her white straw boater felt like it was in danger of tumbling over her shoulders, but she couldn’t suppress the fierce surge of triumph that welled up in her as she walked to the net toward Kit. Beyond him, she saw the maple’s branches waving back and forth, as if an extremely localized gale was blowing around it. The sight made her smile again as she reached across the net to shake Kit’s hand. “Thank you. You play very well.”
He didn’t offer his hand; in fact, he walked right past her as if he hadn’t seen her. Grace felt herself flush and followed after him, fuming.
“Do all the girls in Boston play like her?” he asked Alice loudly. “Must be all the centuries of Puritan virtue. Cold baths and plain oatmeal and scratchy woolen long underwear.”
Grace nearly came to a halt from sheer surprise. Why was he behaving so strangely? Surely not because she had beaten him…or was it?
Alice giggled. “Grace doesn’t wear scratchy woolen long underwear. Her grandmother orders their underthings from France. Lyons silk and lace, you know.”
“Alice!” Grace wished a crack would open in the beautifully manicured grass at her feet and swallow her up. Or maybe swallow Alice up. Why was she discussing Grace’s underwear, of all things, with him?
For a fleeting second, an odd expression crossed his face. Then he laughed harshly. “Not such a Puritan maiden after all, then.”
Grace followed the pair back to the clubhouse, still fuming and not sure which of them she was more cross with. A few moments later, though, she knew.
“Thank you for the game,” Kit said to Alice as he prepared to leave them on the piazza steps. Alice had invited him to join them for iced tea, but he’d claimed a prior engagement. “I hope we can do it again soon.”
“Next time I hope you won’t feel you have to play the gentleman and let me win,” she pretended to scold.
“Who, me? I’d never do such a thing.” He turned the full force of his smile on her, and Grace could practically see her melt under it. Then he half turned toward her. “That is…most of the time I wouldn’t.”
Before Grace could even sputter, he’d turned and started back down the path, whistling.

* * *

Evergreen is available directly from Book View Café in both EPUB and MOBI formats, ordered in print from your favorite local bookstore, and from Apple Books, Kobo, Googleplay, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble...and subscribers to my newsletter should look for a special deal on Evergreen showing up in their inboxes shortly...


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Evergreen is Here!

It’s release day for my new historical young adult fantasy, Evergreennow out from Book View Cafe!

It’s 1901—a brave new century—and seventeen-year-old Grace Boisvert thinks it’s high time to forget that she’s a dryad; being able to talk to trees just doesn’t seem very useful in the automobile age. A little hair dye to touch up her green roots, and she’s off to join her best friend Alice Roosevelt for a visit to glamorous Newport, RI, with her family’s warnings not to fall for any human boys ringing in her ears

As it happens, the only interesting boy in Newport, Kit Rookwood, clearly prefers Alice to her. But that changes when he and his family unexpectedly follow the girls to a secluded Adirondack camp to join the rest of the Roosevelts. All of Kit’s considerable charm is now focused on Grace, and she finds herself falling in love—and not just with the breathtaking forests.

But sometimes stern family warnings really
should be heeded and ancient magical heritages not forgotten, especially when it turns out that not everything—and everyone—are quite what they seem...

This story is the result of my long-time, love-hate fascination with Alice Roosevelt (not to mention her dad, President Theodore Roosevelt), with the excesses of Gilded Age Newport, Rhode Island, and with the majesty and mystery of the forests of the Adirondack Mountains of New York (that last one isn’t a love-hate thing, of course!) It was huge fun to write—I hope you’ll find it just as much fun to read. A sneak peek is available on my website here, if you’d like a taste—and here’s another taste:

Evergreen is now available directly from Book View Café in both MOBI and EPUB formats and also from Kobo, Apple books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and GooglePlay. Or you can order it in print from your local bookstore (or buy it online too, for that matter) or ask your local library to carry it. And if you do read it and enjoy it, pass it on to a friend.

Thank you for celebrating with me!