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Monday, July 30, 2018

Truly the best and worst in fashion

By Jen Johnson
Truly the best and worst in fashion
1793 France

Writing a romance that happened in the middle of the French Revolution both in France and in England was exciting and challenging at the same time. The intrigue of the time, the danger, the influence across the water in England, even the politics of it all was fascinating. And I especially enjoyed turning it into a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. So much to love.

Up to this point, my research and my books have all been set in the Regency time period. And much of 1793 has a similar tone and feel to it.

Except for the fashion. Let’s talk French Fashion. London often sought for new designs, fabrics and fashions from across the channel. Even during the times of the French Revolution, the British were still mimicking Marie Antoinette. Not many new styles came forward during the reign of terror but much of the dear queen remained to tide them over. She was extravagant in every way, pushing the limits and seeking attention. She set the trend quite clearly in France and in England as well. The British had only men in their own country to mimic, and while Prinny had his set and Beau Brummel made his mark, the women in England were left to seek for ideas in their neighbor, France.

Of particular interest were the women’s and men’s hairstyles. The closest thing I can think of in modern day for women would be the beehives from the 1960s, sometimes towering above a woman’s forehead the same size as her actual head. Besides those, I can think of nothing that holds France’s equivalent. The styles were built up upon the woman’s head in many layers. My particular favorite is the bowtie. After using all manner of objects as a foundation on the lady’s head, to give the hairstyle some height, the hair itself would be smoothed and then be wrapped and tied in one large bow.

The men seemed in many ways to require less effort for their hair. A low ponytail or a wig would do the trick for most of them. Though it did require wig powder and the constant care of the wig.

The dresses were also beautiful of course, but in manner of apparel, the men’s jackets were of equal splendor. They wore bright colors and the embroidery on them was exquisite. The men also had a fetish for sleeves, their drape especially, and they desired a multilayered, crisp cravat. Their breeches were multicolored. Their shoes were pointed and at times boasted an ornament at the tip. They carried spy glasses for no apparent reason other than to adorn themselves. They powdered their wigs, naturally, but often their faces as well, adorning themselves with pomade or other paints to improve their costume.

The bumps, rumps, rolls of the dresses are fascinating to consider. Especially when you remember that real people actually wore them. The skirts grew wider and larger, many petticoats and hoops holding them up and out until greater width was necessary. They started with two side rolls in their skirts, that gave them wide bumps at each hip of their dresses. Their waists were cinched as tight as they could endure and their chest overflowed out the top of their gowns. The side bumps made walking beside a man difficult and so often the lady’s hand was stretched as far as she could reach in order to grasp onto the fingers of another. The other option of course would be the twisting of her body so that she scooted along in a diagonal fashion so as to be closer to the man at her side. One could never complain of the presentation however. These costumes left the women with tiny waists, large breasts and the ability to seemingly hover above the ground, gliding wherever they went.

The side bumps evolved into one rather large rump that balled out the back of the gown. This accessory made sitting difficult. And as their waists were still cinched so tight, their breathing became shallow, sitting was difficult no matter what they were wearing.

Much of the French fashion of the time seemed to seethe with excess: Extravagant, showy, ridiculous attempts to draw attention. It is no wonder Charles Dickens aptly defined the time as the best of times and the worst. Because while the wealthy went to great lengths to appear obscenely wealthy, the poor were languishing in the filth on the streets with barely a bite of bread to eat. Their clothing was mostly muted colors of tan. The workers clothes were sensible, often torn, mended if they were diligent or had the time and energy. The servants of great homes wore the colors and livery of their estates.

From there, the fascination with France ebbed somewhat and the sensible Georgian and Regency attire emerged.

Because the Pimpernel is a character of many disguises, dressing her was just plain fun. Combining that with the outrageous styles of the day, the story lent itself to hours of research and fun description.

Jen writes regular posts at

She is an award winning author, including the gold in Foreward Indies Romance category and the creator of Regency House Party. She just published her second book, a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel where she features many of these fashions described above. You can find it for sale here. An award winning author, including the GOLD in Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, Jen Geigle Johnson discovered her passion for England while kayaking on the Thames near London as a young teenager. 
She once greeted an ancient turtle under the water by grabbing her fin. She knows all about the sound a water-ski makes on glassy water and how to fall down steep moguls with grace. During a study break date in college, she sat on top of a jeep's roll bars up in the mountains and fell in love.  
Now, she loves to share bits of history that might otherwise be forgotten. Whether in Regency England, the French Revolution, or Colonial America, her romance novels are much like life is supposed to be: full of adventure. She is a member of the RWA, the SCBWI, and LDStorymakers. She is also the chair of the Lonestar.Ink writing conference.
Twitter--@authorjen Instagram--@authorlyjen

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How to To a Wedding in Ancient Israel

The setting for my first novel, Light of the Candle, and its sequel, Waiting for the Light, is 6th century BC Jerusalem. It was a lot of fun to research the marriage customs of that time.

There were four parts to securing a marriage:

Finding a marriage partner
Parents had the responsibility to find marriage partners for their children. If a girl’s father was dead, the eldest son was charged with the responsibility to find a bride for his sisters. This was one of the reasons that the eldest son was given a double portion of his father’s estate, to provide for his siblings. When a suitable partner was found, payments would be exchanged: the brideprice, given by the groom’s family to the bride’s, and the dowry, given to the groom’s family by the bride’s. These were not to enrich either family. They were insurance for the bride, so that she would be solvent if her husband died or divorced her.

The Betrothal
The betrothal ceremony was a simple one, packed with meaning. The groom made spoken promises to love and cherish his bride: “I will betroth thee unto me forever….in loving kindness and in mercies….” (Hosea 2). By law he was to provide her with all the necessities of life. In return, the bride did not need to say anything. To indicate her consent, all she had to do was reach out and take the cup of wine that the groom offered her. With these promises, the man and woman were then considered to be married, even though they would not live together for approximately one year.

While the groom was busy building a house for his bride, she also had many things to do to prepare for her wedding. The weaving loom was kept busy, making things a bride would need to set up a home: rugs, bed linens, towels, etc. She also would collect pots, utensils, and bowls. The most important task the bride had was to make her wedding gown out of linen cloth made from flax. She would embroider the neck and hem and sleeves with a design of her own: leaves and flowers. Sarai, my main character, chose pomegranates and daisies. Shortly before the year wait was over, the bride would go to a sacred ceremonial bath, called a mikveh.

The Ceremony
The actual wedding day was fixed by the groom’s father, when he determined that his son was prepared, he set the time for the groom to fetch his bride. The bride must have all in readiness, for she would not know the day. At midnight, the blowing of a ram’s horn announced the groom’s coming as he moved through the streets toward her house with the bridal cart, decorated with cloth and flowers. Those invited to the ceremony would follow behind, carrying lit candles. When the procession arrived at the father’s house, the groom would lift the veil to make certain that this was his chosen bride, lower it again, and the ceremony would begin. After the vows of love and promise, the crowd shouted with joy while the groom took his bride to the chamber he had prepared. Then the wedding guests would feast on sweet honey cakes, dates, grapes and pomegranates. The celebration would last sometimes for seven days!

About the Author:
Carol Pratt Bradley is a historical novelist with an MFA in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University. She has three novels from WiDo Publishing:

Light of the Candle 2015
Fire of the Word 2016
Waiting for the Light 2017

Available on Amazon and WiDo Publishing's website

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


by guest blogger Lisa Lowell
Thirty-odd years ago I found myself sitting in an Old Testament religious studies class, one whose professor loved the topic and could not understand why his pupils did not.  I dutifully read the required text, King James version of the Bible and a book titled Antiquities, by the Jewish historian Josephus.  It could be boring if you got bogged down in the politics and the lineage, but I did not.  I loved the stories.  I had been writing for several years at that time and had focused on fantasy writing.  However, some of the narratives in this class smacked of magic.  They included the tale of a Babylonian king killed by two of his sons while worshiping an idol, the explanation of how a dethroned Jewish king returned as a pauper to his native land after his people had been exiled, and most intriguing, the mysterious disappearance of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
Finding these stories sparked my love of Ancient Middle Eastern era historical fiction.  This was pre-internet so my sources were at the university library, Chronology of Mesopotamia and that wonderful professor.  I began to weave those three stories into one cohesive whole.  At first, I completely ignored the actual timeline and research in an effort to get a sensible plot melding those three tales.  After I had the plot complete, I went back to my source material and researched to make it seem real and not a fantasy.
The wonderful part about doing research on a time period no one but an archeologist understands is I can still pursue the fantasy elements.  I created a pharaoh out of three separate actual pharaohs.  I stretched the time between Hezekiah, Hosea, and Sennecherib, three historical kings from different lands, making them contemporaries rather than spreading them through a hundred-year span.  The elements that did not need stretching, like a trip down an underwater tunnel system, or the burial practices of the ancient Egyptians, are all the more effective because they are not fantasy. 
The culture of welcoming strangers, of purchasing wives to strengthen the empire, of superpowers like Egypt and Assyria constantly capturing each other's satellites, made for a stunning backdrop for the simple story of three strangers, thrown together and navigating the love they want to have, but cannot share.  Starting with three bible stories made it simple.  Adding the culture made it rich. Here is an image I used when I first tinkered with the story.

Lisa's web page is  and her FB page is

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dracula, Werewolves, and Frankenstein - OH MY!

Welcome Historical Hussie followers!! 

By a raise of hands (or 'like' clicks) how many of you out there enjoy reading paranormal? Well, I'm not usually a paranormal fan, but just the other day I had an idea for an awesome story! My tough contemporary heroine will kick some historical monsters' butt!

In order do write this story (which I've already outlined and written a proposal for), I had to do some research. I thought I'd share with you what I have found.

Count Dracula...

The story of Dracula was actually written about a man in Romanian in 1448. Between 1448 and the time of his death, he was on the warpath... literally. From my research, he was considered a prince, but as most rulers back in those days, he wanted to conquer other lands. He captured his enemies and tortured them. The reason Vlad the Impaler was rumored to be a vampire was because he took the blood of his victims and kept it in bottles. YUCK!! From what I've read, Vlad was one sick puppy!


Surprisingly enough, rumors - or folklore - about werewolves started clear back in 1150. Back then, people believed that werewolves were witches... that cursed wolves attached people (scratching or biting them) which turned them in beasts at night. These people even formed groups (witch hunters) to search for these witches who shifted when the moon was full. In 1589 there was a significant interest in the werewolf and people began to hunt wolves and kill them for fear that they were the beasts. But by the end of the 'witch trials', the werewolf became more Gothic and writers couldn't wait to add this creature into their stories.


In 1831, Mary Shelley wrote a story about a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who studied the decaying of living beings, and had an idea to experiment with his own creation by making a living being with the parts of dead people. And as we all know (if we've seen the movies or read the books) that electricity is what brings this monster to life. The hideous monster who is known simply as "Frankenstein" is appalled at his appearance and knows that nobody will love him. He begs the scientist to create him a bride, which Victor does, but when Victor destroys her, the monster is raged and kills Victor's assistant before fleeing the lab. The monster swears revenge on the man who created him.

My new story idea has been titled "Love Me Yesterday". It'll be full of action and suspense, paranormal and time-travel... and one kick-butt heroine who fights these monsters and more!!  It's not released yet, but I'm still searching for someone (a publisher) who might love this idea and want me!


Marie Higgins is an award-winning, best-selling, multi-published author of 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's published 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 turns and unexpected endings.

Visit her website to discover more about her –

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Englishman’s Ranch in Arizona

Good afternoon to one and all! My name is Sally Britton and this is my first post on the blog! Yay! I'm really excited to be here with everyone, to share my research and talk about history.

While the Regency era is my first and greatest writing love, I’m gearing up for a series set entirely in the American West, specifically in the mining regions of Southern Arizona. I’m uniquely placed for researching the most amazing old towns, from Fort Huachuca with its history of the Buffalo Soldiers to Tombstone, made famous by a disagreement that wound up leading to that infamous gunfight.

As I’ve been studying Arizona history, one ranch has stood out again and again in the history books. The Empire Ranch, founded in the 1870’s by an Englishman and a Canadian who really had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Talk about a fish out of water story! We love the Old West, but how often do we think about Englishmen trying to take it on?

Herbert R. Hislop (now there’s a name for you) came to North America with one goal: to create a cattle empire. He wasn’t a rancher, he had no experience with cattle, but he was a young man with ambition and America was the land of opportunity, even for Englishmen.

Herbert took the rails out to California, then came back down to Tucson, which isn’t much to look at today but back then was even less impressive. There was one dirt road, with adobe houses lining either side of it. But Herbert and his partner were not daunted and they started riding around looking for land.

He got pretty discouraged at what the desert had to offer. In a letter home, he wrote, “I would sooner have Thames water at London Bridge than the finest water here.”

An excerpt from his letters: “Rested and just looked round the town for horses to buy, but did not succeed. Had more offers of ranches, it is astonishing how quickly one’s business is known in a small place like this. Everybody has the best to sell. It is quite amusing to hear them talk and hear them contradict each other, running down each other as thieves and rascals, but we have our money and intend to keep it unless we get a place suited to our requirements and on reasonable terms.”

But then, in a little piece of undiscovered paradise, Herbert found the perfect land. It had protective mountains around it, was at a higher elevation and stayed cooler morning and night, and beautiful green grass that stretched as far as the eye could see. They bought up the ranch and then some cattle, and Herbert was suddenly learning the business first hand.

Walter Vail, from Canada, wrote about his partner: “I think it is just beginning to dawn on Hislop what roughing it means but I am in hopes he will not give in if he should it would place me in an awkward position.”

This was the age of rustlers, of the western forts springing up, of the calvary riding across the desert after ne’er-do-wells! And Herbert was in the thick of things. He started a tradition at the ranch that held on for many generations, and kept him and those who came after out of harm’s way. The very first time Herbert had a gang of men ride in on one of his camps, instead of bristling up and getting defensive, he invited them all to dine with him. With his good English manners, Herbert charmed the group of men, fed them bread he’d baked himself, and they parted as friends. Later he learned he’d entertained one of the meanest group of rustlers around.

Herbert fed everyone, because his mother had taught him to be hospitable. Whether it was the Native Americans, Mexican vaqueros, or another rancher, they were treated to the best he had to offer. Because of that, the Empire was often spared when one group or another conducted raids.

What survives of Herbert’s experience is a wonderful wealth of letters he wrote back home to England. Those letters are a goldmine of information for researchers, a first-hand source of what life was like before the West was tamed. From adobe brick making to Decoration Day celebrations, Herbert recorded it all for his family living far from Arizona’s monsoon season and rattlesnakes.

Unfortunately, family business called Herbert home and he sold out to his partners. But with the fine start he helped them achieve, the Empire Ranch was founded and remains to this day a working ranch. I went out and toured the beautiful area, seeing the original house where Herbert lived with bats in his bedroom. And for decades after Herbert left, locals continued to call the Empire, “The English Boys’ Outfit.”

Until I can sink my teeth into these beautiful Arizona stories, I’m enjoying getting my Regency Romance series published. My latest novel, His Bluestocking Bride, spent a lot of time as a #1 New Release and Bestseller on Amazon.

It’s a story of a marriage of convenience that becomes so much more. But just you wait. My Arizona stories are a-comin’!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Supper at a Regency Ball by Jenna Jaxon

In writing the next Regency in my Handful of Hearts series, I ended up having to research the suppers that were held at a ball. I made mention that Lady Hamilton’s suppers were “legendary,” so I had to do lots of research to find out what the norm was and then to top that.

Suppers at a ball were much more elaborate than a supper at a private party would be. At a ball everything must be breathtaking and perfect as it could possibly be, so hostesses would do everything possible to make their suppers elegant and unforgettable. The tables would be laid to exact specifications with the best china, silverware, and crystal being polished to blinding brightness.

Regency party goers made sure to eat dinner before leaving the house for the ball because supper at a ball could begin anywhere from 10:00 pm
until 2:00am. The guests would have spent several hours either dancing or playing cards non-stop, so that some form of sustenance was certainly necessary. There are newspaper accounts that report one supper not beginning until 3:30 in the morning: “At half-past three o’clock the company sat down to a sumptuous banquet, the viands and wines being of the first description, with a desert of ices, strawberries, cherries, and grapes by Mr Gunter.”

The bill of fare could be long and varied, depending on the wealth of the hostess. There were many dishes including white soup, cold meats, vegetables, fish, salads, fresh fruit, with deserts ranging from dry cake (unfrosted, like a pound cake), cheeses, cookies, pies, ices, and trifle. Champagne, white wine, sweet red wine, such as Madeira, coffee, tea, and lemonade might be served.

One of the most important things about supper for a young person on the marriage mart was that whichever gentleman was granted the last dance before supper automatically escorted his partner in to supper and sat with her, waiting on her, gathering dainty bits to tempt her appetite. This also meant the young lady sat with the gentleman and therefore got to talk to her throughout the entire supper. In a society where young ladies had little opportunity to speak to a man alone, this was a huge boon if one was trying to get to know the young lady or gentleman better.

After supper the couples returned to the ball and danced until the wee hours of the morning. Of course, if the young lady had already danced twice with her supper partner, they could not dance together again and so the supper was their final bit of “alone time” for this particular ball.

Eating at midnight or beyond may seem strange to our modern sensibilities, until you think of heading home from a late movie or dancing at a club and grabbing pizza or a burger or ice cream on the way home.

Perhaps Regency suppers weren’t all that far off the mark after all.