Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Warming Up the Wilderness

Would-Be Wilderness Wife, the second in my Frontier Bachelors series set around pioneer Seattle, was just released, and I couldn't be happier with the reception.

RT Book Reviews gave it 4.5 stars and a Top Pick for March. “Plenty of drama and a mystery that will keep readers turning pages.”

But I was truly humbled by the 5 star reviews from the delightful Britt Reads Fiction and the amazing Huntress Reviews.  Said the latter:  "The character of Catherine is a strong one. No simpering miss here! She is intelligent, brave, and knows what she wants. She is also wise enough to know when to bow to another's expertise; such as when a large cougar appears and she does not know how to shoot. Drew's character is a perfect match for Catherine. Family is very important to him. This gentleman is brave, skilled, and has much honor. I cannot express how great this story is, nor can I recommend it highly enough. Absolutely wonderful!"  

I hope you’ll agree.  Here’s a little taste:

He carried himself as proudly as a knight from the tales of King Arthur her father had read to her as a child. His rough-cut light brown hair brushed the top of the door jamb, his shoulders in the wrinkled blue cotton shirt reached either side. He took a step into the room, and she was certain she felt the floor tremble.

Finding her voice, she raised her chin. “I can help you.”

He walked down the narrow room toward her, the thud of his worn leather boots like the sound of a hammer on the planks of the floor. The blue apothecary bottles lined up on the shelves behind the counter chimed against one another as he passed. He was like a warrior approaching his leader, a soldier his commanding officer. Mrs. Witherspoon, waiting on a chair for the doctor to reset her shoulder, clutched her arm close, wide eyed. Others stared at him or quickly looked away.

He stopped beside Catherine and lay his fingers on the curved back of the chair where the elderly Mr. Jenkins snoozed while he waited for his monthly dose of medicine. Scars crossed the skin of the massive hand, white against the bronze.

Up close, Catherine could see that his face was more heart-shaped than oval, his unkempt hair drawing down in a peak over his forehead. His liberally lashed eyes were a mixture of clear green and blue, like the waves that lapped the Puget Sound shores. The gold of his skin said he worked outdoors; the wear on this clothes said he made little income from it.

He was easily the most healthy male she’d ever seen, so why did he need medical assistance?

“Are you a doctor?” he asked. Everything from the way he cocked his head to the slow cadence of the question spoke of his doubt.

Her spine stiffened, lifting her blue skirts off the floor and bringing her head level with his breastbone. She was used to the surprise, the doubts about her vocation here in Seattle. Even where she’d been raised, a few had questioned that the prominent physician George Stanway had trained his daughter to be a nurse. More had wondered why their beloved doctor and his promising son had felt it necessary to get themselves killed serving in the Union Army. At times, Catherine wondered the same thing.

“I’m a nurse,” she told their visitor, keeping her voice calm, professional. “I was trained by my father, a practicing physician, and served for a year at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. I came West with the Mercer expedition. Doctor Maynard was sufficiently pleased with my credentials to hire me to assist him and his wife.”

“So you’re a Mercer belle.” He straightened, towering over her. “I didn't come looking for a bride. I need a doctor.”

A Mercer belle. That, she knew from the newspapers back East, was synonymous with husband hunter. Obviously her credentials as a medical practitioner meant nothing to him.

Well, he might not have come to the hospital seeking a bride, but she hadn't come to Seattle after a husband either. She’d already refused three offers of marriage since arriving two weeks ago. Her friend, Madeleine O’Rourke, had turned away six. Even her friend Allegra had had to argue with two would-be suitors before she’d wed her childhood sweetheart, Clay Howard, a successful local businessman, only two days after landing.

None of them had left the East Coast expecting such attentions. When Seattle’s self-proclaimed emigration agent, Asa Mercer, had recruited her and nearly seventy other women to settle in Washington Territory, he’d talked of the jobs that needed filling, the culture they could bring to the fledgling community. Already some of her traveling companions were teaching schools in far-flung settlements. Others had taken jobs they had never dreamed of back home, including tending a lighthouse. They were innovative and industrious, just as Catherine had hoped she’d be when she’d journeyed west.

“I’m not interested in marriage either, sir,” she told him. “And I assure you, I am perfectly suited to deal with medical emergencies. Now, what’s the trouble?”
Would-Be Wilderness Wife is available from fine retailers such as

The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)  

Friday, February 27, 2015

City Girl, Country Girl, 1866 Style

As you can probably guess by the pictures we post, Marissa and I are rather fascinated with the clothing our heroes and heroines might have worn in the nineteenth century. So as I began plotting my Frontier Bachelor series, I eagerly perused fashion pages from magazines dating from 1865 and 1866.  Those wide skirts, so different from the styles of the early 1800s, left lots of room for embellishment.  Take these beauties, for example:

But as I turned to writing the scenes, I quickly realized that the full-skirted gowns so prevalent in the magazines were simply impossible in the situations my heroines faced.  For example, try wearing any of these when traversing the narrow byways of a sailing ship. 

And where in a frontier cabin would you fit any of these little ensembles?  I think you’d struggle to even get one through the door! 

Then there’s the sleeping arrangements.  Some cabins had nothing more than an iron ladder reaching up to the sleeping loft.  You’d knock over half the furnishings and give your companions quite a view.

So what did ladies wear on the frontier?  Things that were far more practical.  Like this.

And this.

As you can see, my fashion expectations had to change when my East Coast heroines ventured West.  But for those of you back East today, particularly if you’ll be in New York City on Monday, March 2, stop by Lady Jane's Salon, New York's only monthly romance fiction reading series, where Marissa will be reading from By Jove. The Salon meets 7-9 pm at the wonderfully atmospheric Madame X, 94 W Houston Street.  Click here for more info. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema: "Belle" in March!

Young Bluestockings are those shocking young persons who like...to READ.  (Gasp!)  Yes, we are all of us bluestockings, and proud of it!

And sometimes, we branch out into the other arts, such as that delightful new invention known as "cinema."  (Some of us modern young creatures call it "the talkies" or even "the movies" -- for the figures on the screen do indeed talk and move!)

And sometimes, we Young Bluestockings all watch the same movie in the same month, and then come back to discuss it with our bluestocking friends here at NineteenTeen, while sipping virtual tea (or actual tea).  Well, it's that time again!   (Drumroll, please....)

Please join us one month from today, on Tuesday March 24, when we will discuss the lovely historical film "Belle"!  (It's available on DVD, Blu-Ray, instant video, and various streaming services). 

An excellent time will be had by all.   

So please join us!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Can't Live Without Cant?

Marissa has shared some delightful posts on colorful language used in the early nineteenth century in her Such Language series.  (In case you missed them, I’ve provided all the links below).  Now author Stephen Hart has taken matters one step further by creating an online database of 18th century and Regency thieves’ cant. 

Thieves’ cant was slang developed among the criminal element, generally in the larger cities like London or Bristol. Some of it may have arisen to keep nosy types and the law from discovering what was what.  But, let’s face it, every trade has its own jargon, and the thieves were no different.  Jargon serves as shorthand, making conversation quicker.  It also tells us who is inside the group, and who isn’t. If you were a thief or someone who had to hang about with some, you needed to be able to talk like them or at least understand what they were saying. Surprisingly, the gentlemen of the upper orders were fascinated with the language and loved to throw in the slang among themselves as well.

Hart pulled language from several dictionaries or memoirs published between 1737 and 1819, including the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with which Marissa is so amused.  He made various entries available online but also created a searchable database of terms.  Be warned, it can be addicting!  The left navigation bar on his site includes other databases from his research, such as London directories and clubs and taverns.

But if you’d like some of the most witty entries online about the so-called vulgar tongue, do check out Marissa’s posts.  I’ll be nuts upon myself if you don’t find it a great frisk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Victoria’s Grandchildren: Victoria Melita

Princess Victoria Melita...such a pretty, euphonious name. Unfortunately, it was probably one of the only euphonious things in an often tumultuous life.

Victoria Melita, nicknamed “Ducky”, was born in 1876, the third child of Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, and his wife Marie, daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She was also the younger sister of the future Queen Marie of Romania, whom we have already met. She was born while her father, Queen Victoria’s second son Alfred, was stationed in Malta with the Royal Navy--hence the unusual second name. Unlike her sister Marie, Ducky seems to have been of a darker, more brooding, and often tempestuous temperament, but despite their differences, the sisters were close and would remain so throughout their lives...even when Marie was married off to Ferdinand of Romania in 1893 at 17.

Marriage for Ducky was not far behind. Queen Victoria had already decided that this grand-daughter would make the perfect wife for another of her grandchildren, Ernest, the new Grand Duke of Hesse and son of her daughter Princess Alice. Although Ernest and Ducky were great chums, Ducky had already fallen hard for another cousin, Grand Duke Kirill of Russia...but neither her grandmother or mother would hear of such a match...and though Ducky’s mother was not in favor, the wedding took place in 1894, an event almost overshadowed by the announcement of the engagement of the groom’s sister, Alix, to Nicholas of Russia.

Unfortunately, the marriage was doomed from the start. Ernest was homosexual, and though Ducky gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, before their first anniversary, they quickly arranged to live as much apart from each other as possible. A visit to Russia in 1896 for Alix and Nicholas’ coronation threw her back into the company of Grand Duke Kirill...and the pair fell in love. Although Ducky desperately wanted a divorce, her grandmother wouldn’t hear of it...and so Ducky and Ernest lived unhappily, occasionally attempting to reconcile, until the old Queen’s death in January 1901. By December, the pair had divorced, to the shock and horror of the royal families of Europe.

Ducky lived quietly with her mother for the next few years, but Kirill was never far from her mind...and in 1905, they married quietly in Germany, much to the fury of the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia (who, after all, was Ernest’s sister). Kirill was stripped of his imperial allowance and naval titles, and the couple went to live quietly in Paris. Only in 1910, when Kirill became third in line to the Russian throne, were they allowed to come back to Russia.

The new Grand Duchess took to her new life until revolution ended the monarchy in 1917. Ducky and Kirill and their children, including a newborn son, managed to flee to Finland, then after the end of WWI, to Germany. Now the pretenders to the defunct Russian throne, they remained in Germany until the mid-twenties, then settled in France, where they lived a very ordinary life, playing golf and bridge with their neighbors, while still insisting on being referred to as Tsar and Tsarina. Ducky died in 1936 after a stroke, and Kirill followed in 1938. Their descendents still to this day still claim their imperial titles.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Valentine’s Day Present for Romance Lovers

I've been trying to find the perfect Valentine’s Day present for my husband, and he’s tiptoeing around as if he’s trying to do the same for me. As we've discussed here, here, here, and here, Valentine’s Day was very popular in the early nineteenth century, both in England and America.  And as a writer of romance novels, it ranks pretty high as a holiday for me as well.  But I have another reason to celebrate this Valentine’s Day.  This week saw the publication of a very special anthology, with one of my stories included.

Premiere is the first anthology from Romance Writers of America to showcase the diversity of the romance genre.  My story, set at Christmas in Regency England, represents inspirational romances.  Stories by Sabrina Jeffries and Courtney Milan are also set in nineteenth century England and represent historical romance.  Additional stories cover contemporary, romantic suspense, paranormal, erotica, and LGBT, among other subgenres. 

The stories are all built around the theme of “wrong number.”  My story, “A Light in the Darkness,” is based on that horror for Regency hostesses, wrong number at table.  It was considered the very worse faux pas to have an uneven number of ladies and gentlemen at a dinner party. That mistake ends up reuniting two lost lovers.  Can the light of Christmas guide them back to each other?

Here’s an excerpt:


With Harriet safely caught up in conversation, Ellie could focus on Percy.  How easily time slipped backward.  From the day they’d met, there was nothing they could not share, except the love for war.  They both preferred their books to be rousing romantic adventures, their politics verging toward Whig, and their faith in the Lord to lead them.  Now they shared as easily, their lives since they had parted, the activities of old friends, the loss of loved ones, his mother and her father.

Conversing with Percy was unlike talking with anyone else.  He gave her his full attention, leaning toward her, smile playing about his lips, gaze intend on hers.  He was quick to laugh at her jests, could be counted on to nod approval to her heartfelt choices.  He was always ready to ride to the rescue should she need him but equally willing to let her solve the matter to her own satisfaction.  Just sitting beside him made breath and thought come easier.

Yet when he shared his stories about life with Wellington, she heard something behind the words, saw it in the shadow that crossed his face.  There was tension in him, like a spring never released.  She could only wonder at its source.

Somewhere in the world beyond the glow of Percy’s smile came the tolling of church bells.  Percy rose and drew back the drapes as his sister and the others gathered around.  Through the wreath that hung against the glass, starlight brightened the countryside.  In the distance, squares of colored light showed where the village church was preparing to celebrate services.

“It’s midnight,” Amelia said with the delicious shiver of a child anticipating sweets.  She stood on tiptoe and pecked her husband on the cheek.  “Happy Christmas, my love.”

He wrapped an arm about her waist.  “Happy Christmas, dear.”

Even Harriet and Edmund reached for each other’s hand and stood a moment gazing out at the night, where a single star shown brighter than any other.

Warmer was the way Percy gazed at Ellie. 


Premiere is currently available in e-book, print, and audio versions.  Learn more on the Romance Writers of America website

It just might be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for romance lovers.  Hm, maybe I should tell my husband.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Regency Fabrics, Part 3

What was up with fabrics in June 1809? Let’s have a look! As I did in the first post on Regency fabrics, I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.

Three fabrics are up for June...

The large pattern No. 1 and 2 is a new cotton for furniture called the Oriental Pink. The novelty of this article does not consist in the design, but in the pink dye, which it has been the aim of the manufacturer to render fixed and permanent, so that it may be washed without be liable to fade. The endeavours of both foreign and native chemists and manufacturers to accomplish this desirable object, with respect to reds and pinks in particular, are well known. We are happy to observe, that in this instance Mr. Allen has completely succeeded; the greatest variety of designs of this pink are now on sale at his extensive private ware-rooms, 61, Pall-Mall.

My comments: Ermegerd, PINK POLKA DOTS! Mr. Allen certainly got his color right, because this is indeed a glorious candy pink. The fabric finish is very smooth and perhaps has a very light glaze to it, like a very light-weight chintz.

No. 3 is a lilac spotted gossamer, very fashionable for full dresses, and furnished by Messrs. Coopers, silk-mercers to his Majesty, 28, Pall-Mall.

My comments: Another dress fabric that would require an underdress, as the weave is very open...and like the lilac fabric from May 1809's post, the color is more pinkish than purplish. In texture it's a little stiffer than the gauze from May.

No. 4 is a white and green coral-figured silk, much worn for mantles and pelisses. Though we in general protest against green for ladies’ wear, yet when sparingly displayed on a white ground, it produces a shade that will suit many complexions. But our ideas on this subject have already been developed in the general observations on Ladies’ Fashions, to which we beg leave to refer our fair readers. 

My comments: Now this is gorgeous stuff!  The color comes across as more light aqua than a true green, and the coral pattern is lovely. The fabric has a subtle, handsome sheen to it and a beautiful, delicate hand; though light in weight, it has a substantial feel and would drape elegantly. The caution against ladies wearing green reminds me of Georgette Heyer's Cotillion, in which the hero Freddy, a very fashion-conscious young man, constantly complains about his sister's inerringly bad eye for color.

And for somethng completely different...for any readers in eastern Massachusetts, I'll be doing a Craft Chat tonight on writing Romance at The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA at 7:30 pm--fortunately between this past storm and the next one on Thursday!