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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

An Unlikely Sport for Gentlemen: Boxing in the Regency Era by Jenna Jaxon

When thinking of gentleman-like sports of the Regency era, one may immediately think of shooting, hunting, riding, racing as being cultured and likely to be attended by the well-dressed and well-mannered men of the Regency. However, one not so refined sport that took the period by storm was, surprisingly, boxing.
Boxing as sport in England had begun in the 17th century, a bare-knuckle free-for-all termed prizefighting. The first champion of this form of the sport was James Figg in1719, a time when the term “boxing” first began to be used. As may be expected, these fight had no rules to them and included pummeling, punching, headbutting, eye-gouging, and choke-holds. From this sort of melee in 1743 a few rules emerged, such as no hitting below the belt and a count of thirty to determine when a fight was over. One of the most successful boxers of the Regency was “Gentleman” John Jackson, son of a builder turned prizefighter. He fought in three fights, losing only one, then retired to create a boxing academy, teaching gentlemen to fight in his rooms at 13 Bond
Street, London. He created rules for his fighters, including the outlawing of kicking and hair holding, making the sport more gentleman-like. He also helped make the bouts safer, although bouts could go on for 50 rounds and were usually fought bare handed. In 1814 Jackson opened the Pugilistic Club, an organization that took subscriptions for fights and sponsored fights several times a year. He worked to keep the sport honest. Many gentlemen of the nobility took lessons from Jackson, although his clientele tended to bet on fights rather than participate in them. Still, boxing gave gentlemen of the ton the opportunity for strenuous exercise, a way to defend themselves without a weapon, and a reputation for being manly. In my upcoming Christmas novella, It Happened Under the Mistletoe, two gentlemen use this method to settle their grievous differences. It Happened Under the Mistletoe will be releasing in mid-November! Look for a cover reveal later this week!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Tradition of the Stirrup Cup by Jenna Jaxon

I don’t know when I first heard of stirrup cups, but while writing my WIP recently, I added the tradition into a scene where riders were about to ride off in search of someone. I had them handed a stirrup cup and, because I had to research it thoroughly, ended up finding out quite a lot about this ancient custom. Although the tradition of the stirrup cup became most popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and is most often associated with fox
hunting, the handing of a drink to a person about to make a journey dates back well into medieval times. Apparently the action is found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, so it was certainly an established practice by the mid-14th century.
A stirrup cup is a small cup, originally without a base, handed to a traveler or hunter when they were just about to leave for a journey or a hunt, when their boots were literally in the stirrups. They would drink the small libation, usually port or sherry (and in the Victorian period could be something called Cherry Heering, a combination of cherry liqueur and brandy from Denmark), before leaving for home or sport. The Scots were well known for bestowing a parting drink called the dochan dorious, the “drink of the door.”
The cups themselves were small, holding only about two ounces of spirits making it easy to drink quickly. They were traditionally made of silver or pewter, although you can also find them made of
ceramics. Traditionally, the cups are made in the shape of foxes or hounds, but you can also find deer and horses heads. Some are crafted so that the animal becomes the legs of the cup allowing it to be placed on a tray. Others are meant to be handed to the rider, who drinks, then hands it back to the servant. Of course, today we would not think of giving a friend, “one for the road,” so with the exception of fox hunting, the stirrup cup may be relegated to historical romance novels. Still, it would be a stirring scene, with the hunters milling around, being handed up a shiny silver up, downing the drink and feeling the glow as it burns down into your stomach, a bracing beginning before heading out for a cold day of hunting. Tally-ho! Sources: “A Drink on Your Way Out: The History of Stirrup Cups.” Manhattan Art& Antiques Center Blog, 2020. French, Derek. “The Stirrup Cup Tradition.” Covertside, n.d. “The History of the Stirrup Cup.” Horse Canada, January 22, 2013. Thompson, Shea Davidson. “The History of Stirrup Cups and Where You Can Purchase Your Own.” The Bourbon Magazine, August 5, 2020.

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.