Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Here!

I’m taking time out from our usual topics today to celebrate…Betraying Season officially hits shelves today!!!

Here’s the jacket flap description:

Penelope (Pen) Leland has come to Ireland to study magic and prove to herself that she is as good a witch as her twin sister, Persy. But when the dashing Niall Keating begins to pay her court, she can’t help being distracted from her studies. What Pen doesn’t know is that Niall is acting upon orders from his sorceress mother, who wants to use Pen’s powers for her own ends.

Although it starts as a sham, Niall actually falls deeply in love with Pen. But even if he halts his mother’s evil plan, will Pen be able to forgive him for trying to seduce her into a plot against Pen’s friend, the newly crowned Queen Victoria? And what of Pen’s magic, which seems to be increasingly powerful?

It was a delight to research this book…I only wish I could have included an actual visit to Ireland as part of my research. Maybe some day… It was also interesting to create the magical system that appears in it, from which I borrowed heavily from Celtic mythology and folklore.

If you enjoyed Bewitching Season, I hope you’ll give Betraying Season (dubbed “another page-turner” by Kirkus Reviews) a try…and to make it easier, I’ll be giving away signed copies this week to randomly drawn commenters in both today’s and Friday’s post (Tuesday's winner to be announced Friday, Friday's winner to be announced next Tuesday). And if you live in the New York/New England area, I’ll be signing Betraying Season on October 10 at Baker Books in North Dartmouth, MA, on October 18 at Books of Wonder on W. 18th Street, NYC, and on October 31 at Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, MA—stop by and see me if you’re in the area! I'll announce further signings as they're scheduled.

Don't forget to comment!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moving Day!

No, we aren’t going anywhere. My family and I spent last evening helping set up the house for our church’s new pastors and their family. So, when I started thinking about what I was going to write for the blog this week, I naturally thought about houses and moving.

It’s no secret that many aristocratic families in the nineteenth century in England had more than one house. If you were titled, you had your family seat—the original estate that went with your title. For example, the family seat of Earl Spencer (related to the late Diana, Princess of Wales) is in Althrop, Northamptonshire (shown in the picture). You might also have smaller homes salted around the country for other purposes: a lodge in the north for hunting season, a "cottage" in the Lake District or along the shore for summer. And you had to have a townhouse in London when you went up for the Season.

If you weren’t so fortunate as to have been born with all these homes in the family, you rented homes in all these places instead. That way you could still follow Society about the country. Often rented homes came furnished and decorated, so all you had to do was show up with your servants and have them make up the beds with fresh linens.

However, either in homes you owned or homes you rented, sometimes you just didn’t like the furnishings and decided to redecorate. Also, some people had a special set of paintings or furnishings without which it just wasn’t home. For example, even though the Duke of Wellington had lovely furnishings at Apsley House in London, his seat in Stratfield-Saye along the Hampshire/Berkshire border, and 10 Downing Street in London when he was prime minister, he insisted on sleeping on an old camp bed. Your servants also had to pack up those items and make sure they were reinstated wherever you were going. You might also want to bring some of your books with you as you traveled about.

And speaking of books, Meg is the winner of a copy of Betraying Season! Meg, please contact Marissa at her website with your mailing address. Thanks to all who commented! Excellent suggestions all around. Look for us to be implementing many of them in the coming weeks.

And please come back next week for a special set of posts dedicated to Marissa’s Betraying Season, which makes its hardcover debut on Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fashion Forecast: 1809

Note: This is the beginning of an occasional series focusing on clothes from a particular year, to give you a flavor of just what you might have seen on the streets of London or at various events. I'll warn you now that it will be heavily weighted toward the first four decades of the 19th century, because that's where my collecting interest lies (and Regina's too, I think)...enjoy!

So what was the well-dressed young woman wearing in 1809?

If she were out for a stroll in spring or summer, she might wear this (Promenade Dress, July 1809, Ackermann's Repository):

Or this: (Walking Dress, April 1809, Ackermann's Repository):

Or this (Walking Dress, October 1809, Ackermann's Repository). Note the quizzing glass she's holding, to check out what the other strollers in the park are wearing:

Did you think mother-daughter outfits were a modern invention? Not at all! (Walking Costume, August 1809, Ackermann's Repository):

How about evening wear? If you attended the grand reopening of Covent Garden theatre in 1809 after its rebuilding following a disastrous fire in 1808, you might wear something like this (Opera Dress, March 1809, Ackermann's Repository):

Or maybe you've received a coveted invitation to dine and hear a concert at Carleton House, London home of the Price Regent. If so, this might fit the bill (Full Dress, April 1809, Ackermann's Repository):
And of course, the all important ball...(Ball Dress, October 1809, Ackermann's Repository). This is "A light blue, or grey chemise robe, of gossamer net, imperial crape, or Spanish gauze, worn over white pealing satin, ornamented up the front with French bows and knots of silver. A full melon sleeve, formed of the same material as the dress, and alternate stripes of white satin; finished with bows and knots of silver.":

Friday, September 18, 2009

Report card Time!

Regina is taking today off to finish getting her son settled in college—wishing him all the best for a great freshman year, and a good supply of hankies for mom (I just did this a couple of weeks ago with my son, so I know!)

As we did last year at our blogoversary, we’re pausing to have a look at what we’ve done over the past year on Nineteenteen and what we could do more of…and we’d appreciate your feedback. The list of topics you generated for us last year was an enormous help, so we’re asking again…feel free to suggest! Are there any topics we haven't discussed yet that you'd like to know more about? Anything we’ve already covered that you’d like to us to repeat or go more in-depth on? No topic is too trivial, or too silly, or too anything for us to consider—if you want to know about it, chances are someone else does too.
And do you have any other suggestions? Are our posts too long, or too short? Do you like the images we include, and are there enough or too many? What can we do to make Nineteenteen more useful and entertaining for you?

So please, suggest away! Anyone who comments with a suggestion will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Betraying Season…yes, not an ARC but the actual hardcover edition. So bring 'em on!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Many Happy Returns of the Day!

That was a common birthday greeting in the 19th century…and while it’s now the 21st, we though it appropriate to use as Nineteenteen completes its second full year of blogging this week.

It’s hard for Regina and me to believe we’ve been posting faithfully for two whole years. That’s a long time by blog standards. It’s a lot of work to think up topics, research, write, find appropriate images…but it’s also a lot of fun. We’re writing this blog because we enjoy it…and we hope you enjoy reading it.

In celebration of our birthday week, here’s a recipe for Victoria Cake, which according to legend was much appreciated by Her Majesty at tea time. Enjoy!

Victoria Cake


for the cake
6 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz superfine sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
6 oz self-raising flour
Pinch of salt

For the filling
4-6 tbsp strawberry jam, or your favorite flavor
1 tbsp superfine sugar

Buttercream (optional)

3 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 oz powdered sugar
4-5 drops of vanilla extract

Grease and line the bottom of 2 8-inch cake pans (at least 2" deep) with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until the mixture is pale in color and light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg, a teaspoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and salt and carefully add to the mixture, folding in with a spatula. Divide the mixture equally between the pans and smooth over with a spatula. Place the pans on the same shelf in the center of the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until well risen, golden brown and beginning to shrink from the sides of the pans. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 3 – 5 minutes. Loosen the cakes from around the edge of the pans using a butter knife and turn them out onto a clean towel. Remove the parchment paper and invert the cakes onto a wire rack (this prevents the rack from marking the tops). When completely cool, spread the jam on the bottom cake and place the 2nd on top to sandwich them together. To finish off, sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar. If you wish to add the optional buttercream, beat together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Spread the buttercream carefully over the jam before stacking the cakes.

P. S. And no, I didn’t forget…the winner of a paperback copy of Bewitching Season from among last week’s commenters is Rachel. Rachel, contact me via this form on my website so that we can arrange mailing.

Please come back on Friday, when we’ll continue our birthday celebration by offering another chance to win a book by commenting. See you then!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

Fire! Fire! Fire! Anyone else know that old song about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow and the Great Chicago fire? It was great fun to sing around a camp fire. But fire in a crowded town like London was no laughing matter in the nineteenth century.

The reason dates back to the Great Fire of London in 1666. That fire destroyed two-thirds of the city. Afterward, people went to great lengths to make sure wooden buildings, and just about anything that was easily burnable, was eliminated. Wooden shutters were moved indoors, wooden window sills replaced with brick, and buildings were constructed with stone or brick exteriors and steps. Insurance companies offered property owners policies to protect their buildings from fires and requested that the owners affix a wall plaque (known as a fire mark) to show which company was protecting them.

Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Some people faked marks, hoping to be protected for nothing. Other marks were so similar, the fire brigades couldn’t tell which was which (especially when it got a little smoky, I’d think!). Some firefighters arrived at a burning building, only to refuse to put out the fire because they didn’t believe the building was insured by their company! The Custom House burned to the ground in 1814, and the Royal Mint in 1815.

In 1833, the insurance companies united their firefighters under one brigade, called the London Fire Establishment. They were commanded by James Braidwood, who had been chief of the first municipal fire service in Edinburgh in 1824. Called the “Jimmy Braiders,” they rushed to put out any fire, aided by manually operated pumps. These were huge, horse drawn wagons, and several men worked each side pulling down and pushing up the bellows on the pumps.

With only 80 Jimmy Braiders for an area with well over a million people, the firefighters often lost the fight. The old palace of Westminster burned down in 1834 when its heating boilers exploded, Lloyd’s Coffee House and the Royal Exchange incinerated in 1838, and the Grand Amory of the Tower of London went up in a shower of sparks in 1841. A particularly spectacular fire in 1861 set all of the waterfront aflame along the Upper Pool of the Thames. Braidwood himself lost his life fighting it, and the blaze wasn’t completely contained until 6 months later.

But whether 1861, 2001, or 2009, selfless firefighters like Braidwood continue to be heroes. Say a prayer for one today, will you?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Paperback Writer

Regina very kindly took over my post last Tuesday (September 1) as I was caught up in back-to-school busy-ness and bringing my son to his freshman year of college. But in between the busy, I took a moment out to celebrate the release of Bewitching Season in paperback! This softcover edition includes an interview and a teaser for Betraying Season...look for it in your local bookstore!

Speaking of paperbacks…did you know that paperback books aren’t a modern invention?

Short books, political pamphlets, and collections of sermons were published starting in the seventeenth century…but two things happened in the 19th century to really launch the concept of inexpensive books: the steam-powered rotary press, and rail travel.

For most of the 18th and earlier 19th centuries, books were a luxury item (we talked about that fact here); you generally purchased the pages of a book and then took them to a binder to be put into a leather cover of your choice (no debates on cover art!) The introduction of steam-powered machinery gradually changed that: the mass printing of thousands of copies of books became a much easier and less expensive process than the old hand-inking and pressing process.

At the same time, railroads were becoming the norm for long-distance travel. The smooth motion of trains meant that one could actually read while traveling (can you imagine trying to read while jolting about in a stage coach or even in one’s personal carriage? Pass the sea-sick pills, please!) The explosion in rail travel therefore brought on an explosion in the number of people wanting to have something to do to while away the hours…and so the market for those inexpensive books that the new presses could make was born. Railway stations became the main distributors of these inexpensive books—it was so simple to pick up a "Yellow-Back" (so called for their brightly colored covers) or a "Dime Novel" or a "Penny Dreadful" or two when going in to purchase tickets. Most of these were tales of action and adventure and romance, though some more educational, how-to, and literary titles were also popular (Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility was released as a yellow-back in 1849)…not all that different from the paperback selections of today!

So here’s the fun part—to celebrate the release of my own penny dreadful, all commenters on this post will be put into a drawing to win a signed paperback of Bewitching Season. Comment away!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brighton's Shining Star: The Royal Pavilion

So, imagine you’re a young prince, the heir apparent to the British Empire. Your father is old and stodgy, none of the government officials appear to be interested in a thing you say, and now you’ve been sent to bathe in the sea because your neck’s a little thick. Who’d blame you for wanting to escape from it all?

That’s the basic picture of George IV, darling Prinny, when he first arrived in Brighton. He rose late, went riding, and give a dinner party for as many friends as possible every few days. He had so much fun, in fact, that he decided to live there. So, he bought a simple farmhouse at the edge of town. Over the next 35 years, he lavished extravagant sums of money on the place, eventually turning it into an opulent pleasure palace (Neverland, anyone?).

You can see here the metamorphosis:

a) In 1787, George had renowned architect Henry Holland extend the original farmhouse into a faux-temple. At the time, it was known as the Marine Pavilion.

b) Between 1815 and 1823, Prinny’s favorite architect, John Nash, turned the temple into an Indian palace with domes and minarets over a cast iron framework. He even replanted the gardens with curving paths and picturesque views.

If the outside is amazing, the inside was designed to boggle the mind. An elaborate entry hall led to the Long Gallery, which linked the main state rooms. The gallery also served as a card room during larger parties. The walls were originally painted with a landscape against a pink background. Large, painted-glass lay lights in the ceiling lit the gallery during the day, and painted lanterns and chandeliers lit it by night.

One of the most magnificent rooms is the Banqueting Room. Prinny loved nothing so much as his food, especially when he could share it with a few hundred of his closest friends. Large painted canvasses covered the walls, and a dragon holds up the massive center chandelier.

Another gorgeous room was the music room, where Prinny could host concerts. Notice the glass chandelier, with painted Oriental ladies on each panel.

Prinny didn’t spare expenses for the less public rooms as well. The kitchen was one of the biggest, airiest, best lighted of its age, with the newest technology including steam heating. The ceiling is supported by four cast-iron columns surmounted with painted copper palm leaves.

Perhaps the most outrageous portion of the Royal Pavilion is the stables. Completed in 1808, the Royal Stables and Riding House were considered engineering feats for their time. The stables are topped with a dome 80 feet across and 65 feet high. Along the circular interior were stalls for 44 horses, who took their water from a gorgeous fountain in the center.

In 1822, Prinny had an underground passage built from the main pavilion to the stables, so he and his visitors could go visit the horses on rainy days without getting wet. Supposedly the passage was big enough to turn a carriage and four (wouldn’t want to walk to see the horses, would you?). A critic of the day declared, “The King’s horses (if they were horses of taste) would petition against such irrational a lodging.”

Yes, the pavilion was an amazing structure. Unfortunately, Nash’s designs weren’t very practical. By 1833 the roof was leaking, and drainpipes concealed in the walls were overflowing and causing dry rot. Queen Victoria first visited the place in 1837 and failed to find the same delight in it as her predecessors:

“The Pavilion is a strange, odd, Chinese looking place, both outside and inside. Most of the rooms are low, and I can only see a morsel of the sea, from one of my sitting room windows.” She only visited two more times before deciding to dismantle the place, sending various paintings, furnishings, and accessories to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

In 1850, the city of Brighton petitioned the Queen, who allowed the city to purchase the pavilion and its grounds for 53,000 pounds sterling (close to 4 million in today’s pounds). It is currently undergoing extensive renovation to restore it to the glory Prinny imagined when he first laid eyes on Brighton over 200 years ago.

And Millysdaughter and ChaChaneen, you’ve both won fans in our final two giveaways for August! Contact me at La Petite Four with your land address, and I’ll pop those into the mail!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Biggest Beach Ball of All: Brighton

As summer vacation draws to a close and students head back to school here, I wanted to close my series on seaside resorts with the one most celebrated in romantic literature: Brighton. This sleepy little fishing village on the Channel due south of London looked doomed to die in the 1700s. Storms had damaged buildings, waves eroded the shoreline, and entire neighborhoods had fallen into the sea. People left in droves, and, by early 1700, fewer than 1,500 people were living in the area.

That all changed with the publication of a medical book in 1750. Dr. Richard Russell of Lewes wrote a dissertation on the use of seawater to treat glandular diseases like gout, which was attacking any number of his wealthy, sedentary clients. He thought bathing in and drinking sea water (along with a number of other interesting concoctions containing woodlice, cuttlefish bones, and crabs’ eyes) was therapeutic. Those clients flocked to nearby Brighton to be dipped and bathed.

So did the Prince of Wales. The young prince first visited Brighton in 1783 when he was 21 years old and doctors thought sea bathing might help reduce the swelling in his neck glands. He found the diversions, which included a theatre, two assembly rooms, and a covered market by then, far superior to the stuffy court of his father. In fact, the man who dipped him in the sea, Smoaker Miles, bossed him around like a son, to the point of grabbing him by the ear and dragging him back to shallower water when the sea was rough.

Suddenly, Brighton was all the rage. Between 1770 and 1795, over 600 new houses were built. The 1800s saw first a steam ship running between Brighton and France (post Napoleon, of course) and then a railway from London to Brighton. The Chain Pier opened in 1823. Though it was meant as a place to dock ships from France, the towers supporting the chains housed little shops selling sweets and souvenirs, and the visitors loved to promenade along its length. By 1848, more than 250,000 people were said to visit Brighton each year. To serve them in various capacities, the resident population rose to more than 65,000. The Grand Hotel was built in 1864 to accommodate visitors. An aquarium, museum, library, and general hospital quickly followed.

But the shining star of Brighton, one of the reasons so many of the aristocracy made the trek, was the chance of being invited to entertainments at the Prince’s pleasure palace, Brighton Pavilion. Come back on Friday to discover some of the secrets of this Taj Mahal of England and learn the names of the final two winners of our Nineteen Teen fan contest!

And speaking of which, Melanie, please contact Marissa at her website, because you are the winner of last Tuesday’s drawing for a Nineteen Teen fan!