A Regency Romance with a French Twist

Last fall, I wrote about researching my latest regency romance. Well, this month it is available and I thought I’d give readers an update. My title and cover have been changed. It is now title She Shall Be Praised and the new cover is below.

She Shall Be Praised (from Proverbs 31) is a sequel to my London-set Regency, The Rogue’s Redemption.  In Book 2 of The Leighton Sisters series, Katie Leighton, younger sister of Hester Leighton from The Rogue’s Redemption, travels to Paris with Hester and her husband, Gerrit Hawkes.

L'Hôtel_national_des_Invalides

L’Hotel National des Invalides, Wikipedia

Paris has been liberated from Napoleon by the British and other allied countries, so tourists are once again traveling from England to the Continent. Katie, who travels from America (Maine), meets a young French veteran who fought at Waterloo against the British. Among the narrow medieval street of Paris and the monuments like Notre Dame, Katie finds herself more interested in visiting the blind, cripple veteran at Les Invalides, a hospital and old-age home for veterans.

I love France and all things French, from the food to the art. It was interesting to research this period, when the horrors of the French Revolution and the years of wars under Napoleon have brought about the restored monarchy. But along with the new king, comes a wave of reactionary politics as the aristocrats come back from their emigration during the Reign of Terror, wanting to have their place in society restored. They want things back the way they used to be. But too many people have tasted the freedom under the civil government of Napoleon, so there is a clash of old school vs. new.

The land has been devastated by years of war, so France has missed out on the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and the prosperity it has brought to Britain. And yet, during this time of the Restoration, people continue to live their lives.

Katie Leighton, my “beauty” in this beauty and the beast tale, doesn’t consider herself a beauty, but a plain Jane. Etienne Santerre, my “beast” hides under both an assumed name and behind the thick walls of Les Invalides, a virtual prisoner of his evil valet, Pierre. There is a mystery surrounding Etienne’s background, which Katie senses, but which Etienne is silent on. In the meantime, she is more concerned with his soul. Little by little, her light begins to shine into Etienne’s darkness.

The story takes Etienne from the walls of Les Invalides to the Loire Valley to his ancestral home. There he faces what he has tried to blot out since he landed at Les Invalides, a wounded, crippled soldier. When his life is most at risk, he begins to turn to the God Katie has witnessed to him.

Etienne is a dark hero, sorely in need of Beauty’s touch. She shares her faith with him in her gentle, loving way, until he lets down his defenses and allows the healing power of love to restore all he has lost.RuthAxtell_SheShallBePraised_c

New Inspirational Regency releases

RuthAxtell_SheShallBePraised_cShe Shall Be Praised: A Leighton Sisters Novel (The Leighton Sisters Book 2)by Ruth Axtell

Tender-hearted Katie Leighton can’t resist a stray mutt or mangy cat, much less the outcasts of society. When she accompanies her sister Hester and brother-in-law Gerrit (from The Rogue’s Redemption) to Paris after the fall of Napoleon, she prefers visiting the wounded and maimed veterans living out their days at the military old age residence of Les Invalides than seeing the sights. But when one young French soldier begins to steal her heart, she resists telling her family. Will they think it’s only pity that draws her to the embittered, wounded man?

Buy for only $2.99 on Amazon

StrangersSecret_final[1][1]A Stranger’s Secret (Cliffs of Cornwall series Book 2)by Laurie Alice Eakes

As a grieving young widow, Morwenna only wants a quiet life for herself and her son. Until a man washes ashore, entangling her in a web of mystery that could threaten all she holds dear.

Lady Morwenna Trelawny Penvenan indulged in her fair share of dalliances in her youth, but now that she’s the widowed mother to the heir of the Penvenan title, she’s desperate to polish her reputation. When she’s accused of deliberately luring ships to crash on the rocks to steal the cargo, Morwenna begins an investigation to uncover the real culprits and stumbles across an unconscious man lying in the sea’s foam – a man wearing a medallion with the Trelawny crest around his neck.

The medallion is a mystery to David Chastain, a boat builder from Somerset. On a quest to discover the mystery surrounding his father, all David knows is that his father was found dead in Cornwall with the medallion in his possession after lying and stealing his family’s money. And he knows the widow who rescued him is impossibly beautiful – and likely the siren who caused the shipwreck in the first place—as well as the hand behind whoever is trying to murder David.

As Morwenna nurses David back to health and tries to learn how he landed on her beach, suspicion and pride keep their growing attraction at bay. But can they join together to save Morwenna’s name and estate and David’s life – and acknowledge the love they are both trying to deny?

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email sizeAccidental Fiancee (Love Inspired Historical)by Mary Moore

Lady Grace Endicott never would have dreamed she’d be ruined by a rake. But after an innocent encounter with notorious scoundrel Lord Weston is misconstrued, her beloved sister’s introduction to Society-and her own reputation-are put at risk. The only way to avoid a scandal is a betrothal.

Brandon Roth-Lord Weston-doesn’t quite know what to think of his independent fiancée…or their growing friendship. Yet their engagement ruse is quickly becoming more than a temporary fix. If he can convince Grace that his wicked ways are now far behind him, he’ll be able to prove that he wants nothing more than to care for the lovely lady …

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Throwback Thursday Regency Read: The Savage Lord Griffin by Joan Smith

A review by Laurie Alice Eakes

Joan Smith has always been one of my favorite traditional Regency authors. She has the wit and clever plot turns of Georgette Heyer, with a more modern sensibility of character introspection so often absent from Heyer’s stories. The Savage Lord Griffin is one of my personal favorites so much because of the character growth and touching scenes, without being maudlin or sappy, that come about through these characters becoming emotional adults.

LordGriffinLord James Griffin disappeared into the wilderness of Brazil five years earlier, leaving his fiancée behind. Now he is back with his white monkey and gold earring and expects his lady love to have waited for him.

Of course she did not. She is engaged to a duke who is the opposite of Griffin in about every way from strength of personality, to their political views. Myra finds herself in a position to choose between the two and loving the attention.

Meanwhile, her younger sister Alice has grown up and discovers that her childhood tendre for Griffin is full-blown love. Yet she still promises to help him win Myra back.

To say more would spoil the story that is wholly character-driven by characters you in turns want to strangle and embrace for their humanness. Joan Smith is an excellent storyteller. At times, you know exactly what sort of a scene is coming up, but you wait in anticipation rather than rolling your eyes and sigh, “I knew that was coming.” You want it to come to see how Smith will raise her characters to the next level of understanding and finding the true direction of their hearts.

When the Men go Clubbing ~ Regency Gentlemen’s Clubs

The club.

Many a fictional aristocratic hero had spent a great deal of time at “his club”.  While many clubs of various affiliations and interests were started in the late  Georgian era and throughout the Victorian period, the Regency was dominated by the gentlemen’s clubs marching down St. James Street.

The three oldest and most established clubs set the example. And while many have come and gone since the 1820s, the three powerhouses remain today, still sitting in the same locations our heroes visited.

White’s

The granddaddy of the the London gentlemen’s clubs, White’s was first established in 1693, at the site of what would later become Boodle’s.

Whites London

White’s London via Paul Farmer / WikiCommons

It started life innocently enough as a hot chocolate emporium, but shifted to an exclusive club and gambling den in 1736. In the late 1700s it moved down St. James street to its current location. Soon after that it became known as the club of those affiliated with the Tory political party.  (A more extensive history of the movement can be found here.)

Though not the only club sporting a bay window, it was the most famous bay window. Being seen sitting in White’s window was a sign of popularity and prestige.

White’s was and is still a men only club. Queen Elizabeth II is the only woman known to have been entertained at the club. Entrance into the club has always been difficult, with an exceedingly long wait list and a discerning membership policy. Today a potential member must be vouched for by at least 35 existing members.

That exclusivity is probably why only one man has been recorded as leaving the club voluntarily. While others have left through death or shameful forced resignation, Prime Minister David Cameron is said to have resigned White’s over there men-only rule.

If the club has a website, I couldn’t find it. Though there are several other London establishments trying to cash in on the popularity and prestige of the White’s name.

Brook’s

Brook’s has been a private club from its inception. In 1762 it started as a private society formed by two men blackballed from White’s. The society then split into two groups, each of which established their own club.

Brooks, via WikiCommons

Brooks, via WikiCommons

One of these groups consisted of nearly thirty prominent members of the Whig political party. They established the group that would later become Brook’s, though the club was originally named Almack’s because they met at William Almack’s coffee house, very near the prestigious Almack’s Assembly Rooms.

The group moved to its current home on St. James Street in 1778 into a building built by William Brooks, a wine merchant who acted as manager of Almack’s.

While all gentlemen’s clubs were known for gambling, Brook’s gaming rooms were notoriously going day and night.

While Brook’s does not allow women to become full members, they do allow female guests. And while their website is certainly easier to find, unless you’re a member you don’t get more than a pretty picture of the building’s facade.

Boodle’s

If you’re wondering what happened to the group on the other side of the split that formed Brook’s, you have only to look down St. James Street to Boodle’s.

Boodles, Via WikiCommons

Boodles, Via WikiCommons, by Debonairchap

While the other group met at Almack’s coffee house, this group, friends of Lord Shelburne, future Marquess of Lansdowne and Prime Minister, met at the tavern. The tavern was taken over by Edward Boodle, from whom the club takes it’s name.

It moved to it’s current location on St. James Street in 1782. It almost closed in 1896, but the members gathered enough funds to purchase the club from the heirs.

Probably the reason Boodle’s is mentioned less in Regency novels is that the club became the meeting place of the gentry while White’s maintained it’s claim to the more senior members of the nobility. While a few titles can be found on Boodle’s membership list, there are considerably more gentlemen than aristocrats.

Boodle’s is the only one of the three clubs that allows female members, though they have their own entrance.

 

How do you feel about Regency heroes being members of these clubs? Which one would you want to belong to?

 

 

 

 

What’s For Dinner . . . Fine Dining in the Regency Era

diningFrozen pizza is a great go-to meal when you’ve endured a frazzled day of work, errands and carpooling—but not if you lived in early nineteenth century England. Dinner wasn’t just a meal. It was an event, especially when combined with a ball.

The punch table would sustain you for awhile as you swirled through dance after dance, but eventually everyone’s tummy would start growling. It wasn’t uncommon for “dinner” to be served around midnight, when you’d enter a sparkling dining room, candlelight glinting off silver and crystal. But your contemporary appetite might be a little squelched when you find out what might be served . . .

Meat Pies

Who doesn’t like a good chicken potpie? That depends upon your definition of good. Meat pies served in the 1800’s didn’t just have a crust slapped on top. They had an entire bird head and wings sticking out.

Baby Eel Gelatin

What kind of cartoon bubble does that bring up in your mind? If it makes you go, “Eew!” then you’re right on track. Baby eels look like big worms, and you’d see their little eyes staring at you because I’m not talking cherry Jell-O—they’d be served in a clear gelatin. Add a little jiggle to that when the dish was spooned out and you might not be as hungry as you thought.

Golden Sweetmeats

No actual meat involved in this one, but as for the gold, 24 karat baby. Picture a delicious, chocolaty truffle, just the right size to pop into your mouth. Now add in a golden coating—of real gold. I don’t know about you, but personally, I like to wear my jewelry, not eat it.

Oysters on the Half Shell

Okay, so this one isn’t so strange, and is still considered somewhat of a delicacy even today. But it wasn’t for the hero in my new release, BRENTWOOD’S WARD. When Nicholas Brentwood, a street-wise lawman, is faced with a plate of raw oysters in a dining room, surrounded by those who are used to such fare, he’s forced to man-up and let them slide down his throat. It’s a dinner scene he—and the reader—is not likely to forget.

Brentwood's Ward Cover Peek

And that’s only one of his adventures . . .

There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

As for me, I’m pretty thankful that some of yesteryear’s dishes are no longer in vogue, because I’d much rather sit down to a meal that doesn’t include feathers, heads, or precious metals.

Michelle Griep Headshot

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones.

Follow her adventures at her blog WRITER OFF THE LEASH or visit michellegriep.com, and don’t forget the usual haunts of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

 

David Roentgen and His Hidden Drawers

Kristi here.

People have always been fascinated by the idea of things that appear to be one thing, but are in reality so much more. Bookcases disguising the entrance to secret passageways, false bottoms in jewelry chests and cabinets, hollowed out books to store your valuables in.

This fascination is nothing new. In the late 1700s a furniture maker name David Roentgen and his father Abraham made some of the most interesting and intricate furniture in existence. It is amazing craftsmanship that cannot be appreciated through a single photo. Check out this video of one of his pieces.

And while at first glance, this game table looks a lot like one you could get today, as this video shows, there’s much more to it than a folding top.

Even something as seemingly simple as a roll-top desk got his special touch.

But that’s nothing compared to some of his other desks which held enough drawers to make even the most organized individual forget where they’d but things.

RoetgenDesk

What do you think? Do you have transforming furniture in your house? Would you like having something this intricate?

 

The All Time Top Post at Regency Reflections

Vanessa here,

Before our nostalgia turns to procrastination which turns to angst or regret, we thought we’d take one more look back at the most highly viewed post ever on Regency Reflections.  Again happy new year.

Mourning in the Regency Period

Earlier this month, Susan shared with us some sobering statistics about death during England’s Regency period. According to her May 4th post, the average life expectancy in England in the early 1800s was about 40 years, and the infant mortality rate was around 15%.

The people of the Regency had very specific “rules” on how to deal with and display grief over losing a loved one. Though not as strict as the mourning customs that would later develop in the Victorian period, Regency mourning conventions were complex. Let’s take a look at  some of the key characteristics of mourning during the Regency.

Length of the Mourning Period
During the Regency, a person would “go into mourning” when they lost a loved one. The length of time they would mourn was determined by their relationship to the deceased. Typically, the more distant the relative, the shorter the mourning period, and eventually socially acceptable guidelines emerged. When you consider the number of relatives a person could have, it was not uncommon to be in mourning for years!

Below are some general guidelines for mourning durations in the Regency.
(NOTE: Mourning period lengths could vary slightly by social class or region. The lengths indicated below were guidelines, but ultimately, the length of time a person chose to mourn was a personal decision.)

Husband or wife:  1 year
Son or daughter:  6 months – 1 year  (the older the child, the longer the mourning period)
Parent or Parent-In-Law:  6 months–1 year
Grandparent:  6 months
Brother or Sister:  3-6 months
Aunt or Uncle:  3 months
First Cousin:  2 -6 weeks
Second Cousin:  1 week


Mourning Dresses

Individuals in mourning were expected to set themselves apart from society. In the “see-and-be-seen” society of the Regency, the most visible way to accomplish this was through one’s clothing. With the rise of popularity of fashion journals/magazines, mourning dresses became more elaborate and specific. These gowns could be very expensive, so it was not uncommon for women of modest means to dye or alter older dresses to use for mourning. Over time, the mass production of dark fabric made it more readily available and more affordable, and the rising middle class had the means to purchase it. As a result, mourning gowns became a “must” in a woman’s wardrobe.

During the Regency, there were two general stages of mourning:  full mourning and half mourning.

A Woman’s Full Mourning Attire:
Full mourning (or deep mourning) was the first stage.  During this stage, a woman would dress in all black – typically bombazine (heavier silk), crepe (lightweight silk treated to have no sheen), sarsnet, gossamer, and velvet – and she would accessorize with a mourning bonnet, black shawl, black gloves, widow’s cap, and/or a crepe veil. The only acceptable jewelry for full mourning was that of jet, black enamel, black glass, or amber. Embellishments, such as buckles or buttons, needed to be modest. While in full mourning, a woman was expected to abstain from social activities.

A Woman’s Half Mourning Attire:
About half-way through the mourning process, a mourner would shift to the next stage: half mourning. The mourner could now wear select somber hues, including violet, mauve, brown, gray, or lavender. Jewelry made of pearls, coral, and amethysts could also be worn. Wearing rings, brooches, or pendants made from the deceased hair was common during this stage.  While in half mourning, a woman could gradually resume her social activities.

 

A Man’s Mourning Attire
The expectations regarding a man’s mourning attire were much simpler. Since men wore black as part of their regular wardrobe, mourning clothes were not a dramatic transformation. While mourning, men would usually wear a black jacket.  Additionally, some men would wear a black crepe armband, black cravat and/or shirt, black gloves, or a black ornament or band on their hat.

Mourning a Spouse
The mourning period for a widow or widower was traditionally one year plus one day.

Rules for the Mourning Widow:
The strictest, most intense form of mourning during the Regency was that of a widow mourning her husband. Social custom forbade a widow to marry within the year following her husband’s death. The main reason for this was to ensure the woman was not with child, which would put the identity of the child’s father in question. During full mourning, it was unacceptable for a widow to attend social functions, and her social interactions were limited to receiving calls.

Rules for the Mourning Widower:
The expectations on a mourning widower were much different than those for a widow. While a widow was expected to go into seclusion for an extended period of time, widowers were not expected to go into seclusion for more than a couple of weeks because of his business responsibilities. Additionally, a widower was permitted to remarry right away, especially if he had young children to care for.

In parting, I leave you with a few more mourning facts:

If a young woman was in mourning and was about to get married, she would not wear black to her wedding. It was considered poor taste for a new bride to be in mourning, although it would be acceptable for her to wear darker, more somber colors.

It would not be uncommon for a wealthy family to insist that their servants wear mourning clothes to show respect for a departed member of the family.

This post merely scratches the surface of mourning during the Regency. The process was complex, but it was one that helped define the era and lay the groundwork for future customs.

Until next time,
Sarah

Top Post for 2014 – One, Two, Three… Dance With Me. A Wondrous Set With Julie Klassen

Vanessa here,

Happy New Year everyone. 2014 was a great year for Regencies, and we are ever excited for the ones to be released in 2015. So stay posted here for the latest information and the best musings around. The top post at RegencyReflections.com for 2014 is:

One, Two, Three… Dance With Me. A Wondrous Set With Julie Klassen

“What place is so proper as the assembly-room to see the fashions and manners of the times, to study men and characters…”  Thomas Wilson, Dancing Master, An analysis of Country Dancing, 1811, pg. 6 of The Dancing Master.

Vanessa here,

It was late. The lights had dulled. I turned to leave, and there across the crowded bookstore, I saw it. A book like no other.

Timed to the subtle Barnes & Noble background minuet, I stepped near and ran a finger along it’s fine spine. It whispered a blurb just for me.

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul—and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master—a man her mother would never approve of—but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life  to her somber village . . . and to her mother’s tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a “good match” in Regency England.

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

It had me at Finding. With The Dancing Master tucked firmly in my grasp, I gave the attendant my coins and fled to a carriage, content in the knowledge I’d found a joy to keep me warm through the frigid Atlanta night.

Vanessa: Today at R&R we have Julie Klassen joining us. Julie, it is my pleasure to welcome you back to Regency Reflections.The Dancing Master ‘s premise really intrigues me. Normally, we see Regency books with the hero as a duke, a barrister, a spy, or maybe a doctor, but a dancing master, not so much.   How did you come up with this idea?

Julie: In Regency England, dancing was one of a limited number of ways young men and women could spend time together or court one another. It was considered such an important social skill that parents hired dancing masters to come into the homes and teach their sons and daughters to dance. “Every savage can dance,” Mr. Darcy says, but unless one wished to dance very ill (Mr. Collins comes to mind) lessons were crucial. So, as an author of half a dozen other books set in the Regency era—and someone whoScreen Shot 2013-10-08 dance classloves to dance–it was probably only a matter of time until I wrote about a dancing master. As I say in my author’s note, I learned to dance the box step standing atop my dad’s size 15 triple E shoes. Later, I went on to take every ballroom dance class I could sign up for at the University of Illinois. I even taught a few dance classes of my own through community ed. I enjoyed drawing on all of these experiences to write this book. Like ballroom dancing, I find English country dancing exhilarating, joyful, and just plain fun. I hope to express that joy in the novel.

Vanessa: Wow, Dad has some big shoes to fill. Poor Mr. Klassen, has his work cut out for him, between dad and all of your romantic heroes. Tell me about what kind of research you conducted. Hopefully plenty of dancing.

Julie: I read instructional guides and journals written by dancing masters of ages past, and watched reenactors perform English country dances online. But the best and most enjoyable kind of research was actually learning dances from that period. My dear, long-suffering husband and I went English country dancing several times.

Julie Klassen at the Ball

I also attended the annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America, held in Minneapolis in 2013. There, I took two more dancing classes to polish my skills before the “Netherfield ball,” complete with live musicians and costumes. It was a wonderful experience to dance with fellow Austen fans from around the world.

During the conference, we also watched a BBC production: “Pride And Prejudice: Having A Ball.” In this program, a team of experts recreated a private Regency ball, complete with historical food, costumes, music, and dances. Unlike most of the sedate dances we see performed in period movies nowadays, in reality many of the dances of the era were fast paced and lively. Those of us watching were surprised how energetic the dances were, and how the performers (trained dancers in their twenties) were breathing hard and perspiring after a few dances.

By viewing the program and taking the dance classes, I gleaned several details to include in The Dancing Master. For example, when a couple reaches the top or bottom of a long-ways set (line of dancers) they stand out for a round before working their way back up or down the line. This gives couples a breather, and more importantly, a chance to talk and flirt with their partners!

If you’d like to learn more about the JASNA conference, here’s a fun video my publisher took of me (in costume) at the event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5KmFKlJlfk

Vanessa: Ok, enough of the pleasantries. Julie, tell me about dreamy Alec Valcourt.

Julie: Alec is capable, loyal, and determined to support his mother and sister. He is a sharp dresser, prefers to keep his hands clean, and wields a fencing sword far better than an axe or spade in a rural village where most men are farmers or miners. As you can imagine, this leads to several painful scrapes along the way.

Vanessa: Why is Julia Midwinter the perfect foil to Alec?

Julie: Julia is a bit reckless, flirtatious, and difficult. But like many people in real life, there is more going on beneath the surface—and in her past—that has made her who she is. As the story unfolds and secrets are revealed, Alec begins to see the vulnerable, wounded soul beneath the brash exterior. He learns to understand her and becomes fond of her, especially as she begins to grow and change, and I hope readers will follow his lead.

Vanessa: Growing and changing. Sigh. I know I’ve made a few mistakes on that road. What spiritual truth would have made a difference to Julia, if she had realized it at the beginning?

Julie: All her life, she had been seeking a father’s love and approval. And if she could not have a father’s love, then any man’s approval would do. She had strived so long and so hard to gain attention in the wrong ways and from the wrong people…. If Julia had realized earlier that even though her earthy father failed her, her heavenly father loved her and highly valued her–she might have avoided some of the foolish things she did to try to fill the void left by the absence of a father’s love.

Vanessa: After reading Julia’s and Alec’s story, what else do have for us. There will be more cold nights in Atlanta.

Julie: I am currently working on rewrites for my next Regency-era novel with Bethany House Publishers. It’s a mysterious romance called The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and is due to be released December 2014.

Vanessa: Julie, The Dancing Master, is an amazing book. Asking this of any author is unfair, but if you could sum up the spiritual journey in one word what would it be?

Julie: Grace. I enjoyed weaving in grace in its many forms–social graces, grace in dancing, and most importantly, God’s grace—and I hope readers will be reminded of His amazing grace for us all.

Vanessa: Thank you for being a great sport and sharing this special book with us.

Julie: Thank you for having me here!

Julie Klassen is going to give away a paperback or e-book copy of The Dancing Master to one lucky commenter. Share with us your favorite dance, dance scene, or dance disaster.  Mine took place at last year’s RWA conference when I tried to do a reel. There’s video….

Any way, here’s an excerpt from The Dancing Master:

 “May I help you with something, Miss Midwinter?” Alec said officiously, hoping to chase the self-satisfied grin from her face.

“Yes, actually.” She clasped her hands. “I’ve come for a dancing lesson. Here—since Lady Amelia would never allow it in the house.”

He licked dry lips and felt his pulse rate quicken. Part of him relished the notion of being alone with Miss Midwinter. Enjoying her company and her undivided attention. Taking her hand in his to lead her through a private dance in a deserted churchyard . . . His chest tightened at the thought.

But he knew all too well the possible consequences of such stolen moments. Such seemingly innocent beginnings.

She took a step forward, and he stepped back. She performing the chassé,and he performing the dance of retreat.

He said, “Miss Midwinter. Before we proceed any further, I must tell you that I have a strict policy against any romantic involvement with my pupils.”

She blinked, momentarily taken aback. “In that case, perhaps I ought to reconsider becoming a pupil of yours.”

“Perhaps you should.”

You can purchase your own copy at: Amazon BN Christianbook.com

Julie s Images-Julie Edited Images-0007JULIE KLASSEN loves all things Jane—Jane Eyreand Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Find Julie at: Her Blog or FaceBook

Top Post for 2014 – The Eye of the Beholder: Standards of Regency Beauty

Vanessa here,

As we anxiously await the new year, we thought we’d repost the top two posts for 2014. This is one on beauty is the runner up for most read post here at RegencyReflections.com.

The Eye of the Beholder: Standards of Regency Beauty

Kristi here. In a recent fit of nostalgia, I’ve been watching some of my favorite shows from the eighties on Netflix. Aside from the huge difference in sound and film quality and the stiltedness of some of the acting, I was struck by the vast gulf that existed between what was considered beautiful then, and what it is now.

The fashioning of hair and clothes are obviously different – high-waisted jumpsuit with enormous shoudlerpad,s anyone? – but as I put on my analytical thinking cap, I saw it went deeper. The size and shape of the bodies and even the eyebrows is different.

If standards of beauty can change that much in thirty years, imagine how they could have altered in 200 years. What was considered beautiful in the Regency era?

natural-regency-makeupPale Skin

Pale skin was considered a sign of wealth as it meant you didn’t have to work outside. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s tan is remarked upon when she travels to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle. Caroline attempts to use Elizabeth’s darkened skin to diminish Darcy’s attraction.

Curves 

The Regency ideal was a good deal plumper than today’s standard of beauty. Paintings and poetry from the day show an affection for plumper backsides and dimpled thighs. Again this was a sign of wealth. The plumper people didn’t have to work psychically and they had plenty to eat.

The appealing curves extended to the facial regions as well, with rounded, young looking faces reigning the day instead of the cut cheekbones of modern times.

1817 fashion plate

Delicate Clothing

Light colors, embroidery, and nearly translucent fabrics were the epitome of fashion. Yards of ruffles and ropes of jewels were the epitome of beautiful. The glittery adornments and delicate clothing were, once again, signs of wealth.

The more delicate appearance also extended to the hair, with wigs and enormous headpieces falling out of fashion, curls, feathers, and natural hair were prized. This signified that not only could your delicate hairdo withstand your lifestyle, but that you were healthy, as wigs had become popular in an attempt to disguise illness induced hair loss.

Shoes were also delicate, especially evening shoes. Men were known to still wear the occasional heel on a night out and more than one woman packed an extra set of dancing slippers in her reticule.

 

Beauty trends of the Regency era were obviously tied to what the wealthy could attain. Do you think that holds true today? Do you think the working classes of the Regency had the same opinions of beauty as the upper classes did?

 

Matchmaking Pudding ~ A short story by Laurie Alice Eakes

Merry Christmas from Regency Reflections! Our gift to you is this charming short story written by Laurie Alice Eakes. This is a revised edition of a story previously published in an American Christian Romance Writers (Now American Christian Fiction Writers) newsletter. 

(Note: To the English, “pudding” is not the custard-like substance Americans call “pudding.” English pudding is more like a cake, though it Is boiled, not baked, and plum pudding does not necessarily contain plums.)

 

The Devere family entered the kitchen once a year. From Lord Devere, to his wife ; from Rebecca, the youngest of their nine children, to Sarah, the eldest , the family gathered around the worktable on Christmas Eve morning to take turns stirring the plum pudding. According to tradition begun a century earlier when the last Stewart, Queen Anne,  sat on the throne, each person prayed as he or she stirred—prayed for prosperity and joy, prayed for strength and future spouses.

“Let us say a special prayer for the new year,” suggested Belinda, the middle daughter.

Everyone agreed—except for Sarah. Christmas might now have more meaning to her heart , but to her, what went into and came out of the pudding needed a helping human hand, not divine intervention.

She intended to control the disbursement of the charms, those tiny trinkets that made each slice of the pudding an adventure. When the family gathered with friends and neighbors to partake of the pudding, Sarah would ensure that each person received the charm that she thought befitted their needs.

Belinda would receive the thimble, reminding her to be thrifty with her pin money. Rebecca would receive the wishbone because she, being so small, needed all the blessings she could get during the next year. Their father would find the anchor in his slice of pudding, for he was such a stronghold for all of them he needed a safe harbor himself. The crown would go to fifteen-year-old Geoffrey because he would enjoy directing the festivities as “king” and wouldn’t be mean about his revels. Finally, to Lance would go the ring. Although he was only four and twenty, he was the heir and should wed sweet-natured Eliza. They’d loved one another since infancy.

Sarah frowned as she stirred the pudding with one hand and fingered the trinkets in her pocket with the other. “And, Lord, don’t bring Alexander calling again.”

Eliza’s older brother Alexander Featherstone had begun to court her, Just because I’m the only female in ten counties who hasn’t thrown her cap over the windmill for him.

Not that she was impervious to his looks, charm and intellect. She could love him. . .if he came around too often. She feared she already did love him; thus, she wanted him to stay away from her rather than add her to his quiver of fawning females.

“Tharie.” Rebecca, tugged on the skirt of Sarah’s round gown, “you’re taking all the turnth.”

Sarah released the spoon and stooped to lift her baby sister high enough to grasp the wooden spoon. Once on the floor again, Rebecca looked up with a seraphic smile. “I athked Jethuth for a huthband for Tharie.”

Sarah grimaced. “You’re better off praying for a wife for Lance. That won’t take a miracle.”

Belinda giggled. “Oh, I don’t think it’ll take a miracle—for either of you.

Blushing himself, yet smiling, too, Lance grasped the spoon from Belinda. “I pray that Eliza accepts my offer.”

“We’d like excellent matches for both of you,” their father said. “Who has the charms?”

“I do.” Sarah gave the trinkets to the cook to drop into the batter as she poured it into the bag for boiling.

Except the cook wouldn’t drop them in. Sarah had persuaded her and the butler to press the charms into the pudding slices of the right people. The cook’s nod assured Sarah she would carry on the game, and Sarah followed the family upstairs to rest before church.

At the service, Alex and Eliza joined the Deveres at the church. Somehow, Alex ended up sitting beside Sarah in the box pew.

When they stood, he slipped his large, warm hand beneath her lace-clad elbow. When they prayed, he took her hand in his, and she couldn’t pull it away without drawing attention to them. When they departed, he draped her cloak over her shoulders and allowed his fingertips to brush the side of her neck. Those were courting gestures, and she didn’t know why he teased her so.

Nor why God had ignored her prayer to keep Alexander away.

Disturbed, she tried to climb into the carriage with her parents and younger siblings, but they declared the vehicle overcrowded and insisted she go with the Featherstones. But that carriage was also full, so Sarah and Alex strolled the half mile from village to the Devere estate over ground white and hard with frost, through air that turned white with each breath, beneath a sky that resembled candle flames frozen in black glass. Cold, Sarah didn’t object when Alex tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow, then covered her fingers with his.

At least she said she didn’t object because of the cold. In truth, she felt warm all the way through, and that made her uncomfortable, unsure of herself.

Sarah hated being unsure of herself. She never was unsure of herself—except around Alex lately.

Lord, I don’t want to be another foolish female with a broken heart over him. But she feared she already was, for she’d seen him courting many girls in the decade she’d known him noticing females.

The Lord seemed to be ignoring her. Alex sat beside her at the table as the butler carried in the pudding and began to serve. Smiling, she watched everyone take their first bite of pudding, anticipating the moment when each found his charm.

But no one did.

Family member after guest savored the rich sweet until half of everyone’s slice vanished—except for Sarah’s, as she hadn’t taken so much as a nibble of hers. Everyone glanced around the table, curious,  puzzled.

“Who’th got a charm?” sleepy-eyed Rebecca asked. “I wanted the crown.”

Everyone shook their heads.

Lord Devere looked at Sarah. “You gave Cook the charms, didn’t you?”

“Yes, Father.” Sarah glanced at the butler, who gave her a twinkling glance, and her stomach knotted, her heart pounded.

Alex touched her arm. “You haven’t touched your pudding.”

Sarah read laughter in his gaze, and had to steel herself against running  from the table.

“Here, have a bite.” He seized her fork and cut off a generous mouthful of pudding, then held it up for her.

Face heating, Sarah sprang to her feet. “I don’t want pudding. I want to see everyone finding the charms I made certain they’d receive.”

Everyone looked shocked that anyone dared interfere with the discovery of plum pudding charms—everyone except for Alex and Geoffrey. They started laughing so hard the bite of pudding slid off the fork in Alex’s hand and plopped onto the white linen tablecloth. The pudding fell apart to reveal the tiny silver ring.

“Hurray!” Rebecca clapped her hands. “God anthwered my prayer. Tharie will get married this year.”

Alex turned serious. “I certainly hope so.”

“Oh, you!” Sarah spun on her heel and fled with a cacophony of laughter and exclamations running behind her.

She barely reached the nearest refuge, the winter parlor, before she heard footfalls behind her and felt a hand drop onto her shoulder, stopping her. “Wait,” Alex said.

She faced him, shaking. “Why? So you can make more of a fool of me?”

Alex met her glare with a challenging gaze. “More of a fool than what you’ve been making of me for the past three years?”

“What?”

“Sarah, everyone in the county knows I love you except for you.” He clasped her hands between his. “You treat me like I’m poison.”

“You are as dangerous as poison if anyone gets too close.” When he kept gazing at her in silence, she plunged. “You love every female so much you don’t love any of us. My Christmas prayer was for  God to keep you away tonight.”

“But God has other plans for us.” He took her hands in his. “What better time than Christmas to remember that He knows what we need more than we do?”

Sarah frowned. “And you claim God believes I need you?”

Alex grinned. “You wouldn’t care if I were here if you didn’t love me.”

“Oh—”

He kissed her before she could say more.

She still said nothing because he’d stolen her breath.

“And I went through a great deal of trouble to ensure you got the ring.” His eyes pleaded with her. “Doesn’t that count toward you believing I love you?”

“It’s cheating—”  Blushing, she began to laugh. “If I’m the only lady you’d do that for…”

“The only one. A match made in”—he kissed her again, his lips sweet from the confection he’d been eating at the table—”pudding.”