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Friday, December 27, 2013

19th Century London at Dawn's Break

What were Londoners doing if they were not born into the class that was permitted to sleep late? Just after the break of dawn, shops – and, surprisingly, pubs (public houses) – opened. Here's an excerpt from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, which was published in installments beginning just after the Regency, in 1837. This short excerpt paints a vivid picture of the various conveyances and workers, including milk women.
                                                                      Milk woman

            In the Bethnal Green Road the day had fairly begin to break. Many of the lamps were already extinguished; a few country wagons were slowly toiling on toward London; now and then, a stage-coach, covered with mud, rattled by: the driver bestowing, as he passed, an admonitory lash upon the heavy waggoner who, by keeping on the wrong side of the road, had endangered his arriving at the office a quarter of a minute after his time.

            The public-houses, with gas-lights burning inside, were already open. By degrees, other shops began to be unclosed, and a few scattered people were met with. Then, came the struggling groups of labourers going to their work; then, men and women with fish-baskets on their heads; donkey carts laden with vegetables; chaise-carts filled with live-stockor whole carcasses of meat; milk-women with pails; an unbroken concourse of people, trudging out with various supplies to the eastern suburbs of the town,

            [In] the City the noise and traffic gradually increased; [and in] the streets between Shoreditch and Smithfield it had swelled into a roar of sound and bustle. It was as lilght as it was likely to be, till night came on again, and the busy morning of half the London population had begun.—Cheryl Bolen, whose newest Brides of Bath Regency novel will release on Jan. 27

Monday, December 23, 2013

London Shops

London Shops
             It seems almost obligatory when writing a Regency set in London, England, to include a shopping scene. After all, the Regency is associated with style, wealth, and fashion. So how can anyone ignore the shops those three things are in bold display. However, because this has been done so much, how do you make the scene fresh?  That’s where a little research can turn up gold nuggets.
            For A Dangerous Compromise, I needed a shopping scene, of course. It was set in London, after all. And characters need to do things—they cannot always be sitting in drawing rooms or going for drives. Now scenes cannot just be thrown into a book—every scene needs a reason to exist. And every scene needs conflict. But scenes also need to be set some place—and the more specific the place used, the more vivid the scene. If the setting adds to the scene, all the better. For this book,I found just the thing in the “Soho Bazaar” in Soho Square: 
            Lady Havers soon gave them all the background any of them could want on the bazaar.
            It had only just been opened that year by a Mr. Trotter to help the widows and daughters of men who had died in the recent wars, a noble cause that thrilled Lady Havers. The bazaar occupied the northwest corner building in the Square, and vendors sold their wares in stalls set up along two floors, offering gloves, lace, jewelry—almost anything that might be crafted for sale.
            It was, in short, a paradise for Lady Havers, whose eyes lit with a rapacious glow when they entered.
            And there it was—the setting in just a few sentences. A nice transition into the scene about to take place. The setting not only provided a backdrop for the heroine to have to deal with two men who are vieing for her attention, it also provided the contrast of vendors—folks who must earn their meager livings—with those who need never work. This layered in additional conflict, which went beyond that of the characters. And it was fresh. It also happens to provide a touch of historical detail that made the scene into something more than yet another shopping scene.
            The same issue cropped up again in Under the Kissing Bough. Again, we were in London—which is why it is often so much more fun to set a book in the countryside. This time I had an engaged couple, and they could hardly leave London without first shopping for the bride. With this being an arranged marriage, I knew the scene had to highlight the conflict of two people who don’t really know each other but who are going to be tied to each other for life. I needed a setting that would emphasis the heroine’s discomfort with the situation—and which would also provide an opportunity for these two to start to find a few things in common.
            This time, I found Schomberg House—a grand mansion that had been converted into shops and a place that sold refreshments. In other words, the ideal place to show that the heroine doesn’t much like all this fuss, but she’s going to be married to an earl’s son, and this gives me a place where these two could have a few minutes alone:
            It was but a few minutes' drive to Schomberg House, a handsome, four-story mansion, built for the Duke of Schomberg in the late sixteen hundreds, but now converted into shops that offered small furniture, drapery hangings, and refreshments to those worn out by their efforts in spending money.
Eleanor looked about her, hanging back a little from the others as they entered and mounted the staircase. She had not visited here before, but she knew from reading her London guidebooks that Thomas Gainsborough had lived and painted here until 1788. That such a famous artist had occupied the house awed Eleanor, and she stared about her, wondering what he had found to inspire him to greatness.
A deep voice pulled her out of her thoughts. "Miss Eleanor?"
She glanced up into Lord Staines's handsome face. Expecting to see a frown, relief eased into her when she saw that a smile softened his mouth instead.
He gestured to the baroque grandeur, the gilt and carved wood. "Are you lost in admiration?"
"Actually, I was wondering if grand rooms inspire grand thoughts. Or do they too often instead inspire grand ambitions, and grand arrogance?"
He cocked his head and his eyes took on a sparkle. "I was about to say we have even more impressive stairs at Westerley, but now I fear I would be inviting comparison to arrogance or ambition."
…A little shy of him, she put her hand on his arm. He led her forward, talking about the quality of the refreshments to be had and offering stories about the room, which had once served as the breakfast room of the house. He seemed to be going out of his way to be pleasant, and she began to relax a little.
Those little details—the few bits of description—added just what I wanted for this scene. But where do you get such wonderful little slices of history?
One of my main sources has been Allison Aldberg, with her books Shopping in Style and The Silver Fork Society.  Both books are rather hard to come by, but offer a look into the shops of Regency England.
In London, Smithfield Market, also called West Smithfield, was one of the main London markets for cattle, sheep, hay, straw, and horses. Hungerford Market, located between the Strand and the Thames, had been built in the time of Charles II as a market for vegetables. In 1829, it was noted, however, as 'never having caught on' and a print of that era shows a less than bustling market square. Fleet Market, next to Fleet Prison, opened in 1727 and remained active until the late 1820's. As noted in London in the Nineteenth Century, "This market consisted of two rows of shops, almost the whole length of it, with a passage between, paved with rag-stones." And, of course, one cannot overlook the shops of Bond Street, and Regent Street, the shops that would develop along Oxford Street, and the beauty of the Burlington Arcade which was built in 1819 and is still as lovely as ever.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Carol of the Bells origin

Since I’m a history geek fascinated by the origins of almost everything and not limited to facts I can use in writing Regency romance novels, I decided to delve into the origins one of my favorite Christmas carols, “Carol of the Bells.”

Imagine my surprise to learn that it wasn’t originally a Christmas song, nor is it as old as many other traditional carols. 

Originally, ‘Carol of the Bells’ was an ancient, pre-Christian Ukrainian folk song or chant sung by young girls who went from house to house singing about the upcoming spring and wishing for a plentiful year. However, in 1916, a Ukrainian composer name Mykold Leontovich wrote a new version as a choir arrangement. He entitled his new piece, “Shchedryk” based on the Ukrainian word for “bountiful" which is “shchedryj" and the students at Keiv University performed it for the first time in December of 1916.

Leontovich's “Shchedryk” arrived in America in 1921 when a chorus performed it in Carnegie Hall Oct. 5, 1921. Its growing popularity led to a sold out show.

An American choir director and arranger by the name of Peter Wilhousky heard the performance of "Shchedryk" which reminded him of bells. Inspired, Wilhousky wrote a new arrangement and new lyrics which he copyrighted in 1936. By the late 1930s, “Carol of the Bells,” also known as “The Ukrainian Bell Carol” became associated with the Christmas holiday season.

Hundreds of recordings of “Carol of the Bells” continue to add to its popularity. From the classical choral version sung by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to a fairly rock and roll version performed by Trans Siberian Orchestra, there is a version for every taste. Two of my favorites are arranged and performed by Pentatonix, and David Foster

What is your favorite version of Carol of the Bells?


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A GIFT FROM THE STARS, My Latest Regency Comedy--with SciFi Yet!

My latest Regency romance, A Gift from the Stars, is now available.

A Gift from the Stars , Book 1 of The Regency Star Travelers, is a sweet, traditional Regency romance with science fiction elements, 71,000 words.

The Regency Star Travelers--Where the Regency and outer space meet with romance.


A gift from the stars can change your life.

Miss Elizabeth Ashby loves astronomy. She especially enjoys her once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe the Great Comet of 1811. However, her excitement vanishes the night an odd-looking meteor proves to be a sky craft which lands nearby. The man who emerges from the vehicle doesn’t see her, but as he reenters his craft to fly away, he drops a small red stone.

The stone from the stars glows and sends waves of warmth and something else through Elizabeth. Her incipient cold disappears, her illness-prone mother shakes off her maladies, and everyone else who comes near the stone, which Elizabeth wears as a pendant, feels in the pink of health.

Including Mr. Jonathan Markham, who also saw the strange meteor but was too far away to determine what the object was. Gored by a bull, Jon has been slow to mend until he meets the enchanting Elizabeth. Does his sudden speedy recovery emanate from his fascination with the desirable lady? Or something else?

A sweet, traditional Regency romance novel with science fiction elements. 71,000 words. A clean read.


Lower and lower the shooting star descended, much too slowly to Elizabeth’s way of thinking. From the angle and rate of its motion, the object would likely strike the earth close by. If she could distinguish some landmarks by its glow, perhaps she could find the stone.

She craned her neck back as the meteor soared across the firmament. The unearthly rock blazed with the colors of the rainbow from friction with the air. 

Coldness pricked her spine. A meteor that enormous should race through the heavens, shrieking in outrage as its surface pounded through the atmosphere. This one was silent. And the stone—or was it a stone?—sloped down in a leisurely, graceful curve, as gently as a feather floating in a light breeze.

With eerie stillness, the object continued its glide across the ebony sky, looming ever immense as its bulk neared the ground.

She could even make out features. In her experience, meteors were dark, pitted lumps of rock or metal. This one was white, its pointed nose flaring out behind to form a stretched-out triangle, almost like a bird with unfurled wings.

And its size! Her heart in her throat, she jumped up. The thing was larger than a mail coach. And it would fall onto Sentinel Moor beside her house!

Continually slowing, the peculiar entity descended. The object slipped below the level of the high Sentinel Oak across the field, and then behind the top of the six-foot hawthorn hedge separating her garden from the meadow.

Elizabeth took a step to run around the tall shrub. Blinding whiteness exploded on the moor. She threw up her hands to shield her eyes and then tumbled to the ground.

Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble , Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, and Apple. Note, all formats are available on Smashwords.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity

Friday, December 6, 2013


by Donna Hatch

As an American with a fascination for all things Regency, I sometimes run across British vernacular that leaves me running for the dictionary. I had just such an experience a short time ago when a discussion among fellow Regency geeks--some of whom are Brits--brought up the word ha-has. Based on the context, it was clear to me they weren't talking about something funny.

In a nutshell, a ha-ha is a short retaining wall used to act as a fence to keep animals out of an area such as a garden or the front lawn of a house.

According to Wikipedia:
 ha-ha (or ha-ha wall) is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier while preserving views. The design includes a turfed incline which slopes downward to a sharply vertical face, typically a masonry retaining wall. Ha-ha's are used in landscape design to prevent access to a garden, for example by grazing livestock, without obstructing views. In security design, the element is used to deter vehicular access to a site while minimizing visual obstruction. The name "ha-ha" derives from the unexpected (i.e., amusing) moment of discovery when, on approach, the recessed wall suddenly becomes visible. 

I found the name as charming as the concept. You can be sure such a landscape design will find its way into a future Regency romance novel that I write.

Wikipedia article: (