Jane Austen Movie Night

I’m planning what must be one of the most fun “Dining for Dollars” church-fundraisers ever—a Jane Austen movie night, with period foods.

I love working out all the details for events like this. I’m working on a date and figuring out whether it will be best held at my home, where I can use my own kitchen but have a basement decorated in movie posters, or at the church hall, where I’d have to use a gas stove (I’m more used to electric) but which is also more simply decorated, so I could create a little more period ambience.

I plan to poll the guests to figure out which movies they’d like best: whether old favorites or ones they haven’t seen already. We may end up doing a “Pick 2” of the regular length movies. At another movie night, friends and I watched the 2007 Northanger Abbey, with JJ Feild and Felicity Jones, followed by the 1995 Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. That worked well, since both movies are less than two hours, also because of the contrast of a very youthful couple and an older couple’s second chance at love.

We might also do a mini-marathon, like the 2008 Sense and Sensibility, with Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as the sisters. I doubt this crowd will be up for a 1995 Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle) marathon, but I would be down for it.

I thought about wearing my Regency gown, but I’ve decided against it.  I don’t want guests to feel they have to come in costume. I’d also rather cook in clothes I don’t mind messing up, since I don’t have the requisite army of servants in the kitchen.

I don’t have enough fine china for this size of crowd and can’t afford to go all out on other props, so I may go with a somewhat kitschy-Regency vibe. These pretty plastic plates might be a good option. I’ve found plates like this can often be washed and reused, so I can be environmentally conscious and not blow the budget.

The most fun part may be figuring out the menu. I’ve spent some time with my Jane Austen Cookbook and also online at the Jane Austen Centre’s recipe page and similar places.

Although I’ve made some period desserts, this will be my first attempt at savory dishes. I’ve found several recipes for “white soup”, which is supposed to be a standard for balls. I’m excited to have found this recipe for lobster patties from Anna Campbell, in an interview by Catherine Hein.

As for desserts, I’m thinking perhaps a proper trifle, made with syllabub and Naples biscuits (recipes from The Jane Austen Cookbook). I’m also thinking about the rout drop cakes from the same book. And then there’s this adorable hedgehog-shaped cake, adapted from a recipe by Hannah Glasse. So cute!

For drinks, I’m thinking of serving lemonade, burgundy, claret, and hock. Should I learn how to make negus, ratafia, or orgeat as well? I’m also intrigued by this recipe for Regent’s Punch which includes green tea and champagne. It sounds like something to try.

What do you think? What movies, food and drink would you have at your dream Jane Austen-themed party? Have you have hosted one, and if so, do you have any suggestions for mine?

Elena

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Beyond Gunter’s

If you’re an avid reader of Regency romances, you’re likely very familiar with Gunter’s [N0. 7-8 Berkeley Square], the famous pastry shop which was one of the few places a lady might dine when out and about. While the cafes of Paris were open to women, not so the taverns and chop houses of London. I was recently thumbing through The Epicure’s Almanack looking for places women might dine out or meet one another and I was delighted to find the Index had an entry which covered many of them:

Still from the BBC’s production of Persuasion

Debatt’s Pastry Shop, Poultry

Adjoining the King’s Head Tavern [No, 25 Poultry, south side], very fortunately for ladies and beaux of delicate stomachs, stands Debatt’s pastry shop, famous for sweets, soups, and savory patties. Here the epicure, who has sacrificed too liberally to the jolly god, may allay the fervency of his devotion by copious draughts of capillaire [an infusion of maidenhair fern sweetened with sugar or honey, and often flavored with orange-flower water], spruce [a fermented beverage (beer) made with an extract from the leaves and branches of the spruce fir mixed with treacle], soda [yes, soda water is period], orgeat [made by mixing barley water with syrup of orgeat, prepared with almonds, sugar, and rose-water], or lemonade. [This location is spitting distance from the Bank of England for purposes of plot.]

Unnamed, Ave Maria Lane

At the corner of Ave Maria Lane [No 28 Ludgate Street, north side] you may halt a moment, and take a glass of capillaire in the old established pastry-shop, where soups, mock turtle, savory patties, ices, and confectionary, in all their glory and splendor, with custards of the greatest delicacy, are daily offered up to the Hebes and Junos of the city.
[Nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral for purposes of plot.]

Farrance’s, Spring Garden [note, he or his brother owned the unnamed shop above]

Farrance, the Pastry Cook, lives at the corner of Spring Garden, or rather his numerous friends may be said to live there; for so much does he attend to the gratification of their appetites, that he seldom has time to think of his own. In point of magnitude, and of the excellence and cheapness of its articles, this long celebrated shop has no superior, perhaps, in the world. Here are exquisite soups, highly flavored tarts, savory patties, and delicious pastry and confitures. Fruits and ices throughout the whole extent of their season, good and in great variety. Need we say that in this temple Pomona and Ceres hold daily a levee of beauty of fashion; and that you may observe at all hours in the forenoon a whole nidus of little Cupids and Psyches feasting in terrene nectar and ambrosia. In plainer terms, ladies generally regale their younger friends and relatives here with the incomparable bon-bons of Monsieur Farrance. [Near the north-east corner of St. James’s Park for purposes of plot.]

Owen and Bentley’s Fruit-shop, New Bond-Street

Opposite the Blenheim [87 New Bond Street], is Owen and Bentley’s Fruit-shop, at which are to be had all early produced fruits, exotic, as well as indigenous. You may also regale yourself and the ladies here, with jellies, ices, and liqueurs. It is actually a temple of Pomona. [Conveniently located between Cavendish Square and Hanover Square for purposes of plot.]

There are many other pastry shops mentioned (often with side note that they supplied venison of all things), but none of the other entries mentions women being entertained there. The Almanack does make it plain though that high-end pastry shops were acceptable places for women to congregate and that they were common enough in London (and in Bath per Jane Austen). Have any of you written one into your books or read one that you particularly remember? I know Heyer used Gunter’s frequently, and I used it in Ripe for Seduction under its earlier name, Negri’s Pot and Pine Apple.

Posted in Food, History, Isobel Carr, Jane Austen, Places, Regency, Research | 2 Comments

Do you love fairy tales?

The Fairy Ring title pageMy new book Yuletide Truce, which comes out next week, starts with dueling reviews of a collection of fairy tales: The Fairy Ring, published on 9 December 1845 (though the title page gives the year of publication as 1846), in time for the Christmas season. It contains fairy tales from the collection of the Brothers Grimm, translated by John Edward Taylor.

John Edward Taylor was the cousin of Edgar Tylor, the man who in 1823 had produced the very first English translation of a selection of the Grimms’ fairy tales. He published them as German Popular Stories, with a second volume following three years later.

While Germany had seen a renewed interest in fairy tales since the late 18th century, it were the Taylors’ translations of the Grimms’ stories and, later on, Mary Howitt’s translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales that led to a similar fashion in Britain, where it would eventually produce a new genre, fantasy fiction, in the second half of the 19th century.

The publication history of the Grimms’ fairy tales at home and abroad is in many ways a peculiar one. When the first edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen was published in 1812/15, it bore evidence of the conflicting aims the Grimms pursued. One the one hand, the collection was meant to be a scholarly project documenting a specific form of German “folk literature,” hence the extensive notes that accompanied the collection. There, the Grimms tried to establish the history of individual tales as well as document connections to the folk literature of other nations. On the other hand, the Grimms built up a fictional version of how they had obtained the tales to establish them more firmly as authentic folk tales. Which is why even today, there’s the persistent myth that Grimms marched from village to village, knocking on people’s doors and asking to be fairy tales, when they received the majority of their tales from acquaintances, in particular middle-class women.

The first edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen received mixed reviews, and many felt that, despite the “children” in the title, the tales weren’t really suitable for a young audience, not the least because many of them contained very clear sexual allusions. In subsequent editions, the existing tales were edited (mainly by Wilhelm) to bring them more in line with patriarchal, middle-class values and more tales were added to the collection.

Thus, the text of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen was constantly in flux, and as a consequence there is little conformity among the English translations of the collection. For not only was their selected material taken from different editions of the original collection, but the translators themselves also tended to heavily edit the tales. This is already evident in the very first translation from 1823: Edgar Taylor left out references to the devil and shied away from sexual allusions, which is why his version of “The Frog King” is heavily altered.

But the most important change to the German source material was the inclusion of illustrations by George Cruikshank. This new feature proved to be so successful that it inspired the Grimms to let their brother Ludwig Emil Grimm illustrate their own Kleine Ausgabe of 1825.

Like Edgar Taylor’s German Popular Stories, his cousin’s translation The Fairy Ring was also illustrated — and by one of the most popular artists of the 1840s: Richard Doyle.

The Fairy Ring: illustration for "The Two Brothers" with floppy-eared dragonChristoper Foreman, one of my characters in Yuletide Truce, takes issue both with John Edward Taylor’s text and Doyle’s illustrations, which allowed me to write a snarky Victorian style book review. 🙂

This is what Kit Foreman has to say about the illustrations:

“The illustrations of The Fairy Ring were done by Richard Doyle, whose illustrations in Punch regularly delight that magazine’s readership. It is, however, debatable whether his whimsical style is quite suitable to adequately depict fearsome dragons, malicious dwarves, and giants, no matter into what raptures of praise the pictures have thrown our colleague at Munro’s. Are we really to believe in the fearsomeness of a dragon whose heads resemble those of sad puppy dogs?”

Oh dear! Poor Dicky Doyle! (And poor Aigee, whose review Kit trashes so mercilessly!)

If you’d like to get a longer sneak peek at Yuletide Truce (and Kit’s review!), check out the excerpt on my website!


cover Yuletide Truce

Yuletide Truce

London, 1845

It’s December, Alan “Aigee” Garmond’s favorite time of the year, when the window display of the small bookshop where he works fills up with crimson Christmas books and sprays of holly. Everything could be perfect — if it weren’t for handsome Christopher Foreman, the brilliant writer for the fashionable magazine About Town, who has taken an inexplicable and public dislike to Aigee’s book reviews.

But why would a man such as Foreman choose to target reviews published in a small bookshop’s magazine? Aigee is determined to find out. And not, he tells himself, just because he finds Foreman so intriguing.

Aigee’s quest leads him from smoke-filled ale-houses into the dark, dingy alleys of one of London’s most notorious rookeries. And then, finally, to Foreman. Will Aigee be able to wrangle a Yuletide truce from his nemesis?

WARNING: Contains a very grumpy writer, snarky Victorian book reviews, a scandalous song, two men snogging, and fan-girling over Punch.

Now available for pre-order: Amazon US | Nook | ibooks | Kobo

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Regency Picnic or a Labor Day?

Happy Labor Day!

This US federal holiday celebrates the economic and social contributions of the American worker. It was first observed in New York in 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894. Today it has also become the traditional end of summer and the traditional way to celebrate is to have a picnic.

Today’s picnic is a leisure pastime for the ordinary people, a chance to grill hot dogs and play outdoor games, but during the Regency, a picnic was a fancier affair, and the working people of the period may have experienced it much differently than we do today.

In the early nineteenth century, picnicking was a way for the privileged classes to commune with nature, all the while consuming a feast assembled to minimize inconvenience and to enhance the outdoor experience. A beautiful site was selected some distance away. Each guest might have provided a dish to share or the host provided all the food. Entertainments were provided. The idyllic interlude was a pleasurable respite from day to day life.
Except for the servants, for a Regency picnic required a great deal of work.
Servants had to prepare, pack, and transport the food, the furniture, the plates, serving dishes, cutlery, and linens. The whole lot would be loaded on wagons but the wagons often could not reach the exact site of the picnic, so that the food, furniture, etc. would all have to be carried the rest of the way by servants, who would then have to set up everything, serve the food, and attend to the guests in any way they required. When the picnic was over, the servants had to clean up, repack everything, and carry it back.
It wasn’t until later in the Victorian period, with the rise of the middle class and the ready train transportation that picnics became a less exclusive leisure activity.

You can get an idea of the labor involved in a Regency picnic from the 1996 Kate Beckinsale version of Emma, my favorite version.

 

So on this day, while we celebrate our Labor day, let’s also remember the labor that used to go into a picnic.

 

 

 

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

This past weekend I dropped off both daughters to college (the younger for the first time). It’s a very strange experience to become an empty-nester. I miss them so much! But I’m also an introvert recovering from a challenging phase of my life, so being alone is very healing. Since this past year my focus was getting my daughters on track and supporting their education and career goals, I’m also looking forward to more time to write.

Fellow Risky Gail invited me to spend a day with her before heading home. We had a lovely time, talking about life and writing while painting rocks. It was a good way to transition into this next phase, helping to ease my fears of getting back to creative work.

So it’s a year of big changes for me, but also for the Riskies. We’ve talked before about wanting to make some changes and now we’re ready to make it real. We’re still fleshing out details, but here’s the general idea:

  • Since many of our readers prefer to engage on social media, we’re going to add a Facebook Group–a place where we can all hang out, posting in a way that’s more short, fun, and spontaneous. Maybe we’ll have some Facebook parties and giveaways, too. We hope as many of you can join us as possible.
  • We’ll keep the blog and still post occasionally when we want to announce new releases or share a more substantive post about research or other topics.

So stay tuned for more details, and let us know if you’ve got comments or ideas regarding our makeover.

Thanks for your support!

Elena

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Cool things from the 1780s

I love strange little bits of real history to decorate my books with. Sometimes you stumble across them randomly and jot them down for later use, and sometimes you’re in the middle of the book and you can’t stand to write yet another ball. So what’s an author to do? Go looking for cool things that happened when your book is set (much easier if you’re vague, which I can’t seem to manage, LOL!). This list is courtesy of one of my favorite books for finding strange tidbits: The Annals of London by John Richardson.

First Sunday Newspaper,   1780
It was called the British Gazette and Sunday Monitor, published by E. Johnson, a London Printer.

The Toothbrush was Invented, 1780
This one blows my mind. William Addis set up at 64 Whitechapel High Street as a “stationer and rag-merchant’. He sold the brushes though his contacts in the bookselling trade of all things. And yes, the current sportswear company is related.

Horsehair toothbrush said to have been used by Napoleon Bonaparte

The First Shop Front, 1782
The first proper shopfront (the classic double-fronted windows with displayed merchandise) was set up by a draper on the north side of Leicester Square.

First Balloon Ascent in England , 1783
Count Zambecarri launched the unmanned flight from the Artillery Ground at Finsbury on the 25th of November. It landed 48 miles away in Petworth.

First manned Balloon Ascent, 1784
Vincenzo Lunardi launched himself into the sky on the 15th of September from the Honourable Artillery Company in City Road. One hundred thousand people, including the Prince of Wales showed up to watch the launch.

George Biggin’s ascent in Lunardi’s balloon (Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1785)

Far-Reaching Cricketing History, 1787
Lord’s Cricket Ground opened on the 31st of May with a match wager of 100 guineas on each side.

The Linnean Society Founded, 1788
James Edward Smith, a medical student, bought the library and collection of Carl Linnaeus (he of the long-necked giraffe theory) and set it up in his apartment in Paradise Row. The first meeting was April 8th, with 36 fellows and 16 associates.

Frost Fair, 1789
At the beginning of the year, the Thames froze over from Putney to Rotherhithe. On January 9th, a whole ox was roasted on the ice.

The Frost Fair of 1814, by Luke Clenell.
Posted in History, Isobel Carr | 1 Comment

English Cottages Rock!

So much of the time, our Regency stories evolve in the settings of the elegant mansions, grand townhouses and large country estates of the rich aristocrats who people the stories. There’s good reason for that, for certainly the elegance helps the romance! But lately I’ve been on a “cottage kick”.

There are two reasons for this (besides just that English cottages can be so adorable) One is that my current WIP has my high-born hero stranded in a very small and lowly village (at Christmas, no less) which is all farms and small village houses except for the local manor and the vicarage, of course. The other is rocks. Yes, I said rocks.

In view of the current fad for painted rock “fairy houses” that people are putting in their gardens, I agreed to paint some for my church’s Holiday Bazaar in December. Do you know how hard it is to find good rocks with a shape that lends itself to becoming a cottage? Even for fairies?

My tendency is to go for thatched roofs and the often-crooked charm that comes from centuries of standing in a lovely English garden. I’d show you some of mine if any were finished yet!! LOL. But I have collected a lot of cottage pictures to inspire my efforts, and I thought I’d share some.

I’m not going to turn this into a research post or talk about how very different in style and materials the cottages can be in every different area of Great Britain. There is no such thing as a “definitive” English cottage style unless you consider the “picturesque” revival movement that began towards the end of the Regency period. At that point, architects including Nash pondered what elements made up “cottage style” and purposely designed new homes to capture that charm. I just thought it would be fun to share a little overview!

This is a short post (having some health issues, sorry!!) YOUR turn! How romanticized is my view? Which cottages do you like best?  One of these is NOT in the U.K. –I wonder if you can spot the “fake”? Are you into any of the current painted rocks trends? (Fairy houses being only one of many going around.) Finally, a lovely rock house (painted by someone else).

If/after someone guesses the “fake”, I’ll post in the comments where some of these are to be found! Or perhaps you’ll recognize some of them!

 

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Animal Characters and a Sale!

One Grey Seal looking. Located Newquay, Cornwall, UK.

A lot of my favorite romance authors include animals in their romances. In Regencies, we often have horses, but other animals, usually pets, can add fun to a story. Laura Kinsale usually (always?) includes some sort of “mascot animal” in her books, including a horse, a gyrfalcon, a shark, and a pig. Mary Jo Putney is a cat lover and many of her books include cats.

There are almost always named horses in my books, and some of my characters have had pets. I included goldfinches, a hedgehog, and a pony in Lady Dearing’s Masquerade, since there were so many children in that story who would enjoy them. In Saving Lord Verwood, the hero gives the heroine a kitten as a wedding present and later gives her the more practical gift of a mare to ride. Later, he also lets her talk him into rescuing an orphaned seal pup, which they later release back into the wild.

I got the idea for that story element after a visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a fun place to visit and learn about wildlife rescue. People at the center helped me figure out plausible ways for my characters to care for the baby seal.

Saving Lord Verwood by Elena GreeneThis month, I’m running a 99 cent ebook sale of Saving Lord Verwood, with my share of the proceeds going to the Sea Life Trust which runs the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and other sea life centers.

Saving Lord Verwood is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Apple, and Kobo.

If you’d like to donate directly, just visit the Sea Life Trust website.

Do you enjoy animal characters in Regency romance? What are some of your favorites?

Elena

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The Dark Side of the Metropolis

First of all: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I forgot to post yesterday! I was busy putting the finishing touches to Yuletide Truce, one of my Victorian holiday stories, which will be released later this year, so I’d be able to send it to my beta readers. I did send it to my beta readers last night (and of course, I’m now convinced they’ll hate me after reading the manuscript) (but hey, that’s a vast improvement over thinking my manuscript might prove fatal for my poor editor!!!)

Aigee, from Yuletide Truce, by Sandra SchwabAigee (short for Alan Garmond), one of the main characters in Yuletide Truce, has grown up in one of the poorest districts of London, before he was apprenticed to a bookseller at age eleven. He is torn between his new life and his old, and he often returns to his childhood haunts.

So, not surprisingly, for this story, I looked at some of the darker aspects of Victorian London, and one book in particular proved to be enormously helpful in finding out about the poorer population: Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor.

Mayhew was one of the co-founders of Punch (yes, we always come back to Punch, don’t we *grins*), though he severed the ties with the magazine only four years later. In 1849, the editors of another periodical, The Morning Chronicle, invited him to write a series about the working people of London under the title of “Labour and the Poor.” These articles formed the basis for an extended three-volume study, namely London Labour and the London Poor.

Henry Mayhew
Henry Mayhew, from Wikipedia

Mayhew’s work is in many ways ground-breaking — not just because he threw light on a class of people who were so often forgotten, but also because interviews made up the bulk of his articles. Through him we get to hear the voices of the streetsellers, the old-clothes dealers, the mudlarks, the omnibus drivers, and chimney sweeps. He let them talk about their jobs, their everyday lives, their hopes and dreams. One of the streetsellers Mayhew introduces is the muffin man:

“The street sellers of muffins and crumpets rank among the old street-tradesmen. It is difficult to estimate their numbers, but they were computed for me at 500, during the winter months. They are for the most part boys, young men, or old men, and some of them infirm. […]

I did not hear of any street seller who made the muffins or crumpets he vended. […] The muffins are bought of the bakers, and at prices to leave a profit of 4d. in 1s. […] The muffin-man carries his delicacies in a basket, wherein they are well sweathed in flanne, to retain the heat: ‘People like them war, sir,’ an old man told me, ‘to satisfy theym they’re fresh, and they almost always are fresh; but it can’t matter so much about their being warm, as they have to be toasted again: I only wish good butter as a sight cheaper, and that would make the muffins go. Butter’s half the battle.’

A sharp London lad of fourteen, whose father had been a journeyman baker, and whose mother (a widow) kept a small chandler’s shop, gave me the following account:

‘I turns out with muffins and crumpets, sir, in October, and continues until it gets well into the spring, according to the weather. I carries a fustrate article; werry much so. If you was to taste ’em, sir, you’d say the same. […] If there’s any unsold, a coffee-shop gets them cheap, and puts ’em off cheap again next morning. My best customers is genteel houses, ’cause I sells a genteel thing. I likes wet days best, ’cause there’s werry respectable ladies what don’t keep a servant, and they buys to save themselves going out. We’re a great conwenience to the ladies, sir — a great conwenience to them as likes a slap-up tea. […]'”

(Can somebody pass me a warm muffin, now, please?) (And we’re talking English muffins, of course, a type of small, flat, round bread, rather than the cake-like American muffins.)

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On Research & Rabbit Holes

I know you understand the issues –I think all of us here tend to be research geeks. Sometimes it’s hard to pull ourselves away from the endless journey of searching out more information, more fascinating details –just a little more time, or just one more day…. Not everyone gets it. Back in the days before the Internet (I know, I’m old) I was so lost in the pages of the London Times from 1813, peering at the screen of one of those God-awful microfiche scanning machines in a library basement, I forgot one child’s orthodontist appointment, a whole afternoon, plus dinner, and oh boy, the looks I got when I finally went home!!!

The Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. So much is now available at our fingertips, but there are so many more rabbit holes to fall down!! Those were less likely to occur in the pre-Internet days. When I could only get information I needed for The Captain’s Dilemma (orig pub date 1995) by traveling to England and visiting special libraries (both military and civilian), you can bet I stayed on point for pretty much every minute I was over there! No rabbit holes. But the time thing, well, that was still an issue. Traveling alone was a blessing so there were no dinner appointments to make or other people’s schedules to accommodate. I guess there’s never enough time, no matter which way we research!

But now if we’re lost in the wonderful feast of Internet information, we may not even notice we’re down a rabbit hole until we’re pretty far down, LOL!  Does anyone else think the ease of Internet surfing has made research even more addictive?

Not to mention things like Pinterest!! How many of you have Pinterest boards set up for details of clothing, heroes, heroines, ideas for cover art, period room décor, views that inspire you –do I need to list more? Totally addictive. Every time Pinterest sends me an email with “suggestions” for my boards, I try to delete it, I really do. And sometimes succeed. But sometimes I just-can’t-stop-myself! My finger hovers, then clicks the fatal button and there goes a precious half-hour or more. But sometimes I find really helpful pictures that somehow escaped previous discovery.

For The Magnificent Marquess, I set up a board on Pinterest to collect pictures of East Indian artifacts that Lord Milbourne might have in his London townhouse after living in India. So many beautiful things!! They inspired me but I had to be careful not to put them all into the story!! (It’s called East Indian design, under Gail Eastwood-Stokes.) Here’s the link if you want to explore: https://www.pinterest.com/eastwoodstokes/east-indian-designs/ (Be warned, there’s 226 pictures!)

However, I’ve discovered readers can be interested in these things too. Am I the last one to figure this out? I just did a tea party with Cerise DeLand and Susana Ellis where I posted this silver tea pot  very similar to one my marquess uses in the story. I was astonished by all the love!! But then, I loved it, so why wouldn’t others?

On Facebook I’ve posted this picture of some gorgeous Indian teacups that were too beautiful not to use in the book. Just for fun, here’s the excerpt from fairly early in The Magnificent Marquess where both these cups and the silver teapot similar to the one above make their appearance.

The hero is serving tea to the heroine (I can’t explain why without giving spoilers):  “I must compliment you on your fetching ensemble,” Lord Milbourne said, picking up the silver teapot and pouring tea into one china cup. Was he fighting a smile? She could not quite tell. “It is so fitting to the occasion, for one thing. If I had a wife, I would make certain to take down the name of your modiste.”
Now he was openly roasting her! Apparently she was not already miserable enough. He added milk and sugar to her cup without asking, and held it out to her. She moved to the tea table and took the cup from him in suffering silence. She took a biscuit, although she was not certain she would be able to swallow anything solid, with her heart in her throat. He poured a glass of brandy for himself.
“Ah-h. One of the smaller but no less happy benefits of the war being over,” he said, holding the glass up and taking a deep, appreciative sniff. “Please, do sit. Otherwise I shall feel obliged to remain standing. In the company of a lady, and all.”
She dropped into the nearest chair, biting her lip. What he must think of her now! His tone said it all. How silly of her mother to have feared that she would ruin her sister’s chances with her blue-stocking ways! She had done a far more thorough job of it now, in a way her mother could never, ever, have imagined.
She sipped the tea, just now noting how exquisite the cup was. A little taller than usual, it was made of thin white porcelain and decorated so thickly with gold leaves, flowers, and vines that at first glance it appeared to be made of gleaming solid gold. The tea set on the table, too, at first appeared to be beautifully made but conventional in shape and design. It was only when she looked closer that she realized the silver pieces were covered with the same sorts of natural motifs she had seen on the walls and carved screens. The knobs and spout supports were flowers. Had every single thing in the house been brought with him from India?

I was tempted to make this post chock full of pictures from my East Indian Pinterest board –be glad I spared you (even though most of them are stunning!!). If you look there, just know you have to scroll down past all the weapons (Lord Milbourne has a collection of those on his library wall). Even some of those are pretty amazingly beautiful!

What are your research time and rabbit hole challenges? I refuse to call them weaknesses!! J It all goes to enrich our stories and reading pleasures, right?

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