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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Eighteenth Century Fashion Statements: The Macaroni by Jenna Jaxon

Fashion trends have been ongoing since the beginning of time and one of the more interesting ones in the 18th century was the Macaroni.
Young men of the aristocracy or wealthy families in 18th and 19th centuries, very often took a Grand Tour of Europe. One of the major countries they visited was Italy where they made the acquaintance of Italian fashion and cuisine. They brought these proclivities back to England with them and the fashion excesses of the “macaronis” as they were dubbed for this Italian connection, became an extreme fashion statement.
The style of the macaroni favored short, tight jackets and trousers in bright colors, jewelry or ornamentation, care of the complexion and often use of paint or cosmetics, and the use of a towering wig with side curls and a tiny hat.
They were ridiculed by many during the time and caricaturists had a field day with them, but others applauded them for pursuing a personal identity in an age when such sensibilities were just beginning to emerge. They instituted several Macaroni clubs, which did champion the arts such as music, painting, sculpture, and theatre by offering medals and prizes to artists, although eventually they devolved to simply pursuing the sartorial splendors of the time.
Because of their extravagant dress that often came across as effeminate, the macaroni style soon came to be associated with a homosexual lifestyle, to the point the macaronis almost became synonymous with what was labeled “the vice.” This ostentatious style flourished from around 1760 until the turn of the century when it died out in favor of the more conservative and masculine dress for men. In my newly released historical romance, Only Pleasure Will Do, a minor character is a macaroni, of whom one character tells his dancing partner, “He does stand out in a crowd. I fear you won’t be able to lose him even if you try.”
Only Pleasure Will Do is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords. Sources used: “Macaroni and Sexuality in the 18th Century” in Brewminate. Ribeiro, Aileen. “Meet the Macaronis.” History Today, July 31, 2019.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

English Afternoon Tea

Photo by Chelsea Audibert on Unsplash
By Regency Romance Author Donna Hatch

Nothing is more quintessentially British like afternoon tea. While most of us may think of afternoon tea as an upper lass tradition dating back hundreds of years, I discovered something else entirely; it's relatively new. In fact, High Tea as we know it has only been around for about a hundred and fifty years.

First, we must travel back to the sixteen hundreds, when King Charles II’s Portuguese bride, Catherine, brought a cask of it along with her dowry. She unwittingly started a new fashion--afternoon tea. However, tea came largely from the Orient, so it was expensive. Therefore, only the rich could afford tea until larger amounts began to be imported, resulting in lowered prices. Still, tea in the afternoon didn't become common until the 1700's. Thomas Garraway introduced tea in his London coffee house claiming tea had medicinal qualities with this advertisement:: “This excellent beverage, recommended by all Chinese doctors, and which the Chinese call ‘Tcha’, other nations ‘Tay’ or ‘Tee’, is on sale at Sultaness Mead close to the Royal Exchange in London.” (Le Palais des Thes)

By the Regency Era, the custom had long-since caught on and the upper class had afternoon tea about four o’clock, which was before the fashionable time to promenade in Hyde Park if one resided in London. Afternoon tea included, of course, tea served hot. In addition to tea, one might find any of these tasty treats: small finger sandwiches (thin and crust-less, thank you), biscuits (which the Americans call cookies), seedcake, macarons, and small cakes sometimes called fairy cakes with butter icing which were about the size of mini cupcakes. Regency tea did traditionally include petite fours but with macarons available, that would suit me just fine. There has been much discussion among Regency enthusiasts as to whether scones with jam and clotted cream (also known as Devonshire cream) were served during the Regency or if that became more common during the Victorian era when High Tea became such a grand affair. Without a time machine, one may never know.

Food with tea probably evolved because the upper classes ate dinner at the fashionable time of about eight o’clock at night, and since many had not yet adopted the custom of luncheon or nuncheon, they probably needed that small meal in the middle of the day. Personally, I like a small meal in the afternoon even though I do eat lunch. I would have made a great hobbit with the custom of eating "elevensies" and lunch and afternoon tea, etc. But I digress.

“High Tea” developed during the Victorian era. Some accounts say that high tea, served later in the day at about five or six o’clock, originated with the lower classes but I don’t understand how they could come home from work for high tea and then return to work for a few hours and then go home again for dinner. *shrug* Plus, tea was expensive so not many of the lower classes could afford it.

At any rate, High Tea is a more filling meal than afternoon tea. High tea usually comes with white and brown bread, meats such as roast pork, fish like salmon, scones, an assortment of sweets such as cake pie, trifle, lemon-cheese tarts, sponge cake, walnut cake, chocolate roll, pound cake, currant teacake, curd tart, a variety of cheeses, jellies, as well as butter or clotted cream. In addition, the term High Tea comes from how and where the guests are seated. According to Laura Boyl in her article "Tea Time" on the Jane Austen website: the different names are derived from the height of the tables where the meals were served. Low tea is served on a table, which in the United States would be called “coffee tables.” High tea is served on the dinner table.

Because the characters in my Regency romance novels all hail from the upper class, or end up there eventually, I will focus on Regency afternoon tea because that's what they do every day, unless they are fighting pirates or running for their lives or battling villains, of course.

Most sandwiches in the UK are traditionally made with a very thin white bread, generously buttered with potted paste. The potted paste could similar to deviled ham, but also could be a fish paste--salmon, for instance, very thinly spread. I guess they liked their pleasures small, thin, and bite-sized. 

Tea was (and still is, sometimes) served in a china or silver pot accompanied by slices of lemon or milk. They never put cream in their tea or it ruined the flavor. According to Regency researcher and author, Kathryn Kane, tea leaves used during the Regency were chopped much more coarsely than those used today. The large size required that the tea be steeped for a longer period, but it also made it easier to strain the used leaves from the tea after it had been steeped. There was a special implement included in many tea services used to clear the strainer at the base of the spout of the teapot or to strain the used leaves out of each cup before it was served. You can find more details at:

However, Regency author Grace Kone, who is British, told me that if it's done correctly, the tea leaves stay on the bottom, with just enough pouring out to make a scattering of leaves for fortune-telling. (It sounds very Harry Potter, doesn't it?) Grace said she has never in her life strained leaf tea. Other British friends such as author Janis Susan May Patterson use a tea ball, which is a small metal case into which she places the tea leaves. These are also known as 'tea eggs.' Other British friends pour their tea into their cups through a silver tea strainer.

Here is a recipe, courtesy Regency author, Miranda Neville, for cucumber sandwiches:

  • Very thinly sliced white bread (or whole wheat if you insist on being healthy but really, why bother?). I use Pepperidge Farm Very Thin
  • Good quality unsalted butter
  • English cucumbers (about† one and a half per loaf of bread)
  • Salt

1. Slice the cucumbers very thin. Put them in a colander mixed up with some salt, weigh them down with a plate, and leave them in the sink to drain for an hour or two.

2. Wash the salt off and pat dry with a dishtowel.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Put two layers of cucumber slices in each sandwich and press flat with your hand so it all sticks together, preferably without becoming totally squashed.

5. Cut off the crusts (very important). With a big sharp knife cut each sandwich into four – triangles, squares, or strips, your preference.

Me, again. After some trial and error, I decided I like cream cheese instead of butter, but that is a modern substitution.

Here is another tea party must (at least in my opinion)--macarons. From “The Royal Pavilion at Brighton a booklet A Choice Selection of Regency Recipes you can now make at Home” here is a recipe for macarons.

1 large egg 

2 oz ( 55 g) ground almonds
2 oz (55) g caster sugar
a few drops rose water (or whatever flavor you prefer)
1-2 drops almond essence
about 12 slivered almonds (optional)

Heat oven to 160C/325F/gas3

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment paper. Whisk the egg white until stiff. Using a large metal spoon, fold in ground almonds, sugar, rosewater (or your choice of flavoring), and almond essence.  Mix until blended into a smooth thick paste.

Using a teaspoon, put blobs of the mixture on the lined baking sheet, leaving space between them to allow for expansion during cooking. Flatten with the back of a spoon. If you like you can top each with a sliver of almond.  Bake for about 20 minutes until light golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and leave to cool. Makes about 12.

Trust me, these are delicious. I prefer to make them the modern way with a dab of buttercream frosting in the middle of two so they make a sandwich cookie, but they're tasty plain.

I’m not a traditional tea drinker because I don't use caffeine, so I deviate with herbal tea in my cup and I like to add a little honey. But you can use any preferred tea and any desired sweetener. The use of a pretty teacup and the fun finger foods is what it's all about.

Having Afternoon Tea is great fun. I think my next party will be a tea party. Recently, I discovered wearing a tea party hat adds to the atmosphere. Have you ever attended or hosted a tea party?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

To Dye For: Hair Dye in the 18th Century by Jenna Jaxon

Hair dye seems to be one of the most common place attempts at beauty and has been so for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians tinkered with ways to color their hair, as have most cultures ever since. So it is not surprising to learn that women in the 18th century also used hair dye as part of their cosmetic arsenal.

Some civilizations used plant based dyes: henna, indigo, senna, black walnut hulls, red ochre, and leeks. These dyes did not last very long, but were relatively safe to use. The Romans were quite fond of dying their hair. Women would dye their hair red, imitating the Gallic traders they had seen. For a time Roman prostitutes were required to dye their hair blond (however the color became so popular, eventually they stopped because too many women who weren’t prostitutes had blond hair as well).

Unfortunately, in the 18th century, the means used to color hair could be the death of you. Re-discovered ancient Roman formulas for hair dye in the 18th century in Europe meant people began using lead to dye hair to cover the gray. They used a lead oxide to color hair black and chestnut colors, which was of course rather toxic. High levels of lead, absorbed through the scalp, would put a person in a coma and lead could lead to death.

Another toxic compound used to color black hair chestnut brown was Oyle of Virtiol, what we could call sulfuric acid. In the 1700s in Italy, women would bleach their hair by sitting in the sun and having their hair drenched in lye to lighten it.

Women would also lighten their hair by using a mixture of honey, wood ash, and lye soap mixed together and applied to the hair.
None of these methods, save for the non-permanent vegetable dyes, were safe in any way. All of them could cause skin irritation, burning of the skin, and in the case of lead, could lead to death.

In my upcoming release, Only Pleasure Will Do, we discover the heroine has been disguising her appearance for years using a
mixture of crushed black walnut hulls to color her hair, which led me to researching all the ways an 18th century woman could color her hair. Only Pleasure Will Do, which will release on August 31, is on pre-order on Amazon, and if you want a preview of the book, I’ve also released the prologue to the book, titled A Matter of Pleasure. A Matter of Pleasure is available on Amazon for .99 and is Free on Smashwords.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Bow Street Runners

by Donna Hatch
Bow_Street_MicrocosmNext to Robin Hood’s Merry Men, few other groups inspire images of mystery and intrigue quite as well as Bow Street Runners. They were a unique and unprecedented fighting force that paved the way for London’s modern police, Scotland Yard. They are also no longer in existence, and very little is actually known about them. Hence the mystery. And the tragedy.

Before the Magistrate of Bow Street formed the famous Runners, there was no real organized police force and no true police procedures. Constables in London were virtually untrained and failed to do much to protect the innocent or bring justice to the guilty. A Night Watch made up on a rotating basis by the men in a particular district. However, most working-class men wouldn’t or couldn’t be up all night keeping watch. Besides, it was dangerous--ruffians and thugs they tried to arrest usually fought back. Some of these members of the Nigh Watch hired out others to take their turn. Often elderly men who needed the money because they could no longer work filled these roles. These night watchmen typically huddled in groups around the nearest light and hoped no one would harass them. Needless to say, they were an ineffective deterrence to most thieves.

Therefore, the average citizen performed most arrests. The citizen who’d been wronged had to gather all his own evidence, perform the arrest, drag the person before the magistrate (judge) and convince the magistrate this was their man. This citizen served as investigator, policeman, and lawyer all in one--a daunting task, to be sure. Although since the accused were considered guilty unless proven innocent, receiving a guilty verdict was usually a no-brainer. I'm sure some took advantage of this system to seek revenge for wrongs that had little to do with the law.

Into this ineffective chaos stepped the Fielding brothers. Henry Fielding was a magistrate who operated his office on Bow Street. In 1750, he organized an elite fighting force of highly trained and disciplined young men known as the Bow Street Runner. also nicknamed the “Robins Redbreasts” for their distinctive red waistcoats (sometimes spelled weskits because that's how it's pronounced). Bow Street Runners, who, according to research, preferred the term constables, were trained to conduct investigations including rudimentary forensics, and how to question witnesses and victims. They even carried handcuffs. How early they began carrying these restraints and wearing the red waistcoats is anyone’s guess, but in St. Ives by Robert Lewis Stevenson, written in 1897, described Bow Street Constables with handcuffs and red waistcoats.

In the early years, there were only six Bow Street constables in London. For some reason, that number was kept constant at first. But later, those figures grew and there was even a mounted patrol who protected the highways leading outside of London from the dreaded and dangerous highwaymen. This mounted patrol changed safety, and therefore nature, of travel.

CatostconspiratorsWhile the office of a magistrate belonged exclusively to gentlemen of the nobility or landed gentry, the Bow Street constables were working-class men. They were smart, skilled, well-trained, and cunning. The Fielding brothers hand-picked them for the position. Though the constables of Bow Street typically remained in the London area, there are accounts of them tracking fugitives as far as the Scottish border. They drew a modest salary from Bow Street, so most of their pay came in the form of a bounty or reward, usually paid by the victim or a group who had a vested interest in solving a crime. Runners were also hired out to conduct special investigations, and to act as bodyguards. I have found no evidence of foul play or bribes taken, suggesting that they were men of honor and that they had strong loyalty to their magistrate who was always a man of integrity.

Magistrates in other districts of London followed the Fielding’s example by having a specific group of effective investigators--for example, the Thames River Police--but none achieved the lasting acclaim that the Bow Street constables did.

In 1830, when Scotland Yard was organized, the Bow Street constables became obsolete. Much of Scotland Yard’s procedures evolved from those created by Bow Street, and I can only assume that many constables became investigators for Scotland Yard. Progress is usually a good thing, but I feel a sense of loss whenever something unique is swept away to make room for something "better."

In my newest book, Not a Fine Gentleman, the hero is a Bow Street Constable hired to hunt down a murder suspect and bring her to justice. But this assignment is different, and not just because sparks fly between him and the lady accused of murdering her husband. This romantic story of loss and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption, will leave you laughing, crying, and swooning. Sprinkled liberally with suspense, mystery, and heart-melting kisses, this is not your ordinary historical romantic suspense. Fans of Victorian and Regency Eras, and those seeking clean and wholesome romance with plenty of chemistry, will love this story!

Here is the link to buy your own copy of NOT A FINE GENTLEMAN. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited and also available in print.

Official back cover blurb:
Lady Margaret secretly yearns for love, but fate has exchanged wedded bliss for a lie. When she is caught hovering over her cheating husband's dead body, she is instantly doomed to hang for his murder. Without hope for justice, unless she takes matters into her own hands, Margaret flees into the night alone.

A cynical Bow Street Constable, Connor Jackson, vows to bring the fugitive Lady Margaret to face the law—but, he doesn’t expect sparks to fly between them. Could the strong yet tender lady truly be a killer?

As more suspects—and even more condemning evidence—surface, the less certain Connor is of his duty. He must choose between his growing feelings for Lady Margaret and the demands of justice. Will the truth tear them apart or set them free to find love?

NOT A FINE GENTLEMAN is free on Kindle Unlimited and also available in print.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Breakfast in the 18th Century by Jenna Jaxon

I’ve recently discovered a YouTube Channel called 18th Century Cooking with John Townsend and have become fascinated with cooking from the Colonial period, which was also about the time my House of Pleasure series was set. I also live about 20 minutes from Colonial Williamsburg, so I am somewhat vested in the subject so I’d like to share my findings about food in the next several posts, beginning what was eaten for breakfast.

Breakfast was not a formal meal in the 18th century unless you were part of the aristocracy. Laborers ate either bread and cheese
or perhaps porridge at first light before hurrying out to work. Men and women of the upper classes, however, would break their fast later than dawn, perhaps between 9:00 and 10:00, with quite a variety of viands.

Most commonplace would be spiced breads, cakes, or buns. In the late 18th century muffins (what we in America specify as “English muffins”) became very popular. All of these could be spread with butter, marmalade, honey, or jams made from a variety of fruits like raspberries, cherries, or apples. John Townsend has found some delicious breakfast recipes from cook books of the period such as toast, bacon, and a poached egg, eggs scrambled in a quarter
pound of butter with a dusting of nutmeg, pancakes, and something called Bacon Fraze which amounts to bacon fried into pancake batter. I’ve actually made this dish and my family is calling for more.

When speaking of the breakfast the aristocracy ate, a quote from Samuel Johnson in 1776 always comes to mind. He wrote about taking a “simple breakfast” breakfast in London at which was served “oatmeal with sweet cream, smoked herrings, sardines with mustard sauce, grilled trout with white butter sauce, cold veal pies, grilled kidneys, sausages with mashed potatoes, with hot horseradish sauce, and ‘enough bacon to feed a hungry army.’” He also had his choice of seven types of bread, with butter, marmalade, jams, jellies, washed down with Spanish and French brandies, fresh apple cider, tea, and coffee. To say that the Georgians could be lavish at their breakfast tables is an understatement.

A well-trained cook was indispensable for the upper classes and some households sent their cooks to France to enhance their cooking skills. The number and variety of cook books surviving from the 18th century attests to the necessity for cooking, both plain and fancy in all households.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Lover’s Eyes Jewelry—The Fashion Statement of the 18th Century by Jenna Jaxon

Although fashion trends have been around as long as fashion itself, one of the most interesting I have found is the affinity Georgians had for wearing lover’s eye jewelry. These tiny miniature portraits of one’s lover’s eye adorned countless pairs of lovers during the latter end of the 18th century.

The trend was started in the mid-1780s by none other than George, Prince of Wales, soon to become the Prince Regent or “Prinny” and eventually George IV. But in the late 18th century, George was a man in love—with the wrong woman. She was Maria Fitzherbert, a Catholic widow who he was forbidden to marry due to the Act of Settlement. This decree did not, however, deter George. In 1785 he sent his love a picture of his own eye, painted in water colors on a tiny piece of ivory along with a marriage proposal, stating, “I send you a proposal and at the same time I send you an Eye.”

The couple were wed—illegally—shortly afterward, and thus began a mania for these small likenesses, called Lover’s Eyes. They were usually painted on ivory and made into all kinds of jewelry: lockets, rings, pins, charms, brooches. As the pieces were all no bigger
than a pinkie nail even when embellished with priceless gems, they were perfect as secret tokens of one’s undying love. All one had to do was keep the tiny portrait close and you could look into the eye of your loved one anytime of the day or night.

Why the craze for a single part of a portrait? Why not the entire likeness? Hanneke Grootenboer, a student of the artistic eyes, and
author of the book Treasuring the Gaze: Intimate Vision in Late Eighteenth Century Eye Miniatures that “people were desperate to give each other not just images of themselves, but part of themselves.” The tiny eyes were small enough to cradle in a hand and could evoke the illusion of one’s lover staring lovingly up at them.

For some unknown reason, the fashion was a short lived one. By 1830 lover’s eyes had been supplanted by the newest fad: photography. With the advent of true portraits, the paintings of the lover’s eyes ceased almost overnight and they were largely forgotten until just after the year 2000 when researchers began to uncover their history. Only about 1000 lover’s eyes are still in existence. The best collections are those in The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Gotthadrt, Alexxa. “The Mysterious History of Lover’s Eye Jewelry.” Visual Culture. January 4, 2019.
Roderick, Kyle. “Lover’s Eyes: Jewelry’s Sexiest Sub-Genre, Luxuriously Reinterpreted by Ana Katarina.” Forbes, March 8, 2019.
Silver, Carly. “19th Century Lover’s Eye Jewelry Was the Perfect Accessory for Secret Affairs.” Atlas Obscura, February 15, 20127

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Widows in Regency England by Jenna Jaxon

The Regency period had very strict decorum for women, especially regarding behavior. There were rules that applied to unmarried girls, to betrothed women, to married women, and to women who were widowed. Let’s look at some of the strict codes of behavior widows would have had to abide by once they became widows.

A widow would not usually attend the funeral of her husband. This custom began because emotional outbursts were frowned upon during the Regency. Neither men nor women were supposed to show emotion in public. Therefore, since many women feared they would not be able to restrain their tears at the ceremony--hence shaming both themselves and their families--many chose not to attend. Records show that some women did attend the funerals, but the majority did not.

Widows could not marry for a year after they were widowed. The period of mourning a husband’s death was one year, both to show proper respect for him and to make sure there was no child forthcoming as a possible heir. If she remarried quickly, then discovered she was pregnant, it could muddy the waters about who was the father of the child. It also would have created a scandal that she might not have recovered from socially.

During her mourning period, a widow had to wear black for the first six months. Clothing made of crepe was common—a cloth with no
sheen. Bombazine was also popular as it was also dull. The only jewelry she could wear was onyx, amber, black enamel, or jet and that sparingly. She also refrained from any appearances in public other than those absolutely necessary or church. After six months, the widow moved on to half-mourning and somewhat lighter but dull colored clothing—gray, lilac, purple, and lavender. Now she could also wear pearl, diamond, and jewelry fashioned from the hair of the deceased. She might also attend small, informal gatherings at the homes of friends or relations.

Once a widow’s mourning period had ended, she could resume her social life if she so chose. Many widows, truly grieving their late
spouse, never remarried. Some chose not to marry for financial reasons. If her jointure was sufficient, she might enjoy her independent status and remain single for the rest of her life.

The strict moral code impressed on innocent, unmarried girls was thus somewhat relaxed for widows. As long as they were discrete,
they might engage in close friendships with a gentleman or conduct illicit affairs without seriously jeopardizing their reputations. The key was keeping such goings on out of the public eye.

The widows in my Widows’ Club series tend to forget that particular admonishment. If you’re interested in second chance romances, my widows are eager—a bit too eager, perhaps—to get back on the marriage market. If only they weren’t so scandalous in doing so! If you’d like to check them out, you’ll find Charlotte, Elizabeth, Fanny, and Georgie’s stories on sale during the month of May! Try Amazon for four passionate tales of women who want to love again.