Oh, To Be In England

1200px-London_from_the_airThis is the sight I’m seeing today (though I’m writing this two days before). London from the air. I’m landing in London today for the first part of my England adventure. My dh’s back problems prevented him from signing on for this trip so he is in complete care of the kitties (poor man!), but my sister is traveling with me!

Today we land at 6:30 am and get transportation to our hotel where we’ll meet up with Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw of Number One London for our pre-Duke of Wellington Tour adventures. Who knows what we will do today but we will try to stay up and quickly adjust to the time change.

Buckingham_Palace_from_gardens,_London,_UK_-_DiliffOn Tuesday the four of us will go on a deluxe tour of Buckingham Palace.

And on Wednesday, I’m on my own to ride to Richmond to have lunch with my editors at Mills and Boon.

Thursday is open for an unscheduled adventure and Friday our tour begins with, what else, TEA!

I will try my best to bring you a short blog with photos for next Monday!


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Some Favorite Links

I’ve finished my manuscript and am knee-deep in second draft territory, so I’m going to take an easy route today and share some of my favorite links on the Georgian and Regency eras.

Sarah Siddons by Joshua Reynolds
Sarah Siddons by Joshua Reynolds

What Jane Saw - On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The popular show was the first-ever retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England’s celebrated portrait painter. Two centuries later, this e-gallery offers the modern visitor a historical reconstruction of that long-lost Regency blockbuster.

The Kyoto Costume InstituteJustifiably famous for its staggering collection of European costumes, the page representing the 18th early 19th century are totally awe-inspiring.

Nelson Exhibit at National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum - Wonderful searchable site for British naval history.

Dictionary of the English Language – 1822 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary at Google Books.

British Titles of Nobility - Laura Wallace’s excellent introduction and primer to the peerage.

Georgian Ices

Historic Food - Ivan Day is “the” historical food expert”. This site is fascinating,replete with recipes,fabulous illustrations and tempting details of his courses.

I’m sure some of these are familiar to you. I hope some of them are nice surprises.  And I’d love to hear about your favorite web sites on our period.

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Writing Process ~ No Chasing Trends

My talented and dear friend Ani Bolton, author of a new steampunk romance series that recently debuted with Steel and Song, tagged me to participate in a blog tour on the writing process. Here’s my entry and I’ll be tagging two fantastic authors at the end.

1. What are you working on?

I have several projects going on right now. Although this is not fresh writing, I’m collaborating with five other Regency authors to bring out a boxed set of Regencies (six traditional Regencies in one ebook), coming in October. This is a deal no Regency romance fan should miss!


I’m also planning a new series based on the foundlings in Lady Dearing’s Masquerade (Romantic Times Best Regency Romance of 2005), who will have some interesting issues to deal with as adults. This will involve moving a bit post-Regency, so I’m in the research phase, to make sure the setting rings true.

Lastly, I’ve been plotting out two short, sexy novellas: a prequel and a sequel to Lady Em’s Indiscretion.

2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

Lately, Regency romance seems dominated with stories featuring dukes. Although I have loved some duke stories (and won’t promise I’ll never write one), I like variety in my fantasy men.

My stories also often include themes of social justice. Lady Dearing’s Masquerade deals with individuals and groups who are unfairly marginalized. Fly with a Rogue deals with personal recovery after war and the plight of veterans. I find it deeply satisfying to write about characters who can find joy despite real-life challenges. Of course, romance and passion are still the focus. A friends says I write “social justice smut”—and I take it as the compliment she meant it to be!

This is one of the joys of going indie: being able to write what I want without feeling I need to chase trends.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I love the Regency setting and I love writing romance. Writing acts as a tonic to me, but it seems to go both ways. Readers have told me my books are a fun break in their busy lives and some have even told me that reading romance novels has helped get them through tough times.

4. How does your writing process work?

I used to follow a fairly structured writing process before my husband suffered a stroke, over five years ago. Once I had time to write again, I resolved that my writing time had to be fun. Rather than following a set plan, I just work on whichever task (research, plotting, writing) draws me that day. I’ve learned to trust my intuition more and found, to my surprise, that I’ve become more productive.

If you have questions about my upcoming work or my writing, please feel free to comment.

I’m tagging two more talented writers to participate:

Laura J. Bear took a circuitous route to writing through two other careers. Her first novel, Where the Heart Lands, will be published in March 2015. Laura blogs at www.laurajbear.blogspot.com.

Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winning Regency novelist whose women’s fiction novel The Year She Fell has twice been a Kindle bestseller in the fiction category. Her articles on writing and the Regency period have been widely distributed, and she blogs about writing and editing at www.edittorrent.blogspot.com.



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Stuff About Stays

I found an intriguing article on the Historic Royal Palaces blog, The Making of the Modern Bra.

We know that women made little home-made linen or cotton bodices to lift and define their breasts for the new-style dresses. There was no elastic and no underwiring as yet, so these women cut and shaped the fabrics they had to hand, and used lacing to pull the fabric in for extra hold … for a brief time, at the turn of the 19th century, there was a little golden age of home-made undergarments that can claim to being the first British bras as we know them today.

The article claims that staymakers were caught by surprise  at the fashion revolution of the 1790s when the line, fit, and even the fabrics of gowns took a radical turn. Thus women took it upon themselves to cobble together undergarments that would work–essentially what New York socialite Mary Phelphs Jacobson did in 1913 when she needed something to wear under a (somewhat?) transparent evening gown. She used handkerchiefs, lace and cord, and patented the item a year later. I have to admit that bra research gets a bit murky as someone named Marie Tucek patented her “breast supporter” in 1893.

So the questions of the day:

  1. Did late Georgian staymakers have to scramble to catch up with fashions, and
  2. where are the extant early handmade “bras”?
Fr Stay maker
A dedicated French staymaker hard at work.

To the first question, I say no. I don’t think they did. Any smart staymaker would have been keeping his/her eye on what was going on with les francais. I did a search on the Bath Chronicle archives (1770-1800), which are part of the astonishing Bath Archives, a fantastic timesuck research source. I searched on staymakers and found that business seemed to be booming, if not downright cutthroat in July of 1792:

13 Aug 1789 Fashion: Mr F Albrecht, French staymaker, 12 Miles Court, just returned from London with newest fashions of stays, corsets & riding stays.

26 Jul 1792 Employment: 8 journeyman staymakers required by a Master of Bath, London wages offered. Wm Driver, French staymaker, Trim Gate, Borough Walls

5 Jul 1792 Fashion: 8 journeyman staymakers wanted immediately, London wages, apply to several Masters in Bath. Will be protected from molestation & obstruction by previous employees. Fra. Allwright, French staymaker, Green St, Bath

19 Jul 1792 Employment: journeyman staymakers wanted – by several Masters in Bath, London wages. They will prosecute those inclined to obstruct those inclined to serve. H Tanton, French staymaker, 1 Quiet St on behalf of the Masters. Also apprentice wanted.

26 Jul 1798 Fashion: Francis Troei, staymaker (successor to Mr Loons) 18 Union Psge [Bath] has newest fashions in stays, corsets and new invented corset “la garlisle”. Orders Mr Philpot, perfumer, Bristol or Mrs Philpot, Hotwells

21 Nov 1799 Fashion: Geo Sykes, staymaker of 10 Abingdon Bldgs, Northampton St, Bath has the newest fashions executed to satisfaction. Good home-made stays for servants & working women 1 guin/pr. Sykes also carries on an umbrella manufactory

I included that last one because I thought it was interesting that the enterprising Mr. Sykes branched out into umbrellas, a natural expansion with whalebone and canvas to hand, and that he was making ready-made stays for working women. In another ad in the previous year he warned patrons that his 1-guinea stays were available for “ready money only.”

So calling costume historians. Should our heroines sit at home embroidering their own brassieres? Maybe they did; there’s a reference in a short story by Mrs. Gaskell that claims it was fashionable to make your own shoes at the turn of the century too, but I’ve never found it referenced elsewhere (but then I’ve never really looked). And unless staymakers included some sort of identifying label or mark, and the genteel amateurs embroidered their initials into their garments, how would we tell?

And what is a corset “la garlisle?”

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New! Improved! Sneak Peek at A Notorious Ruin

I have been madly revising and revising and revising and revising and wow.

The New and Improved

I have a new cover for Scandal. It should be go live across vendors as I fit in the uploads with revisions…

New cover for Scandal

I tried, I really, really tried, to post the first two chapters of A Notorious Ruin, but WordPress does not indent and I don’t have time to hack the css to make it do that. So, maybe next time? Or you could click on this link to a pdf (at the Riskies). Came out kind of nice.

A Notorious Ruin, Chapters 1-2

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Tuesday Pretties

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  Like Diane, i just got hit with some last-minute copy edits (though I will not be in England soon!  Waaah!).  So–let’s look at some pretty.  A court gown and train from the French court.  These are so intricate and sumptuous (though a bit heavy at the moment, considering it’s almost 100 degrees here…)

CourtGown1 CourtGown2

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Too Much Monday

Today I am a bit overwhelmed. I need to finish my revisions for Book One in The Scandalous Summerfields series, Bound By Duty, and need to get ready for my trip to England on The Duke of Wellington tour.

I’ll be in England next Monday!!

So I’m going to leave you a picture of me working diligently.

And a view of London from the Thames, taken from Ackermann’s Microcosm of London

Wish me luck that I will get everything done!

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A little something from the WIP

Almack'sI am thisclose to finishing the manuscript I’m working on, so rather than go off and do unrelated research, I am going to give you something from the first chapter.

My hero writes an anonymous fashion column and, here, he is framing it in his mind as he watches the guests at Almack’s

Almack’s glittered in its inimitable dingy way on Wednesday last. At least, let me say, that the attendees glittered, although some were more glittery than others. The handsome Miss S, London’s newest diamond showed the rest of the ton how an incomparable should look. Her sea foam green silk gown and silver net overdress – undoubtedly the work of Madame Cecily – was the perfect foil for Miss S’s silver-blonde hair and flawless skin. Her turn as a delectable sea creature did not go unnoticed by the formally-clad fisherman of Almack’s.

On the other side of the beach was Lady V, looking distinctly crab-like in her red satin panniers,  Do au courante ladies still wear panniers, I ask you? Someone should whisper the news in Lady V’s shell-like ear.

One could go on, but perhaps one shouldn’t, except to say that among the glittering throng, yours truly was the most glittering of all.

Simon does tend toward the nature metaphors, but he has quite a following among the ton.

I hope to have the last chapters completed before next week when, possibly, the research will continue.

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Murder and Medicine

Susanna here!

A week or two ago, I decided to count my to-be-read pile and discovered that between my Kindle and my bookshelves, I own over 300 unread books! Which is just crazy. I buy books faster than I read them, especially since I’m also getting books from the library that take precedence over the ones I own because I have to take them back in three weeks.

To lessen the madness a bit, I’ve decided that every third book I select to read has to come from the TBR. I don’t have to finish each book. I believe life is too short to waste time on books I don’t enjoy, so if I discover one of my impulse buys is poorly written, boring, annoying, or whatever and set it aside a chapter or two in, that still counts as clearing it.

research shelf

Almost a third of Mount TBR is composed of research books. I can’t walk through a used bookstore without checking out its history section and coming home with any likely-looking tomes on Wellington, Napoleon, the lives of women in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so on. And then there are all the times I’ve had an idea for a story, invested in some relevant research books, and for whatever reason either abandoned the idea or simply haven’t gotten around to writing it yet. So now I have all these books on Peninsular War battles like Salamanca and Busaco, on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and on Scottish Highland Travellers, just to name a few topics. Sometimes I swear those books are giving me reproachful looks for abandoning them to gather dust on my shelves.

So I decided that at least one and preferably two of my TBR books each month have to come from the research shelf. I just finished the first such book, The Regency Underworld, by Donald Low. It’s an overview of crime, police work, and punishment during the Regency, all the way up until London’s first modern police force was created in 1829. If you’re interested in those topics, it’s a quick, worthwhile read.

Burke and Hare

Most of the book focuses on London, but one incident in Edinburgh caught my eye–the Burke and Hare Murders of 1828. Burke and Hare became serial killers after hitting upon a gruesomely lucrative moneymaking scheme. A tenant in their lodging house died of natural causes while owing Hare and his wife rent money, so they decided to sell his corpse to the anatomists at Edinburgh University rather than turning it over for proper burial. You see, back then the only legitimate source for medical cadavers was executed criminals…but by the early 19th century the number of executions was declining while medical school enrollment was growing. This led to a literally underground business for “resurrection men” who’d sneak into graveyards at night, dig up fresh corpses, and sell them to anatomists (who turned carefully blind eyes to where their cadavers were coming from).

Once our villains saw that the medical school would pay good money and not ask many questions, it quickly occurred to them to make their own corpses…and in the year or so it took them to get caught, they claimed sixteen victims, largely by targeting those who weren’t likely to be missed. The public horror once the crimes were revealed was instrumental in the development and passage of the Anatomy Act of 1832, which was designed to expand the legitimate supply of medical cadavers.

This is all fascinating enough on its own account…AND it’s given me the early germ of an idea for a story. In my January release, Freedom to Love, my heroine has a 13-year-old half-sister who learned healing at her mother’s knee and wishes she could study medicine. By the time of the Burke and Hare Murders, she’d be 26. Who’s to say she wouldn’t be living in Edinburgh at that point, perhaps as the young widow of a doctor or apothecary? If she was, she’d spend as much time as a woman could around the medical community, and who knows what she might suspect or witness? I can’t guarantee this story will happen–see above about abandoned ideas!–but it’s certainly fun to play with.

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Figures that dress and undress

Other than your hero/heroine, that is…

Fuller interior temple of fancy-thumb-450x321-20803Today I’m talking about paper dolls of the Regency period, but not the fashion figures that originated in France and were adopted by dressmakers and their clients, and their clients’ children in the 1790s. Paper dolls specifically for children were created and published by Samuel and Joseph Fuller in a series of  paper doll booklets–figures that dress and undress–and sold at their shop The Temple of Fancy on Rathbone Place in London. Attracting an upperclass clientele, the shop also sold prints and painting materials and supplies.

In mediocre rhyme, the books told an improving story with a hand-colored paper doll, outfits only, with a moveable head at the end of the book.  Hours of fun and instruction! Here’s an overview of The History of Little Fanny: Exemplified in a Series of Figures (1810) and you can play online paper dolls with Fanny here.

little_fanny_setI have seen a reproduction copy of Little Fanny and the storyline is depressingly moral. Little Fanny is far too interested in clothes and learns the virtues of plain living and hard work. Another title, Ellen, or, The Naughty Girl Reclaimed, pretty much speaks for itself.

But the boys. Oh, did the boys have fun. How about Frank Feignwell’s Attempts to Amuse His Friends on Twelfth-Night. You can dress and undress flamboyant young Frank here.

And then there’s The History and Adventures of Little Henry.

little_henry_setJust by looking at this you can see that Henry has a whale of a time, and you can view the book online here. First, he’s stolen by gypsies (moral lesson on inattentive nursemaid included) and becomes a beggar, then a chimney sweep, a drummer boy, and a sailor, rising through the ranks to return to England with fame and fortune. Huzzah!

So, yes. Boys can dress up and seek material success in life, but not girls. “The textual morals against love of clothing are gendered in problematic ways, with female characters mortified for this flaw more readily than male characters.” (A Story, Exemplified in a Series of Figures: Paper Doll versus Moral Tale in the Nineteenth Century by Hannah Field. More) And there’s also a great deal of self-satisfaction, one suspects, on the part of the well-heeled patrons of the Fullers’ shop, buying these idealized, smug stories for their own children.

For more online fun, Williamsburg has an online paper doll game and you can find downloadable Regency paper dolls, designed by a historian, at PaperThinPersonas.com.

Did you enjoy paper dolls as a child and/or with your own children?

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