Georgian Housekeeping

As a writer and a historical re-enactor, one of my favorite things is researching the minutia of everyday life. It’s all well and good to know when a major battle took place and who was king, but really, my characters are more likely to be concerned with removing a stain from a carpet or managing the dairy maids (especially as I’m currently working on a book with a country setting where the heroine is burrowing into the estate like a tick and making it all her own).

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I just found a great new resource to aid me (and my heroine) in this endeavor: The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman (1776). It’s a tiny little book put out by the National Trust (God bless the National Trust!) that contains one gentry woman’s notes about housekeeping and managing servants as well as foresection that gives lots of additional information to help you understand what might otherwise be obscure in her directions. It also reinforces information that I’ve read elsewhere indicating that servants had become very had to retain by this point. One of the reasons for the book was the fact that most of the maids appear to have stayed less than two years, even though the pay seems to have been on the generous side and the fabrics chosen for their clothing above the quality usually provided.

The servants mentioned include a housekeeper, cook, laundry maid, housemaid, and various obscure mentions of male servants providing occasional assistance. We also know there was a governess (based on the bills section). Mrs. Whatman does not appear to have had a lady’s maid of her own. All reference to the care of her clothing mentions the housekeeper and the maids. Apparently the housemaids were seen as having a great deal of free time when their actual work was done and they could thus be employed in a plethora of other capacities about the house.

To touch back on my last post about clothing storage, when the book mentions the schedule for closing the curtains/shutters to keep the sun off the furniture, the “mahogany presse” in every bedroom is specifically mentioned and one specific reference is made to a servant’s bed in the “little dressing room” adjoining one of the bedrooms.

It also contains prices, and oh how we all love prices! Susanna was married to wealthy man who owned multiple paper mills (but who appears to have lived more as a gentleman, concerned with improving and expanding his estates than a manufacturing baron). Essentially, we’re dealing with a man who might well have been Bingley’s father. His income was £6000 a year (£4700 of which was from the mills). His expenditures were only £1500 a year (which may well explain how one of his children married into the local aristocracy).

He purchased an ancient manor house with 86 acres which adjoined his estate, as well as another paper mill from the Earl of Aylesford for £7423 and then spent an additional £5000 refurbishing and outfitting the house. To put this money into perspective, he had a portrait of Susanna done by Romney (a prominent painter of the day) which cost £25.

Under BILLS, we learn that in 1781, food cost £222. Other household bills totaled 325. Sevants’ wages and clothes came to £211, the stables to £184, and Susanna received £105 in pin money. Mr. Whatman’s own personal expenses came to £143.

Is there anything about historical housekeeping that either baffles or intrigues you?

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Who needs an excuse for trifle?

trifleMy daughters and I have a tradition of trying new recipes out for New Year’s Eve dinner. This year, I’d planned to try a new macaroni and cheese recipe (with smoked gouda, bacon, and peas) followed by a chocolate brownie and raspberry trifle. But I was feeling under the weather and so we just made the main dish and had ice cream for dessert.

Having the ingredients around (but really, who needs an excuse for something like this), I finally made the trifle this last weekend. It is delicious! I would definitely make it again, especially for a party as it looks festive and it makes a lot (though we are not getting tired of it)! Here’s the recipe: Bigger, Bolder Baking: Chocolate Raspberry Trifle. You could use your own brownie recipe for this, but I used the recommended Best Ever Brownie Recipe and will likely be making that again, too.

This recipe just popped up on my Pinterest feed, so I pinned it because chocolate and raspberries is one of my favorite combinations. Now it’s also making me think about the history of this type of dessert.

Although the word “trifle” has been used for desserts longer, the trifle as we know it (layers of cake, custard and cream, often with fruit or jam) became popular during the 18th century. Syllabub, which could be a dessert on its own or used as part of a trifle, is cream whipped with fruit juice and/or alcohol.

Here’s a cool NY Times article on the evolution of trifle.

Martha Lloyd, Jane Austen’s friend and eventually sister-in-law, lived with Jane Austen at Chawton and carried on many of the responsibilities of housekeeping. Here are recipes for trifle and syllabub from her collection of recipes. The Jane Austen Cookbook has a modernized version I will have to try, maybe for another blog post.

Martha_LLoyd_TrifleThe recipe calls for Naples Biscuits, and I found a recipe for Naples biscuits at History Hoydens, where they are described as similar to Lady’s Fingers.

Here are a few other period recipes I found which I may want to try sometime:
Whim Wham, a Scottish Regency trifle (such a fun name, and it has Scotch in it), and a
trifle recipe from the Mrs Beeton (1861).

In my googling, I also ran across some delicious-sounding modern variations: a tipsy trifle with peaches and cream and pumpkin and gingerbread trifle.

Have you ever made a trifle? Do you have a favorite recipe?

Elena

 

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Cover Reveal & an Unusual Topic -Cheetahs!

ge-tmm-banner-750x1125 Happy 2017! I had hoped to give you a date for the re-release of The Magnificent Marquess, but I am finishing up my revisions and still aiming for the end of this month or early February. I just can’t sit on my new cover any longer –take a look!! (click on images to see them bigger)

The hero in this book has lived in India for most of his life, and besides some loyal Indian servants who chose to come with him to London, he also has brought his pet cheetah, Ranee. She is the cause of some trouble right at the beginning of the story. And while you might not think the topic of cheetahs is very connected to the Regency, let me show you how it is!

When this story was first published by Signet back in 1998, some readers didn’t realize that in the early 19th century there were still (or ever had been) Asian cheetahs in India. They are gone from India (the cheetahs, not the readers) and are very nearly extinct now even in the Middle East, where they used to roam freely. I was very distressed recently to read that cheetahs of every kind are now considered endangered. But in 1816, that was not the case.

In India, cheetahs were often trained for hunting. They are, after all, the fastest animal on the planet. It almost seems like cheating!! cheetahs-2Just because the British were in India where the climate was quite unlike that at home doesn’t mean they were about to give up their treasured leisure pursuits. But not all cheetahs were suited to it, and that is the case with Ranee, who is much happier as a pampered companion.

Of course, Ranee is fictional, and I went with my belief in “what could have been” when I wrote this story. Have you ever read or written something in a story that seems reasonable based on research, even though you couldn’t document that anyone ever did it? Isn’t it exciting when later you stumble across information that supports it? It’s so much easier to do research now!

The Internet was just blossoming back when I wrote the original version of this book. At that time I did not find any actual cases of cheetahs being brought to London. But do you know who had one? George III! And the artist George Stubbs took time off from painting horses long enough to paint a picture of it. Here it is:

stubbs-painting-of-george-iiis-cheetahIt breaks my heart that the king’s cheetah eventually ended up in the zoo at the Tower of London, such a sad fate for a magnificent animal born to run. How long it survived there I have not been able to find out. Even though this happened some 60 years before my story takes place, pre-Regency, the king and many other people from that time were still alive during the Regency and might have remembered poor Sultan, or at least saw Stubbs’s painting exhibited at the Royal Academy.

I still haven’t been able to access much information about Sultan or even the later history of the Stubbs painting, and now I would love to know more. If you’ve ever run across this or know of an accessible source, please share!

In the meantime, please let me know in the comments what you think of my new cover? I always wished Signet had included Ranee in the original one. I hope by next month I’ll be letting you know the new version of the book, revised and expanded, is out and available!! Happy New Year, everyone!    cheetah_trainer-croppedP.S. If you are interested in learning more about cheetahs, there’s a fascinating blog that follows the story of one rescued cheetah from cub-dom to adulthood (click on any of the cheetah pix on the site’s homepage, or go here for a single post:  http://sirikoi.blogspot.com/2013/09/sheba.html   or here for a nice narrative version of Sheba’s story: http://www.care2.com/causes/cheetah-raised-by-humans-who-loved-her-enough-to-set-her-free.html  Also here’s a link to the recent information about how endangered these beautiful cats have become today (with some more lovely photos): http://www.care2.com/causes/worlds-fastest-land-animal-is-now-racing-extinction.html

 

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Posted in History, Plot bunnies, Regency, Research, Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Return to the Follies, or, Writing Regency Again

Sandy's author's desk with her AlphaSmart, a notebook, and a cup of tea
Happy New Year, dear Riskies readers!

I’m sorry I’m late with my very first post of the year; I meant to write it on Wednesday evening after walking the doggies. But as I was about to fall asleep after walking the doggies, I crawled into bed instead. But I think at the moment, it’s still Wednesday in California, so this totally counts as a Wednesday post, right?!?!?!

So — new year, new beginnings. For me, this means working on a brandnew story. Since I finished The Centurion’s Choice, I have been trying to tackle something new, yet nothing quite gelled. Not the Roman novella set in Caledonia, and definitely not the Victorian novella set in the north of England. It took me a while to realize that either story would be just too gritty for my current frame of mind. So finally I decided a return to Regency England might be at order.

Oh. My. Gosh.

There is something soothing about falling back into the familiar rhythms and patterns of Regency England, something extremely liberating about being able to just concentrate on the story instead of doing a heap of research beforehand and during writing. And if I do need to look something up again, all it takes is a quick look into one of my research books.

And did I mention the garden follies?!?

The Return of the Earl, the story I’m working on, is set almost exclusively on a big estate in the country, which means I get to describe a lovely landscape garden once again — AND ALL THE GARDEN FOLLIES!!!!

I adore garden follies. They are the best things.

In the past, I typically consulted my books on great houses and great houses when building a lovely estate for one of my characters, but this time around I just let it zip. Only after a while did I realize I was describing places I had visited myself, specifically Harewood House near Leeds.

My (still nameless) estate has the same imposing entrance gates…

Gates to Harewood House…and once you’re through the gates, you’re greeted by lovely meadows (with nary a house in sight!)

Harewood House - the driveIt’s only as you drive (or walk) on…and on…and on…that the landscape dips to form a valley — and there it finally is: the house.

Harewood HouseThe similarities continue behind the house: Harewood has a large, beautiful south terrace…

Harewood House South Terrace…which offers a nice view across the landscape garden.

Harewood House TerraceAnd when you walk down the path to the balustrade at the end of the terrace, you get this view of the landscape garden:

Harewood House landscape gardenAnd you will find exactly the same view and exactly the same meadow, gently sloping down to the large lake, in The Return of the Earl. 🙂

If you would like to follow my creative journey with this story, check out my Instagram account, where I am posting status updates for my main characters.

teaser image for The Return of the Earl, by Sandra Schwab

Posted in Places, Plot bunnies, Regency | 4 Comments

Storing Clothing in the Georgian Era: The Clothes Press

One of the questions I get a lot when giving clothing workshops is “How did people store their clothes”? The answers are obviously very different across the classes, but in general my audience wants to know about the gentry and nobility.

Let’s start with closets. Yes, closets existed. Both in the modern sense of a large cupboard in which you store things and in the more historical sense of “a smaller room off a main living space, where you also stored things”. You see modern-type built in closets in many period homes, though they’re often hidden. They usually flank fireplaces, doorways, or built-in nooks for beds. The period idea of a closet was part of a suite of rooms that made up a person’s private chambers. There would be a bedroom, a study or boudoir, and often a closet or dressing room. This all varied widely so there’s no hard and fast rule as to what set-up your characters might have (and don’t forget to take in the era in which the house was built).

clothes-press-3
Mahogany clothes press, c. 1730-1760. Interior contains both drawers and shelves. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Regardless of what rooms your house has, the clothing storage will be of three types: chests (the classic flip-top large box), chest of drawers (just like today) and the clothes press/wardrobe (not like the big one that leads to Narnia). Clothes presses are most similar to what Americans now call “high boys” (which are a form of raised clothes press).

clothes-press-1
Clothes Press, c.1775-1778, Chippendale. Interior contains both shelves and drawers. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Clothes presses have drawers at the bottom and then an open space with pull-out shelves at the top behind doors. Later on (late 19thC) you get the kind with half the space given over to hanging garments and half to shelves). So your clothing would be carefully folded and organized among these various options, but in general it would not be hung as it often is today (I’ve heard their might have been pegs or a line for awkward items like false rumps, hoops, etc., but I’ve never seen this in practice outside of satirical drawings of how the poor lived).

clothes-press-2
Japaned Clothes Press, c. 1815, Crace (likely made for Brighton Pavilion). Victorian and Albert Museum.

It’s also likely that clothes were cycled, so you didn’t have everything in your room at once, just the things you needed for the season you were in. Clothing for other seasons would be packed away and stored in the attics (hence the treasure troves occasionally unearthed   ). At the end of each season, you would decide what was worth packing away for use the next year and what you would get rid of (this retired clothing was generally a perq of the lady’s maid, who could refashion it for her own use or sell it).

clothes-press-4
English Clothes Press, c. 1750.

For more insight into period homes, I highly recommend Georgian & Regency Houses Explained by Trevor Yorke.

Posted in Clothing, History, Isobel Carr, Regency, Research | 3 Comments

Flash Sale for Charity!

Hello. Last week fellow Risky Gail posted about being busy with church lady activities. I’m in the same situation right now, getting ready for my congregation’s annual Holiday Art and Gift Sale. If I’d had time, I would have looked up what Regency ladies did for charity but frankly I don’t have the time. I’m sure some of them did get involved. I don’t imagine them creating crafts for sale, but I do remember reading about things like embroidering altar cloths and delivering baskets to the poor.

This year I am particularly glad to be helping. My Unitarian Universalist congregation has seen an influx of new members recently, not surprising as we strive to create a welcoming, nurturing space for all people and all sorts of families. So my work with the Children & Youth Programs committee and fundraising feels like a small but positive way to help.

Here are a few of the beaded snowflakes and other ornaments that I bring to the sale.
snowflakes_2016_group1
treble_clefs


Over the last few years, I’ve also been invited to bring my paperbacks. This year, I’m also running a Flash e-book sale. All my ebooks will be priced at 99 cents through Monday, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and All Romance Ebooks. So if you haven’t tried one of them, you can get them at a bargain price and know that I will be donating my author share to my congregation. You can find links to all my books on my website, www.elenagreene.com or just go to your favorite online bookstore and type in my name.

uucb_flash_sale

I’m also looking forward to seeing what the other vendors are bringing. Last year I bought a lovely pendant made out of vintage buttons. This year I’m looking forward to getting some artisan soaps made by friends. Do you enjoy holiday bazaars like this and what are your favorite things to shop for?

Elena

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All the Bookish News!

A picture of the new print edition of Castle of the Wolf
Today I come to you with all kinds of bookish news: I’m currently knee-deep into the production of new print editions of all of my books. (It kind of hit me when I was preparing  Eagle’s Honor: Ravished, which I have entered into the RITAs, for print that very few of my novels were actually available as paperbacks. So it was definitely beyond time to remedy that situation.) Moreover, a few weeks ago, I also discovered how to create drop caps in MS Word and since then I’ve been on a roll. As you can see from the picture above. 🙂

For the print edition of Castle of the Wolf, my Beauty & the Beast story, in which a young woman inherits a mysterious castle in the Black Forest, I chose a set of initial letters that reminded me of old fairy tale books. I thought that was quite fitting since fairy tales play a very important role in the story.

So this is the good part. However, overall Sandra’s Adventures in Print Publishing didn’t go quite that smoothly. The grumpy dude on the cover? He’s orange. “But, Sandy,” you might say, “he is not orange in that picture above.” Yeah. I know. I applied a number of filters to that picture above because I didn’t want to inflict his glow-in-the-dark color on anyone. So if you’d like to get a nice new edition of Castle, please wait a few days. I’m currently fixing it. (I just hope he doesn’t turn out to look like a zombie this time around.) (That’s what living in a run-down castle does to you: turns you into a zombie!)

But what *did* turn out really nicely is the frontispiece (see? I’m really on a roll here! hehe!): I did include a sketch of the Kastelburg in Waldkirch, upon which the castle in my novel is (partly) based. Here is a picture of the frontispiece in the making:

A sketch of the Kastelburg in Waldkirch Annnnnnd in other bookish news, my grumpy centurion, whom I mentioned in my last post about doing portraits, is going to hit bookshelves this Friday. I so enjoyed telling Caius & Lucius’ story. I fell in love with these two when I first wrote them as secondary characters into Eagle’s Honor: Ravished, which is set ten years after The Centurion’s Choice, and I knew from almost the start that I very much wanted to tell their story as well.

Teaser image for The Centurion's Choice by Sandra SchwabFor me, one of the great joys of writing the Eagle’s Honor series is that has expanded into an exploration of family relations across several generations as well as an exploration of family stories. Family stories formed an important part of my growing up – my paternal grandmother in particular liked telling me stories about the time when my father and his sisters were little, and sometimes also about the time when she was a young woman. And above my parents’ dining table there’s a huge collage of family pictures going back as far as the 1890s. So my own experiences of how people in my family talked about their past and about people from past generations I’ve never met, very much informed the way I have been approaching the stories the Florius family share.

I love imagining what kind of stories members of the Florius family would share about past generations and what kind of things would be passed from one generation to the next. And also imagine what sort of circumstances would interrupt this chain of oral traditions; in how far memories might change over time. For me, it’s a really nice way to link these stories that set apart several decades. (And of course, I hope readers will enjoy these links, too!)

Teaser image for The Centurion's Choice, by Sandra SchwabBut, of course, these family stories just form a tiny part of the background for The Centurion’s Choice, which at its heart is a enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story. With a very grumpy centurion. 🙂 (Watching those grumpy guys fall in love is always such great fun, isn’t it?) So without further ado, here’s the blurb for the novella. I will add buy links on Friday, when the book comes out.

It’s 178 AD, and barbarian tribes once again threaten the borders of the Roman Empire. To make matters worse, Lucius’ promotion in his auxiliary cohort has been denied, and instead the governor has appointed a moody, mean-tempered Roman to become the new centurion of the Septem Gallorum. And, incidentally, to trample all over Lucius’ ambitions.

Tall and burly, Centurion Caius Florius Corvus might be way too good-looking for Lucius’ peace of mind, but the man has also made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t trust Lucius as his second-in-command. Yet as they are swept into war and each has to shoulder his responsibilities, a reluctant respect begins to grow between them, which soon grows into friendship — and, perhaps, more?

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A Regency Christmas in Bound By A Scandalous Secret

Bound by a Scandalous SecretBound By A Scandalous Secret, available in paperback and ebook, begins and ends in the Christmas season. I’ve written about Christmas before in A Twelfth Night Tale (my only Christmas novella, still available in the Governess Brides Bundle), but I had to go back and do the research about Christmas in the Regency all over again.

Many familiar Christmas traditions–decorating Christmas trees, singing Silent Night, waiting for Santa Claus–did not emerge until the later Victorian times, but a Regency Christmas did have other traditions still celebrated today.

Regency families decorated their houses with holly and ivy and evergreens of fir and pine. Mistletoe was hung and the tradition of a gentleman and lady kissing beneath it would have been part of a Regency Christmas. With each kiss the gentleman plucked a berry from the mistletoe. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses. In the book I’m working on now (more on that in later months) the hero and heroine decorate his house. I’m writing those scenes today!

Christmas was mainly a religious holiday during the Regency. Gifts were exchanged, church attended, and guests might be invited to Christmas dinner, like Ross and Dell were invited to Lord Tinmore’s for Christmas dinner in Bound By A Scandalous Night.

cruikshank-christmas-pudding-served-at-dinner-party-life-magazine-imageAt Christmas dinner a goose or turkey would be served. A Regency household would also serve a Christmas pudding that was made on Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent, and served on Christmas day. The pudding was a porridge of sugar, raisins, currants, prunes, and wine that was “stirred up” and boiled together in a pudding cloth.

Some of the traditions of the Regency holiday season had their origins in ancient winter celebrations. First-Footing customs of New Year’s Day may have originated in ancient Greece. In order to have good fortune all the year, an uninvited stranger–a dark man in some areas of the UK but the hair color could vary by region–should be the first to cross the threshold on New Years Day. He might carry symbolic gifts- salt (or a coin) for wealth; coal for warmth, a match for kindling, and bread for food. The householder might offer him food and drink. In some villages one tall, dark, and handsome fellow was selected to visit all the houses, receiving food and drink at each one. I mentioned this custom in A Twelfth Night Tale.

Twelfth Night, the eve of the Epiphany, was even more of a time for revelry than Christmas day during the Regency. It was a time to drink wassail (ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar) and play games. A bean was buried in a cake and whoever found it was designated the Lord of Misrule who presided over all the Twelfth Night festivities, which might include theatricals or singing, although many of our most popular Christmas Carols were translated from German later in Victorian times. When Twelfth Night was over, the house decorations were removed and the season is over.

Christmas cards were invented by Sir Henry Cole, who, as an Assistant Keeper of what is now the Post Office in the UK, started the Penny Post, the first postal service that ordinary people could afford. He and an artist friend designed a Christmas card that would encourage people to use the Penny Post. Here’s an example of a Victorian Christmas Card.
victorian_christmas_card

It is rather fun to be writing Christmas scenes in this Christmas season. And to have a book out at this time of year where Christmas plays a part. Of course, though my characters are decorating at this very moment. I’ve not done anything yet!

Have you decorated for the holidays yet? Have you sent any Christmas cards?

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An Apology and a Promise

Wow, here it is the beginning of December –is anyone else wondering where November went? Sometimes, as the days fly by, I wonder if time seemed to go by this fast to people who lived during the Regency –or pick any given historical time period. With all our modern time-saving conveniences, how is it that we seem to live at a frenetic pace? (I know this isn’t only me!!) Is it because we try to cram more activity into our days, simply because we can? Has time actually sped up (a theory I read somewhere…)?? What do you think?

The reason I am ruminating on all of this today is because, even though I knew today was my day to blog here, I never did have time this week to choose a topic or prepare a post. So that’s the apology –I’m sorry I don’t have an actual post for today!! I did consider asking among my sister Riskies if anyone wanted to swap dates, but I never even got a chance to send out that appeal. This is the first time I’ve ever just completely missed posting here.

The promise is that in January I should have some real news to share! I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime, I want to wish all of you the most wonderful holidays –whatever you celebrate. It’s the season of light and love, that we should try to hold in our hearts and share with each other all year long. I think our world needs it more than ever!!!

In place of my post, here are two pictures of what has eaten up my extra time this week –things I’ve made for my church bazaar which is tomorrow. I am the coordinator for vendors and have been fielding phone calls and emails from them all week, while measuring and re-measuring the church hall and tweaking the floor lay-out to make sure there’s room for everyone besides all the tables full of church-made items.  We set up today, so we’ll see! In the meantime, sending you love and best wishes. And an early “Happy New Year”!!

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Bound By A Scandalous Secret

Bound by a Scandalous SecretBound By A Scandalous Secret, my latest book and the third book in the Scandalous Summerfields, is released today!

Here’s the back cover blurb:

A most shocking betrothal!
The pleasure-seeking Marquess of Rossdale has little interest in his birthright and even less in finding a bride. So he comes up with the perfect plan to survive the Season unscathed—a fake engagement to a most unsuitable girl!
Outspoken Genna, the youngest of the scandalous Summerfields, has no wish to marry, either. So agreeing to be Ross’s temporary fiancée will grant her freedom for a little longer. But with every kiss, both Ross and Genna must face up to what they really desire… a true match!
The Scandalous Summerfields–Disgrace is their middle name.

Genna’s story begins in the Christmas season of 1815 and ends at Christmas 1816. The gifts Genna and Ross share on that first Christmas are meaningful, but not valuable.

When I strive to give gifts, I always hope to make them meaningful, but I’m rarely successful, so I was pleased I could make Genna and Ross’s gifts so.

You know, books make great Christmas gifts. Feel free to give a friend or relative Bound By A Scandalous Secret.  Or treat yourself!

In many ways, this book is about giving and expecting nothing in return. That’s pretty much the essence of love, isn’t it?

You can purchase the paperback of Bound By A Scandalous Secret at bookstores and online vendors. Book Depository has the book on discount!

(Prefer the ebook? The ebook will be released December 1)

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