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?

This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes… Or Is It? Laundry in Regency England

Kristi here. One of the worst things about taking a long trip is the amount of laundry you have to do when you return. As annoying as I find the chore, at least I get to walk away after throwing the clothes in the washer.

No such luck for the Regency era laundress.

WashingMachinePrior to the 19th century, laundry had pretty much been done the same way. Soak it, boil it, beat it with a rock. No wonder they wore their clothes dirty.

Thank God for the beginnings of the industrial revolution and all those crafty souls that saw a chance to make money by making laundry easier. They crated the forerunners to the oh-so-convenient machine I have today.

Some of the earliest advertisements for washing machines are from England in the 1790s. It was basically a barrel with a crank that would turn the paddles in the barrel, agitating the clothes in the water. Still a lot of work, but you could clean more than one or two garments at a time. The arrangement of the paddles allowed for more efficient washing as well, requiring less lye, less hot water, and less brutality.

Good news for the wearers of delicate muslin dresses.

Clothes were still hung or laid out to dry as an effective dryer was still a few years away.

Do you still do any of your washing by hand? Do you use a clothesline?

Tales from St. Louis ~ A Report on the ACFW Conference

View of over half the arch from Kristi's hotel room. Kristi here. I had the great pleasure of attending the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in St. Louis this weekend.

This was the view from my hotel window. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately, despite being spitting distance from the arch, I never actually made it over there. Oh well. It’s still pretty.

Meeting Some Familiar People

Kristi Hunter and Kristy Cameron at ACFW galaOne of the best thing about conference is meeting up with people you normally only “see” in cyberspace.

If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know “friend of the blog” Kristy Cameron. Something you might not have known is… the girl is tall. But I love that hair. That’s how I found her from across the room of 600 people.

I also ran into some of our favorite Regency authors.

Kristi Ann Hunter and Sarah LaddSarah Ladd was a finalist for the Carol in the debut novel category with her Regency The Heiress of Winterwood. 

The category was won by a contemporary book with Regency ties, Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley, in which a young lady channels Jane Austen’s characters to help her get through life. (Amazing book, I highly recommend it.)

Kristi Ann Hunter and Julie Klassen in Regency garbI also met up with Julie Klassen, looking amazing in her pink Regency ball gown. Julie was honored with the Mentor of the Year award at the gala.

As you can see, she’s another blonde that towers over me. If you ever have the honor of meeting her, think of something more witty to say than, “Wow, you’re tall.” I already took that one.

Kristi's Regency DressYes, I am also dressed in Regency era garb. My amazing and wonderful mother made me a dress for the genre dinner (where we got to dress up in time periods and characters). Now I’ll also have it for things like book signings or other events.

She even made me a matching shawl and reticule.

Mothers are awesome.

Upcoming Book News

Other than Sarah and Julie I didn’t see any of our other Regency authors this weekend. Julie has a new release in December, so keep watching for that.

I know many of our readers are expanding into the Edwardian era, in part because of Downton Abbey. This is a growing area in Christian fiction, so if that interests you be sure to check that out. I know I saw some titles set in Edwardian England from Carrie Turansky and heard of a series by Roseanna White coming out next year.

My Own Happy News

Kristi's Genesis award and ArchI also brought home my own special souvenir. Here is the Genesis award I was blessed to win with the beautiful arch as a background.

In case you’ve missed me making the announcement elsewhere, I’m happy to say you can pick up this award winning story for yourself next Fall when it comes out from Bethany House.

 

 

 

All in all it was a pretty amazing weekend. Were you an author able to go to the conference? Got a question about the weekend that I might could answer? Leave it in the comments.

Laurie Alice Shares A Secret

Laurie Alice here,

This month, I am writing about the first book I ever read by Jo Beverley, a book that got me hooked on Jo as an author.

The Stanforth Secrets.

Stanforth Secrets

Stanforth Secrets

Though the widowed Chloe Stanforth loves her house by the sea, a series of puzzling incidents has left her unsettled and anxious to find a new home. Her situation is complicated by the arrival of her husband’s cousin, for whom she has long harbored a deep and guilty attraction.

Back from the war, Justin Delamere hopes he can finally woo Chloe, until he suspects her guilty of treason-and murder. Can he trust the woman he’s always desired, and can Chloe surrender her most private secrets to the man who controls her freedom and now her heart?

As a long-time mystery lover, the notion of a Regency mystery thrilled me, and this book did not disappoint. I loved all the odd clues and details the author used, so Regency and so country-house mystery. She captures both genres well in this lovely little book.

A couple of months after I read this book, I met Jo Beverley. She had long since moved on from writing traditional Regencies. Indeed, Walker Publishing had stopped publishing Regencies by this time. I told Jo how much I enjoyed the book. After thanking me in her gracious way, she then told me she would never write such a book again. She said having to worry about everyone in the house was too much trouble. “You have to think about all the servants.” Spoken in her lovely Lancastrian accent, “servants” came out almost three syllables with the barest hint of an r on the first emphasized syllable.

The author charmed me nearly as much as that first book and most of her books since.

Although The Stanforth Secrets was published in 1989, it is now available on Amazon. Highly recommended to those who want a clean, traditional Regency romance along with a fun mystery.

 

The Bletchley Circle

the_bletchley_circle_series2_ep1_41Hi guys, Camy here! I hope this isn’t too off topic, but I discovered a BBC TV show that I absolutely LOVE. It’s called The Bletchley Circle, and it’s about a group of women who were code-breakers during WW2. After the war, they find that their pattern-recognition skills enable them to solve crimes in 1940s and 1950s England.

I stumbled upon it by accident on Netflix Streaming and I was absolutely enthralled by Season 1. The acting is amazing and I really love the time period, set in England after the war. It’s so interesting to see since I know very little about the 40s and early 50s.

49cddb9f6931290fef8a1673c7f4d658I also LOVE the period costumes, especially the knitted sweaters/blouses the women wear. I think I even recognized some of the patterns from vintage patterns I’ve seen posted online! I am TOTALLY going to try to knit some of those!

The storyline for the first season is a bit gruesome, just to warn people, but it’s such a fascinating mystery that I was completely hooked. I’m excited to see Season 2, which I think I will pick up on iTunes.

Amazon Streaming
Netflix Streaming
iTunes

Have any of you seen it yet? If you haven’t, definitely give it a shot! If you have, what did you think?

Also, don’t forget to enter my Regency Goodies Giveaway going on right now on my blog!
Regency Goodies Giveaway.001

Dressing Up is Fun To Do

Guest Post by Marisa Deshaies.

People love dressing up—masks, costumes, accessories, face paint. There is just something about putting on a creative outfit and possibly even talking in a different accent than normal that makes people giddy.

Kids in costume via wikimedia commons

Kids in costume via wikimedia commons

Next month trick-or-treaters will dress as goblins, princesses, and pirates and greet neighbors with squeals of delight at the candy given out to fill their pillowcases. Those couple of hours of make-believe brings a thrill for children that equates almost with the excitement of opening gifts on Christmas morning.

Little ones often love wearing play clothes out and about. At five years old, for example, a little girl doesn’t understand why wearing a tutu to the grocery store could elicit some strange looks from passer-by. And at five-years old, she probably wouldn’t get those looks. Why is that?

Children are not alone in the fun of imagination. Despite that Halloween is meant to be celebrated by children just one day a year, plenty of occasions merit adults dressing up simply for the pleasure of creating a world different from their own.

Just as little ones enjoy wearing princess gowns or pirate peg-legs, some adults pull costumes out of their closets for some good, old-fashioned make-believe. Chances are, though, a thirty-year-old woman walking down the street in a Victorian ball gown will get more than strange looks from her neighbor…she’ll probably be gossiped about for not living in the real world. Is it a shame or a necessity that adults are expected to resist the pull of make-believe?

Dressing Like Fanny or Dancing Like Jane

Laurie Alice Eakes in a burgundy and floral ball gown. We went to our book signings in these dresses.

Laurie Alice Eakes and Vanessa Riley in their Regency gowns.

Jane Austen fans are no strangers to playing dress up. More often than not, someone who reads Austen novels desires to travel back to the nineteenth century for a taste of ballroom dances and strolls around the local park.

Plenty of book clubs and blog sites exist to captivate these readers, but nothing like wearing a floor-length muslin gown and bonnet bedecked in ribbons makes a lady feel like she belongs in the English countryside.

Now picture attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England—men and women from all over the world travel to Austen’s hometown for a week of living as one of her characters and you can join!

This isn’t dressing up for the fainthearted: be prepared for character role play with no modern amenities allowed. Ladies, if you want to meet your Mr. Darcy, you had best be willing to forgo your cell phone and Facebook.

Be Yourself—Without the Costume

The problem with pretending to be a goblin, a priest, a pirate, a princess, or even just a lady of the Regency is that dressing up encourages behavior  not always applicable to real world situations.

Yes, attending balls and visiting family for months on end—practices   common in Austen’s day—are admirable; however, those wishing for society to revert back to nineteenth century behaviors are in for a long fight.

Technological advances mean people have access to more information than ever before, and with that access comes increased education and independence. That being said, is it fair, Ladies, to hold your husbands to Mr. Darcy’s standards when you want the right to hold a job and wear pants? Can you reasonably expect men to hold open doors for you when sometimes they do so and women snap back at them for old-fashioned habits?

Bringing Austen to Modern Day

Popularity of Austen novels continues to grow even with the modernization of society. Readers love old-fashioned stories for originality and universality of characters; fan-fiction of all six of Austen’s novels prove that two-hundred year-old tales still apply to an increasingly fast-paced world.

The challenge today is to find a balance between retaining the behaviors and morals that emphasize propriety while accepting ideals that highlight educational advancement.

It may be impossible to live at Longbourne with the Bennett family, but once in a while it is alright to live vicariously through a Pride and Prejudice movie. Just be sure to leave your muslin dress in the closet for the rest of the year.