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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Female Pinkerton Agents

I've talked a little about what I've learned from researching female Pinkerton Agents, but I'm going to focus this blog mainly on the one woman who made Allan Pinkerton sit up and take notice.  (previous article about Pinkerton Agents)

Kate Warne was born in New York and was widowed at the age of 23.  She was described as having clear cut, expressive features. She had an honest face, which helped those in distress look upon her as their confidant.

According to the article I read about Kate, she responded to a newspaper ad from Allan Pinkerton who was trying to recruit more detectives. She walked into the Pinkerton office and wanted a job. They first thought she wanted an office, job, but when she stated she wanted to be an agent, they were shocked.

Pinkerton decided to test Kate to see what she could do, so in 1858, Kate Warne was assigned to the case of Adams Express Company and embezzlements. She quickly became a close acquaintance of the wife of Pinkerton's prime suspect, Mr. Maroney. By becoming Maroney's wife's friend, Kate was able to collect evidence that eventually led to his conviction.  Maroney had stolen $50,000 from the Adams Express Company, and with Kate's help, $39,515 of that was returned.

In 1860, Allan Pinkerton put Kate in charge of his new Female Detective Bureau.

I'd mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, that I had written a female Pinkerton romance that is part of a multi-author series. "An Agent for Cecily" has been released and it's receiving RAVING reviews!!  I fashioned my character after Kate Marne, because Cecily is headstrong, and she does what she feels is right in ANY situation.

There’s only one way to escape Cecily Sheldon’s insane family – take on someone else’s identity. Along with this new identity comes a new job. Of course, to become a Pinkerton Agent, she must marry a male agent who will train her. Now she needs to keep her true identity hidden from Broderick Tanner for fear he’ll arrest her along with her father and brothers. Perhaps living a double life wasn’t a good choice after all.

Available on KINDLE and on Kindle Unlimited. Click here

To read an excerpt click here.


Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of Christian and sweet romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has over 50 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories, and broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romances. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Those Wassailing Wastrels! - 12th Night Traditions

Wassailing Engraving

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.

There is nothing sinister in those words, one would think. For most people, this is a quaint, old-fashioned Christmas carol with lyrics that most people don't understand. In some places, "wassailing" has been changed to "Christmas-ing" or "singing" or "caroling." Changing that one word actually make the song make even less sense, believe-it-or-not. 

The word "wassail" is an ancient word, though there is some disagreement about where it began, we can find mention of it as far back as the 1300's. It started out as a word of greeting - a salutation of health, especially used when people were in their cups (or wanted to be). According to, "Anglo-Saxon tradition dictated that at the beginning of each year, the lord of the manor would greet the assembled multitude with the toast waes hael." 

You can even find the word mentioned in Shakespeare's Hamlet, when the depressed prince is muttering about the king. "The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,/Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels..." (Act I, Scene IV)

Later, in about the 1700's in England, wassailing meant a specific activity: caroling house to house and begging for food, money, or entertainment. 

Wassailing could get rough, likely depending on the culture of the neighborhood and the sort of group one got together for the event. Modern evidence has found that young men might get together and carouse, more than carol. 

From the above carol, here's another verse: 

Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a mouldy cheese,And some of your Christmas loaf

And who can forget the carol with the lines, "O bring us a figgy pudding" and "we won't go until we get some." Yes, wassailers could come demanding what they thought their due - more alcohol, coins, and food. If they didn't get what they wanted, some groups were noted to resort to vandalism of the house that would not provide. But that brings us to this part of our song:

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours' children,
Whom you have seen before.

On the whole, though, wassailing was a tradition wherein the poor of the neighborhood could come together and ask, in a socially acceptable manner, for a hand-out. In return, they would leave their blessing upon the house that offered charity. 

The refrain from our song: 

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 send you a Happy New Year.

Generally speaking, people would go "wassailing" usually on Twelfth Night. We could write several articles alone on the traditions surrounding that portion of the Christmas holiday season. 

Sometimes in the middle of the 19th century, wassailing and caroling merged. They were two separate events, one meant to edify the listeners and the other meant as a way to go about begging. In North America, however, it's not uncommon to offer carolers a special treat when they grace your doorstep. 

It's an interesting tradition, and while singing Christmas songs and hymns at the doors of our neighbors has been going on for several centuries, there was some fear that the tradition would die out - in 1822 a gentleman named William Hone wrote: "Carols begin to be spoken of as not belonging to this century and yet no one, that I am aware of, has attempted a collection of these fugitives." Hone printed a list of 89 carols, but neglected to include lyrics or music. Many of those carols are now lost to time. 

If you find yourself curious about the wassail songs of old, many are listed (with links for listening) on Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Link below.

So next time you hear carolers, be friendly and warm, appreciate their music, and be grateful you didn't live in an age when a wassail meant feeding a crowd of people in order to avoid having your house and kitchen ransacked. :-)

Historic UK: Wassailing
Etymology Online
Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Kentucky New Era
Wikipedia Article with Great Sources
Wikipedia on Twelfth Night
Recipe for Wassail (Yup, it was a special drink too.)

Sally Britton is the author of six historical romance titles, set in the Regency time period. All six can be found on her author page at Sally regularly discusses writing, research, and her work on her Facebook reader group - and all are welcome to join.

Snowmen: a modern-day pasttime or ancient ritual?

by Donna Hatch

Recently on one of my writers groups had a lively discussion regarding whether or not people built snowmen during the Regency. After all, it seems such a natural thing to do with a practically limitless source of building materials. Surely people had as strong a desire then as they do now to build snowmen, forts, animals, and simple snowballs to throw at one another using the nature’s art supplies. However, often our assumptions about what has "always been" is incorrect, hence the discussion.
It turns out, the idea of snowmen is ageless. Children of all ages have built snowmen since the beginning of man. The Etymology dictionary says the word snowman wasn't in print until 1827 but it is such a natural term that it likely appeared in speech ages before anyone thought to write about children (or adults) playing in the snow.

In 2007, Bob Eckstein, the author of The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market, told NPR that in writing his book, “...snowman-making actually was a form of folk art. Mankind was making folk art like this for ages, and…maybe it’s one of man’s oldest forms of art…The further back you go, you find that people were really fascinated with snowmen.”

Eckstein says that building snowmen was “a very popular activity in the Middle Ages…after a snow came down and dumped all these free-art supplies in front of everyone’s house.” The earliest known representation of a snowman dates to that era, drawn in a 1380 A.D. Book of Hours.

 Readers Digest reports in 1494, Michelangelo was commissioned by Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Gran Maestro of Florence, to create his art with snow. According to art historian Giorgio Vasari, “de’ Medici had Michelangelo make in his courtyard a statue of snow, which was very beautiful.” Sadly, no one seems to have drawn it for posterity.

The Wikipedia page for Snowman shows a European woodcut from the 1500s of people dancing around a snowman. With this many sources, building snowmen was surely an ageless pastime when enough snow arrived on the scene.

The only real trouble with historical characters is that there wasn't that much snow in all parts of England every year. However, if a place had enough snow, it stands to reason that children--as well as playful adults--would have built whatever they could and given it an appropriate name.

Do you still run out and play in the snow during the first big snowfall?


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Victorian Christmas

One thing I have bemoaned time and again is the lack of Christmas traditions in Regency England. During the Regency Christmas celebrations were usually quiet family affairs that included going to church on Christmas Day, some greenery for decorations (including mistletoe but not a tree), a Yule log, and perhaps a present or two for children.

Once Queen Victoria ascended the throne, however, Christmas began to be much more merry and bright.

One of the first traditions to emerge that continues until today, is the Christmas card. This tradition was begun by Sir Henry Cole, an assistant at the newly founded Public Record Office (Post Office). He had an artist friend create cards, advertised as “Christmas Congratulations Cards” that sold for a shilling each. The cards could be sent for a penny and by the 1860s were cheap enough for most people of the middle class to send.

Victoria and Albert began another wonderful custom—the Christmas tree. A German tradition brought to England by George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, the Christmas tree didn’t catch on until Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert (also German) began celebrating the yuletide with a
decorated tree. When the Illustrated London News published an engraving of Victoria and Albert and their children gathered around a Christmas tree in 1848, the popularity of the Christmas tree rose sharply. Technological advances enhanced the tradition by providing hundreds of different types of sparkly ornaments to hang on the tree, along with homemade sweet treats, small presents, and candles.

Another near and dear Christmas tradition arose in t e 1860s: The Christmas cracker. These little tubes, stuffed with small trinkets and candies, made a resounding “bang” when pulled apart and quickly became a staple of the season.

The emphasis placed on family by the Victorians lead to the traditional Christmas dinner, with all the family gathered around the table. Food was the centerpiece of the Victorian Christmas dinner and included roast goose with sage and onion stuffing (in the South), standing rib of beef (in the North), Yorkshire pudding, oysters, ham, turkey, potatoes, mince pies, plum pudding. The making and serving of the Plum Pudding was quite a ritual that began several days before Christmas and culminated with the cooking, cutting, and eating of it.
After dinner people continued to celebrate with presents, singing, shooting off firecrackers, and playing games.

All in all a much merrier time was had by all during the Victorian period.

Merry Christmas to all! God bless us, everyone!

“The History of Christmas Cards.”
“Victorian Christmas Traditions,” from Christmas at the V & A.
“Common Victorian Times Christmas Food: roasted goose and pudding.” The Victorian Era Facts about Queen Victoria, Society and Literature. Victorian Era Organization.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Who are the U.S. Marshals?

I absolutely LOVE research!!  But sometimes it's a little discouraging. So like today I decided to research the history of the U.S. Marshals. I'm writing a story in a multi-author series "The Lawkeepers" and our theme is about U.S. Marshals. I realized I didn't know that much about them, although I have stars in my eyes when I think about making my hero one of them.

Hollywood movies like to add glamor... like:
U.S. Marshals (Tommy Lee Jones)
The Fugitive (Harrison Ford)
Tombstone (Kurt Russell)
Hang 'Em High (Clint Eastwood)
... to name a few.

But did you know that the early days of being a U.S. Marshal wasn't all glamor or heroic? In fact, the U.S. Marshals were more like... secretaries??

The U.S. Marshals were created by the first Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1789 which was the same legislation that established the Federal judicial system. It was the main purpose of the U.S. Marshals to support the federal courts and to carry out the lawful orders issued by the judges, Congress, or the president of the United States.

Here are the duties they were assigned in the beginning:
* Served subpoenas / summons / writs (whatever that is) / warrants and other process issued by the courts
* Made arrests & handled all the prisoners
* Disbursed money
* Paid fees and expenses of the court clerks, U.S. attorneys, jurors and witnesses
* Rented courtrooms & jail space
* Hired bailiffs, criers (really? what is this?), and janitors
* Filled water pitchers
* Brought prisoners to the court house
* Made sure witnesses were on time and that jurors were at the court house

You know, I rather like the idea that Hollywood had of making the Marshals' jobs more glamorous. Thankfully, though, over time, the U.S. Marshals were given more duties and they actually become the heroes we want them to be.

And speaking of U.S. Marshal heroes.... I'm writing a romance right now that is scheduled to be released 4/23/19. Introducing... Lawfully Won! If you'd like to join their Facebook group, here is the link -

When wealthy widow, Hannah Hamilton, leaves home to care for her aunt in Big Springs, Texas, she's robbed and injured. However, that wasn't the worst of her woes. She also can't remember anything about her life. Accepting what the hotel owners have told her, she proceeds to work for them as a waitress in the hotel's restaurant, believing her name is Anna Cartwright. But when a man enters the hotel, she feels she knows him. But most importantly, she feels she's loved him before.

Colt Montgomery is a broken man. After confessing his love to Hannah Hamilton eight months ago and being rejected, he quit his position as the Sheriff and moved out of town. Now he's a U.S. Marshal looking for an outlaw that keeps going into hiding. When Colt sees Hannah working at a hotel far from her home, he's shocked. But when he realizes she doesn't remember who she is, he feels hopeful. If he can get her to fall in love with him as Anna, perhaps when her memory finally returns, he'll finally win the woman he's always loved. Or will he?

Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of Christian and sweet romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has over 50 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories, and broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romances. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings.

Bookbub - 

**Reference link -

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Non-Alcoholic Christmas Pudding, An Almost Authentic Regency Dessert

I am at the absolute most amazing place in the world. It's just a lakehouse, at the northern corner of Utah, but the people I am with are some of my favorite people in the world. I am at writing retreat with my critique group, four other amazing women (and a baby) who write Regency romance.

One of these women is an expert Regency researcher, and incredibly talented to boot, and last night (when I should've posted this) she recreated several Regency dishes for us.

For dessert, she made one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten - a recreation of a Regency Christmas Pudding.

First, for those newest to the concept, it is not a pudding in the way Americans now think of pudding. There is no J-ELLO involved.

First, I must give full credit to the person who took this recipe and made it her own, Arlem Hawks. If you want to follow her on Instagram, she does so many amazing things - sews Regency dresses, celebrates British holidays with her family, paints, and bakes French and English cuisine.

Isn't it the most lovely thing you've ever seen? Those are sugared cranberries on top. She SOAKED them in sugar syrup for almost 24 hours and they were delicious. 

On to the recipe - which you can make in an Instapot, believe it or not!

2/3 cups breadcrumbs
1/4 cup + 3 tsp self-rising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 tsp of cinnamon 
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup golden raisins
2 Tbl apricots, dried
2 Tbl almonds
1 Small apple
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
1/4 cup ginger ale
1 Tble orange juice
Butter to grease the pan

Orange Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange juice

Mix dry ingredients, dried fruit, nuts, apple, zest.

In another bowl, combine eggs, ginger ale, orange juice, and whisk everything together. 

Fold together. Cover and chill overnight. 

Next day, butter your pan! Press pudding in, cover with parchment and foil, tie with a baking string. 

Steam in your instapot for 15 minutes - NOT pressure cook! Then steam on low pressure for 1 hour. 

Steam 30 minutes before serving. :-) 

Combine orange sauce ingredients in sauce pan, melt everything together on low heat. Then drizzle over individual servings of pudding. 

This recipe served five hungry authors, with a nice big piece left over. 

Again, this recipe was created by Arlem Hawks, who everyone should keep an eye on. 

I'm Sally Britton, and my Regency novels are so much fun. Please check them out - they're all stand-alone romances and you can find them here!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Midwives in Early 17th Century Boston, Massachusetts and Witchcraft

My latest manuscript, tentatively titled, “A Place Between,” is about the famous William and Ann Hutchinson family.

Ann Hutchinson was the mother of fifteen children, and a skilled midwife for many of the women in early Boston. During her 1638 trial before the Boston authorities, one of the magistrates, a William Bartholomew, claimed that he heard a statement of Ann’s that sounded “very strange and witchlike that she should say so.” The whisperings of witchcraft during Ann’s trial did not take hold, lacking the requirement of hard evidence, and though she was excommunicated and banished from Boston, she was not openly accused of being a witch.
In her book about Ann Hutchinson, “American Jezebel,” Eve LaPlante wrote that witch hunting did not begin in Salem in 1690, but had been a part of English society for a long time. Statutes against witchcraft had been passed by monarchs Queen Elizabeth, Henry VIII, and King James. Though not considered to be heresy, witchcraft was a felony, punishable by hanging. LaPlante offered the opinion that “men of the period tended to view midwifery, a realm of power from which they were excluded, with suspicion. English law prohibited midwives from using witchcraft, charms, or sorcery (169).”

While researching, I came across other midwives of that time period that were accused of witchcraft. A woman named Jane Hawkins, the main midwife in Boston when Ann Hutchinson arrived in 1634, was suspected by John Winthrop of being a witch. In his journal entry in April 1638, he wrote:  for it was credibly reported, that, when she gave any medicines (for she practiced physic), if she did believe, she could help her.” Jane was prohibited from practicing as a midwife, and, along with Ann Hutchinson, Jane was expelled from Boston in 1638.

A midwife and healer, Margaret Jones, was the first woman to be executed in Boston for witchcraft. Her husband was also accused, and imprisoned, but later released. Margaret was suspected of practicing witchcraft because she had declared her patients would not recover unless they took her medicines. When some did not recover, the accusation took hold. The accusations against Margaret were recorded in John Winthrop’s journal:
"That she was found to have such a malignant touch, as many persons, men, women, and children, whom she stroked or touched with any affection or displeasure, or etc. [sic], were taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains or sickness. 
She practices physic, and her medicines being such things as, by her own confession, were harmless, — as anise-seed, liquors, etc., — yet had extraordinary violent effects. 
She would use to tell such as would not make use of her physic, that they would never be healed; and accordingly their diseases and hurts continued, with relapse against the ordinary course, and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons. 
Some things which she foretold came to pass accordingly; other things she would tell of, as secret speeches, etc., which she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of. 
She had, upon search, an apparent teat ... as fresh as if it had been newly sucked; and after it had been scanned, upon a forced search, that was withered, and another began on the opposite side. 
In the prison, in the clear day-light, there was seen in her arms, she sitting on the floor, and her clothes up, etc., a little child, which ran from her into another room, and the officer following it, it was vanished. The like child was seen in two other places to which she had relation; and one maid that saw it, fell sick upon it, and was cured by the said Margaret, who used means to be employed to that end. Her behavior at her trial was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the jury and witnesses, etc., and in the like distemper she died. The same day and hour she was executed, there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees, etc."
Margaret was hung June 15, 1648 upon Gallow’s Hill on Boston Neck.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Going back in time...

What kind of research goes into writing a time-travel novel? Do you need some kind of time machine like the DeLorean (from Back to the Future)…or will a penny be enough to whisk you back in time?

I'm fascinated with time-travel stories…and movies. Every writer puts a different spin on their plot, which is what I love. It’s so intriguing to read how someone from our time can be sent back (or forward) to another dimension. I love reading how that person adjusts—or at least tries to adjust—to their new world, and then what steps they take to return to their own time.

Over the years, many movies have grabbed my curiosity mainly because of the time-travel element. In BackTo the Future, Doc & Marty tried to create a new way to get Marty back home—without messing up the time-continuum. The intrigue of waiting for that moment, and almost not making it, kept me captivated.  In Timeline it was the fast-paced story of trying to find the one man they were sent back in time to get, only to have everything go wrong at every turn.  In Kate& Leopoldokay, mainly I loved this story because of the romance, and hullo—Hugh Jackman! (heehee) But I loved how he was sent forward in time, only for her to go back in time. Loved that concept!   And with Somewhere In Time, (dreamy sigh) it was a wonderful romance that lasted throughout the years, combined with the romantic music…(another sigh). Yes, that is one of my all-time favorites.

I think one of the reasons I like time-travels so much is because I find myself thinking about how I would change my life if I knew what I did and could travel back in time to change it… I also think of how I would like to experience the 1800’s (Regency or even Victorian England) if just for a week; to see what the gentlemen were really like, and how the women of those times really behaved. After a week though, I’m sure I’d want to return to my own time.

I have written a couple of time-travel novels. Each one has a different twist to the time-travel element. I tried to combine all the things I enjoy reading or watching movies that make the storyline interesting. I invite you to check out “Waiting forYou”, and coming soon, “Love Lost inTime”.
How would you feel if you were suddenly whisked back in time? What era would you like to end up in??


What type of time-travel stories to you like to read or watch? Please leave a comment (with your name and email) for a chance to win an ebook of my story, “Waiting for You”.

 About the author

Marie Higgins is a best-selling, multi-published author of sweet romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her –


Friday, October 5, 2018

The Gentleman's Sport of Rowing, Early 19th Century Britain

Row, row, row your boat, swiftly down the Thames...

From The Telegraph, "Boat Race 2015" by Rachel Quarrell
Link to Article
Rowing is one of the oldest sports known to man and began as a necessary part of ancient life. If you lived on the shores of a river in the ancient world, you most likely would like to get across from time to time. So, you needed a boat and rowers. Historians believe the Ancient Egyptians would've been the first to "row for sport," with boatmen challenging each other to races or the wealthy pitting their slaves against each other to see whose fancy river barge was faster. 

While boat races have been going on for a very long time, they started getting popular among England's young elite in the late 18th century. All those young sons of noblemen and wealthy gentlemen needed something more to occupy their time than their classes at Oxford, and since there was a river a stone's throw away, why not? (The River Isis was their favorite spot.)

For the most part, these races took place between friends, and though Rowing Clubs were established, university students didn't actively compete against rival universities for a few decades. The first race known to have taken place between Oxford and Cambridge, kicking off what has been a rivalry for nearly two centuries, didn't take place until 1829. This race is such a big deal, and so early established, that it's official name is simply The Boat Race. (As an aside, one of the Oxford rowers at this first famous race, Charles Wordsworth, later went on to be the Bishop of Saint Andrews. And apparently most of the credit for instigating the race goes to him. He was twenty years old at the time.)

Before long, private clubs were formed for amateur rowers, and the gambling books at White's have plenty of mentions of gentlemen racing one another. I found a news article in the London Chronicle, July 6, 1836, "Grand Rowing Match for a Purse of Sovereigns, Given by the Duke of Buccleuch." This race took place just outside of the House of Lords. The article mentions crowds of spectators. 

When we think of Regency men and their exercises, we often picture the few things we've seen in BBC productions: horse-back riding and fencing. Moving into the Victorian age, authors love to put their gentlemen in boxing clubs. But rowing, a sport which demands physical prowess, technique, teamwork, and often began attracting sportsmen at an early age, has been an important part of English athletics for a very long time. 

In my novel, Miss Devon's Choice, my hero is a graduate of Oxford and his absolute favorite exercise, especially to relieve frustration with my heroine's determined arguing, is rowing. 

Find out more about rowing here (and yes, I'll link Wikipedia, b/c the footnotes here are incredible):

Miss Devon's Choice
by Sally Britton

Sweet Regency Romance

An arranged marriage, a choice to love, and the hope for happily ever after.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Halloween Celebrations in Regency England

I am unfortunately a day late with this post, but as I am such a fan of October, I just couldn't let the opportunity pass to post on my favorite holiday. Hope you enjoy!

As October is the month of Halloween (at least I celebrate all month long), I thought I’d take a look at some traditions people might have observed in the Regency during this (currently) very popular holiday.

Ever heard of bobbing for apples on Halloween? What about tossing an apple peeling or roasting hazelnuts to find your future marriage partner? Staring into a mirror to reveal your spouse? How about carving jack ‘o lanterns?

All of these familiar (and not so familiar) activities were practiced during the Regency, although many were carried out in rural areas rather
than the parlors of London townhouses or country manor houses. Regency Society tended to ignore most of these celebrations.

The holiday itself was more religious in nature during this period, being the day before All Saint’s Day, a day of recognition for those who had died. A total of three days (October 31, November 1, and November 2) comprised the holiday: All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. This was called Allhallowtide.

But the celebrations originated in Celtic rituals on Saimhain (sow-ain) night, marking the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. According to the ancient Celts, this day, All Hallows Eve, was a time when the barriers between our world and the “Otherworld” became thinner, and spirits could pass through to walk in our world.

Then where do the celebrations in the Regency come in? One of the traditions passed down from ancient times was the idea that on one day out of the year, spirits of one’s own family walked the earth and visited them seeking hospitality. Therefore, it became a custom to have celebrations with food, drink, and games that usually revolved around foretelling the future. One such game was bobbing for apples.

So at some parties in rural areas, single women might peel an apple, being careful not to break the peeling. Then she would toss the peel over her shoulder and it was supposed to land in the shape of a letter—the first letter of her future husband’s name. Another way to foretell your future husband was to put two hazelnuts in a fire side by side and name one for you and the other for the person you desired. If the nuts jumped apart as they heated, you were not meant to be with this person; however, if the two nuts roasted amicably together, then you would end up together. Unmarried women would go into a darkened room on All Hallows’ Eve and stare into a
mirror. If the face of a man appeared beside her, he was the man she would marry. If a skull appeared instead, then she would die before marrying.

Carving jack o’ lanterns was also popular in the Regency, though it too originated with Celtic celebrations. A turnip was the vegetable usually carved into a scary face in Ireland and Scotland, meant to frighten away spirits. The name comes from a 17th century Irish legend, Shifty or Stingy Jack who was so evil neither Hell nor Heaven would let him in. Therefore, he was doomed to wander the earth carrying a lantern.
So although the Regency didn’t have a huge celebration for Halloween, they did manage to enjoy this harvest festival in some very interesting ways.

My own Halloween story, Hearts at All Hallows’ Eve, is a sweet Regency that takes place at a masquerade ball on October 31, which would not have been typical, but could have been part of a round of Little Season entertainments. And it does take into consideration the widely held belief of spirits roaming the earth on this particular night. Why not check out this short story and get into the swing of the season early?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Seventeenth Century Funeral Customs in Early Massachusetts: Gloves and Mourning Rings

I recently completed another manuscript, based on the family of Anne Hutchinson, the famous dissident in early Massachusetts. While researching, I ran across some fascinating seventeenth century funeral customs. Puritan funerals were simple affairs, small and private, no sermon over the graveside, only silence. But after the funeral for the leader, John Winthrop, in 1649, they grew larger and more elaborate.
Following the traditions of England, it was customary for the family to give gifts to family and friends in honor of the person who had died. The most important guests were gifted first: family and close friends, pallbearers, and then maybe other attendees.

Funeral Gloves

The family of the deceased sent a pair of gloves as an invitation to the funeral. The more important the person, the more gloves were sent. The attendee would wear the gloves to the funeral and at the graveside. These would be kept as a remembrance of the one who had died.

Mourning Rings

Rings were also given, sometimes designed by the deceased before they died. This ring contained a lock of hair from the deceased. These became treasures that were passed down through the generations. This custom was usually reserved for the wealthy.

In 1741, in order to bring down the exorbitant cost of funerals. Massachusetts Puritan leaders placed a monetary fine of 50 pounds for the giving of rings, and only allowed gloves to be given to pallbearers and clergymen. In 1742, they banned altogether the giving of gloves and rings, and the custom began to die out.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Autumn, Fall, Feast of Mabon.

by Donna Hatch

Though signs of autumn are already starting in many parts of the US, September 23, 2018 is officially the first day of Autumn, or "fall" as we Americans call it.

Long ago, when the air cooled and the leaves turned gorgeous shades of gold, red and burgundy, people did more than don sweaters, switch their clothing to darker colors, and decorate their homes with autumn leaves and pumpkins.

Anciently, the Autumn Equinox or Harvest Home was called Mabon, pronounced 'MAY-bon', after a Welsh god called Mabon ap Modron which literally means 'son of mother.'

One Mabon Celtic ritual was taking the last sheaf of corn harvested and dressing it in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. Apparently, they believed the sun was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. So they burned it and spread the ashes on their fields.

Mabon is also known as the Feast of Avalon, derived from the word Avalon which means 'the land of the apples'.  It was also traditional at Mabon to honor the dead by placing apples on burial cairns as a symbolism of rebirth. It was also a way for the living to anticipate being reunited with their loved ones who had passed on.

Many people often associate autumn with being melancholy and facing the end of the liveliness of summer and the beginning of the bleakness of winter. Grey skies cause many people to retreat, both physically and mentally. Autumn is the time of year when the celebrated English poet, John Keats, wrote his most acclaimed poem, "To Autumn" which has a distinctly melancholy beauty.

The ancient Celtics, however, used this time to reflect on the past year as well as celebrate nature's bounty by having a feast and a celebration. I imagine those were the roots for the Thanksgiving feast that Americans celebrate.

In my novella, Unmasking the Duke, I chose an autumn setting to add color to the story, but also to give it a dimension of a wistful longing. Don't worry, like all my romances, this has a swoony happily ever after ending!

Unmasking the Duke
The last thing Hannah Palmer wants to do is flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister, the Countess of Tarrington, throws a Masquerade Ball, Hannah can’t say no to the invitation. Taking comfort behind her disguise, she dances with a charming masked gentleman, matching him wit for wit. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and the two remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover she’s been flirting with all night with her most despised neighbor, the Duke of Suttenberg. No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she could ever love.

Unmasking the Duke is available in ebook and paperback

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Men's fashions in the 1800's

There have been several blogs that talk about how to dress Regency women or Victorian women, but there aren't many blogs about how to dress a man in the 1800's, so I decided to give it a try from the research I've done over the years.

Last month my blog was about writing a Pinkerton Detective Agency story, and I'd mentioned how this story was about a woman agent. During my research, I also found how my hero is supposed to look in America, 1871. I've always enjoyed historical movies - mainly to see the clothes the men and women wear - but I'll admit, I enjoy seeing a sharply-dressed man just as much as a beautiful ball gown worn by a woman.

The late 1800's had the men changing their appearance from top hats and cravats and breeches, which was what they wore in the early 1800's.  So let's do a little comparison to see how the years changed the fashion.

Early 1800's - the tall, elegant style of hats expressed a look of wealth and decorum.

Late 1800's - the top hat shrunk a little, and they became rounder and more square. Wool caps were even making their grand appearance, and a lot of men thought this was a great fashion trend. Men were rarely seen without a hat, because - just as in the early 1800's - wearing a hat somehow turned them into a true gentleman.

YUM-ME, right? Regency guy
Coats vs Suits
Early 1800's - men's coats were tailored to fit the gentleman. They were mostly solid colors and had padded shoulders to help make the man's waist slimmer. (can you believe it??)

Late 1800's - the suits were a big fashion hit with the men in those days. There were many different styles, which were worn during different times of that day (pretty much like a woman's gown). These suits added a variety of colored fabrics, fancy stitching, and the fashion even dared to use stripes or plaid. The suits were more colorful, as well, which of course made them more appealing. Combined with the standing collared white shirt and necktie (instead of a cravat), and decorative sewn vests, women found that men were more attractive and confident in their new fancy duds.

Hubba-Hubba - Regency man
From what I could tell, there weren't a lot of differences in the way trousers had changed throughout the years. Some had button flaps on the front, some only had one button to fasten the flaps together to keep the family jewels discreetly hidden. But from the pictures I'd found, trousers seemed to become more relaxed in the later 1800's. Men didn't wear them so tight that they could be confused for the French acrobatic leotard (created in the late 1830's). Pinstriped trousers became more popular, as well.

Sadly enough, men kept the same undergarments throughout the 1800's, and into the early 1900's. They wore tight-fitting, knee-length flannel drawers, also called breeches and pantaloons. During the US Civil War, men wore union-suits - a one-piece, long undergarment that was long-sleeved and long-legged. Let's just hope they wore these during the cold winters because they'd cook to death during the summer!

Now that you know the difference, I bet you'll be watching those historical movies a little closer now, right? I remember when I first learned about everything a woman had to wear back in those days, but now... <groans>  Those poor men!

By the way... my favorite website to find these awesome historical clothing and very fine models is Period Images. Permission was given to use these watermarked pics.

Author’s Bio

Marie Higgins is an award-winning, best-selling author of clean romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt, to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has 51 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories and has broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romance. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease" because of all her twists and unexpected endings.

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