Friday, December 23, 2011

A Very Happy Christmas to You!

Happy Christmas, my dears! As Marissa and I often do this time of year, we’ll be taking next week off to spend time with our families. Don’t forget to look for A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee so you can read it with us after the holidays. The Young Bluestockings will be discussing it beginning Tuesday, January 10.

In the meantime, we have a couple Christmas presents for you. The first is that I have 10 copies of my February book, The Rogue’s Reform, up for grabs. There is a small catch. I will send a copy to the first 10 people who e-mail me via my website and can promise to post a review of the book in two places (such as Goodreads, your own blog, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble) by February 14. Tell me where and when, and be among the first 10 people to e-mail me, and a free signed copy will be winging its way to you, over a month before it hits stores. I deeply regret that because of cost issues, I have to limit this offer to those in the U.S.

Secondly, what would a happy Christmas be without a nineteenth century video! This year, we’re delighted to offer a great piece showcasing actual nineteenth century dresses in a French exhibit, Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion. I put the accompanying book on my Christmas list, so I hope Santa thinks I’ve been a good girl this year!

From Marissa and I, a very merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


A few weeks ago I got to do something I’ve always wanted to do: attend a live performance of Handel’s Messiah, performed by Boston’s famed Handel and Haydn Society in Symphony Hall. I was so not disappointed: it was gorgeous, moving, and a total, total delight!

But being the history geek I am, I was almost as struck by the fascinating history of this piece of music. For one thing, this year marked the Society’s 158th annual performance; since 1854 it’s been a part of Christmas in Boston...that's a lot of performances! The Handel and Haydn Society also gave the first American performances of Messiah, with selections performed at its very first concert in December 1815 and the oratorio performed in its entirety in 1818.

The story of Messiah is equally interesting. George Frederick Handel wrote the music for it in just 24 days, after being sent the libretto by his friend and previous collaborator, Charles Jennens. It premiered in Dublin in 1742, and so anticipated was the concert that an ad in one of the city’s newspapers requested that ladies planning on attending the concert not wear hoops, so that more seating could be fit into the concert hall!

Though the London debut was not greeted with as much enthusiasm, within a few years it had achieved the status it now occupies in vocal music. Early on, many objected to an oratorio which contained passages from the Bible being performed in secular playhouses by professional singers, who were regarded along with actors and dancers as being of suspect morality; amusingly, one alto so moved a concert-goer that he shouted, "For this thy sins be forgiven!" after her solo.

There is also a story that the tradition of audiences standing during the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus dates to a performance given for King George II, who was so moved by it that he sprang to his feet (or maybe he’d just dozed off and was startled by the chorus’ exuberant opening). Of course, if the King was standing, everyone else had to stand too, and thus was a tradition born…except that there are no contemporary accounts confirming this story, and the first mentions of audiences standing date from the 1780s. Nevertheless, it’s a fun story!

I’m sure many of you have seen this before, but it seems an appropriate way to end this post. I hope you enjoy this brief musical interlude in the midst of this busy pre-Christmas week!

P.S. To follow up on Regina's reminder about our beloved Miss Austen’s birthday, check this out: has a new portrait of the author been discovered?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest Blogger Judith Laik: Dogs as Companions in the 19th Century, Part 2

We're welcoming back Judith Laik, Regency author and historic dog breed researcher extraordinaire, with the second half of her article on Companion Dogs of the 19th century:

Over the course of the century a great leap took place in the history of dog breeds. Before that, and even during the early years of the century, there was no standardization of the various breeds, no central registries which kept track of the ancestry of dogs, and no shows where dogs were judged according to their adherence to a breed standard.

On the face of it, this fact may not seem of much importance, but it’s really huge. Behind all of today’s breeds there is a mixture of several breeds. (People who breed today’s “designer dogs” seem to think they have a new idea, but it’s not so!) Dog owners didn’t care much about how dogs looked; they bred them for specific purposes, whether to guard their owner’s property, to herd the livestock, to help with hunting, or to be a companion. Dogs were chosen for their abilities, not their appearance.

They started to display the distinctive conformation of their breed when trial and error showed that certain skeletal structures, head types, ear formations, etc., were the most efficient for the work which that breed was supposed to do.

However, this means we might not recognize some of the breeds we know today if we saw their early 19th century counterparts. And many other breeds popular today didn’t yet exist in the earlier years of the century.

An outstanding resource for anyone interested in learning about the various dog breeds is the website of the American Kennel Club. ( All the recognized breeds of the AKC – 175 of them currently – plus an additional 62 breeds they are keeping track of for possible future recognition are listed. Each breed entry has a link to the website of a national organization devoted to that breed, and from there, you can usually find still more sites with photos and information, on breed characteristics, history, and so forth.

What’s your favorite dog character in a book? Mine is “Fitz” from Barbara Metzger’s A Loyal Companion, although I always enjoy reading about dogs in novels.

Thank you for blogging at Nineteenteen! Judith will be back in January with more information on 19th century dogs and their owners.

Two other thoughts to leave with you this Friday: 1) today is Jane Austen's birthday! The dear girl is 236, and her wonderful prose hasn't aged a day! 2) today through Sunday, Regina will be joining other Love Inspired authors on Goodreads to share tidbits on how Jane would have spent Christmas. Stop by the Love Inspired Historical Discussion Group and say hi! You might win a book!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Blogger Judith Laik: Dogs as Companions in the 19th Century, Part 1

This week we're welcoming author Judith Laik to blog on Nineteenteen! Judith writes fiction and non-fiction, and is equally beguiled by the Regency period and dogs. Her research on dogs spans several decades and was originally sparked by her mother’s purchase of a Collie when she was ten. Learning that the breed originated in Scotland led her to a lifelong love of the British Isles. She currently lives on a mini-farm in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, daughter, three horses, two cats, approximately a dozen Collies, and one Scottish Deerhound that doubles as a sofa cover.

Dogs have been the close companions and helpmeets of humans for many thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that people in 19th century England enjoyed the company of their canines.

In the countryside, dogs that helped with hunting, herding, and guarding held sway. But in the city the upper classes usually owned smaller “toy” dogs. You could see young ladies walking their Poodles and Pugs in the squares around their town houses, or taking them along when they promenaded in Hyde Park in their carriages. That's Lady Maria Conyngham in the picture above, painted c. 1824-25 with her spaniel by Sir Thomas Lawrence

The toy breeds have been bred for hundreds of years solely to be pets and companions for the upper classes. Some breeds have been championed by royalty. In the seventeenth century, the Stuart kings made the small toy spaniels, variously called English Toy Spaniels, King Charles Spaniels, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, popular. Pugs became popular when another seventeenth century monarch, William III of Orange, came to England to rule with his wife Mary.

Not as well known now, but popular then, were Italian Greyhounds, which looked very like their larger cousins, the Greyhounds, but in miniature. One might also find examples of the Bichon breeds (Maltese, Bolognese, Havanese, and Bichon Frisé), and Pomeranians, which were larger than the current tiny dogs of that breed. That's a Maltese at left, painted by an unknown British artist some time in the 19th century. Note the poodle-clipped forelegs!

Although the Terriers were usually hardworking farmers’ dogs rather than pampered pets, a number of them, with their appealing faces and happy, feisty personalities, found their way into the homes of the upper classes also.

What makes the bond between owner and dog isn’t determined by logic, and in the 19th century many different dogs were the beloved pets of famous people. Lord Byron owned – and had a memorial built to the memory of – a Newfoundland named Boatswain.

Another famous writer of the early nineteenth century, Sir Walter Scott, owned several Scottish Deerhounds, one of the largest breeds, and was particularly fond of one named Maida (who was a male despite the feminine-sounding name). Scott described the Deerhound as “the most perfect creature of Heaven.”

Queen Victoria, about whom I’ll write more in another article, owned and loved many breeds of dogs and has to be considered the ultimate 19th century dog lover.

Thanks, Judith! On Friday, we'll hear more about the dogs of the 19th century.

Friday, December 9, 2011

This and That and the Young Bluestockings Too!

Sometimes, I simply have so much on my mind that I cannot settle on a topic for my Friday post. This is one of those Fridays. So, be prepared to be amazed, delighted, and enthralled (okay, perhaps merely better informed) by four different topics in one!


Next week is dog week on Nineteenteen! When I wanted to feature a dog that was both security guard and best friend in my November release, An Honorable Gentleman, I turned to a friend of Marissa’s and mine, sister author Judith Laik. Judith has raised show dogs, made quite a study of dogs in early nineteenth century England, and even taught classes to authors writing in that time period. So who better than to write a series of guest posts about man’s, and woman’s, best friend? Check in on Tuesday next week to learn more.


Do you like to play dress up? (Imagine me raising my hand as high as Hermione Granger—me! Me!) You can indulge online. This Regency dress up doll comes with undergarments, outer garments, dresses, and accessories, and you can change her hair color and style too! One warning—it’s a bit addictive!


Interested in seeing what a home might have looked like for Christmas in nineteenth century England? Check out Fairfax House in York, the original winter home of Viscount Fairfax. The site has a lot of lovely pictures, but just stay on the main page for a moment and watch the top slide show. I’m drooling!


The Young Bluestockings ride again! Yes, thanks to popular demand (okay a suggestion during our birthday house party), we are bringing back the Young Bluestockings Book Club! The Young Bluestockings agree to read a YA book set in nineteenth century England then come together on one week to discuss our impressions. Our selection this time is The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (another suggestion). So dash out and get a copy and come prepared to discuss on Tuesday, January 10, and Friday, January 13.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fashion Forecast: 1824

What was the well-dressed young lady wearing in 1824?

This year and next can almost be viewed as the calm before a sartorial storm: the fashions of the 1820s will become progressively more elaborate and exaggerated, until we hit the delightful absurdities of the 1830s. But for now…

If she were stepping out for a stroll, a fashionable young lady might wear this very natty fur-and-embroidery-trimmed Promenade Dress from January’s Ackermann’s Repository. The deep band of fur at the hem appears to be ermine. Note the waist creeping down from just under the bust to nearer the natural waist, the high neck with ruffles, and the adorable shell-shaped purse:

For a quiet morning at home, this is certainly a vibrant Morning Dress, in striped fabric with decorative applique at the hem and a deep frill of lace at the neck which must have been very highly starched to stand up that way! On a less fashion-focused note, did you see how the letter she’s reading was folded and sealed—we’re in the pre-envelope era here! (Ackermann’s Repository, March):

Feathers were definitely “in” for Court Dresses this year, as can be seen in this image from the June Lady’s Magazine—the poor dear’s head is nearly eclipsed by them! But the flower-trimmed pink satin train and the scalloped lace of the hem are charming, I think:
The detail on this Ball Dress from June’s Ackermann’s is lovely: note the ribbon applique on the sleeves and bodice, the ruching around the hem, and the pleated silk turban with tassels hanging coquettishly to one side…and best of all—she’s eating ice cream!
Also from June’s Lady’s Magazine is a dainty white satin Opera Dress trimmed with stuffed appliques at the hem and a pink satin cloak trimmed with swan’s down and gold tassels:
Here’s another print I wish I had the caption for: I’d love to know what the beautiful aquamarine fabric was made of. It looks to be subtly striped, with two heavy wadded decorative bands called rouleaux at the hem separated by a row of blossoms which also decorate the bodice and hem. An altogether charming Ball Dress from August’s Ackermann’s:
Here’s another elegant Promenade Dress that showcases several emerging fashion trends for this and the next few years: the sleeves caught in puffs down the length of the arm in a rather Renaissance-ish style, the larger hat with lappets left hanging free (see them also in the Opera Dress above) and the waist at the natural waistline (Ackermann’s Repository, October):
Here are those gathered and puffed sleeves again in an Evening Dress from November's Ackermann's, with a heavier wadded rouleau at the hem as well as daintier gold embroidery which can be seen as well around the low neckline. Notice her curls? You’ll be seeing lots of them over the rest of the 1820s, along with crimped waves reminiscent of a 30s Hollywood starlet. Smooth hair was definitely not in!
What do you think of 1824’s fashions?

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Grand Tour, Part 2: Sailing Away!

My dears, we are about to embark on our Grand Tour! We are booked to take the Dover packet today across the Channel to Calais. From there, we’ll travel by carriage to Paris. When we’ve filled ourselves with French pastries, we will travel over the Alps to Italy and through the countryside to Venice, then down to Rome. After seeing the sights there, we will take ship for Sicily, then Malta, and then Athens. From Athens, we’ll return home by ship to England via Gibraltar. I do hope I can count you as a traveling companion!

However, one of our traveling companions is coming along in a very helpful book. I have with me the guidance of Mariana Starke, a well-traveled lady who is not at all stingy with her advice. Mrs. Starke as she was known (although she never married) lived in India with her mother and father when she was a child and resided for many years in Italy, traveling in France as well. Her books were the first truly practical travel guides for Europe, including things like how to obtain passports, how much to spend on food, and where to stay in various cities. She was the first to use a rating system (like the stars of the Michelin guides or the diamonds of AAA), consisting of a number of exclamation points.

Mrs. Starke’s advice on what to take with us in our travels is quite extensive, but I shall put what I deem the most important here:

  • Our own sheets, pillow, and blankets. She also advises that our sheets be made of sheepskin, and that we bring essential oil of lavender to sprinkle upon our beds each night to drive away bedbugs and fleas.

  • A mosquito net of thin gauze

  • A travelling-chamber lock to affix upon our doors

  • Pens, ink-powder, and wax wafers for letter writing

  • Double-soled shoes and boots to take the chill from marble and brick floors
  • A trunk covered with thick, painted sail cloth

  • Our passports

  • Letters of recommendation to all British ministers as well as highly respected persons in each of the cities to which we are travelling

  • Likewise letters of credit from our bank in London, so that we only have to carry a small bit of cash and won’t be more attractive targets to robbers

  • And a clever little device supposedly the size of a reticule called a soldier’s comfort. According to Mrs. Starke, it can serve as night-light, stove, and saucepan for cooking meats and vegetables.

All packed? Good! I’ve had your trunks sent ahead from the inn to the ship. We must stop by the Customs House in Dover and have them examine our passports. Goodness, but it’s a bit of a crush! With France being opened just recently after all the troubles with Napoleon, it seems everyone wants to be in Paris. There’s a retired general who will travel on the same ship with us, an ex-pat French aristocrat going back to see what might be left of his family, and several young gentlemen intent like us on seeing more of the world. The weather looks good for our passage, which should take about half a day, tide willing. I do hope no one gets seasick! The Channel is notorious for that.

Next stop, Calais, and then Paris!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Such Language! Part 9

More linguistic shenanigans from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue! I usually have fun coming up with silly sentences to use the words and phrases in it, but in some cases the definitions themselves are such fun or are so interesting that they need no help from me. Here’s a few of those:

Kimbaw: to trick, cheat, or cozen; also to beat or bully. To set one’s arms a-kimbaw, vulgarly pronounced a-kimbo, is to rest one’s hands on one’s hips, keeping the elbows square, and sticking out from the body, an insolent, bullying attitude.

Fieri Facias: A red-faced man is said to have been served with a writ of fieri facias.

Bag of Nails: He squints like a bag of nails; i.e. his eyes are directed as many ways as the points of a bag of nails.

Firing a gun: Introducing a story by head and shoulders. A man wanting to tell a particular story, said to the company, Hark! Did you not hear a gun?—but now that we are talking of a gun, I will tell you a story of one.

Gluepot: A parson: from joining men and women together in holy matrimony.

Flummery: Oatmeal and water boiled to a jelly; also, compliments, neither of which are over-nourishing.

Pitt’s Picture: A window stopped up [bricked over] from the inside, to save the window tax imposed in that gentleman’s administration.

Cherry-colored cat: A black cat, there being black cherries as well as red.

Boh: He cannot say Boh! to a goose; i.e. he is a cowardly or sheepish fellow. There is a story related of the celebrated Ben Jonson, who always dressed very plain; on being introduced to the presence of a nobleman, the peer, struck by his homely appearance and awkward manner, exclaimed, as if in doubt, “You, Ben Jonson! Why, you look as though you could not say boh to a goose!” “Boh!” replied the wit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers!

Although Thanksgiving was not a holiday that would have been celebrated by the 19th century British young ladies of our books, Regina and I certainly celebrate it…and one of the things we’re most thankful for is you, our readers. You’re truly what keeps us blogging every week…so thank you!

Now, just because Thanksgiving isn’t a 19th century British holiday doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it in our own way…so Regina and I would like to offer you some recipes with a 19th century flavor that might do well at your own Thanksgiving feast.

This first one is from Beeton’s Book of Household Management, first published in England in 1861 by Mrs. Isabella Beeton. Remember that name…you’ll be hearing more about her in the coming weeks. This sounds like a terrific way to use up leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes:

Potato Rissoles

Mashed potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced parsley
Egg (number depends on how much mashed potatoes is available)
Bread crumbs (likewise)

Beat the egg in a shallow dish. Set bread crumbs aside in another shallowdish or plate. Add a seasoning of pepper and salt and a little minced parsley to the mashed potatoes. Roll the potatoes into small balls, dip them into the egg and then cover them in bread crumbs. Fry in hot oil or butter for about 10 minutes. Drain and dish them on a napkin, then serve. Note.-The flavour of these rissoles may be very much increased by adding finely-minced tongue or ham, or even chopped onions, when these are liked.

And here’s a recipe from Queen Victoria’s chief chef, Charles Francatelli:

French Beans with fine herbs

Pick over, trim, and wash string beans, and boil in lightly salted water until tender. Put two pats of butter into a stewpan with a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and also two shallots finely chopped, a little nutmeg, mignionette pepper [a mix of black and white pepper and coriander] and salt, and the juice of a lemon; simmer this over a stove-fire until melted, and then add the beans, tossing the whole together, and serve.

This last recipe isn’t 19th century, but it makes its appearance every year on my Thanksgiving table:

Pickled Ginger Cranberry Sauce (from Cooks Country Magazine, October/November 2008)

Pulse one 16 ounce can cranberry sauce (I prefer whole berry myself—gives a better texture), 2 tablespoons drained pickled ginger, and 1 teaspoon wasabi powder or dry mustard in foor processor until combined. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Have a pleasant Thanksgiving, full of good food and good company!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Grand Tour, Part 1: Planning

First, I’m very pleased to announce that Beebs won my second chance copy of An Honorable Gentleman. The Random Number Generator does not lie, even though its choice was oddly fitting since she also guessed right but lost out in the first chance! Beebs, contact me at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it right out to you.

During our birthday house party, Lo suggested that we talk about activities on the Continent, such as the Grand Tour. As the Grand Tour was rather, well, grand, I’m planning for the topic to take a few posts to relay, and I’ll be sprinkling them in between now and spring.

To start out with, the Grand Tour came to be the term used for a trip a young man took to complete his education in the nineteenth century, sort of the senior road trip some take today. Only this trip took considerably more than roads to accomplish!

The general purpose of the Grand Tour was exposure. By traveling to foreign climes, the young man would see art, architecture, manners, customs, and cultures different from his own and come back better informed and better able to take part in his own society. The young men were generally gentry or aristocrats, and most often British, although youths from Northern European countries sometimes traveled as well, and there are accounts of Americans and South Americans joining the party.
On your trip, you were expected to view the other cultures, partake only to a certain extent that was proper, and somehow memorialize your impressions, whether through painting, writing a journal, or carting home representative books, artwork, or tokens that would then be displayed with pride the resulting years of your life.

So how did one go about preparing for a Grand Tour? I imagine there was a lot of dreaming involved, discussions with fathers, uncles, and older friends who had gone. Then, as you were finishing Oxford, say, and were between 17 and 20 years of ago, your family would look for a suitable guide to escort you. This guide would be a gentleman of some learning or pretension to the arts who could serve as companion, chaperone, and bodyguard. This paragon came to be called a bear-leader. Your parents paid the bear-leader to take you on your tour and ensure you had an educational, enjoyable, and not too enthusiastic time and that you came home safely, mind expanded, all limbs still intact. If you were wealthy enough, you had your own guide; otherwise you might share with one or two other young men.

The Grand Tour could take several months, or several years, depending on the itinerary and your family’s wealth and willingness to have you away from home. The most common itinerary included time in France (when Britain was not at war with it), Switzerland, and Italy (Rome, Venice, Naples), but might extend to the German States, Spain (when it was not at war), and Greece (if you weren’t afraid to brave the Ottoman Empire). As the nineteenth century wore on, and train travel became more available, more people began to take their own Grand Tours, whether young men from mercantile families or even well-chaperoned young ladies.

So, your families had the good sense to hire you two ladies with reasonable credentials and some experience with literature (cough, cough, Regina and Marissa). Think about where you’d like to go on your Grand Tour, ladies, and perhaps we can plot out an itinerary for the next few months.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Off Topic: Field Trip!

I'm taking a break this Tuesday from our usual historical fare because I've got something wicked neat to show if you don't mind...

The weekend before this past one the Doyle family took a road trip to western New York to visit Doyle Child #1 at his college on lovely Seneca Lake, one of the famed Finger Lakes. In addition to our usual activities when we're out there, like visiting wineries like Hermann J. Weimer and Red Tail Ridge--it's fascinating to see the hillsides covered with grapevines and have a chance to chat with the chief winemaker while he's sorting late-harvest riesling grapes for a special dessert wine...and buying the world’s best cider and juices at Red Jacket Orchard--we paid a visit to the town at the very bottom (southern) end of the lake, Watkins Glen, to visit the amazing Watkins Glen State Park.

Have I ever mentioned that we’re geology buffs? Well, Watkins Glen State Park was sheer heaven…but you don’t have to be interested in rocks to appreciate what a beautiful place it is!

So here's the background story. A pretty huge part of New York state was, for millions of years in the Paleozoic Era, at the bottom of the ocean. Which means that the rock that we see there now is made up of former ocean bottom sediment, layers of siltstone and shale and other sedimentary rocks hundreds of feet thick and hundreds of millions of years old. If you've ever driven down Interstate 90/the New York Throughway, you've seen it by the sides of the road and in the deep road cuts--it's pretty interesting rock!

Seneca and the other Finger Lakes of New York are more recent in origin--they were left behind after the retreat of the last glacier about ten thousand years ago. Now what does water generally do? Run downhill, of course. For the last ten thousand years, Glen Creek has been flowing downhill toward Seneca Lake, and in the process, it's worn down through all those ancient layers of shale and siltstone, to create the amazing gorge of Watkins Glen.

Even the parking lot is cool--the 200 ft. cliffs here gave us a hint of what was to come: And almost immediately, you meet the first waterfall. There are 19 of them all together: There were stairs...lots of stairs. But that was neat, because it meant that sometimes you were up high near the top of the gorge, and at others, down at water level, giving you both perspectives.

Walking behind waterfalls...very cool! Doyle Child #2 thought so, anyway:Eddies in the creek have carved circular potholes in the riverbed. That's looking straight down about 70 feet up on a bridge crossing the gorge: And it just gets cooler...
And cooler:
And cooler: And cooler still (that's another waterfall, Rainbow Falls, that you can walk behind--it flows right off the top of the gorge): We loved it and will certainly be going back in the spring--if you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it! Now, how could I work this place into a story some day...?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apologies and Second Chances

I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that I'd forgotten something important. I promised you a second chance to win a signed copy of An Honorable Gentleman! My apologies for completely overlooking that on Friday's post. Please put my lapse down to publication giddiness.

Anyone who comments on Friday's post or this one by midnight West Coast US time on Thursday, November 17, will be entered into a drawing for a copy. I will announce the winner next Friday, the 18th.

In the meantime, please enjoy the book's trailer. You're well aware of the story by now, but I hope you enjoy the pictures (many from old postcards of the Lake District) and the music.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Introducing Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam of Blackcliff

Thank you all for your kind words! An Honorable Gentleman is actually my twentieth book, and the excitement of knowing it’s out in the wild, where anyone might pick it up and read it, is still heady. I appreciate those of you who hazarded a guess in the contest. The winner of the autographed copy is Rose De Guzman who correctly guessed (ahead of Beebs) that I had intended William IV, Duke of Clarence, to be the man who had fathered Sir Trevor. Rose, please send me your mailing info at Just think. If Trevor had been legitimate, he would have been King of England instead of Victoria! I wonder what the Trevorian era would have been like. :-)

So, in honor of the man who would never be king, today I’d like to ask my heroine, Gwendolyn Allbridge, to interview Sir Trevor for us. Gwen is the daughter of the estate steward at Blackcliff Hall, and she’s actually running the place.

Gwen: Sh! You aren’t supposed to tell my father or Sir Trevor. They think they’re in charge.

Nineteenteen: Ah, of course. Sorry. Ahem, Miss Allbridge, apprentice midwife and helpful young lady . . .

Gwen: Much better.

Nineteenteen: Is here today to introduce us to Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam of Blackcliff. Take it away, Gwen.

Gwen: Thank you. As you may know, Sir Trevor recently took on ownership of the Blackcliff estate when he was awarded his baronetcy for services to the Crown. Would you care to elaborate, Sir Trevor?

Trevor: It was an administrative matter. Nothing of consequence.

Gwen: Important enough to earn you a baronetcy and the finest estate in Cumberland.

Trevor: I’m afraid I must disagree, my dear, on several points. I solved a problem for a titled fellow, and he saw fit to recommend me to the king for elevation. And I’d hardly call Blackcliff the finest estate in Cumberland or any other part of England. The house and outbuildings are decaying, the mine that paid for them is closed up, and there’s not enough land to sustain any other sort of agriculture. In truth, it’s a sad disappointment.

Gwen: Well, it will be the finest, when you’re done improving it, I’m certain. And do not give me that eye, sir. I know you will be the salvation for this place. The villagers already look up to you.

Trevor: They look up to you, and I can see why. I’ve never met a woman with more energy and drive. You concoct potions that cure illnesses, you managed an army of volunteers to clean this cavernous house from the schoolroom to the scullery, and somehow you find time to cook for your father, sew your own clothes, and train your guard dog.

Gwen: Oh, yes, Dolly. Isn’t she a dear?

Trevor: She is the largest mastiff I’ve ever seen, and any man with an ounce of sense would run at first sight. I don’t know how you manage her or half the other things you do. Frankly, madam, you exhaust me.

Gwen, dimpling: Why, Sir Trevor, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Trevor: You have obviously been associating with the wrong sort of fellow. You make me wish . . .

Gwen, breathlessly: What?

Trevor, quietly: That I was an honorable gentleman.

Nineteenteen: Ahem, well, I think we'll all just slip out now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

Surprise! It’s Regina posting today. I’m being a blog hog this week because today marks the official release of An Honorable Gentleman. As we always do when Marissa or I have a new book out, we’re going to dedicate this week to celebrating. Today starts with a prize offering: a signed copy of An Honorable Gentleman. Read on, and I’ll tell you how you can be entered into the drawing.

You see, my hero in this book, Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam, has had a rough upbringing. His father and mother weren’t married to each other. Being raised without a dad can be tough on any kid, but in the early nineteenth century in England it was particularly hard. Back then, the rules of primogeniture, as they were called, still held firm. That meant, in most cases, the oldest legitimate boy of the family inherited everything. No splitting down the middle, no shares for younger brothers, and nothing for girls.

Oh, there were certainly exceptions. Fathers and mothers could leave certain pieces of property or small bequests to their children in their wills. The only legitimate child who was a daughter might receive enough to be considered an heiress. But the bulk of all titles and lands went to that oldest son, of the first marriage. No father could play favorites (“I like your brother Parsimmon better, so he gets to be the earl.”) or disown a son he found less than respectable (“You don’t deserve to be earl, so I’m giving it to your cousin Englebert.”)

Sometimes fathers would at least acknowledge the son they’d had out of wedlock, giving the child money for schooling or helping him become a secretary to a rising politician or land steward, something gentlemanly even if he wasn’t exactly a gentleman. Fathers might also help daughters born out of wedlock make suitable marriages, offering a dowry or connections. Other times, fathers never let on they even knew the girl or boy, leaving the girls to fend for themselves and the lads wondering how they might become honorable gentlemen.

That’s the case with Sir Trevor. His father won’t publically admit that Trevor is his son. In fact, the father’s name is never mentioned in the book. But I’ve put in some clues as to who his father MIGHT be.

So, here’s the deal. The first person who correctly guesses the real-life historical figure who might be Trevor’s father, without giving away how she/he figured it out, will win an autographed copy. Just post the name in your comment. I’ll reveal all on Friday, when I’ll give you another chance to win. Here are your clues:
  • Trevor’s last name is Fitzwilliam, which is not his father’s or mother’s last name.

  • His father was a Navy captain at one time.

  • His father is connected with the reigning family in 1815.

  • His father had a tendency to fall in love with actresses, from an early age.

Let the guessing begin.

Friday, November 4, 2011

And Then There's the King's Herbwoman

Isn’t that a wonderful title for a position? I ran across it this week when I was looking for inspiration for this blog post. (Ah, research! Lovely, lovely research!) Brings to mind a mystical lady hunched over her cauldron, pinch of this, bit of that, Poof! But that’s not what an herbwoman did, particularly not the King’s Herbwoman.

When George IV was coronated on July 19, 1821, hundreds took part in the procession: Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Bath, the privy councillor, 52 barons, untold other title holders, and even the Honorable Band of Gentleman Pensioners. And who led this procession of dignitaries? Who was so important to actually go first? The heralds with their trumpets? The Home Guards?

No. The King’s Herbwoman and her teenage herbstrewers.

The post of King’s Herbwoman had been hereditary since it began during the the coronation of Charles I in 1625. At that time, people believed that scenting the air with herbs would prevent them from contracting the Plague and any number of other contagious diseases. In 1821, the post apparently belonged to a Mary Raymer, but there was a lot of campaigning by ladies of fashion to oust her for one of their own. The winner was 50-year-old Miss Fellowes, a statuesque brunette, the sister of the secretary to the Lord Chamberlain. Apparently Prinny had promised her the part some time ago. We shall not speculate on how that came about.

In any event, Miss Fellowes led the procession, sprinkling flowers from a small basket at her side, all along the way from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. According to accounts she was dressed in white satin with a scarlet mantle trimmed in gold lace. She wore a laurel and oak wreath on her head and a medallion and chain around her neck, the symbol of her office. She hand-picked her attendants: six young ladies, all around seventeen years of age, who were her herbstrewers. The misses Garth, Collier, Ramsbottom, Hill, Daniel, and Walker walked in pairs, each pair carrying a larger basket of flowers. This is one of their gowns, on display at the Royal Pavilion Art Gallery and Museum in Brighton. According to accounts, it’s ivory cotton gauze over silk. Missing is the high ruffed collar they all wore.

Can you imagine the excitement? You’re seventeen years old, and you get to lead the procession to the King’s coronation through the streets. Of all the young ladies making their debuts this Season, the King’s Herbwoman picks you. I think I shall swoon!

These young ladies, however, was among the last herbstrewers, and poor Mary Raymer never did get a chance to hold the post she’d inherited. William the IV limited the expenses at his coronation and did away with the office. It has never been revived.

Okay. That’s my goal. When it comes time for Charles or William to take the throne, I want to be his herbwoman. Anyone up for being an herbstrewer?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Butler Did It

This is another in our occasional series on servants young ladies of the upper classes would have encountered in the 19th century. We have already discussed ladies’ maids here and governesses here and here.

So what did the butler do?

Perhaps a better question might be, what didn’t the butler do?

In a 19th century household, the butler was often the chief of staff. In extremely grand and important families, especially where several houses were owned, there might be a house steward or comptroller whose job it was to supervise all household staff including hiring and firing and take care of all household accounting. But in an average wealthy or upper middle class household, the chief servant was probably the butler.

Looking back in history, the butler’s job revolved around the keeping of the household’s beverage supply and dishware, and in the 19th century, these would still be among his jobs. It was up to the butler to maintain the household wine cellars (including beer, ale, and other spirits, as well as the wine) and choose and serve wines for the family table…no small job, when you think about the quantities and sheer number of different wines that were served at meals as well as the fact that wine was purchased by the barrel or pipe and had to be decanted into bottles and properly recorded and stored in the correct part of the cellar for its type. Some butlers might actually be brewmasters as well, and brew the household’s beer, ale, or cider. Needless to say, alcoholism was considered to be an occupational hazard of butlery! The butler also oversaw the household plate: it was his job to keep any silver (or gold!) gleaming when in use, and safely stored under lock and key when it wasn’t.

The duties of a butler, as laid out in the fascinating book The Complete Servant, published in 1825 by Samuel and Sarah Adams, a married butler and housekeeper, were quite specific: he aided in the setting of tables, supervising the under-butler and footmen in laying out dishes and utensils, and remained in the dining room during meals with footman or two or three to assist in serving food and wine, direct clearing of the table between courses, and assist in any way needed. He also would bring tea trays in at tea time and hand round cups…and it was his job to make sure there were sufficient candles in each room where needed.

But the butler was also, as the Adamses state, “supposed….to represent his master”, which meant he also might be occupied in hiring and firing lower servants, keeping accounts and paying household bills apart from those which fell under the housekeeper’s purview, and generally keeping the household in order in addition to his wine and serving duties. Supervision of all male indoor servants (under-butlers, footmen, “boys”, and porters) was generally up to the butler, if the household did not have a comptroller. He was where the buck stopped; a good butler who could keep a household running smoothly would be treasured by his employers, and be more or less assured of a job for life, with a good pension when he retired. Butlers often rose through the ranks to achieve their positions: they started out at an early age "in service" first as boot boys or pages, then progressed to footman, then first footman or under-butler, where, if they wanted to, they could train specifically in a butler's duties.

Because of his responsible position, a butler could earn as much as ₤50-80 per year, according to The Complete Servant—not a bad salary in 1825. Just as ladies’ maids could supplement their salaries with the cast-off clothing of their mistresses, butlers could supplement theirs by selling candle ends (Yes, really! Beeswax candles were very expensive)…and a great many must have received nice tips from the wine-merchants and other tradesmen they dealt with.

So that's what the butler did.

One thing the butler didn't do was draw a winner for a signed copy of Jennifer Bradbury's Wrapped from among last week's commenters...instead, that happy duty falls to me. And the winner is...Lynn Lovegreen! Lynn, please send me your mailing address via the contact form on my website so we can get your book sent out to you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Guest post: Walk Like an Egyptian

Today we're welcoming back Jen Bradbury, author of Wrapped, with a seasonally appropriate guest post.

In honor of the spooky season, Marissa and Regina invited me to share a bit about a key plot point in Wrapped: mummy unwrappings. To that end, here is what I know.

They happened.

That’s sort of it.

But I should back up a bit.

During the nineteenth century, Egypt mania took over the western world. Archaeologists and expeditions from all over Europe and the Americas converged on Egypt, seeking knowledge, treasure and, of course, mummies. The lost empire that raised the pyramids and apparently covered everything else in gold wormed its way into the collective imagination of the culture. Its influence could be seen in fashion, architecture, and literature. And when Napoleon took 40,000 troops into the Nile Delta in 1798, the move was motivated by political and personal ambitions. Even he was fascinated by the mystique of Egypt, fancying himself something of a pharaoh. As artifacts from Egypt began to make their way back to museums in Europe and beyond, public fascination and curiosity grew. But the centerpieces of these collections were always the mummies—objects that spoke to the scholarly and macabre interests of people simultaneously.

Somewhere along the way, individuals began acquiring mummies privately. Nell Gwynn, mistress of Charles the second, was thought to have owned a mummy given her by one of her admirers. The most famously cited piece of evidence for the parties themselves comes in the form of an invitation from 1850.

“Come to Lord Longsberry's at 2 p.m., Piccadilly, for the unwrapping of a mummy from Thebes. Champagne and canapés to follow.”

But despite knowing that they happened, there is some debate as to the context in which they did occur. According to legend (and as the above invite suggests), they became en vogue among the upper class for fun as they discovered trinkets tucked into the wrappings (like a piñata! Only deader!). Still others contend that unwrappings were conducted primarily in the spirit of scientific inquiry. As a writer of fiction, I love the ambiguity of it all, the room it gives me to embroider and create a story touching on so strange a practice. But not everyone shares my enthusiasm in that regard.

So why don’t we have better details and evidence about the practice of mummy unwrappings? We may never know, but I have my own pet theories. I suspect that those who participated in the practice maybe later realized it wasn’t the sort of thing they really wanted to brag about after all. Or perhaps, the curse of the mummy they disturbed caught up with them in the end, and they didn’t survive to tell the tale.

Is it bad that I hope it might have been the latter? ‘Tis the season, after all.

Thanks, Jen, and thank you for visiting Nineteenteen! Don't forget that all commenters this week through Halloween night will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Wrapped!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This week's guest: Jen Bradbury and Wrapped!

This week at Nineteenteen we're delighted to bring you Jen Bradbury, author of the Regency-set young adult adventure novel Wrapped!

Regina and I got to know Jen through the Class of 2K8 promotional group for debut authors, and when we found out she was working on a historical YA, we knew we'd have to bring her here to meet you. Since her book Wrapped has a slightly spooky, Halloween-ish theme to it--mummies!--we thought this would be the perfect week to invite her. Here's her official bio, and then we'll get on to our chat with Jen:

Jennifer Bradbury’s debut novel, Shift—which Kirkus Reviews starred, calling it “fresh, absorbing, compelling”—was picked as an ALA and a School Library Journal Best Book for Young Adults, was a YALSA pick, and made the Booklist Top 10 lists for both Crime Fiction for Youth and Sports Literature. Her most recent release, Wrapped, has been reviewed as “A winning combination of Egyptian mythology, English Regency, and just a hint of romance, this charming caper delivers both historical detail and boisterous entertainment.” A former English teacher and one-day Jeopardy! champ, she lives in Burlington, Washington, with her husband and two small children.

Nineteenteen: Welcome to Nineteenteen, Jen! Your first book, Shift, was a contemporary story set in the US featuring two boy main characters. So Wrapped is a bit of a departure from that…will you tell us how you came to write it? How was it a different experience from writing Shift?

Jen: It is a bit of a departure, I admit. But I'm very lucky to have a supportive agent, and extremely lucky to an an editor who understands and maybe even appreciates that I'm a bit all over the place with my interests. Wrapped actually came about when I was waiting on my first round of editorial feedback for Shift. I was so anxious about that process (and worrying if I could actually pull off what my editor wanted), that I had to figure out some sort of escape. So I dug up an old nugget of trivia that a professor shared in a lit class once about mummy unwrapping parties, and ran with it. The book required a lot more research (which was fun to get lost in as well), and gave me a chance to write in a voice that came a little more naturally to me.

Nineteenteen: Your heroine, Agnes Wilkins, turns out to be quite an intrepid character (which is all I can say without including spoilers!) Do you consider yourself adventurous? What’s the most swashbuckling thing you’ve ever done? And do you speak as many languages as she does?

Jen: Agnes is one of those girls I sort of wish I was, but yes, I am pretty adventurous. We used to do a lot of climbing and backpacking, and we once biked cross country (like the guys in Shift). I have the same longing to travel and see odd parts of the world that she does, but sadly, I've never found myself embroiled in an international conspiracy. And alas, I speak only a tiny bit of French, so I'm very jealous of dear Agnes in that regard.

Nineteenteen: Agnes is an avid reader of the novels of Jane Austen…so I’m going to guess that maybe you are too? What’s your favorite Jane book? And what were your favorite books when you were a teen?

Jen: I adore Jane Austen. Oddly enough I didn't read any of her novels until I was studying abroad in Cambridge in 1995. But I read them all that semester for a class, and loved them all. My favorite is still Persuasion. I just adore those characters and that particular love story. As far as favorite books when I was a teen, I mostly read what I was assigned for school, but I loved most of those. I still reread Jane Eyre pretty often, and Frankenstein was a favorite then and now. What I did read outside of class, oddly enough, was usually sci-fi or comic books.

Nineteenteen: Oh, Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne--"You pierce my soul"--has to be one of the most romantic moments in all of JA!

Of course, the “bad guy” in Wrapped is revealed at the end of the story, in best mystery fashion. Are you a mystery fan? Which characters to you have more fun writing—good guys, or bad guys?

Jen: I love mysteries! I forgot to mention the Sue Grafton alphabet mystery series in the question above. I devoured those in high school and still seek out the new ones when she publishes them. But more than being a mystery fan, I'm a lover of anything that makes me want to turn the pages quickly.

As far as who I have more fun writing, it mostly depends on the scene. But generally, the good guys interest me more.

Nineteenteen: Have you been to Egypt? Have ancient Egyptian culture and history always been of interest to you?

Jen: My little sister and I were obssessed with ancient Egypt when we were kids, and still are to some degree. I remember we read tons of Egyptian mythology when we were little, and were fascinated by the stories. While I have never been to Egypt, the sequel for Wrapped is set in Cairo shortly after the events of the first book, so I feel like I have an even better reason to go there someday. Maybe my little sister can make the journey with me.

Nineteenteen: Can we come too? How did you research the history for Wrapped? Did you have any funny research moments, or moments that sent a chill up your spine?

Jen: Generally, I start with an idea to hang it on--in this case it was that weird thing about mummy unwrapping parties. But from there I've got to figure out how to grow that idea into a book. For me, it all grows out of asking myself questions, teasing the story into some kind of shape, and then breaking into a really loose, rough outline. At that point, I stop and research more formally. And the biggest, most wonderful gift that emerged in the my research process ended up being the fact that Napoleon was as enamoured of Egyptian culture as you could hope for, and then the story took off in earnest.

Nineteenteen: What’s next for you…or for that matter, for Agnes? Will we be seeing a sequel to Wrapped, or other YA historical fiction from you?

Jen: I just finished the first pass at the line edits on my next book, another historical novel. It is set in the Punjab in 1947, just as partition of India and Pakistan were finalized. This one is pretty weighty compared to Agnes' adventure, but I'm very excited about it. After that, I've got a sequel to Wrapped, and we just sent my editor two more manuscripts--one contemporary and one historical.

Nineteenteen: Good luck with your Punjabi story, and we'll definitely be watching for more of Agnes. Where can readers learn more about you and your books online?

Jen: Visit me at my website Sadly, I don't blog, or tweet, or even have a facebook page. I'm a mother of two small kids! Answering emails is a luxury!

Nineteenteen: Then we're very happy you were able to squeeze in a visit with us, Jen. :)

Stay tuned for Friday, when Jen will tell us a little more about mummy-unwrapping parties in the early 19th century...and be sure to leave a comment! All commenters this week through next Monday evening (that's Halloween!) will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Wrapped.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This and That and a Here-and-Therian

Forgive the fragmented post, my dears, but I had so many things I wanted to share, and none were really large enough to warrant a post on their own. So, here are five things to amuse you on a Friday:

Those of you who like sparklies may want to check out this post by historical author Tara Cohen about a nineteenth century set of jewels held by the Swedish Royal Treasury. Drool worthy!

Some of you may remember our posts on nineteenth century country dances, such as this one by guest blogger Gail Eastwood. Now, thanks to, there’s a wonderful resource online for learning the steps. They’ve even provided animation so you can envision what the couples would be doing. Interesting and entertaining!

During our birthday house party, Lo suggested that we host more current authors of YA set in the nineteenth century. We’re delighted that next week Jennifer Bradbury will be joining us to talk about her book, Wrapped. Hint: It’s a perfect lead in to Halloween!

October 30 is the 200th anniversity of the publication of Sense and Sensibility and officially Talk Like Jane Austen Day. To celebrate, Marissa and I will be guest blogging at SOS Aloha. Stop by and say hi, or should I say, offer us your esteemed company, if you have a chance.

A here-and-therian was a fellow who couldn’t commit to anything (a bit like this post), who traveled about with no set home or preferred to chase women rather than catch them; as in “I truly thought Englebert would propose this time, but he’s such a here-and-therian that I suppose I’ll never bring him up to snuff!”

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Delightful Surprise on a Monday

I received a most exciting—and unexpected—package in the mail yesterday. When I opened it, I found these:

Yes, it’s the Advance Reader Edition (also known as Advance Reader Copy, ARC, or uncorrected proof) of Courtship and Curses! They were ready much earlier than I expected, since the book doesn’t actually hit shelves until early August of next year, and so don't contain all the final corrections of typos and so on…but what fun to see them!

Here’s a better view of the cover:And here’s the cover copy:
Sophie’s entrance into London society isn't what she thought it would be: Mama isn't there to guide her, Papa is buried in his work fighting Napoleon, and Sophie's newly-acquired limp keeps her from dancing at any of those glittering balls. If it weren't for her shopping escapades with her new French friend Amélie and a flirtation with the dashing Lord Woodbridge, she would think this season a complete disaster.

But when someone uses magic to attack Papa the night of Sophie’s first ball, her problems escalate, especially when it becomes clear that all the members of the War Cabinet are being targeted. Can she catch the culprit and keep her own magic powers hidden long enough to win herself a match?

Can you tell I’m just a little excited?