“This country has reached a very alarming crisis. Torn by two parties…Congress enacting laws it is unable to enforce …only to substitute equally bad ones…”
Sound familiar? I’m know I’m not alone in finding the factionalism in the United States to be frightening, but it comforts me to know that this worry is not unique in time. The words above were written by Rosalie Stier Calvert in 1809. Like me, Rosalie is a mother who did most of her work from home in suburban Maryland. But while I would put myself in the “average” category in many areas, Rosalie would fit into the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” category. She was born into a wealthy European family who fled to the United States in 1794 to escape the Reign of Terror. Though they had to leave behind the family castle, townhouse and other property, they brought enough gold to ensure they could live like nobility. Rosalie did not much care for her new home. After a few months, she wrote “America displeases me more and more every day–you meet only scoundrels.” (more…)
Archive for the ‘Regency’ Category
“This country has reached a very alarming crisis. Torn by two parties…Congress enacting laws it is unable to enforce …only to substitute equally bad ones…”
Don’t we feel sorry for the poor troubled aristocratic family in Downton Abbey? Not so much, I think. Because even on their worst days, they never even have to think about taking out the trash or scrubbing crusted food off a dinner plate. They have servants to do those things for them.
Less than a hundred years ago, even families considered “poor” usually had at least some hired help living in or near the house and assisting with household duties. But today the price of labor has increased so much that it is a true luxury to have help around the house, especially on a full-time basis.
So now most of us can enjoy hearing about problems with servants since we can’t afford them anyway. Jonathan Swift, best known as the author of Gulliver’s Travels, apparently had a great deal of trouble, either real or imagined, with his household staff. He wrote sarcastic “Directions to Servants” instructing them how to perform their duties as poorly as possible.
Here’s an example: “Masters and Ladies” he says, “are usually quarrelling with the Servants for not shutting the Doors after them: But neither Masters nor Ladies consider that those Doors must be open before they can be shut, and that the Labour is double to open and shut the Doors; therefore the best and shortest, and easiest Way is to do neither.”
Hey, makes sense to me. And it will keep down the heating bills.
I wonder if he had kids in mind when he wrote this next bit of advice, because modern parents can definitely relate. “Never come till you have been called three or four Times;” he advises, “for none but Dogs will come at the first Whistle: And when the Master calls (Who’s there?) no Servant is bound to come; for (Who’s there) is no Body’s Name.”
Another piece of advice that might also apply to teens is how to handle the situation when you’ve been out on an errand and stayed out a little too long (2,4, 6 or 8 hours). He offers a list of excuses such as (1)you had to say goodbye to a dear cousin who is about to be hanged next Saturday; (2) a fellow servant who owed you money was about to run off to Ireland so you had to track him down; (3) you were pressed into service in the navy and it took three hours explaining before the Justice of the Peace why you couldn’t go; (4) your dad gave you a cow to sell; (5) you were told your master was in a tavern so you had to search for him “in a hundred Taverns between Pall-mall and Temple-bar;”or my personal favorite, (6) “Some Nastiness was thrown on you out of a Garret Window, and you were ashamed to come Home before you were cleaned, and the Smell went off:”
While we might have to deal with some lame excuses from our children or employees these days, we do not generally have to worry about being hit with the contents of a chamber pot thrown out someone’s window. And for that, I am grateful, even if it means I live in a day and age where I can’t afford servants.
As a senior in high school, my daughter is in the midst of her London Season—the 21st Century version. Two hundred years ago, the greatest aspiration of a young lady of her age was to enjoy a successful social Season in London during which she would attend balls, parties and other events with the single goal of making a match with the best possible husband. Her whole life led up to this one definitive season. She was taught the right skills including music, drawing, French and dance so that she would be considered “accomplished.” She was taught deportment and trained in polite conversation so she would appear “well-bred.” For years, everything a young lady learned from her mother, governess and other instructors was directed toward the singular goal of making her look as appealing as possible to a future husband.
Today in 2016, we’ve thankfully rejected the idea that a young woman’s best hope for the future is to catch a rich husband with social standing. But before we congratulate ourselves too much on our superiority over the mamas of the past, we need to consider that we haven’t changed as much as we think.
My daughter did not take French lessons to make her self look accomplished to a future husband. She took French classes to make herself look accomplished to a future college. She took cello lessons for the same reason. And calculus, statistics, physics, chemistry and a host of other classes in subjects in which she had no interest – it was all to make her look good to a future college. For at least the last ten years of her life, much of what I as a mother and her teachers and counselors at school have encouraged her to do was not because we thought she might like the activity or even use the skills she acquired. It was because the accomplishment would look good on a college application.
In 1816, a young woman tried to make herself attractive to a husband with money and status. In 2016, we direct young women to make a match with a college with the perfect blend of reputation and scholarship money. Not so very different.
And now for my daughter Meg, the years of preparation have led to this one season – the season of applications and honors college essays and scholarship interviews. Potential suitors have been sending cards for years. She has been formally introduced to several of the institutions that her parents found suitable, but they did not always agree with her. One was deemed too formal in attire; another was overzealous in its profession of religion. A couple of institutions who impressed in our first meeting have proven to be somewhat inept as correspondents. (One college has repeatedly sent her postcards urging her to apply soon so that she would be eligible for a particular scholarship. Somehow it has slipped their notice that she not only already applied to their school, but also been accepted for admission and offered that same scholarship. This is not impressive.)
Fortunately the one thing that her London Season has that was not available to the young ladies of the past is a deadline. May 1 is recognized by all these potential suitors as the date by which she must inform them of her choice, so she need not fear that her preferred college will retract the offer to her in favor of another young lady if she does not give an answer right away.
Now finally during this season, she should learn as much as possible about these future college mates. Unfortunately for her, she has little time to do so, for she must still finish those unwanted classes in statistics and economics because even after she makes her commitment, the school can reject her if she fails to be as accomplished as she professed to be.
Instead, she will need to examine her own feelings. What does she want? Which school seems to have the best chance of making her future life happy? And this is where, as an ambitious mama, I finally need to step back, stop pushing her to do things to make herself look good, and actually let her make a decision for herself.
Let’s hope I’m up to the task.
Have you seen the previews for the movie Krampus? These days we don’t tend to think of monsters during the Christmas season, but back before we had the option of watching Elf or A Christmas Story on TV every night, we humans satisfied our need for entertainment by sharing Christmas stories around the fire. There is an ancient tradition of telling “winter tales” that included fantastic or paranormal elements inspired by our fears of the dark.
My favorite figure from these tales is the Belznickel, a figure from Germanic legend that is very much like Krampus. They’re the opposite of St. Nicholas. Where the saintly Nick rewards children who’ve been good, the Belznickel does the opposite – he punishes the bad.
With whips and chains.
That could make for a very scary Christmas if you’ve been bad. (more…)
The holiday season is full of reminders to take time to give thanks for the many blessings we have. We usually feel too rushed to take that time, however. That’s why it’s appropriate that the tradition that became the focus of the final release in the Cotillion Christmas Traditions series is giving to those in need, or in old fashioned terms, giving alms.
When we give to others, we remember that there are so many things like food, heat, shelter, and clothing that most of us take for granted but that others struggle each day to find.
I’m glad that my story, Sense of the Season, was released on Thanksgiving Day. Not only am I am thankful that I have the time to write and the editorial team to bring my story to publication, but I am also thankful that I had the chance to visit the locations in England where the story is set. And I’m thankful to have so many of the things that my characters are lacking.
Much of the story takes place in an almshouse on the southeast coast of Kent. In fact, it was the house, a medieval ragstone building that was used to house the poor up until the middle of the 20th Century, that inspired the story in the first place. I was looking for a place to stay in that area on the first night of a trip we took last summer. I found the St. Bartholomew’s almshouse, now converted to a wonderful bed and breakfast named Centuries. (Click on the picture above to learn more about this fascinating place.) The owners love history as much (or more) than I do, so it seemed like the perfect setting for a story. I decided my hero would be a down-on-his-luck former soldier turned gambler who ended up there after a night of heavy drinking. And of course he’d have to see the heroine right away, so she had to run the place. And she could be a sweet, caring, nurturing soul, but instead I made her a bully. Specifically, she’s the bully who humiliated the hero years ago when they were neighbors.
The years between their adolescent misadventures and their current meeting have been kind to either of my characters. Neither of them have a close relationship with any family or even much in the way of a true friend. It wasn’t until I was going through my second round of edits until I realized that I’d created two very lonely people who really do help “save” each other. That’s the essence of a romance story, and though I’ve written quite a number over of the last ten years, this is perhaps the first one that really hits that emotional mark. At least in my opinion.
I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to make a place come alive by imagining something that might have happened there. In the Regency period, just as today, one of the traditions of the Christmas season was the giving of gifts to the poor and to those in your service. It is less personal these days. We drop off toys in a box at the firehouse, bring canned goods to a collection site or write a check to a shelter. It’s still a great reminder that we have much that others lack, but it’s not the same as actually delivering the food to a hungry family.
My heroine takes advantage of the obligations of the season to canvass the neighborhood for money for food and coal. The one place she does not intend to visit is the hero’s family home. But of course, he’s sure that it’s the best place for her to go, even though he himself is regarded as a blackguard there. When he tricks the heroine into arriving at the family estate (also a real place I visited over the summer, Godinton House), he not only gets her and her father thrown out, but himself as well. Not a very Merry Christmas.
He’s sure he can win the money they need. She’s sure he needs to get as far away from her as possible. And yet, it’s a romance, so somehow they end up together. How? You’ll have to read it to find out. Let’s just say I’m grateful to have the supportive family and friends that these two lack. Not to mention indoor plumbing and central heat, but that’s a whole different story.
In any case, I hope this season everyone can take the time to give thanks for the blessings in their lives and to give to those who lack, whether it be money, food, or companionship.
And I’m thankful you’ve read my post!
Cinderella wasn’t the only one who looked forward to a ball as a way to escape humdrum everyday existence. During the Regency period, and really up until about 100 years ago, a ball provided the best opportunity to size up and meet members of the opposite sex. You could learn a lot about a potential partner after watching a few lively dances. Did he get out breath easily? Did she have anything interesting to say or did she just giggle a lot? Was the shapely figure real, or was there much readjusting of undergarments to put things back into place (and this could be a question for either sex, since men wore corsets and calf pads under their stockings) Dances at this point were choreographed partner routines similar to an American square dance. You had to pay attention and be in the right place at the right time doing the right step or you’d cause a collision. So you’d probably be able to judge your potential partner’s sense of humor or tendency to anger, too, because if he or she didn’t cause a problem during a dance, very likely someone else would, sooner or later.
A masked ball (masquerade or masque) gave dancers special license to speak to each other in a way they would not dare otherwise. A mask alone was not usually enough to hide identity, so a costume was needed as well. Often this was a simple “domino,” just a dark loose cloak, sometimes with a hood. Masquerades reached the height of popularity in the 18th Century and by the Regency period (and even by the time Frances Burney was writing near the end of the 18th Century), the masked balls had started to develop an unsavory reputation. This was not helped by the fact the annual Cyprian’s Ball (hosted by courtesans) was a masked event.
Since there was so much emphasis on entertainment during the Christmas season in the Regency period, balls were frequent and festive. A Christmas ball is the starting point of the heroine’s dilemma in the next Cotillion Traditional Regency Christmas story, Lydia’s Christmas Charade by Saralee Etter. Her engagement is just about to be announced at a Christmas ball when she learns that her intended husband is in love with someone else.
So what does the poor girl do? You’ll have to read it to find out! This is the fourth book in this year’s series of Regency Christmas stories and the final one to be released in the first print anthology, Cotillion Christmas Traditions. There are four more stories coming this month, and more Christmas traditions to explore.
You can learn more about Saralee’s story by clicking on the cover. Or visit her website www.saraleeetter.com or check out her new blog,
Q. Tell us a little about yourself, Saralee:
A. I love to read, and always knew that writing was the only career for me. What could be better than to think up stories all day long? I day-dreamed constantly, so it seemed ideal.
Sadly, however, I couldn’t see a way to make a living writing the romantic and exciting stories that filled my head. Instead, I wrote other things: Newspaper articles, public relations releases, legal briefs.
Now I’m beginning to share the stories that I’ve been dreaming about for so long. They’re mostly light-hearted and fun. I’m an armchair time-traveler, so writing stories set during the English Regency period is the perfect way to enjoy history, romance, and delightful adventures all at once.
Q. All that couldn’t have happened overnight. How long did it take you to get published?
A. About 5 years from the time I began writing my first novel. As I mentioned above, I’d been writing newspaper articles and other non-fiction material, but that kind of writing is very different to writing a novel! I had to learn a whole new skill-set.
My first novelistic attempt was a sprawling historical romance/comedy/adventure/spy/mystery/thriller I called “Death in a Powdered Wig.” The entire 128,000-word epic now lives in a three-ring binder on a shelf in the basement – where it will stay.
I wrote one other complete novel before Cerridwen Press (now Blush) published my traditional Regency romance, A Limited Engagement, in 2007. When you read Lydia’s Christmas Charade, you will meet Anthony Moore, one of the characters from that book. I liked young Anthony so much that I really wanted to tell his story, too.
Q. I’d like to know more about what lurks in the powdered wig! But beyond writing, what hobbies do you enjoy?
A. I’m an avid reader, always with my nose in a book. I prefer to feel the weight of a book in my hand, but I also read a lot on my computer or phone (no ebook reader yet, but hope to get one soon). I enjoy making things with my hands – sewing, making beaded jewelry, and crocheting. I’m learning to knit.
Cooking is another fun activity. I love looking at recipes! There’s something so wonderful about beautiful food in lovely settings. Luckily, I live right near a family-owned you-pick vegetable farm as well as a large orchard, so I’ve got access to plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables.
Thank you Saralee for sharing a little bit about yourself with us. Lydia’s Christmas Charade promises to be an engaging read! You can catch up with Saralee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saralee.etter or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Saraleeetter.
The word “festive” equals “party” in my world, and parties provide the perfect excuse to try new drinks with no persuasion needed. So for my blog about the release of the next book in the Cotillion Christmas Traditions Regency romance series—this one titled Festive Persuasion—I decided to look at some drinks from the 18th and 19th Century period that are pretty uncommon these days. And I’m not talking small beer, either. These are pretty high on the alcoholic content scale.
When Monty Python’s knights were sent to fetch “a shrubbery,” they might have done better to bring back a shrub instead. Shrub is made with citrus fruit and spirits, often a mixture of brandy and white wine. Martha Washington’s family recipe calls for equal parts brandy, white wine and water, with sliced lemons and sugar. The mixture is to sit for three days and then the lemons are crushed into it and then the seeds, peel and pulp are strained out. In some versions, vinegar is used in place of the citrus, and herbs of all types can be added. It sounds odd, but the versions I’ve tasted have been pretty good.
If you think shrub sounds a bit odd, it’s nothing compared to our next drink, a syllabub. This was probably out of fashion by the Regency period, but certainly some members of the older generation would have fond memories of it. It’s a sort of whipped cream and wine mixture, sometimes also made with eggs. One recipe (which is actually in the confectionary section of recipes for housekeepers) calls for a lump of sugar rolled in lemon peel and dumped in a pint a milk. More sugar is added, then lemon juice and then brandy or Madeira (a fortified red wine). This mixture is whipped until frothy, and then spooned on top of a glass of red wine. Other recipes adds flavored liqueur or spices to the cream. It sounds a bit like eggnog, but mixed with red wine. (For more on eggnog, check here.) There are even stories of bowls of syllabub taken out to the barn to get a squirt of fresh milk just before serving.
All types of wines were popular, too, including champagne (see here for more on my favorite drink), and for the lesser sort, homemade wines composed of everything from gillyflowers to turnips (see my post here for more on wines and wine doctoring). And of course there were even more types of punches than wines. The difference is that the punches might well be mixed by the host himself in front of his guests, whereas the lowly housekeeper would be working in obscurity to make her rhubarb wine. (More about punch will be forthcoming in a future post.)
Now that I’ve give you some ideas, choose your poison, find a good book, and settle in for an adventure.
Today we’re celebrating the release of Festive Persuasion by Charlene Roberts, which is the third story in the Christmas Traditions collection. In this tale, the hero’s connection to a murder forces him to give up any hope of a match with the heroine. She, meanwhile, has to use all means at her disposal to persuade him that her feelings for him have not changed. (Okay, this is a traditional Regency romance, so she doesn’t use all the means at her disposal, just the ones that don’t require her to remove clothing)
Click on the cover to learn more about the story, or visit the author’s website at http://charlenelroberts.wordpress.com.
And get those drinks ready. It’s a party party weekend!
Charades is a game I often dread playing with my family (both my daughter and my step-daughter have a maddening propensity to act out the same title over and over–or worse yet, make the rest of us act it out). But in an era before TV and movies, I probably would have resigned myself to acting out things at home on a regular basis. The game was apparently much more challenging back during the Regency era, at least in Jane Austen’s household. Her family played a version which involved writing out three riddles and acting out the answers. Each answer was a single syllable which, when put together, made a word which made it all fit together. Too much work for me!
Back in the day, the game of charades was popular at Christmas (Thanks to Linore Rose Burkard’s Regency House Christmas for sharing the Austen family version) and it’s one of the traditions included in the second release of the Cotillion Christmas Traditions series, “A Christmas Caroline,” by Vivien Jackson and Christa Paige.
On their own, they write paranormal and sci-fi and fantasy and suspense (with lots of hot cops). Together, they write in a different world entirely – it’s all about the cravats and Hessians. Polished, of course. Their story “A Christmas Caroline” comes out today.
Here’s the blurb:
Lady Caroline Selwyn’s world centers on her father, so when she receives dire news of his health—two days before Christmas, no less—her first thought is to weep. Her second is to make this Christmastide the best he’s ever known. To that end, she rummages in memory for festive traditions, plans charades, purchases bean cakes…and acquires an affianced husband. Oh, not a real one—what she does is convince Papa’s physician to pretend an engagement, for just a few weeks.
Doctor Samuel Avery can hardly credit his complicity in this madcap deception. Whatever was he thinking? But it does seem to improve the comfort of the earl, and his own sisters are in alt at the idea of his impending nuptials. And he has admired Caroline for so long the role of her betrothed is easy to play. In fact, the scheme seems in every way perfect. Except that it is not true.
Click on the cover to learn more. And here’s the full schedule of releases for the Christmas Traditions stories. Because there are so many stories in the collection this year, they will be released as two separate print anthologies.
10/10/13: Twelve Days of Christmas, Barbara Miller
10/17/13: A Christmas Caroline, Christa Paige and Vivien Jackson
10/24/13: Festive Persuasion, Charlene Roberts
10/31/13: Lydia’s Christmas Charade, Saralee Etter
11/7/13: Snug in a Snowstorm, Cynthia Moore
11/14/13: Helena’s Christmas Beau, Aileen Fish
11/21/13: A Twelfth Night Tale, Susana Ellis
11/28/13: Sense of the Season, Kate Dolan
I’d like to think they’re saving the best for last, but as I said last week, I’m pretty sure I was the last one to turn in my manuscript! The first four books will appear in print as Cotillion Christmas Traditions and the second four, including “Sense of the Season,” will be part of the Cotillion Christmas Celebrations anthology.