Regency Best Dressed List ~ What would you wear?

Kristi here. It’s no secret that part of the Regency era’s appeal is the clothes. Fancy and glamorous, yet relatable with it’s lack of hoop skirts and horse hair bustles. I’m going to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference in September and one of the events is a dinner where everyone is invited to dress up as one of their characters.

I don’t have a Regency era dress. I’m seriously considering making one (with the help of my considerably more sewing skilled mother). If I do it will probably be a fairly simple cotton one, not a fancy ballgown. But if I were to dream, what kind of Regency dress would I want?

MorningGownRuffleFirst off, it would definitely be an evening dress. The ruffles around the neck and face that often accompany morning dresses would drive me insane.

Second, I’d want some color. I have no desire to look like a ghost walking around in an all white gown. I’d stay away from the lavenders and purples, since those indicated a state of half-mourning. Red would be a bit garish, though the Hubs always likes me in it. I think I’d lean to the blues or greens. I see more blue in Ackerman’s prints than green, so we’ll go with blue.

GauzyEveningDressI think my favorite would be something like this, but with a blue underskirt instead of the pink. ReproductionBlueDress

And guess what? I could actually order a reproduction dress very similar to it… though of course it’s rather expensive. It’s gorgeous though, isn’t it?

PlaidEveningGownOf course, this was all dreamed up before I came across this beauty. One day I’m going to have to write a heroine with the gumption to walk into a ball wearing a plaid evening gown. That is just amazing.

What about you? Do you have a dream Regency outfit?

Why is Everyone Standing in the Hall? A post on Regency terminology

As an American, reading books set in England – particularly historical England – could sometimes be confusing. Once I started researching the time period, I realized that certain words had different meanings “across the pond”. So for everyone like me, I’ve put together a list of a few things that used to confuse me. Hope they help!

Hall

Hall is one of those words that seems simple, but has vastly different meanings on each side of the Atlantic. I always wondered why people spent so much time standing around in the hall. Wasn’t it cramped?

Because in America a “hall” is a passageway – usually on the narrow side – that rooms open off of. In Regency England the hall was the area the front door opened into. Similar to an American foyer or vestibule. In large English homes, the hall is a room in an of itself, often a fairly large one since visitors were sometimes required to wait there a while before being admitted further into the house.

Living “in” the street

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Jane Bennet mentions that her aunt and uncle live in Grace Church Street. In American English, that implies Grace Church Street is neighborhood or even an apartment building or some other such collection of living spaces.

What is actually means is that her aunt and uncle have a house with a Grace Church Street address. In America we would say they live on Grace Church Street. It’s a distinction that some modern day Regency authors use and others don’t, but now you won’t be confused if you ever come across it.

Townhome

It’s just that: your home in town. When Americans normally think of as being townhomes are actually called terrace houses in England. These are houses that share a wall with another house on one or both sides. Many homes in Mayfair are terrace houses, but not all. So when the heroine heads to her townhome for the season, she’d probably sharing a wall with her neighbor, but not necessarily so.

First Floor

Have you ever seen characters going up to the first floor? Or looking down from a first floor window? For an American that can be quite confusing – to the point that I try to avoid saying which floor they’re on at all.

The “first floor” in America is actually the “ground floor” in England. So people had to actually go up stairs to reach the first floor.

 

What other terms do you find yourself stumbling over? Any other words you’ve found have a double meaning?

Ring Bell For Service ~ The Prevalency of the Regency Bell Pull

Kristi here.

How many times have you read of the hero or heroine of a Regency novel ringing the bell for the servant? Did they really do that? Were bell pulls as common as we think they were?

The answer is a somewhat complicated yes and no.

Bells have long been used to summon servants, though during the Regency the idea of summoning them from anywhere in the house was still fairly new.

Staff Call Bells in a line
Staff Call Bells via Wikimedia Commons

From the time the small handbell was invented, people have used them to summon servants waiting in the hall or across the room. Simple systems that connected a room to a nearby antechamber were documented during the first decade of the eighteenth century. The idea of a house-wide network of bells wasn’t introduced for another 35 years.

Though the actual creation of the full house servant bell system is debated, the first known advertisement for such a system was in 1744. It worked via a series of copper wires, springs, and pulleys to pass the vibration caused by pulling the cord to the bell in the servants’ area.

With more than 60 years from the introduction of the bell pull to the onset of the Regency, modern thinking would assume the system would be nearly ubiquitous. In places such as Mayfair, where most houses were built after 1750, the bell systems probably were very prevalent.

Jane Austen mentions ringing for servants in Pride and Prejudice when she tells Kitty to ring for Hill. Though we don’t know if this referred to the simpler “pulley bell” of the early 1700s or the household bells of the mid-1700s, it does show that bell systems were not confined to only the fashionable and trendy areas of England.

Bigger houses required more bells. Click the picture for an article on indicator boxes and bells after the introduction of electric systems.

But what about the old country houses? Some of the sprawling estates our aristocratic heroes and heroines call home were built centuries before the introduction of a bell system. Since many of these families also maintained residences in town, it’s hard to imagine them forgoing the luxury and privacy of the bells when they adjourned to the country.

The answer was pipes and tubes.

Older homes could be fitted with a network of pipes and tubes that acted as conduits for all the bell mechanisms. Plumbers (who were also busy retrofitting homes with the newfangled indoor plumbing) and chimney sweeps often began second careers and bell-hangers.

This wasn’t done everywhere, however, because some houses that installed and external bell (the first doorbells) sometimes places a sign above the pull telling visitors what to do.

Another issue with these spring-based bell systems was maintenance. Getting to a disconnected wire or pulley within the network of refitted tubes could be extremely difficult.

As the bell systems became more and more prevalent in the country homes, the indicator boards advanced. Some would utilize different sizes and tones of bells to allow servants to better hear which room was summoning them. Others created elaborate sets of flaps and labels to let servants see which person had rung.

In the 1840s, electric bell systems began to appear. This limited the amount of cumbersome maintenance and allowed for much more elaborate indicator boards. People of the Regency, however, wouldn’t have seen these as electricity was still little more than a novelty.

The bells were likely a bittersweet invention for servants. While the installation of a bell system meant that a footman didn’t have to stand in the hall for hours awaiting instruction, it also meant that whenever a bell was rung, the servant had to run up the stairs to get the instruction and then back down to see to the request. Over time the addition of speaking tubes and in-house telephones provided more direct communication, but those weren’t to grace English homes until well after the Regency period.

 

Calling Cards: The Voicemail of Regency England

In the days before mobile phones, text messaging, and emails, people had to rely on face to face encounters and letters for communication. A pivotal part of this communication was the calling card. In many books, calling cards are presented to identify themselves when they go visiting, but calling cards were so much more than that.

Woman's calling card case.
Woman’s calling card case.

Change of Address

Many aristocracy lived in multiple places. When they arrived in town, particularly returning to London or another large city, they would go around and leave calling cards to let friends and acquaintances know they had arrived.

Cards were also dispersed when one was leaving town, with a handwritten indication of their departure.

Sign of Popularity

Sometimes these calling cards would be left out in the hall or drawing room, on display so other people could see what influential and important friends someone had. A large pile of calling cards could be akin to a large friend list on Facebook or an enormous Twitter following

The Polite Snub

Once a calling card had been delivered, it was customary to return to the favor, assuming you wished to further the acquaintance of course. If the person were a friend or someone you wanted a close connection with, a visit was in order. A mere returning of your own card meant you acknowledged the relationship. On the other hand, no reciprocation was a quiet indicator of where you stood on the social ladder.

Leaving a Message

Calling cards contained very little information, many bearing only a name while some included the address of the person. This left plenty of room to write a personal message if appropriate. Just as texting has common abbreviations today, calling cards had a similar shorthand. Turning down particular corners would let the card recipient know certain things, for instance letting them know the card had been delivered in person, indicating a more intimate contact.

Corner turning came to mean more and more as time passed. By the mid-19th century some cards were even being printed with words in the corners indicating common messages (such as visit, felicitations, or adieu). That way the message being left could not be misinterpreted.

Caller ID

The most well-known use of calling cards was in requesting admittance to the house. When visiting someone, a calling card would be presented to the servant at the door. The card would then be delivered to the desired recipient who could then decide if they were at home or not. If the person were not inclined or able to accept visitors at the time, but wanted to maintain the relationship, the denial could be accompanied by one of the mistresses own calling cards. The visit would then be returned within a week.

Image from social calls article on JaneAusten.co.uk. Click to see article.

 

 

The practice of calling cards could be very complicated. As in many matters of etiquette it seems like it would be easy to cause an unintended slight to someone. It isn’t all that surprising that many of the aspects of the calling card are glossed over in historical novels.

What do you think? Should the calling card play a more prominent part in novels or would it be horribly distracting?

 

From Ackerman’s to Almack’s ~ Dressmaking in Regency England

Much is made of the fashion trends and inspirations of the early 19th century, but have you ever considered what it took to turn those gorgeous Ackerman’s drawings into actual gowns?

With no sewing machine, no electricity for decent lighting, and no ready-to-wear size guide, creating clothing for the masses was no small feat.

1817 fashion plateThose of lesser means had to find time to make their own clothing, which meant they often had limited wardrobes and much plainer pieces. Those who could afford to purchase their clothes couldn’t just stroll down to Bond Street and come home with a new look. Purchasing a dress took time.

Selecting the Materials

Fabrics, trimmings, and matching accessories were not all to be found under one roof. While a dressmaker might have a selection of ribbons and beads to add to the piece, the cloth itself came from the linen-draper.

Since fabric making was one of the first industrialized products, inventory at these large establishments could be massive indeed. If a person were particularly indecisive, they could spend hours, if not days perusing the options.

Buttons, ribbons, and other embellishments could be had from the haberdasher.

Linen DraperSelecting the Design

Once at the dressmaker’s, it was time to scour the Ackerman’s drawings and determine the dress you wanted. Some dressmaker’s were also designers and could create unique pieces, but most were altering the drawn designs to best compliment their customer’s figures. Because all pieces were custom made, flattering a person’s individual figure was crucial.

Adorning from Head to Toe

Once the outfit was done, there was still the matter of accessories. Hats were purchased from the milliner. Stockings could be had from the hosiers. For the affluent, even their shoes were custom made. Custom boots were particularly valued amongst men, as they would hold up considerably longer than a lady’s fragile dancing slipper.

Some stores, particularly in less populated areas, would carry a variety of accessories from muffs and bonnets to slippers and reticules, possibly even fabric and ribbons. In the large city, shops could afford to be more specialized.

 

With all these stops and shops, it’s no surprise that a woman could spend an entire day or possibly even a week selecting a new look. Imagine the time and effort it took to select a new wardrobe, particularly for the upper classes that could wear upwards of four outfits in a single day.

What do you think? Would you like to go through all those steps instead of driving to your local Kohl’s?

 

 

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
Notice the ruffles, embroidery, and sheer sleeves of this 1817 gown.

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?

 

The Final Frost Fair: What Do You Do When the Thames Freezes Over?

Kristi here. Has your winter been insane? Mine certainly has. In a single week in February, we had an ice/snow storm, a sunny 70 degree afternoon, and even felt the minor tremors of an earthquake. The ice and snow has definitely been the biggest surprise of this winter. Multiple crippling freezes have crossed this country, two reaching deep into the south.

Sail Tents on the ice during the frost fairThe ramifications of cold weather were l to the people of Regency England. 1816 is even famously known as the year without a summer. However, it was 200 years ago in February 1814 that the last of the great Frost Fairs occurred on the great Thames River.

It wasn’t the first time the Thames River froze over. Indeed it happened more than twenty times since 1309. This was, however, the last time. The replacement of London Bridge in 1831 and Victorian addition of the Embankment improved the water flow to the extent that a solid freeze hasn’t happened again and is highly unlikely to do so.

With the city pulled to a halt by the bitter cold and drifting snow, people were drawn to the novelty of solid ice, allowing them to walk and play where boats usually reigned. A thoroughfare of sailing vessels, to the tune of 1500 a day, brought to a halt by Mother Nature.

Among the frivolities included in the 1814 Frost Fair were:

–          An elephant crossing the river, demonstrating the thickness and security of the ice near Blackfriars Bridge.

–          A printing press set up on the ice, churning out commemorative books about the fair

–          Food and drink vendors galore and impromptu bars created with ship sails

–          Fires built right on the ice, with large oxen roasting over them

–          Ice skating, bowling, and every other game or sport imaginable

Everything was not all light and smiles, though.

Frost Fair on the Thames with London Bridge in the background.
Frost Fair on the Thames with London Bridge in the background.

With no way to earn their keep on the river, dock workers and ferrymen took to guarding the stairs and ladders that led to the icy surface, charging people a toll to attend the fair and then collecting a penny again when they wanted to leave. Pickpockets took advantage of all the slipping and sliding and drunken frivolity.

The party lasted four days. When the ice began to crack, it proved fatal for some of the final revelers. It also sent huge chunks of ice floating down the river, crashing into barges and doing thousands of pounds in damage.

Four short days, but they were legendary ones. There’s even a reference in Doctor Who, when The Doctor and River visit it for an ice skating outing (A Good Man Goes to War).  In some ways the fair marked the coming end of an era. As the Regency ended and the Victorian age began, life in England would alter considerably. Transportation, engineering, social habits, and opportunities would all change.

Never again would everything align perfectly to create such a unique experience as the Thames Frost Fair.

Have you had unique experiences with snow and ice this year? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Saving Miss Caulfield, Part 1 ~ A Short Regency Romance by Kristi Ann Hunter

Regency Reflections is entering it’s third year! To celebrate, we’re giving you a gift. Each month you’ll get a brand new short story from one of our authors. It’s going to be a great year. Thanks for helping us be the home of inspirational Regency readers. 

Saving Miss Caulfield, Part 1

If Miss Bianca Caulfield laughed at one more thing her idiot of a dancing partner said, Landon Sinclair was going to break something. Preferably Mr. Camden Theodore’s toes. Then the cad wouldn’t be able to whisk her away from the protection of her mother and brother under the guise of an innocent quadrille in a London ballroom.  What were they thinking, letting him court Bianca?

He supposed he should call her Miss Caulfield now, but she had always been Bianca to him.

She was easy to spot in the crush of dancers, her blonde hair twisted into the simplest coiffure in the room. Landon caught glimpses of her light green dress as she moved between the other dancers. She was light on her feet, floating through the complicated dance steps without any effort. It was a hard-won grace, Landon knew. He’d spent hours this winter having his feet trampled and his shins kicked as she tried to learn the steps. Her brother sported similar injuries, but one would never know it to see her now.

It would have been a pleasure to watch if she weren’t smiling up at Mr. Theodore.

“Please tell me you intend to start a mill with that fist, Lord Braidstone. This evening could use a good distraction.”

Landon looked down at his hand, surprised to find it curled into a tight ball. With conscious effort he loosened his fingers, stretching them until the knuckles popped. A deep, fortifying breath brought the strong combination of perfume, smoke, and champagne, further reminding him of the conduct expected of a viscount at a social gathering.

He glanced at the speaker, finding the expected grin on his friend’s face. “You let her dance with that shuffler, Caulfield?”

Mr. Giles Caulfield, Bianca’s brother, shrugged and adjusted his coat sleeve. “Why not? He’s well off, popular, and set to inherit a barony.”

“He’s a pompous windbag who lies his way through what should be gentlemen’s dealings and falls asleep in church.” Landon made a point of leaning casually against the wall, crossing his arms to hide any fist-making tendencies he might unconsciously entertain.

Giles adjusted his sleeve again. “Pompous or not, his attention has chased off all other interested beau.” He cleared his throat and tugged at the other sleeve. Obviously the man needed a new tailor. Or perhaps his valet had ruined the coat somehow. “Unless you know of someone?”

Landon cast his eyes about the ballroom. There had to be someone better than Theodore. Anyone was better than Theodore. He would trample on Bianca’s open heart and sweet spirit, breaking the girl Landon had watched grow up. The mere thought of losing the light of her smile made Landon desperate.

“What about Mr. Bertram?” Landon nodded towards the mill owner across the room. A bit old, perhaps, but he was honorable and loyal and able to provide a good life for Bianca.

Giles shook his head. “Too busy with rebuilding after the Luddites smashed his looms. He’s only in Town to visit Parliament.”

True enough. Rumor was he’d let his house fall into disrepair as he tried to save his business. Bianca shouldn’t live in a rundown house. Landon blew his breath out through pursed lips as he looked over the room. That one’s reputation was awful. Another given to drunken routs.

His eyes lit on a tall gentleman entering the ballroom. “Fellbourne?”

Giles shook his head. “Has plans to ask for Presbrook’s daughter.”

The girl who’s dinner conversation was limited to the fit of her slippers? Fellbourne never had possessed high enough standards to appreciate Bianca. “Milton?”

“Debt. He’ll probably be run out of Town within the month.”

Landon jerked his gaze back to Giles. “Truly? I had no idea.”

Giles nodded. “I overheard several shopkeepers today while I was waiting for Bianca outside the milliner.”

“That won’t run him out of town unless he runs up an account at one of the finer establishments. Still, it’s a vise Bianca need not deal with.” Landon returned to scrutinizing the options in front of him, looking for someone ideal and realistic.

“Miss Caulfield.”

What was Giles saying? Bianca was still dancing with that rascal. “Beg your pardon?”

“Bianca. You should call her Miss Caulfield now. At least in public.”

Landon grunted in agreement. For propriety’s sake he should use a more formal address, but there was a much more pressing issue at stake than adjusting his life-long habits.

The dance set was drawing to a close. Soon Bianca would be back at her mother’s side where someone more suitable could ask her to dance. Landon glanced to his left to see if Mrs. Caulfield was still in her previous location. One of Theodore’s friends hovered at her elbow.

“It appears that Theodore is determined that your sister not have any other options.” Landon nodded his head in Mrs. Caulfield’s direction.

Giles gave no more than a glance to the man waiting with his mother. “I believe I mentioned that.”

Landon waited, but it became painfully obvious that Giles was going to do nothing to stop Theodore and his cronies from monopolizing Bianca’s attention. With a sigh Landon made his way through the crowd at the side of the ballroom.

Giles was a dear friend, closer than any of Landon’s own brothers or cousins, but lately he’d been shirking in his brotherly duties towards his sister, leaving Landon to pick up the pieces. They were going to have to talk soon, but first Landon had to save Bianca.

###

Bianca’s face hurt. She’d only been at the ball for an hour and already she was faking the smiles and relying on well-practiced laughter to give the impression of a young woman having the time of her life. In reality she was desperate and growing moreso as the season continued. She couldn’t return home without a secure future.

In truth she couldn’t return home at all. Mother and Giles tried to assure her that Father wouldn’t mind, but they all knew the truth. He’d grumbled for months about the expense of a London season, the uselessness of daughters, and even the size of her dowry, although none of that came directly from him. God bless her grandfather who had left her a decent dowry when he died. Without it, who knows what her father would have set aside for her?

Mr. Camden Theodore was saying something about country estates and the seclusion from Town, but Bianca could barely make out the words over the pounding of her heart and the constant litany of dance steps running through her mind.

They couldn’t afford much time with a dance master, so Bianca had been left to practice with her brother and their generous neighbor, Lord Braidstone. Landon. Bianca swallowed a sigh as she kicked her skirt clear of the next intricate step. She strained her ears to hear the music over the loud talking around her and the fears screaming in her mind.

She brought her thoughts back to Landon. He always had a calming effect on her. Such a mixed blessing. He’d been part of every significant moment in her life, another older brother ready to tease her one moment and rescue her the next.

But he’d ruined any chance she had for marital bliss.

The dance ended and Bianca dropped into a curtsy, looking up at Mr. Theodore through her lashes. She tried to picture him as her husband, but the effort was futile. She couldn’t imagine a cozy dinner at home with his flat eyes across the table or a quiet stroll through the countryside with his constant stream of boasts and gossip as the only conversation.

That may be her life, though.

“Don’t you agree?” he asked with a pat of her hand as he led her from the dance floor.

Bianca smiled. Was the panic reaching her eyes? Because she had no idea what to say and couldn’t blindly agree to a question, not when it was entirely possible he’d asked something crucial to her future happiness. The man spoke often of expediency and efficiency. He might have asked her to marry him on the dance floor to save him a trip to her house.

How to get out of this? “I am parched. Do you think they have lemonade?”

His face screwed up in a frown, the only expression that ever reached his eyes. “Of course. You had a glass before we danced. We missed the first song if you’ll remember.”

A delaying tactic that had caused her to spend more time in his company instead of less. “I had forgotten. It must be the heat. Quite a crush tonight, is it not?”

They reached her mother and Bianca gracefully slid her hand from his elbow, restraining the urge to wipe her glove on her gown. She didn’t want to mar the precious light green silk. It was the only evening gown of color that Mother had allowed.

“I am sure that Mr. Julian can see to –“ His frown darkened. “What are you doing here?”

Bianca spun her head so fast her neck twinged in protest. Mr. Theodore had obviously been expecting his friend, Mr. Julian, to be waiting to claim her for the next dance. Joy, relief, trepidation, and speculation warred for prominence in Bianca’s midsection as she took in the welcome sight of Landon’s tall form standing beside her beaming mother.

Landon raised his brows and looked around as if wondering what wasn’t painfully obvious about his intentions. His brown eyes smiled at her as he brought his gaze back to her. “I’m here to claim Miss Caulfield for the next set.”

“But Julian –“ Mr. Theodore stumbled to a halt.

Mother waved her hand in the air. “Mr. Julian was here, but I sent him to fetch me a glass of lemonade. It is so dreadfully warm in this crush, isn’t it?”

Bianca tried to contain her giggle, but it escaped in an inelegant sputter through her lips. She coughed to hide the embarrassing sound, but ended up sounding like a sick cow as the cough and giggle mingled in her throat.

Landon grinned. “Are you well?”

“Yes, quite.” Bianca forced her lips to curve. Hopefully it looked like a smile. Ice. Brisk breezes. Swimming in the lake at the first sign of Spring. She willed the chilly thoughts to keep the heat of a blush away. Her neck grew warm, but her cheeks remained mercifully cool.

“Shall we?” Landon offered his arm.

Bianca pinched herself as she placed her hand on his elbow. She’d danced countless times with him at home, but never had he asked her at an actual event. He claimed she should keep her dances free for the men vying for her hand and attentions.

Oh how it hurt that he didn’t number himself among those men.

The music started and they bowed to each other. It was a simple dance, one she’d done since she was a girl, which allowed her to focus on her partner. Her handsome, kind, intelligent partner.

He leaned his head down as they stepped between the other couples. “I’ve heard the singer at Vauxhall is quite good.”

Bianca felt a blush threaten her ears. What would he do if she ran her fingers through his dark hair? “I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing her yet.”

“Perhaps we should go then.”

They circled around the other couples in their group until they made it to the end of the line, where they stood facing each other. Bianca was floating. Did he actually want to escort her to Vauxhall? Was he finally seeing her as something other than a younger sister? Her prayers must be working.

Landon smiled across the way at her. “What do you think? Shall we make a party? I’m sure your brother would like to go. Is there someone special you would like me to invite?”

Bianca blanched. He couldn’t mean what she thought he meant. “Special?”

“Yes.” He stepped forward and grasped her hand as they reentered the dance. “Please, anyone but Mr. Theodore. I can’t abide the fellow.”

Bianca tripped over a simple step and stumbled into Landon’s side.

“Oh!” she cried as she righted herself, only to find herself adjusting too much and crashing into the woman on her right.

Landon gripped her arm and righted her with a small laugh. “We’ll simply focus on the dancing for now, hmm? Just like old times.”

“Just like old times,” she said with another cheek torturing smile.

He gave her a brilliant smile as the dance concluded, congratulating her as he always did. And Bianca’s heart broke.

 

The next morning Bianca doodled nonsense on a piece of writing paper, staring out the drawing room window. The Season was nearly half over. Announcements appeared almost daily in the Times. Mother tried not to look worried, but occasionally Bianca found the paper with a name or two circled and she knew another man her mother had hoped to match her with had found someone else.

She was starting to get desperate. Was she to be forced to settle for the first available option? In truth it appeared she was only to have one option. And did it really matter? The man she loved didn’t love her and didn’t see her as marriage material. Only time, God’s grace, and determination were going to make her love her husband. Even then she doubted it would be a passionate love like the couple in Song of Solomon.

At least half of what she’d read in that book of the Bible was beyond her understanding, but it had sounded wildly thrilling and made her think constantly of Landon.

“Lord Braidstone to see you, miss.”

Bianca’s gaze flew to the maid. Landon never called for her.

And then he was there, his large frame filling the doorway, his brown eyes twinkling and a small smile on his lips. His chestnut hair curled where his hat had been and her fingers itched to smooth it down.

“Good morning.” He entered the room and sat in the chair beside her writing desk.

“What are you doing here?” The abruptness of her question made Bianca wince.

“I came to finish our conversation. Giles said you have no fixed engagements for this evening so it seemed a fine time to go to Vauxhall.”

Oh yes, the trip to the Gardens. His curiosity about whether or not she had someone special to invite. “Yes. That would be a fine idea.”

“Have you thought of anyone we should include in the party?” He settled further back in his chair. “Anyone but Mr. Theodore.”

What was wrong with Mr. Theodore? Other than his obvious similarity to all of the other unappealing obsessively ambitious young men she’d met in London. “I’m afraid he’s the only one.”

He surged from the chair and began to pace. “You cannot seriously be contemplating marriage to that man. He’s cruel. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. He cares nothing for his horses, works his staff to the bone, and neglects any and all things Godly. More often than not he leaves the club foxed. You cannot marry him.”

Bianca stood with a frown, resignation pooling in her heart. “Which makes him very similar to half the other men I’ve met in London. He hasn’t asked yet, but he is the only one who potentially will. I hope he does. I don’t have any other choice.”

“You could go home.”

Bianca smiled sadly into Landon’s eyes. The hesitant way he’d said the sentence proved he knew how harsh Father’s welcome would be if she returned home unwed. He’d declare her a failure and doom her to a miserable secluded spinsterhood.

“Well, there must be someone.”

Her hand looked small as she reached out to touch his arm and stop his pacing. Her broken heart reached out to him. A pseudo-brother with no acceptable means of aiding her. It must be a difficult position for him. “There’s no one else. If Mr. Theodore asks, I will have to consent. He has an estate in the country. I believe he would be content to leave it for me to run in his absence. With the title, he’ll require children. I would be happy to have children.”

Landon’s frowned darkened. He wrapped his hands around her upper arms and looked deep into her eyes. “You can’t marry him.”

He crossed to the window, muttering quietly to himself. Was he naming and excusing other men? She didn’t even recognize some of the names. Shame coursed through Bianca until it weakened her legs and she fell back into her seat. Even Landon, with all of his connections and social status couldn’t think of a decent man who would be interested in marrying her.

“I have no other options.” Bianca smiled at him as best she could, but she’d never been able to hide from Landon. He would see her sadness, feel her resignation, and there was nothing she could do about it.

“Yes you do.” He spun from the window, his mouth pressed into a line of resolve. “You can marry me.”

To be continued… Part 2 of Saving Miss Caulfield 

Interesting Options for Setting Reading Goals… and Why You Should

From expanding your vocabulary to boosting your brain activity to just being downright entertaining, reading has a plethora of benefits.

BooksTabletThis is the time of year when most people decide on what changes to make in their life and what they want to accomplish in the coming year. If reading more is anywhere on your resolution list, you might want to consider setting a solid goal for yourself.

If reading isn’t on your list anywhere, I refer you back to the first sentence of this article for reasons why it should be.

Here are a few ideas for setting and reaching a reading goal:

 

By Stephan Brunker from Wikimedia Commons

1. Set a Number

This is a pretty common, traditional way to set a reading goal. Do you want to read 20 books this year? 52? 100? Maybe you don’t read much and just want to increase to reading a book a month.

Whatever your number is, make sure it’s reasonable. If you take weeks to finish a book, don’t shoot for 100.

 

Help for Achieving Number Goals:

* Track your reading on a site/app like Goodreads or Shelfari. Pick your favorite book tracking site and log your reading. This will make it easier to remember what you’ve read.

Set your reading goal on Goodreads to keep track of it.
Set your reading goal on Goodreads to keep track of it.

* Make a sticker chart. Remember those charts when you were a kid? You got gold stars for anything and everything your teacher or parent could think of rewarding you for. Your inner child probably still finds some satisfaction in those gold stars. Print out a chart with a spot for each book you want to read. Then mark it off with a sticker when you finish it.

2. Expand Your Genres

Maybe numbers aren’t a problem. You’re constantly reading, but most if not all of those books fall into the same general genre. You might consider setting a non-fiction goal or an out-of-the-norm novel goal.

Help for achieving genre expansion goals: 

* You can set a ratio goal such as one non-fiction book for every three novels. One caution on this one: I tried this about three years ago and I ended up not reading anything for months because I was struggling so badly to get through the non-fiction book I’d chosen. Don’t let that happen to you.

* Consider joining a book club. If you join a monthly book club and commit to reading whatever book they are reading, it will pull you out of your comfort genre and make you try other things. Plus you’ll get he camaraderie of a book club. Try googling book clubs in your area or search for one on The Book Club Network. Goodreads also has a large assortment of online book clubs. You can also google online book clubs by specific genre you are hoping to expand into.

3. Use a Non-numeral Gauge

Maybe numbers aren’t your thing. You might have trouble grasping your progress on a numeral scale. Join Jon Acuff on his Empty Shelf Challenge. The concept is fairly simple. Empty out a bookshelf and read until you’ve filled it back up again. There’s even a Pinterest support group.

The empty shelf challenge on pinterest
The Empty Shelf Challenge on Pinterest

What are the benefits to this? You’re in a group with people of various reading speeds. Some are doing audio books, others are putting eBooks on a virtual shelf. Some are already on book five while others are still working on book one. Some devour non-fiction self-enrichment books while others read business books and still others almost exclusively read novels.

Unlike a normal book club, people are reading whatever they want, so you might get some good book recommendations. I know I have.

Other non-numeral challenges can be found on places such as Goodreads. Some I’ve seen in the past year:

* The Rainbow Challenge: Where your book covers have to make a rainbow OR books with the colors of the rainbow in the title.

* The State Challenge: Read books set in each state.

* The Dewey Decimal Challenge: For the non-fiction lover, read a book for each fifty number chunk of the Dewey Decimal system.

4. Use a Timer

Maybe all you really want or need is to make reading a priority in your life. Set aside a time to read every day. Thirty minutes, fifteen, maybe even an hour. Don’t worry about how many books you get through, just enjoy the time and benefits of reading.

 

Are you setting a reading goal?

If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out any of the books on our Inspirational Regencies list, particularly those by your favorite Regency Reflections author. You can also look back through our December posts for some recommendations on traditional regencies. And keep an eye on this blog throughout the year as we tell you about more great Regency-set books.

Looking for something outside the Regency? Two of our authors just published a couple of non-Regency books that will still warm your heart and given you an enjoyable read. Check them out.

The Love of Reading in the Young

The beauty of books is that they can transport you anywhere and anytime. During the Regency (and indeed many, many years before and after) reading was a past time enjoyed by the whole family.

Before television and radio became the focus of family entertainment, books had the ability to share stories and start conversations. We’ve talked before on this blog about books, including how they were bought or borrowed during the Regency and how we fell in love with reading in the first place.

This past week, I’ve been privileged to see a love of reading blooming in younger generations. My eldest daughter is starting to enjoy the story complexity of longer, chapter-style books while my youngest son had begun carrying picture books around in case a lap becomes available. A teenager I work with recently asked me for a list of author suggestions as she transitions from YA books. As a book lover myself, I get excited to see children and teens finding the same love.

Books are the perfect place for young, creative minds to grow. They realized this even in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This is when the children’s book as we know it began to exist.

Illustrated books with two to six lines of writing on each page appeared in the late 1700s. John Newbury, who is honored annually in America with the Newbury Medal, began publishing these happy books to fill a growing need in children’s literature.

By the Regency, children’s books became more involved, more targeted. Some even had movable parts, such as an illustrated dolls head or arms moving.

Perhaps it was this surge in the idea of children’s literature that propelled the success of the Grimm Brothers. Late in the Regency, the Grimm Brothers began publishing their collections of German folklore. They were very popular in England as children fell in love with Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin.

In August we celebrated Jane Austen and the role she played in the modern romance. It is interesting to know how much modern children’s literature was influenced by authors from the time as well.

What was your favorite children’s book? Were you a lover of fairy tales?