Thursday, October 23, 2014

Regency Fashion October 1814

October is clearly the month for walking at Ackermann's

An evening primrose-coloured French sarsnet petticoat, trimmed round the bottom with a double border of clear muslin, drawn full with a narrow ribband of corresponding colour to the petticoat; high body of jaconot muslin, with reversed drawings; long sleeve, drawn to correspond. A silk ruff.

 A silk net handkerchief-sash, tied in streamers and small bows behind.

A Shipton straw bonnet, tied under the chin with a net handkerchief crossing the crown, and trimmed with a band of the same silk net.

Sandals of evening primrose-coloured kid. Gloves to correspond.

Very smart. And more sandals.


Until next time

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving - Canadian style




When I grew up in England, Thanksgiving was something I read about in "Little Women". As I understood it, the celebration related to something that occurred as a result of leaving Britain behind.  We did have Harvest Festival, or Harvest Home, a Sunday church service relating to the bringing in of the harvest that occurs around the autumn equinox, usually in late September. The church was decorated with wheat sheaves and other items of produce signifying a successful harvest and food items are given to those less fortunate. There were no special family gatherings.

When I came to Canada I was surprised to discover the extent of Thanksgiving in North America. To me it felt like having a second Christmas with turkey and all the trimmings and family in attendance, but no gifts.  I was also surprised to discover that it came a month earlier than the one celebrated in our neighbours to the south.

It certainly didn't take us long to adapt to this additional celebration in our annual calendar and every year we look forward to sitting down with family and friends. And if we have taken on the Canadian traditions of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie to go along with our turkey, we retain some of our British roots with chestnut stuffing and bread sauce added to the table's delights.

Our family has much to give thanks for, despite trials and tribulations throughout the year, and I wish all my Canadian friends and family who are unable to be with us today, Happy Thanksgiving and all best wishes to those of you who will celebrate your Thanksgiving next month.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Athelhampton - Dorset

Athelhampton House in Dorset is full of lovely surprises and I will reveal them as we go along. Rambling Regency Britain is always a joy, mostly because much of what I discover predates the Regency so I have a chance to enjoy more history rather than less.

 Located in the heart of Thomas Hardy Country, Athelhampton is a privately owned home and has been for 500 years.  And since we are focusing on the Regency we are focusing on the Long family who owned the residence until the mid 1800's

This was my first view of the house on the day of the Queen's Jubilee in 2012. The original gatehouse, removed in the mid 1800's according the the guide book, but the arch is quite similar. The gate house was a two story affair, the arch wide enough for carriages leading into the a courtyardwalled on two sides with the "L" shaped house making up the other two sides of a rough square.




Here you can see the two wings of the building.  The front of the house is the original 15th Century Great Hall and buttery with an attached solar.

In the sixteenth century the west wing, on the left was added to that original building.

It is such a treasure and such a privilege to see inside this wonderful old house





As we get closer we cannot help but be enchanted the the embattled frontage and this wonderful window in the corner of the two wings at the solar end of the Great Hall


First we have to go inside so you will follow me through this ancient door beneath  the tower-like entrance porch. Or you may want to sit awhile on the stone benches and soak up the ambiance, like a lady waiting for her carriage to be brought around from the stables.

Until next time.....






Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Regency Fashion - October 1814



From Ackermann's Repository October 1814

PROMENADE DRESS.
            
 A CELESTIAL blue or French grey silk skirt, buttoned and trimmed down the front with a full border of lace, gathered on a plain heading, terminating at the bottom with a deep flounce of the same; high-drawn body, made either of sarsnet or India muslin; long full sleeve, confined at the wrist by a bracelet of blue satin bead and emerald clasp. Lace ruff round the neck. 

A net handkerchief crossed over the bosom and tied in bows behind. 

Full-bordered lace cap, ornamented with a small wreath of flowers on one side. 

A French straw bonnet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed round the edge with a narrow quilling of net lace; a small plume of ostrich feathers in the centre of the crown. Sandals of blue kid. Gloves, York tan or Limerick.

Sandals in October. A bit nippy on the toes I must say. And what is the idea of the handkerchief? Support?

Until Next Time......

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Montacute House Finale

A few farewell pictures.

Another view of Montacute's amazing oriel window.

































And yes that is me.  And finally, the Gate House





Until next time....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Montacute Continued

I have this odd interest in ice houses, perhaps because these houses are underground to the keep the ice from melting and are always an adventure to find.  The one at Motacute was no different.

This ice house was thought to have been built in the late 18th  or early nineteenth century. So definitely in our period of the Regency.  It was, of course quite far from the house and half way to the ice ponds in the grounds.
 
This is the path we walked along to reach it and yet through that narrow little gap in the wall and then down.
and around. A great deal of thought and effort went into this. Clearly ice was deemed important.

I would not have wanted to be the one delivering or retrieving this ice.

 There is a latin inscription above the entrance Glacies frondeat atque Nives

Freshness springs from the ice and snow.


Ice was carried to the kitchen, washed and used in wine coolers and ice pails to cool drinks. It was also used to make ice desserts. Fish, game and fruit might also be placed directly on the ice to keep them fresh.


 This view on the left looks directly down into the bottom of the circular house. Poor person who had to go down there to chip out the ice on a regular basis.

They would have had a bucket and pulley system to removed the chipped ice, which would have been packed down to form a solid mass.  The ice could sometimes last as long as two years in such a deep house, and well packed with straw.

The second view is of the ceiling which is also circular and domed.

Okay so that is my ice house fix for a while. Hope you enjoyed the adventure too. One day I will find a way to feature an ice house in a book.  Dead body perhaps, frozen for two years. Hmmm. I will have to think about that one.










Thursday, September 11, 2014

Regency Fashion - September 1814

Here we have the rather unusual back view.  Nice that we get the full glory of the hairstyle in this one.



Evening Half-gown from Ackermann's Repository

A plain frock, with full drawn back, composed of striped sarsnet Italian net of peach-blossom colour; full flounce of blond lace, headed with tufts of the same; a quilling of blond round the top of the dress; long full sleeve of white satin, inlet with lace. 

Hair in short full curls behind, and blended with flowers on the front of the head. Slippers of white kid. Limerick gloves.

I really like the sleeves on this gown. I believe the clue to the colour is the fact that it tries to represent the idea of a net over the fabric of the dress, because to me it doesn't say peach-blossom.

Until next time.....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Montacute House Continued

Our last view of the inside of the house.

 True to its medieval roots the house retains the screen, the wall that separated  the servants preparing the meals and those dining.

We saw it from the other side.
 Opposite the screen was once a smaller buttery with a cellar below it and a passaage on the west side which would have linked the Hall with the kitchen.  This is where the butler would have dispensed the beer and wine. During the Regency it became a Common Parlour, and much later enlarged into the dining room we see today.

Five of the chairs at the dining room table are Cromwellian "farthingale" chairs with leather seats and backs.
The fireplace dates from the renovations done in the Regency era.

Next time we will take a wander in the grounds and  have a closer look at the oriole window mentioned earlier.

Until next time....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

This is the cover for my next book, Captured Countess. The book comes out in December 2014 and there are a few buy links below to get you started if you would like to pre-order.

I must say I am pleased with it. The story is set in London and Cornwall and a couple of other places. The cover shows a scene from the story, and I think it evokes the mystery of the Cornish location and the story itself.

Barnes and Noble Amazon.com(US) Kobo.com icon Amazon Canada Amazon U.K. Or available for Pre-order wherever you like to shop.

Never trust a spy! 

Nicoletta, the Countess Vilandry, is on a dangerous mission—to lure fellow spy Gabriel D''Arcy into bed and into revealing his true loyalties. With such sensual games at play and such strong sensations awakened, suddenly Nicky''s dangerously close to exposing her real identity.

Gabe knows that the countess has been sent to seduce him. The only question is to what end? He''s never met such a captivating woman—and he''s determined to enjoy every seductive second she spends as his very willing captive!  


A Friday Fragment

Looking into her eyes, he turned her hand palm up, his thumb massaging the tender flesh. "Such a pretty hand,"  he murmured. "So white. As delicate as a bird's wing."

And as easily crushed by his superoior strength. The threat was not lost on her.
 
 Until next time...
 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Regency Fashion September 1814



I hope you had a wonderful Labour Day weekend. It is hard to believe the end of the summer is upon us already, but this dress should be enough to remind us that while we are moving into the Autumn, the weather may yet surprise us.



MORNING DRESS September 1814.

From Ackermann's Repository
             
A ROUND robe of lilac or evening primrose-coloured sarsnet, trimmed entirely round the bosom with a quilling of blond lace, edged with chenille; sarsnet flounce, headed with tufts or quilling of blond, corresponding with the top of the dress; long full sleeve, partially drawn up and fastened with bows of silk cord; a lace cuff.

 The French hat, composed of white and lilac satin; the crown trimmed with tufts and bows of ribbon, and ornamented with a large cluster of flowers. Slippers of lilac kid. Gloves pale tan.

I really like this gown, and the French hat is very pretty, at least on the model. Now what would you say she is carrying? Parasol?  It doesn't look right.

She is definitely at the beach because those are ships off in the distance, but could it be a telescope?  Any thoughts?

Until next time

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Perseverance - Writer's Friend or Foe

When asked about success as a writer, I often mention perseverance as key.

Persevering to the end of a story is certainly something that every beginning writer needs to accomplish. There is nothing more satisfying than writing the end even if it is the first draft.

It certainly requires a huge measure of steadfastness to write book after book when no one is buying what you write.

Submitting those books to editors and agents despite the pain of rejection is a special kind of perseverance.

It's all good right?

Well, I have come to realize that sometime perseverance can be a bad thing.

For example, writing and re-writing to perfect prose, so that it is never finished, is a problem.  Some blame it on perfectionism, but I have come to realize that the same dogged determination evidenced above is part of this too.

And what about sitting hour after hour staring at the computer to meet a deadline or finish the word count set for the day. There are serious health aspect to this kind of perseverance. The body was built to move.

And what about the hours you spend never talking to anyone while you finish the manuscript. Even a writer needs to speak to real people one in a while.

So, persevere by all means, but in moderation. The goal isn't everything. How you get there is important.  And definitely have fun along the way.


The Gilvrys of Dunross

Until next time….

Monday, August 18, 2014

Montacute House Part VII


I frequently find myself gazing out of the windows when visiting one of these great houses.  Here is another view showing the garden and at the end of a wall, one of two pavilions which were designed as extra bedrooms.

I would love to have been one of the guests assigned to one of these rooms. Imagine the quiet. Though it would be a hike for breakfast.
I
A huge feature of Montacute is its Long Gallery. An important room, used for exercise by the family in inclement weather and I would guess, the odd ball.

It is in a room like this that I imagined Merry playing battledor with Caro's young son Tommy in More than a Mistress, though I had invested that gallery with suits of armor. I needed something for them to tie a string to.

Interestingly enough, several bedrooms lead off this gallery.

I took this picture to show the length of the gallery. These days I would think a gym would be pleased to have such a space for a running track.


At the southern end of the gallery there is an oriel window. It is hard to see it because of the drapery.

But here it is from the outside. Just beautiful


And here is another view. Not all of these gardens are as they were in the Regency owing to the the vagaries of fortune, but they are still beautiful to see.


Until next time....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

There's an App for That

Novel EngagementSo exciting. Romance Writers of America has put together a new app to help readers find their favourite authors and new romance novels.  The link to the app is in the logo.  I have also added it to the right margin in case you need to find it again.  This is a new venture and still a work in progress, but check out your favourite romance author or genre. Find new books.

Try it, and let me know what you think.  I'll pass along any comments.

Until next time

Monday, August 11, 2014

Regency Fashion August 1814

Hot days of summer here in the Northern hemisphere.  What are you wearing at the beach?

I bet it looks nothing like this.  Our ladies of 200 years ago might have had the prettiest ballgowns, but I bet you wouldn't swap your bathing suit for this one. Though to be honest it is  a walking dress too.  I liked seeing the cliffs in the background and the bathing machines lined up on the beach. And that must be a towel over her arm.

Reminds me a bit of a scene in my next book Captured Countess out in December.  Our heroine, Nicky, is learning to swim -- with the King.

All right, here is the official description. But I am not sure what Carcassian refers too? Circassians perhaps?

From La Belle Assemblee:
Carcassian Ladies’ Corset Bathing & Sea-side Walking Dress 
High dress of rich Indian or Parisian chintz, made in a form peculiarly novel and elegant; it is trimmed with chintz bordering to correspond, or a rich silk trimming. Long sleeve, with the fullness let in at the top. The collar is extremely novel and beautiful, and the trimming most tastefully disposed, so as to give the appearance of a shirt to the pelisse; it is loose in the body, but fastens in to the waist.  
We forbear a particular description of this elegant and convenient dress, as it must be seen to be properly understood; we have only to observe, that it is made in a form never before introduced, that it is equally tasteful and becoming; it enables a lady to dress herself in a few minutes without assistance, prevents the chance of taking cold by the long delay in dressing; and, when dressed, to look as completely fashionable as if she had employed the longest time at her toilet.  
The principal novelty, however, consists of Mrs. Bell’s new invented Circassian corset, which unites the advantages of being conductive to health and comfort, by being made of novel materials, free from superfluities, such as steel, whalebone, or any hard substance; so that ease, gracefulness, and dignity are given to the female form in a manner perfectly novel and original. It gives relief and protection to pregnant ladies, and at the same time adds dignity and beauty to the appearance.  
Head dress Chapeau Bras. Slippers of pale green; and gloves to correspond.

Now some of you may be interested in the comment on the corset.  Novel materials. One can only wonder. And the fact that she can dress herself after bathing means this outer shell comes off before she takes a dip leaving her in that corset and her chemise?

Until next time

Thursday, August 7, 2014

History versus Story

Or: Does it have to be right?



As the writer of period stories this is an issue I often struggle with. How accurate do I need to be? How much creative licence can I take in my stories.

Over time I have vacillated from the utter fear of getting it wrong, and embracing the concept of: story trumps all.  But as we all know, a pendulum, when it stops swinging, always ends up bang smack in the middle of its arc.  Oh, I do love a good metaphor.

Over time I have come to recognize that I am writing stories for entertainment. Stories set in an earlier time period whose history we know about. Some of that history was learned long after the events actually happened, some of it well known at the time.  Genre fiction has the expectation that it will transport the reader to another place and leave them with a feeling of having had an enjoyable experience.  It is not designed to teach or moralize or guide, any more than Two and Half Men was supposed to teach us how to behave or Big Bang Theory is intended to turn us into nuclear physicists.  Yes, these programs comment on aspects of life today and make us laugh not only at the characters on screen, but also at ourselves. In the first instance, they likely shock us, as we secretly wish we could be as bold as Charley, and in the latter, we might wonder at our own lost innocence as displayed by Sheldon. Or not.

It doesn't matter.  We are entertained.

A period novelist has to get major facts right about his or her era, as does a genre fiction period author. But the stories are character driven. The story is about the people on the page, not the political climate or the economic reality. Those are backstory. And like all backstory, needs to be fed in as and when required. In my opinion, a  fiction author needs to let the imagination fly free, while remaining within the bounds of her world. Somethings are easy to get right, the buildings, the clothing, even the flora and fauna which I have expounded on at length in this blog.

But are there hundreds of Dukes and earls running around in the Regency doing heroic or unheroic things? No. Certainly not.  We all know that. Readers and historians alike.

In my next book, Captured Countess, coming out in December 2014, there is a plot by Napoleon's agents to kill King George. Did it happen?  Well it might have. How do we know for certain it did not? Could some as yet undiscovered cache of documents reveal that it did? It is in the realm of the possible.

Did the characters who set out to foil the plot really exist? No, they did not. But the King was at Weymouth that summer.  Napoleon did plan to invade England. So the setting and the backstory is accurate, but the story is unashamedly all my own.

I often hear complaints that covers are not period accurate.  Here are two covers for books in the same series, "Rakes in Disgrace".

The cover for the Gamekeeper's Lady couldn't be more accurate for the Regency period, both in style and setting.  The second cover, for the second book, More Than a Mistress is way too early. The shoes, the gown, reek of a pre-Regency era, but the scene it represents.... is right out of the book. Both covers are evocative of the story.

Each book sold as well as the other, because in the end it was all about the story inside the cover.

So, to writers and readers I say, enjoy the story along with a soupcon of history. Use it to spice the broth so to speak.

I will address a few issues that I do think writers of period stories in my genre ought to get right and some others that I think might be borderline.

What do you think?

Until next time......

Monday, August 4, 2014

Montacute House Part VI


It is always fascinating exploring the nooks and crannies of someone elses' house, and Montacute House has a great many.  For a writer it is always handy to have pictures of odd corners. You never know when you might need a spot for your characters to lurk or meet.




  Our next stop, way of stairs and passages,  is the library, once the Great Chamber where the Elizabethan family would have received their most important visitors and dined in state.



 It became a library in 1791.




During the regency and after it became as we see it today, with the original Elizabethan chimney peice and frieze and the stained glass window.





 I particularly like this set of rolling steps which were u8sed to access the higher shelves of the book presses.










This next item, a porch of sorts was added to the library much later. It used to be the entrance to the parlour.
Intended to intimidate wrong doers who appeared before the magistrate, no doubt.

The motto says  "Do This".


Until next time

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fashion July 1814

I could not let July slip away without one more post on the fashion from the Regency Period.


From La Belle Assemblee:

Russian and Prussian Bonnet with Pelisse a-la-Militaire

I often put my heroines in something al-la-Militaire because it sounds daring. And let us facing we would all like to be daring, within bounds of course.

My first thoughts were, not so very Militaire and a bit hot for July.  But given the weather we have been having lately, well perhaps not. And does the military bit just refer to the colour, you know, Prussian blue?

Here is the description, it might shed a bit more light on the ideas of the designer.

Jacconet muslin high dress, with a rich letting-in of lace and embroidery of the same materials round the bottom: the body and sleeves of this dress are richly appliqued with lace. 
A most delicate blue sarsnet pelisse, trimmed a-la-Prusse, either with crape or satin of a dark shade. The sleeves and the front of the pelisse are slightly ornamented in the same tasteful manner; the back is full, and fastens round the waist by a fancy military girdle; an appliqueing of crape, to correspond in colour with the pelisse, is let-in round the bosom, and on each applique is a small satin flower. A rich lace ruff falls over. 
This walking costume is at present wholly confined to the highest class of our fair pedestrians, and we must say, it is equally distinguished for novelty and elegance; it also displays the figure to the greatest advantage. The captivating military bonnet which accompanies it, is highly characteristic of the elegant taste of its inventress: it bestows upon a pretty face that air which the French term piquant. 
We have observed of some hats which have formerly made their appearance under military appellations, that they gave a look of fierceness even to soft features: the reverse of this is the case with the Russian and Prussian Bonnet, which is one of the most generally becoming that we have ever seen.
 
The above dresses were invented, and can be obtained exclusively of Mrs. Bell, the Inventress of the Ladies’ Chapeau Bras, removed to No. 26, Charlotte-street, Bedford-square.

I'm not convinced. How about you?  It is certainly good to know that Mrs Bell has moved. I wouldn't want our heroines showing up at the wrong location.

Until next time