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Friday, January 20, 2017

It's All Greek to Me

Guest Blogger Jennifer Moore

The Greek War of Independence is a topic I was unfamiliar with, but now I can’t get enough of it.

To set the stage, in 1824 the Ottoman Empire ruled Greece—and a good chunk of the Mesopotamian and Balkan world. During this time, Greeks weren’t allowed to ride horses, carry weapons, or own property, unless they forsook their religion and joined Islam. Many did. But the majority refused. The Turks demanded high taxes, and even worse, they practiced devshirme—or child taking. Children who seemed strong enough were taken from their families to serve in the Sultan’s Janissary Corps. And sometimes pretty girls were taken for the Sultan’s harem. Parents or other family members who resisted were killed immediately.

Some of the most famous players in the war were:

Lord Byron, a little eccentric, as we all know, but he helped organize and fund the revolution,

Laskarina Bouboulina, a naval commander, (Yeah, a woman! How cool is that?)

Theodoros Kolkotronis, a freedom fighter or klepht.  (More about those guys later)

and my personal favorite: Petros Mavromichalis (Petrobey), the leader (or bey) of the Maniots.

The Maniots live in a rural area of the Greek Peloponnese, a spot place difficult to get to overland, especially for a Turkish army. And the Maniots controlled the little harbors and hidden coves of their coast. They were fiercely independent warriors descending from Sparta, and still have a reputation of being unpredictable. With few natural resources, their main source of income was piracy.

Here’s a picture of Petrobey’s hometown, Limeni Village, located on a small cove used to hide ships.

The different Maniot clans would declare blood feuds, fighting against enemy families until every male in the family was dead. They lived (and still do) in tower houses where they could hole up and wait out a blood feud.

It turns out these tower houses were great for holding off armies of Turks as well.

But in 1824, the most important thing about the Maniots is they were free from Turkish rule. The Turks simply couldn’t afford the manpower necessary to invade the area, and probably hoped the Maniots would just fight among themselves and leave the rest of the empire alone. They were wrong.

A secret society, the Filiki Eteria sent an emissary to Petrobey, telling him of a planned Greek revolt. The man (whose name we don’t know) was enlisting all the regions of Greece to fight as one.

Petrobey, as leader of the Mani managed to unite his people, and they raised a flag of freedom from Tsímova—later renamed Areopolis (after Ares, the god of war). Then marched across the country, eventually defeating the Turks.

Here’s an image of the flag. Nike e thanatos—victory or death. Tan e epi tas—that’s from the ancient Spartan motto: on your shield or carrying it.

They were helped by the klephts, bandits who lived and trained as soldiers in secret mountain camps.

Here’s a picture of a group of kelphts. They look funny to us, but  kilts and puff balls on their shoes were worn with pride. And Greece’s modern army uniforms are variations of these uniforms.

With all this rich history, it was difficult to know where to set my book, but in the end, the Maniots won out.

A Place for Miss Snow
Miss Diana Snow is everything a British chaperone should be—she finds satisfaction in order and depends wholly upon the rules of decorum as she negotiates the isle of Greece with her young charge. But Miss Snow's prim and proper exterior masks a disquieting past: orphaned and alone in the world, she has only her stiff upper lip to rely on. When a brief encounter with a handsome stranger challenges her rules of propriety, Diana is unwittingly drawn into an adventure that will turn her ordered world upside down.

Alexandros Metaxas is a Greek spy working to recruit individuals to the cause of revolution. His mission seems to be going perfectly until he encounters Diana Snow, a captivating—if slightly cold—beauty. When their paths cross again, the ill-fated reunion threatens all Alex has been fighting for. But more importantly, it places Diana's life in jeopardy. There is only one way to save her: they must put themselves at the mercy of the most powerful pirate family in the Mediterranean. Soon, Diana is plunged into a fantastic world of gypsy curses, blood feuds, and unexpected romance. But when a bitter vendetta places her in mortal danger, will she have the courage to fight for life and love?

Jennifer Moore is a passionate reader and writer of all things romance due to the need to balance the rest of her world that includes a perpetually traveling husband and four active sons, who create heaps of laundry that are anything but romantic. She suffers from an acute addiction to 18th and 19th century military history and literature. Jennifer has a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Utah and is a Guitar Hero champion. She lives in northern Utah with her family, but most of the time wishes she was on board a frigate during the Age of Sail.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Carried Away by Carriages

            In this era of the auto, we look back on carriages as romantic—but in the English Regency, the carriage was practical, sporting, and a sign of status. It was also an era in which technical improvements resulted in faster, lighter and more comfortable carriages.
            In 1804, Obadiah Elliott of Lambeth invented the elliptic spring, lightening the weight and eliminating the need for perches. Samuel Hobson improved carriage shapes by lowering the wheels in 1820. At the same time, the engineer Jon Loudon McAdam introduced his process to pave roads to create a hard, smooth surface and double the speed at which carriages could travel.
            Perhaps the most popular of carriages for those who could afford fashionable vehicles were the phaetons, the sporting curricles, and the landau and barouche.
            Phaetons first appeared around 1788 and the Prince of Wales—then a dashing young man—popularized their use in the 1790's. They were noted for being built very high over the body, with four wheels (large wheels in back and smaller wheels in the front). They sported two types of under-carriage. A perch phaeton had a straight or slightly curved central beam that connected the two axles. The 'superior' crane-neck phaeton offered a heavier construction of iron with two beams and hoops which allowed the front wheels to turn.

            Ladies as well as gentlemen drove spider, park and ladies phaetons that were often drawn by ponies. Lady Archer, Lady Stormont, Mrs. Garden and even the Princess of Wales were noted whips. Among the gentlemen, Sir John Lade, Lord Rodney, Charles Finch and Lord Onslow set the pace.
            The curricle, a two-wheel and more sporting vehicle, came into fashion in the 1800's. The sponsorship of the Prince of Wales—who was becoming too fat to climb into his high perch phaeton—promoted the curricle’s popularity. Horses were attached to the light-weight body by harness connected pole, with a steel bar that attached to pads on the horse's back to support the pole. The curricle offered seats for two, with a groom's seat behind.
            By the 1800's, the sociable had evolved into a carriage named the sociable-landau or simply the landau. This carriage was drawn by a pair of horses, and driven with post boys (riders on the horses) or by a coachman if a box seat had been built onto the body. Hoods could be raised, front and back, so that the landau resembled a coach, or the hood could be lowered in fine weather. Luke Hopkinson of Holborn introduced the Briska-landau, which offered seats that rose six inches then the top was put down. Canoe-landaus offered curved, shallow bodies and were sometimes called Sefton-landaus, after the Earl of Sefton.
            The barouche did not gain in popularity until its heavy body and low build had been modified. When Mr. Charles Buxton founded the Whip Club in 1808 (which became the Four-In-Hand Club the following spring), its members drove "...fifteen barouches and landaus with four horses to each...." to the first June meeting on a Monday in Park Lane. Because its members often drove barouches, the Whip Club sometimes came to be called the Barouche Club.
            The barouche required large, 'upstanding' horses, with impressive action. It could be driven from the box or with postillion riders, and could accommodate a pair, four or six horses. Two passengers could be seated in the body, and a seat provided comfort for two grooms.
            Many noted whips designed their own carriages, which is how we come by the Stanhope Gig, made popular after 1815 to the design of the Hon. Fitzroy Stanhope. Carriages also bore the name of their builders. The Tilbury Gig of 1820 was designed and made by Tilbury the coach-builder. Unlike other gigs it had no boot, and the rib-chair body was supported entirely on seven springs, making it a popular vehicle for use on rough roads.
            Other carriages in use during the Regency included a drag, which was the slang term for a gentleman's private coach. These were built for four-in-hand teams and copied the mail coach with seats inside the coach and on the roof. Gentlemen drove their drags to race meetings so the carriage could act as a grandstand. A convenient tray in the boot could even be lowered to create a table for picnics.
            By 1815, the heavy traveling coach of the previous century had been replaced by the traveling chariot, a light-body vehicle usually driven by postillions or post boys who rode two of the horses harnessed to the carriage. These vehicles served as the post-chaise carriages that could be hired at various posting houses. At a cost of one shilling and six pence per mile for a pair of horses—and double that for four horses—a post-chaise was not an economical method of travel. They earned the slang name 'Yellow Bounder' for the almost inevitable yellow bodies.
            After 1830, the increasing popularity of the railroad meant the end of the carriage for long-distance travel. But until the advent of the automobile, carriages continued to flourish in type and design. But beauty in shape and color for carriages and horses are still symbols of wealth and leisure.

The Elegant Carriage, 1979, Marylian Watney
Horse & Carriage, 1990, J.N.P. Watson
The History of Coaches, 1877, George A. Thrupp
The Coachmakers, 1977, Harold Nockolds

Friday, January 6, 2017

Twelfth Night Traditions

by Donna Hatch

Happy Twelfth Night!

According to Wickipedia: Twelfth Night is a festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany. Different traditions mark the date of Twelfth Night on either 5 January or 6 January; the Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, celebrates Twelfth Night on the 5th and "refers to the night before Epiphany, the day when the nativity story tells us that the wise men visited the infant Jesus." In Western Church traditions, the Twelfth Night concludes the Twelve Days of Christmas; although, in others, the Twelfth Night can precede the Twelfth Day.

Either way, Twelfth Night is a day to feast and celebrate the coming of the Magi, or Three Kings, or Wise Man to the Christ Child. Though it is a common belief today that the Three Kings did not find Jesus until many months or even years after the new star signaled His birth, customary celebrations still occur on this date.

Many observe this as the end of the Christmas Season, and keep their Christmas lights and decorations up until this date. According to some superstitions, one must take down Christmas decorations on this date or risk inviting bad luck.

Traditionally, the Yule Log is lit on Christmas Day and kept alive Twelfth Night. Some superstations require the keeping of its charred remains throughout the year as a protection against fire and lightening. I find it amusing that other traditions require that all ashes, rags, and scraps be discarded on New Year’s Day as a way of discarding bad luck and making room for good luck.

In London, the Holly Man comes to kick off Twelfth Night Celebrations which include drinking wassail, singing, and generally have a great big party.

Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary in the 1600s that on this date, he filled his house with friends, "extraordinary Musick" and "good fires and candles" on the day.

What, if anything, do you do to celebrate Twelfth Night?


Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth

The spinster sister of the immortal poet William Wordsworth was present at the creation of his and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1799 Lyrical Ballads, which gave birth to the Romantic movement in English literature. She was also present throughout her famous brother's adult life. The two, among the five Wordsworth siblings orphaned and separated at an early age, would rejoin when Dorothy Wordsworth was 24 and William 25, and they would live under the same roof until William's death 55 years later.
Theirs was an extraordinarily loving relationship, and Dorothy's prose is credited with influencing her brother's poetry by the keen observations on nature she recorded in the journals William encouraged her to keep. An example from Dorothy's journal:
One leaf on the top of a tree—the sole remaining leaf—danced round and round like a rag blowing in the wind.

From her brother's poem Cristabel:

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

The first of her journals, The Alfoxden Journal 1798, takes up less than ten percent of The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, edited by Helen Darbishire for Oxford University Press in 1958. Of more importance are The Grasmere Journals 1800-1803 because they record Dorothy Wordsworth's observations of the Lake District which her brother and Coleridge made famous.  Dorothy and William moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere the last month of the eighteenth century. Two years later William married Mary Huthcinsons who, along with her orphaned siblings, had been close to the Wordsworth orphans for many years. There is no jealousy on Dorothy's part toward the woman with whom she would share the brother she had lived alone with for the previous seven years.

Perhaps that is because as Mary busied herself with mothering the five children she bore William, Dorothy remained William's companion on their legendary walks throughout the Lake District.
These journals, which are copyrighted by the Dove Cottage Trust, give those of us reading them two centuries later a feel for the minutia of their everyday life: the ringing of distant sheep bells, haystacks in the fields, baking day. Surprisingly, to Dorothy, plodding through the frost of a cold January day was pleasant, but summer heat could send her to bed for days.

For the author of  English-set historicals, these journals are an invaluable source for descriptions of the English countryside—its plants, birds, and other creatures—in every season of the year. This little volume is a keeper.--Cheryl Bolen's newest release is Ex-Spinster by Christmas, a House of Haverstock novella.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Wassail

20161202_141654by Donna Hatch

Remember the holiday tune "Here we come a-wassailing?"
Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.  And God bless you a happy New Year.

Ever wonder what "a-wassailing" means?
it means to sing for some wassail. I guess it's kinda like singing for your supper, only the carolers go from place to place hoping for a nip of the traditional hot beverage.

One of my winter and holiday favorites is Wassail, also know as spiced hot apple cider. It's one of those things it's hard to get wrong. All the recipes I've tried are yummy and satisfying. Some include citrus such as lemon and orange. Traditionally, it contains alcohol such as wine or rum or even ale, but I don't drink alcohol so I make it without.  No matter how you make it, wassail is a comfort for cold winter nights as well as a solution for a sweet craving. A few years ago, a friend shared with me her trick: apricot juice. It adds a richness and complexity other recipes don't have.

wassailHere it is:
1 large jug of apple cider
1 can of apricot juice
3 cinnamon sticks
4 nutmeg cloves
a dash of nutmeg
a dash of allspice
Optional: orange or lemon slices

All of these can be adjusted according to taste so you may want to experiment.

Simmer for at least an hour but you can simmer all day. It does get stronger and stronger so after several hours, you may want to tone it down with a bit more apple cider. It makes the house smell heavenly!
mistletoe-magic2In my Christmas novella, Mistletoe Magic, the heroine adores the wassail her friend’s mother makes and will go to great lengths to get the well as take advantage of the mistletoe at the annual Christmas ball.

Note: The Colonial Williamsburg blog has lots of fun history behind this traditional drink.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Mummer’s Play by guest author Jenna Jaxon plus an excerpt

by Guest Author Jenna Jaxon
The Mummer’s Play
Displaying mummers.jpgThe Mummer’s Play
The Middle Ages were a time of religious conviction in all facets of daily life. This included the theatre of the period, that was, at least in the early days, unhappy with theatrical performances. Once the Church discovered the teaching ability of theatre, however, they began to use dramatic performances to educate a mostly illiterate populace.
By the Late Medieval period, however, entertainers had strayed from the strictly religious performances, and troupes of entertainers, mummers as they were often called, traveled throughout Europe giving performances in town squares and noble households. These plays were often taken not only from Bible stories, but from legends and tales of heroes. One particular set of plays they undertook were called “guises” because the actors were disguised in often outlandish costumes. One play in particular, “St. George and the Dragon,” was immensely popular. (That is why I included it in Seduction at the Christmas Court.)
The costumes, as I noted above, could be very strange and fantastical. Men dressed as women and in some case animals. St. George traditionally wore “silver armor, helmet, sword and shield with St. George and the Dragon” on it. His adversary, the Turkish Knight, dressed in “red trousers, blue loose jacket, turban, sword, and a shield with crescent.” And the Doctor, the Prince of Quacks, is styled in a “black swallow-tail coat and knee breeches, white waistcoat, perruque [wig], long nose.”
The texts of the plays were mostly rhymes and could include songs and dances.

Displaying mummers.jpg
Here comes I, the Turkish knight
Just come from Turkey-land to fight
I’ll fight thee, St. George-St. George, though man of courage bold,
If thy blood be too hot, I’ll quickly fetch it cold.

Wo ho! my little fellow, thou talkest very bold,
Just like the little Turks, as I have been told;
Therefore, thou Turkish knight,    {Threatening him}
Pull out thy sword, and fight;
Pull out thy purse and pay;
I’ll have satisfaction ere thou goest away.

The major actors/entertainers were the hero (St. George, Robin Hood, or in Scotland Galoshin) and a quack doctor who miraculously brings the slain villains back to life by means of a magic potion. The plays were performed exclusively by men, who played the female roles as well. These entertainers needed to additional skills in entertaining, such as acrobatics, juggling, singing, and mimicry.
Christmas time was a great time for merriment, and the mummer’s play was a fun way to pass the long winter’s evening in rhyme, song, dance, and merriment.

Christmas tidings of comfort, joy, and temptation
Alyse and Geoffrey, Lord and Lady Longford, have journeyed to the glittering Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take part in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is suddenly called into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at court, attending the queen and persuading her rebellious sister to accept an unwanted betrothal. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise, Alyse fends off an old suitor who wants to renew their friendship. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?
Here is an excerpt from Jenna's book:
“This entertainment will be tedious. I would much rather retire for a good night’s bedding right now,” he whispered, the puff of his breath tickling her ear and sending prickles of excitement down her neck.
She laced their fingers together. “’Twill be finished ‘ere long, my love. Then you can wield your weapon with a vigor yon knights cannot.”
He laughed and drank deeply. “Aye, sweet Alyse. My skill with both weapons outshines any other knight.”
“As you will not want me to be judge of that, I think, I will demur to your claim, although I will test your skills again with the one blade ‘ere the night is done.”
At Geoffrey’s bark of laughter—so loud it turned heads on the dais their way—Alyse settled back to watch the mummers, her cheeks burning, but a pleasant anticipation building within as well.
The mummer playing St. George took the center spot in the Great Hall and began a sing-song rhyme that soon had the court laughing at its nonsense. A stream of knights—played in turn by the other mummers—approached, made their rhyming challenge, and were quickly slain by St. George, whose wielding of his sword became swifter and swifter. He slayed the knights in such short order that by the time he faced the final knight, he did no more than look at the Turkish knight than the man fell down, his toes jingling softly as he landed on the soft rushes covering the floor.
A burst of laughter and applause followed that performance as the quack Doctor shuffled forward, his “magic potion” in a large bottle, gripped in his hand.
Thoroughly engrossed, Alyse laughed and clapped her hands. She held her breath and leaned forward as the Doctor poured the potion down the throats of the slain knights, spoke his own rhyme over them, and one by one, they began to twitch and dance, the rush-strewn floor seeming to come alive as they did. The room resounded with merriment as all seven knights revived.
Loud applause burst out from the courtiers, many of whom threw gold and silver coins onto the floor. Geoffrey tossed a gold florin to the Turkish knight. “For my lady’s pleasure,” he called.
The man nimbly caught the coin and made a deep bow. “Thank you, my lord.”
With a lecherous grin, Geoffrey grasped Alyse’s arm and urged her to rise. “And now allow me to attend to my lady’s pleasure as well.”

Today, Jenna is giving away a copy of one of her backlist Christmas books. Winner may choose which one to receive.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical in all time periods because passion is timeless.  She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She’s a theatre director when she’s not writing and lives in Virginia with her family, including two very vocal cats.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as Vice-President of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA. She has three series currently available: The House of Pleasure, set in Georgian England, Handful of Hearts, set in Regency England, and Time Enough to Love, set in medieval England and France.
She currently writes to support her chocolate habit.
Find Jenna Jaxon online:

Friday, November 18, 2016

5 Fun Facts About Coming Out in Regency England

by Donna Hatch

To quote the famous first line of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

It was also a universal fact that a young lady of good breeding must be in want of a husband. Coming "out" during the Regency, was crucial to a gently bred young lady's future, since she basically had no future unless she married. Without being "out" she could not attend dinner parties or balls or any other society function. Basically, until she was out, she was considered a child. Here are some fun facts about this vital process.

1. The young lady's parents decided when she could come out—there was no set age. The very snooty Lady Catherine De Bourgh from Price and Prejudice exclaimed over the Bennett family’s five girls out at the same time. This suggests that the ages of the girls were not surprising, but rather that so many from one family were out at the same time. In Mansfield Park, people were surprised to learn that Fanny Price was not yet out, who, if memory serves, was seventeen (or nearly so) at the time. The age for coming out seems to have ranged from fifteen to eighteen.

2. Trips to London for the Season were not imperative to being out or finding a husband. Many young ladies married well to someone from their home or neighboring towns. However, a trip to London for the Season provided an exciting opportunity to meet any number of eligible bachelors, including sons of peers, and indulge in all the delights only London could offer.

3. Young ladies entering society were not called “debutantes.” During the Regency, that term applied to actresses debuting on stage. Sometime during the Victorian Era (which came after the Regency Era) the term gradually began to apply to young ladies coming out. About that time, parents started the tradition of throwing debutante balls. During the Regency, one may or may not have a ball for a young lady new to society.

4. Not every young lady took her bows to the queen. It wasn't necessary to curtsy to the Queen prior to entering society and coming out. In fact, unless the lady was a daughter of a peer who wanted to appear in court, or the newly married wife of a peer, bowing to the queen would have been totally unnecessary. Also, Queen Charlotte didn't hold drawing rooms (where young ladies could be presented to her) on a regular basis between1811 and 1818 to due her health.
5. Young ladies were required to have a chaperone with them at all times outside of their home or while entertaining a male visitor. Maids were not chaperones—they were too easily bribed or bullied. Male relatives were not generally considered chaperones, but they might do in a pinch, depending on the circumstances. The only truly appropriate chaperone was a matron or spinster of good character and family, and who spoke with a genteel accent, generally of the upper classes. Mothers or aunts were preferred chaperones. One might also hired companion, a respectable woman who’d probably fallen on hard times enough to need to earn wages, similar in class and situation as to those who became a governess.

As a mother of daughters, I’m kind of in favor of the idea of a chaperone.