Friday, November 17, 2017

As Always, Thankful for You!

File:Norman Rockwell Mural (Marion County, Oregon scenic images) (marDA0166).jpgMarissa and I will be off next week spending time with our families, but we wanted to let you know how thankful we are for all of you. Your encouragement and support mean a lot. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing our work on Nineteen Teen and our books.

You may have your holiday meal planned. Mine is. Mostly. There is a debate on how to make mashed potatoes. And I’d like to try apple compote to go with the turkey.

But if you’re up for something new, here are two recipes, the first courtesy of the mother of my wonderful critique partner and the second from author Louise M. Gouge, who is a marvelous cook and a marvelous writer of Regency-set and Western romance. 

Marilynn’s Thumbprint Cookies
3 sticks butter or margarine
3 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 cups ground nuts
Raspberry or blackberry jelly (my favorite is raspberry)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix all ingredients except for the jelly. Roll the dough into tbsp-sized balls, place on cookie sheet and flatten each ball with your thumb, leaving an indentation in the middle. Drop a dollop of jelly into each indentation. Bake for 20 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and cool. Makes at least 2 dozen cookies.

Whatever you end up cooking, may you have a very happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Children of George III: Edward

I’m rather glad, for Queen Charlotte’s sake, that she finally got her baby girl in September of1766...because a year later, on November 2, 1767, yet another boy would be arriving in the nursery at Buckingham House. The new baby happened to arrive while his papa’s favorite brother, Edward, Duke of York, was awaiting burial just a short distance away at St. James’s it seemed natural to name this newcomer after his late uncle, Edward.

Though he was fond of telling acquaintances later in life about how he’d been destined from birth to lead a life of gloom and struggle, Edward's first seventeen years seem remarkably gloom- and struggle-free. Just as the King’s two eldest sons were paired together, so Edward and his brother William would be: Edward was sent from the nursery at age nine to live with William in a pleasant house on Kew Green, and after William went to sea, Edward had the house and staff and a generous housekeeping budget to himself.

All that changed when he was sent to Germany in 1785 to start his education as a soldier. His governor, a Baron Wangenheim, was evidently a bit of a hard case, and Edward, himself more than a little spoiled, chafed under his tutelage—enough that finally, after receiving his first commission in Geneva, he bolted back to England without leave in early 1790. His highly annoyed father sent him to Gibraltar in disgrace, but at least he’d rid himself of the Baron...and acquired a “chère amie” in the form of a Madame de Saint-Laurent, who would remain faithfully with him for the next twenty-eight years until...but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Edward did not make himself loved in Gibraltar; he was a stickler for discipline (thanks to his training under Wangenheim, probably) and ferociously extravagant. The soldiers and shopkeepers of the Rock breathed a sigh of relief when he was sent next to Canada, where he would remain for the next nine years, once again deeply unpopular with the army but wildly popular socially. He was briefly stationed in the West Indies, then sent back to Canada, then back to Gibraltar in 1802 as its governor. But he lasted just a year before being recalled to England because his harsh discipline sparked a mutiny among his troops. His recall home pretty much ended his military career, though he retained some honorary military positions and honors (and the governorship of Gibraltar, though he never set foot there again.)

The next decade and a half were spent in his various houses (he seemed to regard four as the minimum he required) in England with Madame de Saint-Laurent while Edward’s debts only grew—he still hadn’t unlearned his habit of extravagance. He might well have lived out his life in this fashion, spending money and taking an interest in science and political theory, but the unexpected death in childbirth of his niece, Princess Charlotte, in 1817 precipitated him into the great matrimonial race of1818, when the sons of George III scrambled to find wives in order to provide a legitimate heir for the next generation. Edward’s choice landed on Victoire of Leiningen, the widowed sister of Charlotte’s husband Leopold; Edward proposed and was accepted...and according to legend, let his chère amie Madame Saint-Laurent find out about his upcoming marriage by reading about it in the newspaper. (She retired to a convent after their parting.)

Edward settled contently with his new bride at her home in Amorbach, where the cost of living was cheaper than in England, spending money he didn’t have on improvements to the ducal manor. But when Victoire became pregnant, Edward resolved that his child, a potential heir to the throne, should be born on English soil, and accordingly, when Victoire was seven months pregnant, Edward ordered an expensive traveling coach and they trundled across Europe and back to England (despite big brother Prinny telling them not to.) Edward’s daughter was born in May and christened Alexandrina Victoria. He was delighted with the sturdy baby and not at all disappointed in her gender; doubtless he assumed a brother or two would eventually join her in the nursery.

But little Drina would have no further brothers and sisters; when she was but eight months old and the family visiting the Devon coast, her papa caught a cold...and though he'd often declared his health vastly superior to that of his brothers and that he'd survive them all, his cold devolved into pneumonia...and within a few days, in January 1820, he was dead. Though Victoria would later idolize her late father (note the miniature of him she's clutching in the picture at right by Henry Bone), he doesn't seem to have endeared himself to many in his lifetime...and yet, you can't think too badly of a man who remained so faithful to his mistress for so many years.

Friday, November 10, 2017

In the Holiday Spirit, Already?

You’ve probably seen it—decorations popping up in shopping centers, festive music playing inside, advertisements of everything you and your loved ones ever wanted online and on television. The holiday season comes sooner and sooner each year, it seems. But while every family has its own traditions, there’s a few that rarely, if ever, were celebrated in early nineteenth century England.
One of those is the poinsettia. The gorgeous red flowers are popular gifts and decorations where I live, with owners waiting eagerly for that first bloom to appear. There are even white and pink versions. But the what we now call the poinsettia (after Joel Robert Poinsett, first US ambassador to Mexico) originated in south of the border and did not reach America until 1825. I have not found evidence of its arrival in England until after that date.

Mistletoe is, sadly, almost as rare. It only grows in certain parts of England. So, unless you lived in in the south of England or west in the midlands, you might not have mistletoe either. Holly and ivy were more likely Christmas decorations.

Which is why I asked for them on the cover of my latest re-release, An Uncommon Christmas, which is currently available for preorder and launches next week. Previously published as “A Place by the Fire” in Mistletoe Kittens, and as a standalone novella The Mistletoe Kitten, the book has connections to both the Uncommon Courtships series and the Lady Emily Capers. It explains how the older brother of Jareth Darby (The Unwilling Miss Watkin) and the best friend of Hannah Alexander (Secrets and Sensibilities) came to fall in love, for the second time.

Eleanor Pritchett has convinced herself that love is not for her. She’d dared to love once, a man superior to her in birth, education, and position. His family warned her away. But when his orphaned niece begs her to carry a kitten to him for Christmas, Norrie cannot refuse.

Justinian, Earl of Darby, always wondered what happened to his first love, whom his father claimed was a fortune hunter. Now she returns, bearing a kitten. Can that tiny creature, and the wonder of Christmas, prove that true love never fades, and hearts once closed can be opened anew?

I hope it puts you in the holiday spirit, whenever you read it.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Accessories, Part 9: Scarves and Shawls

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, parasols, and other accessories.

Our accessory of the week is the scarf or shawl, a particular favorite of mine (you don’t want to know how many scarves I own!) I’m not including fitted wraps or mantles
basically, colder weather wear in this survey; we’ll look at those at a later date. In this era of no central heating, the shawl was a ubiquitous—and needed—garment. Ladies made a virtue of necessity by turning it into not only a fashion statement, but also a status indicator, via expensive imported shawls from India of silk and cashmere.

We’ll be seeing examples from 1809 through 1815; I’ll cover later years in the next installment. 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 Ackermann’s Repository. Happy accessorizing!

Walking Dress, June 1809, Ackermann’s Repository
Love the tassels!

Opera Dress, July 1809, Ackermann’s Repository
From the description: “A Grecian scarf of rich Andalusian silk, happily contrasted with the colour of the robe, and wrought at the ends in a deep Tuscan border of gold or coloured silks.” 

Promenade Dresses, August 1809, Ackermann’s Repository.

Promenade Dress, September 1809, Ackermann’s Repository
Possibly an imported Indian shawl of wool or silk?

Walking Dress, October 1809, Ackermann’s Repository
The deep lace edging on this shawl is stunning.

Evening Dress, January 1810, Ackermann’s Repository
Another Indian import shawl, to judge by the rich color and design.

Promenade or Opera Dress, May 1810, Ackermann’s Repository
The original text reads, “An Austrian tippet of white satin, with full floss binding, and tassels to correspond.”

Half Dress, November 1810, Ackermann’s Repository
Original text says this is a "Shawl of white Indian mohair or Paris silk, embroidered with gold and shaded brown silk, finished with correspondent tassels..."

Walking Dress, November 1810, Ackermann's Repository
The description reads, “French tippet of leopard silk shag.”  Ooh, faux fur!

Evening Mourning Dress, December 1810, Ackermann’s Repository.

A Walking Dress, or Carriage Costume, February 1811, Ackermann’s Repository
Fur boas like this will be in fashion for the next twenty-five years.

Morning Dress, September 1811, Ackermann’s Repository
The original text reads, “A pelerine of spotted muslin or net, trimmed entirely round with lace or muslin, and thrown loosely over the shoulders.”

Polish Walking Pelisse, January 1812, Ackermann’s Repository
I love the way this tippet is decorated with elaborate braided frogging to match the pelisse.

Evening Dress, July 1812, Ackermann’s Repository
Hmm. Shot silk, maybe?

Evening Dress, September 1812, Ackermann’s Repository
An airy lace scarf will become a commonly-seen accessory in the next several years.

Evening Dress, December 1812, Ackermann’s Repository
Text description reads, “...and a long occasional scarf of crimson Cashmire, richly embroidered at the ends.”

Opera Dress, January 1813, Ackermann’s Repository
More fur!

Full Dress, May 1813, Ackermann’s Repository.

Ball Dress, June 1813 Ackermann’s Repository

Evening Dress, August 1813, Ackermann’s Repository
Original text reads, “Occasional scarf of white silk, richly embroidered in silver and coloured silks.”

Morning Dress, October 1813, Ackermann’s Repository
What a color!

Ball Dress, February 1814, Ackermann’s Repository

Promenade Dress, October 1814, Ackermann’s Repository
Interesting use of a scarf here, wrapped around the upper body.

Evening Dress, January 1815, Ackermann’s Repository
The original text states: “French scarf, fancifully disposed on the figure.” I’m guessing that’s code for “draped haphazardly.”

Evening Dress, April 1815, Ackermann’s Repository
Original text: “Grecian scarf, or shawl, a pale buff colour, embroidered with shaded morone silk, in Grecian characters, and fancifully disposed on the figure.”

Walking Dress,  July 1815, Ackermann’s Repository

Walking Dress, October 1815, Ackermann’s Repository
The original description states, “...a small French handkerchief round the neck.”

Walking Dress, December 1815, Ackermann’s Repository
Another stunning shawl to end with!

To be continued...

Friday, November 3, 2017

North to ... Omineca?

File:Swannell's pack train at the Omineca Mountains.gifWhile my heart will ever belong to early nineteenth century England, I’ve had a lot of fun the last few years delving into nineteenth century history closer to home. Those of you who have followed the Frontier Bachelors series will remember Levi, the youngest fellow in the Wallin clan, and his penchant for getting into trouble. It will come as no surprise that, once he reached manhood, he chafed under family rules and headed out to seek his fortune. Alas, the timeline of the story precluded him from being a 49er (he was born in 1849) or rushing to the Klondike (he would be 47 in 1896). Instead, I had to find another location that would have drawn him for (what he thinks are) easy riches.

I decided upon Omineca.

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel bad. (In fact, I can think of one of our loyal readers who might recognize the name. We’ll see if she comments.) The area is in the mountains of a quiet little corner of British Columbia, and the strike was kept relatively quiet compared to other gold rushes. But the location and timing made it possible for Levi to both hear of it and reach it from frontier Seattle.

In 1869, the Peace River Prospecting Party, organized with funding from the colonial government and local businessmen, discovered gold in a bubbling creek in the area. They named the spot Vital Creek after one of the party leaders, Vital LaForce, and vowed to return without alerting any rivals. Unfortunately, between their rush to return to the site in the dead of winter, when most prospectors headed into town, and LaForce’s lavish spending, word leaked out, and papers in towns nearest the strike urged everyone to drop what they were doing and go strike it rich.

File:Omineca River.gifSoon about 250 people had claims in the area. The colonial government improved roads, laid more rail track to get closer. As the town swelled to 400, industrious types built a bakery, salon, and coffee house. One of these was Twelve-Foot Davis, a legend of a man, who gained his nickname from finding gold on no more than 12 feet of riverbank.

The introduction of sluice boxes increased the daily yield of gold, until nearly everyone was doing rather well. Estimates put peak population at 1,200, and peak gold earnings at $400,000 a year (and I wasn’t clear if that was in today’s dollars or at the time).

Gold continued to be discovered at various creeks and tributaries in the area, and the miners moved on. By the late-1870s, only a handful remained. Even though mining continues to this day, the town of Vital Creek decayed until there was nothing left.

Levi left before then, for he heard another call. More on that in His Frontier Christmas Family, which is available now for preorder and releases December 5.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What’s Your Favorite (Historical) Comfort Read? (and Mystery Object Revealed!)

So...last week’s mystery object! I hope you all had fun guessing what it was, both here and on my Facebook page. And those of you who guessed that it was a butter churn were absolutely correct! I would definitely have preferred one of these to the dash-style churn—at least one could hold a book and read while churning. One does have priorities.

And speaking of reading...let’s talk about comfort reads.

Do you have books that you turn to whenever you’re feeling unhappy or blue, or just need to spend time in the company of a dear old friend who never lets you down? I expect most of us bookworms have such comfort reads. I certainly do...and of course, most of mine are historical. I thought it might be fun to talk a little about some of mine...and for you to share yours so that we can all enlarge our lists.  Are you ready?

The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken
These are the oldest comfort reads on my list, since I discovered them somewhere around age nine or ten. They’re actually historical fantasy, set in an alternate timeline in which the Glorious Revolution never happened and the Stewarts continued to rule England and weren’t replaced by the Hanoverians...but that doesn’t mean the Hanoverians weren’t scheming to seize the throne.  Fortunately a doughty crew of children and teens sees through their machinations and rallies the grownups against their evil plots. The series starts with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and continues with Black Hearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket, my personal favorite since it is set right near where I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts. I’ve actually never finished the whole series (there are eleven books in all), and while they’re written for a middle grade reading audience, this adult found them perfectly enjoyable reading.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
I hesitated to add this book onto my “comfort read” list, because I’m not sure it quite qualifies...and besides, it’s not a book you lightly pick up on a whim to pick up your mood—not at just over a thousand pages! But I still reread it every year (usually in November, for some reason) because it’s one of my five favorite books of all time. It’s so...immersive is probably the word: it completely slurps me in and doesn’t let me go. It’s wildly creative, even though it takes place within the outlines of an entirely believable alternate Regency England where magic used to be part of the world (and may be making a comeback.) And it’s so full of sly humor (Clarke’s version of the Battle of Waterloo never fails to make me giggle) even when it’s also being rather melancholy or even occasionally angry. All I can say is read it (and don’t you even think about skipping the footnotes.)

           Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
More historical fantasy (are you seeing a pattern here?), this time set in a Regency England where magic is an accepted part of life and one of the events of the Season, along with dancing at Almack’s and visiting the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, might be attending the investiture of a new wizard at the Royal College of Wizards. Kate Talgarth (yes, the book is littered with Georgette Heyer references) is off to London for her coming out, leaving behind her best friend (and cousin) Cecelia Rushton, but there will be plenty of magical adventure (and handsome suitors) enough for the both of them. Authors Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer wrote this story as a lark in a series of letters one summer; there are books detailing the cousins’ further adventures, but this one is definitely the best.

And of course, the divine Miss Heyer
I don’t think it’s possible to read a Georgette Heyer novel and not find yourself in a better mood when you close the book. Although she did manage to write a few (in my opinion) duds, she wrote many more that were simply brilliant. The Grand Sophy, Cotillion, The Unknown Ajax, Sylvester, and Arabella are more or less guaranteed to put a smile on my face—how about you?

All right, NineteenTeen readers, now it’s your turn—what are your favorite historical comfort reads?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Not Quite Heroic Occupations?

Dukes, landowners, gamblers, pirates, and highwaymen. Romances set in early nineteenth century England have a host of intriguing occupations for a dashing hero. But there are three you don’t see so often, and I think you’ll understand why.

Sawyer. Remember, this is a time before the steam-powered sawmill. Loggers might bring down a tree and peel off bark and limbs, but it was the sawyer who cut it into planks and beams for use in buildings. Apparently, a suitable tree was dragged to span a pit or propped up high as in this picture. One sawyer climbed down into the pit, so he was under the tree. The other stood on top of the tree. Starting at one end, they worked a two-person saw up and down, cutting through the wood to create the desired width. The man on top might not have it too difficult, but woe betide the man below, who was shoving a heavy metal blade up over his head constantly. Says A Book of English Trades, published in 1802 to give youths career guidance, “This is a very labourious employment.”

Stocking weaver. Doesn’t sound so terrible, does it? You sat and worked a loom that created wool or silk stockings of all sizes. Unfortunately, there were a few challenges. One, the looms supplanted hand-sewing, replacing skilled labor with unskilled. Some folks took that badly, and, in some cases, violence resulted. For another, the work was long and boring, and you barely made enough to get by. But, notes A Book of English Trades, it was clean work, indoors. There was something to be said for that.

Ratcatcher. Did I notice a wince? Unlike our tech-savvy exterminators today, ratcatchers in the nineteenth century were more hands-on. While they did wield poison when needed, they were more likely to employ traps and deal directly with the vermin. And the vermin were particularly verminous back then. Remember, fleas from rats have been linked to the plague.

So, what do you think? Could you find it in your heart to root for any of these gentlemen as a hero in a romance novel?