Life in the Big House: Doing Time in the Regency Era

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Criminals today have it easy. Cable TV. Internet access. Three square meals and free health care. Sure, they can’t leave to take a smoke break any time they’d like, but hey, things could be worse . . . and boy, were they ever in early nineteenth century England.

Nice accommodations came with a price. New prisoners were expected to pay a “garnish” when they arrived. This fee ensured they’d receive “clean” water, food, and even candles and newspapers. Unfortunately, if you didn’t have any money, it was likely the “pit” for you, where you’d maybe receive a piece of moldy, mealy bread once a day.

But no matter which cell you ended up in, there were some common punishments that prisoners often had to submit to:

Oakum Picking

Recycling isn’t new to our day. During the Regency and Victorian periods, prisoners were given old rope covered in tar, which had been used to fill the cracks in ships. The task was to untwist into many corkscrew-like strands, then unroll each strand until the mesh became loose. This was used to remake into new rope. Other than the tedious boredom, this doesn’t sound too horrific a punishment, right? Wrong. Not only were the ropes hard to break apart, the coating caused blisters on the hands, and the fibers were prickly and painful. Bad combo.

The Endless Treadmill

Personally, going to the gym and working out for a half hour on the treadmill is torture enough for me. Now imagine doing that for eight to ten hours a day, with no earbuds blasting your favorite playlist. Just trudging, trudging, trudging . . .

The Crank

No, I’m not talking about the warden on a bad day. The crank was a form of pointless punishment, which was not only physically demanding but psychologically brutal. It was a large handle, usually in a prisoner’s cell, that the incarcerated would have to turn, thousands of times a day. To make it even more cruel, the warden could tighten a screw, causing the crank to be tougher to turn. That’s where the slang term “Screw” came in to describe a guard or warden.

Brentwood's Ward Cover Peek

In my upcoming release, BRENTWOOD’S WARD, hero Nicholas Brentwood is a nineteenth century lawman who’s sent many criminals to experience such punishment . . . except for his latest offender:

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.

Modes of punishment have definitely changed over the past three hundred years, but human nature hasn’t.

Run Elizabeth Bennet! The Zombies are Coming

Vanessa here,

Seems like a long time since we last spoke. I’ve missed you all. Lately I’ve been think about Elizabeth Bennet. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s second eldest daughter. What if I were to bump in to Elizabeth on the street or if she fancied to sail to Georgia to have tea on my porch. What would that be like?

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits

 

 

It could happen. Well, in the mind of an author, anything is possible. My friend, Mary Jane Hathaway did so in Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits. Shelby Roswell (the Elizabeth Character) can’t wait for the visiting professor to her college to leave, but Ransom Fielding (Darcy) is not ready to budge.

 

 

Darcy Chooses

Darcy Chooses

 

Too modern?

Some have kept the 1800’s flavor with their rendition and tweaked the story as did Gianna Thomas and her serialized novels of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy meets Elizabeth saving her from a carriage accident.

 

 

 

 

 

Pride and Popularity

Pride and Popularity

 

What about a younger Elizabeth?

Author Jenni James has put poor Elizabeth into high school with her YA novel, shoving Elizabeth (Chloe Elizabeth) into teenage angst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice

 

Does Elizabeth have to be English?

Others have taken the spirit of Darcy and Elizabeth and spread their love to other shores, like the Bollywood tale, “Bride and Prejudice.”

 

 

 

 

Ever since Jane Austen penned the famous Pride and Prejudice, authors’ imaginations have been sparked and brilliant new renditions of the famous story have been written. Yet, I don’t know how I feel about the zombies.

Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies

Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies

 

Seth Grahame-Smith creates a mashup of Darcy, Elizabeth, and Zombies. The author gives an extra reason for the militia being in Meryton, and it’s not to fight Napoleon. Elizabeth, as a Regency version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a bit much me, but I suppose the undead need their Pride and Prejudice fix too.

 

 

So what about you. Do these new tales disturb or delight? Does the thought of something new, make you want Elizabeth to flee Meryton straight to your front porch?

 

 

 

 

Where did that word come from?

Kristi here. If you’ve ever hung around young children, you’ve heard the word “why”. Kids love to know why you’re doing whatever you’re doing (usually at times when you really don’t want to explain it). They want to know why they have to go to bed, why they have to eat their vegetables, and why you never give Caillou as an option to watch on TV even though the whiny little guy is right there on the screen.

Okay, maybe that last one is just me.

But I have one kid who is constantly asking about words. Why do we call that an elephant, where did the word elastic come from, who decided to call it ice cream.

It all means I’ve started looking up the eymology of words and it’s really interesting. So today I’m looking up some words frequently seen in Regency romances to see where and when those words became the words we know today.

The Titles

Dukedoms appeared in England in the mid-1300s, ousting earl as the highest rank of nobility. The word Duke traces all the way back to latin origination from dux or ducis which means leader or commander.

The ousted earl had been hanging around England for 300 years before the dukes came along. While there is an old English word, eorl, that means brave man, warrior, chief, the origination of that word is uncertain. It is possibly of Germanic descent.

Marquess or Marquis was blatantly lifted from the French, though its usage was quite spotty from the late 1300s until the 1500s. In French the word means ruler of a border area, taken from the Old French word marche meaning frontier.

Society

Social gatherings and interactions are significant in Regency novels. The word society itself traces back to the Latin word societatem. It has always meant fellowship, association, and community.

More specific meanings for the word, such as a group or club, began in the 16th century. Often in Regency books the word is used to mean “the more cultivated part of a community”. This usage was first recorded in 1823, making it a very “modern” usage of the word for our characters.

The Parties

Looking up the etymology of the word ball will send you in a lot of directions. Using the word to refer to a “dancing party” began in the early 1600s. It traces back to Old French, Latin, and Greek words that mean “to dance”.

Soiree, or “evening party” was another English word lifted directly from the French. It, too, goes back to the Latin word. Sero meant “at a late hour”.

The word party has long meant to divide or separate. Usages of the word in this way date back to the 12th century, particularly in reference to politics. It’s usage as a term meaning “a gathering for social pleasure” isn’t until the early 18th century.

Debutante

Probably the happiest discovery I made while writing this article was the origination of the word debutante. I had heard that the word debutante was not used in the Regency, but was instead a more Victorian term, making its appearance in the 1830s.

According to several sources, the word debutante was actually early 1800s. Some place it as early as 1801, though several place it in 1817.

Look up your own

Head on over to etymonline.com and look up your favorite Regency word. Describe it’s origination in the comments below.

And if anyone has any idea how they came up with the words for Latin, let me know, because all the etymology seems to stop there.

The Natural Look ~ cosmetic trends in the Regency, by Susan Karsten

If you were a young lady during the late 1960s -1970s, you put up with the domination of the bare-faced aesthetic that ruled our beauty efforts.

To this day, at the beauty shop, I am asked if I am okay with hairspray. Yes, yes, yes — I want that hairdo to last as long as possible. But I know the question is a holdover from the days when natural reigned.

What does this have to do with the Regency Period? In that day, styles moved away from the previous heavy macquillage which included white lead, pasted-on beauty marks, and powdered hair and wigs. The less contrived and more-freeing fashions of our beloved Regency Period, called for a simpler look as far as cosmetics as well.

The simpler Regency make-up’s similarities to the make-up of the 60s-70s is amazing! Think of their colored lip salves (like our lip gloss), a touch of rouge (like our blusher), eyelash tints (like our mascara), and home made beauty aids were popular in both periods as well. Innocence was the look they were going for, and in our 20th century day, we were going for natural.

The move away from heavy facial cosmetics lead to an upsurge in perfumes, lotions, creams, oils, salves, and cures. Freckle creams were big, because those little spots were a major no-no.

So, when you are reading Regency fiction and you are picturing your heroine, your imaginary face should more than likely be without any noticeable make-up — the bare minimum.

Do you remember the period of the 60s-70s? What were your favorite cosmetics? Did you usually go without?

Thanks for reading! from Susan Karsten

The best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural.”  {Calvin Klein}

Gerard’s red and black scarf

Gerard's scarf211

Camy/Camille here! As I write this blog post, I’m working on finishing “The Spinster’s Christmas,” a new Regency romance short novel that will be included in the upcoming Inspy Kisses anthology, Mistletoe Kisses. The anthology features 7 other authors with me and includes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance stories.

It was absolutely fascinating to research Christmas in the Regency, and especially kissing boughs. :) There is a scene where the house party goes skating, and my heroine, Miranda, has lost her scarf (in an earlier scene). The hero, Gerard, gallantly gives her his scarf, which is knit in red and black.

Knitting patterns were called receipts because they were literally received from someone, passed down from generation to generation. There is a receipt of a Gentleman’s Comforter in the book, The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book, First Series by Miss Watts, originally published in 1837. You can download the .pdf of the Fifth Edition, with additions, which was published in 1840.

I am fairly certain that although this knitting book, one of the first of its kind, was published after the Regency era, the patterns were probably much in use during the Regency period and perhaps even in the Georgian era before that. The patterns simply were passed from friends and families by word of mouth or hand-written patterns.

I based my hero’s scarf after this Gentleman’s Comforter pattern, although I embellished it a bit by having it knit in red and black rather than a single color. Here’s the original pattern from the book:

Gentleman's Comforter from Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series

I am going to knit this! It looks to be made with very fine yarn, probably lace weight or fingering weight yarn. My yarn is ordered and I’ll be posting my progress. I’ll also rewrite the original pattern to make it easier for today’s knitters. :)

Want to knit this with me? Let me know!

Update: Part 2 is here!

mistletoe_lowresMistletoe Kisses is available for $0.99 only until November 30th! Preorder your copy today!

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Banquet of Lies ~ A Preposterous Premise, and yet a Delightful Read

Banquet of Lies CoverBanquet of Lies by Michelle Deiner is more Regency historical romance than traditional Regency, nor is it particularly old, having a copyright date of 2013, and it is not inspirational in the spiritual realm of reading. It is, however, a clean read, well-written, and romping good fun, if you like suspense with your Regency romance, which I do; thus, in my efforts to introduce you to Regency romances that are clean, entertaining, and well-written, if not inspirational, I present this story.

1812. In order to discover who murdered her diplomat father, Gigi Barrington heads to London disguised as a chef. She works in Lord Aldridge’s kitchen, hiding in plain sight. But as she closes in on her quarry, Aldridge’s romantic advances complicate matters.

This is a preposterous premise. I honestly don’t think even a young lady with this heroine’s background would be a good enough cook during the Regency to take on the role of head chef in a nobleman’s kitchen.

For someone like me who says one can get away with a lot as long as it is historically feasible, not that it actually happened, to say I enjoyed this book is a little shocking. I don’t think this is historically feasible, but then, we often suspend our disbelief in exchange for a good story.

Banquet of Lies is one of those stories—fast-paced; lovable characters; suspense and, of course, romance all dropped into the middle of Regency London.

Now here at the end of this little post I do have to confess that I picked up this book to read partly because I also indulged in the preposterosity of having a secondary character in A Necessary Deception (Regency romance from Baker/Revell 2012) who is a female chef from a good family there for the purpose of keeping an eye on someone.

My chef wasn’t planned. She simply popped onto the page and wouldn’t leave.  Because of the release dates, I think this is mere coincidence, rather a fascinating uptake from the ether.

Have you read Banquet of Lies? What did you think of it?

The Cravat ~ More than just a necktie

Kristi here. If you’ve ever read a Regency you’ve come across a man wearing a cravat. It’s a staple of early 19th century menswear. We know it goes around the neck. We know a man would be underdressed without one. And you’ve probably come across one described as “intricately tied” or some variation thereof.

But what did they actually look like?

Cravats were a great deal more than the precursor to the modern necktie. They were a fashion statement and one of the most changeable features of menswear at the time.

Louis XIV with his new neckwear.

Louis XIV with his new neckwear.

When the cravat first crossed the channel from France it was a simple thing, resembling a scarf knotted around the neck.

Louis XIV of France adopted the fashion after dealings with Croatia. It had the double benefit of being more comfortable than the stiff collars as well as sending all the men scrambling to change fashions.

The idea changed over the years, becoming a simple rectangle of fabric attached behind the neck at one point.

By the time Beau Brummel got ahold of it, the cravat had become much more. Some knots required a hour to tie correctly. Starch also came into play helping the collars and cravats maintain sharp creases and points as well as height. It was not uncommon for collar points to reach into the cheek area.

During the Regency, an intricately tied cravat became more of a fashion statement than an overly embellished neckcloth.

In 1818, an entire book was published on the tying of cravats and neckcloths. Another was published in 1828.

Neckclothitania (1818)

The Art of Tying the Cravat (1828) (Unfortunately some of the pictures are missing from this copy. One is below. You can see the rest here.)

neckcloths

cravatBecause of the starched nature of the Regency cravat, a man could go through several cloths in a day.

If a mistake was made in the tying, an incorrect crease would be visible, requiring him to start afresh.

If he changed clothes or the cravat became limp, he had to start again. All to obtain male fashion perfection.

Kind of makes the hassle of tying a tie today seem a little less bothersome.

The idea of a fancy knot is coming back into fashion though. Have you seen the Eldredge or Trinity knots? Or even the return of a real bowties? They could make a man long for the days of cravats and valets.

EldridgeKnot

But they sure do look cool.

 

Christmas Regency fiction – Is there any? by Susan Karsten

Hi, all!

When the topic of Christmas and other holidays in regency genre books came up, I merely opened the hutch of my escritoire (regency for desk) and pulled out four collections (see below)

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These are not CBA (inspirational) fiction, but rather ABA (general market, not inspirational, and probably a little racy).

I hope our inspy Regency genre grows to the point where collections like the above will be highly sought-after and we will have a chance to have a chance for our faith-filled novella  to be published in such a collection.

What do you like best about Christmas-set fiction?

Please give an answer in a comment.

Susan Karsten

Beauty’s Light

Most of us think of the regency period as England. This is correct since by strict definition the regency means the time in Great Britain when the Prince of Wales was the “regent,” meaning he ruled in place of his father, King George III, who had been declared “mad” or incapable of ruling. Parliament passed this bill in 1811. The regency period lasted until the old king’s death in 1820.

But regency novels take place anywhere from 1800 on through the mid-1820’s. Rather than viewing this period in political terms, we think of the regency through its fashion and manners–high-waisted gowns in whites and pale colors for women and knee breeches or tight pantaloons and short, fitted jackets for men. Witty and more formal speech and a gracious lifestyle for the upper class.

But that fashion and style extended to other countries in Europe and beyond the Atlantic to the Americas. In the young U.S., it’s the Federalist period; in France it’s the Napoleonic period followed by the Bourbon Restoration, when royalty returned with Louis XVIII, a brother of the beheaded Louis XVI. louis Xviii

Some of my regency stories end up spreading beyond the British Isles to America and France. This is mainly because I’ll have a character who is American or French, who happens to be in the English story.  I may continue that character’s story in a sequel.

This happened in my first series (begun with Winter Is Past). In a sequel, The Rogue’s Redemption, my my British hero travels to America in search of the heroine, who is American. She has two sisters. As I was describing them, I began to imagine their stories.

A few years later one of these sisters got her own story. She is a young woman from the “Maine Territory,” as the State of Maine was called back then (and belonged to Massachusetts). In the sequel, she travels to Paris and meets a young French veteran who fought at Waterloo against the British.

I had never completed this story, but I went back recently and finished it because a new publishing house, Redbud Press, expressed interest in it. This novel, now titled Beauty’s Light, will debut next April.

Beauty’s Light is a beauty and the beast story at its core (hence the title). It is set mainly in Paris, a city as romantic in 1817 as it is today. It had many buildings, cathedrals, and narrow streets from medieval times but also the beginnings of its modern appearance because of Napoleon, who’d begun some of the large monuments like the Arc d’Triomphe which give Paris the look we know today.

I also chose the Loire Valley as the setting for the ending of Beauty’s Light, because of its proximity to Paris and because of its castles. The chateaus of the Loire Valley are famous. The Loire River is the longest in France. The region’s climate and soil are conducive to a wide variety of produce and fruit trees, but most of all, it is a wine-making region. It’s chalky soil produces some of the finest grapes.

chateau d'usse

Wikipedia

Another famous fairy tale takes place in one of the Loire Valley chateaus: the Chateau d’Usse is traditionally held to be the setting for Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty.

I loved the look of its light-colored turrets and surrounding formal gardens, so I have used it as a taking off point for my hero’s family seat.

UssePark

Wkipedia

My hero, Etienne d’Arblay, 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.

beauty's light

Redbud Press

Here is a sneak preview of the cover of Beauty’s Light, which will be available both as an e-book and paperback in April 2015. I hope you’ll enjoy my beauty and the beast story as much as I enjoyed writing it..

Ruth

Regency White Soup

White Soup.001

There is a line in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Bingley is talking about the ball he plans to host at Netherfield:

“If you mean Darcy,” cried her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chooses, before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough, I shall send round my cards.”

I then found these two fascinating articles on white soup from the Jane Austen Centre and the Austenonly blog. I decided to try making it!

I followed the recipe from the book by John Farley, published in 1811, The London Art of Cookery and Domestic Housekeepers’ Complete Assistant : uniting the principles of elegance, taste, and economy : and adapted to the use of servants, and families of every description. You can download the scan of the original book from the link.

Here’s the original recipe:

White Soup.

PUT a knuckle of veal into six quarts of water, with a large fowl, a pound of lean bacon, half a pound of rice, two anchovies, a few pepper-corns, a bundle of sweet herbs, two or three onions, and three or four heads of celery cut in slices. Stew all together, till the soup is as strong as you would have it, and then strain it through a hair sieve into a clean earthen pot: let it stand all night, skim off the fat, and pour it into a stewpan. Put in half a pound of Jordan almonds beat fine, simmer a little, and run it through a tamis: add a pint of cream and the yolk of an egg, and send it up hot.

Also, it mentions a few pages earlier:

“In the preparation of white soup, remember never to put in your cream till you take your soup off the fire, and the last thing you do, must be the dishing of your soups. ”

My foray into White Soup:

I didn’t have a pot large enough to hold an entire chicken and 6 quarts of water, so I halved the recipe:

1 package of beef shank, 1 pound (When looking up what a “knuckle of veal” was, I found this online: “Look for veal shank. The main thing for your stock is to get bones with a good deal of marrow. Knuckles, by the way, typically need to be cracked, whereas the shanks are often sold in 2″to 3″ pieces, so the marrow is already exposed.”)

2.5 pounds chicken thighs, in lieu of half a chicken

1/2 pound bacon, chopped

1/4 pound rice

2 anchovy fillets (I assumed the recipe meant 2 entire anchovies, so I minced 2 fillets)

5-6 peppercorns

A handful of minced fresh basil. I wanted to also add fresh thyme but didn’t have any, so I added a teaspoon of dried thyme.

1 large onion, diced

2 bunches of celery, chopped (When I was chopping, it seemed like a lot of celery, but then I started the soup and realized it’s a lot of soup, so 2 entire bunches of celery ended up not being all that much.)

3 quarts of water

I put everything in my stock pot on high heat, raised it to a boil, then put the heat to medium and simmered it. My stock pot was extremely full—in fact, I kept back one of the celery bunches and let the soup simmer for about an hour to reduce the water volume, then added the rest of the celery.

IMG_2003

I wasn’t entirely sure how long is “as strong as you would have it,” so I looked it up in my Williams-Sonoma cookbook, which said that a typical meat stock takes about 3.5-4 hours of simmering, partially covered. So I simmered for 4 hours, partially covered.

The soup got thick pretty quick, probably from the rice, so that it was more like a stew than a soup. Also, like when you make rice on the stovetop, the bottom burned. Sigh. I should have expected that.

I strained the solids only through a metal colander, and then I forgot to put the soup in the fridge to let the fats solidify on the top so I could skim it off. Sigh again.

I was a bit surprised at how little soup there was, but then I’d looked at how much solids I had, and it made more sense.

IMG_2004

Put 1/4 pound of raw almonds in my blender with 1/3 cup water and pulsed until it was all ground up, then added that to the soup. In hindsight, I should have used blanched almonds so the soup would be more “white.” I then brought it to a boil and simmered it, covered, for 15 minutes.

Strained the almonds using a wire strainer, which was a rather tedious process. Belatedly put in the fridge to solidify the fats so I could skim them off.

I whisked the egg yolk, then tempered it by adding a little at a time into the hot soup, whisking in between until the yolk was hot enough, then whisked all of it into the soup.

IMG_2006

Result:

It tastes fabulous! It’s extremely creamy and rich even though there’s only 1 cup of cream for the entire pot of soup, I think because of the rice and almonds that thickened it. The meat flavor and the almond flavor both come through. It’s extremely elegant as a cream soup—it deserves fine china and silver cutlery.

I had saved the meat, veggies, and rice because I couldn’t bear to throw them away. I stripped the meat off the bones and shredded it. Then I added it all back to the soup to make it more stew-y and significantly less elegant. Mr. Darcy would be appalled, but Captain Caffeine was pleased by the result.

For next time:

This would have been an expensive soup in Jane Austen’s day, because of the amount of meat in it. And there isn’t even meat in the soup itself! It was a bit pricey even for today. It was also rather tedious to make.

Next time, I think I would instead make stock using my pressure cooker. I’d put in chicken bones instead of the raw chicken pieces. I might still use beef shanks because of the exposed marrow, plus they weren’t very expensive since there’s hardly any meat on them.

I’d probably stick everything in the pressure cooker except for the almonds, cream, and egg, but I’m not sure if my pot would hold everything so I might have to quarter the recipe in terms of the amounts of the other ingredients. Then after cooking, I’d continue the rest of the recipe.

Or if I can’t fit everything into the pressure cooker, I might simply make broth in the pressure cooker with just the beef and chicken bones, then simmer the clear stock with the other ingredients—but for considerably less time—and then continue with the almonds, egg yolk and cream.

Also, I think instead of cream I’d use whole milk, which would make it less rich and decadent and be a little cheaper.

Even easier …

You could probably just get packaged beef broth and packaged chicken broth, mix them in a pot, and simmer the other ingredients (sans the chicken and beef since you already have broth). Then continue the recipe as written, but reduce the amount of time you simmer it.

What do you think? Would you make “white soup” like Mr. Bingley?