Tag: Inspirational Regency

What’s the Deal with Almack’s? by Susan Karsten

An exclusive venue, in the true meaning of the word “exclusive” (as in exclude!), Almack’s required membership fees (called subscriptions) and had a powerful doorkeeper.

Lady Jersey, a famous Almack's Patroness, via Wikimedia Commons
Lady Jersey, a famous Almack’s Patroness, via Wikimedia Commons

A committee of high-born ladies, known as patronesses, further added to the exclusivity factor. They controlled access to tickets and, therefore, who could enter the prized environs.

Though it cost money to get in, money alone didn’t guarantee entry, nor did birth status. Other factors considered were: wit, beauty, careful dressing, being a good dancer, or simply having good taste might tip the scales in your favor.

The despotic patronesses held weekly meetings to select attendees. Once “in”, there were still strict rules which had to be followed, or you risked being turned away. You must arrive on time, properly dressed.

Interior of Almack's via Wikimedia Commons
Interior of Almack’s via Wikimedia Commons

Six or seven patronesses ran Almack’s. Lady Jersey, daughter and wife of earls, was a chatterbox heiress, strictly maintained the cachet of the club. Lady Sefton, married to an earl, considered more amiable, was a renowned society hostess in her own right. Lady Cowper, know for her with, tact and affability, was known to smooth over quarrels. Formidable Lady Castlereagh, Icy Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, ruthless Countess Lieven, and spiteful Princess Esterhazy round out the committee.

It almost makes one not want to even try to gain entrance. Do you think you’d have made the cut? (fantasy here!)

Originally posted 2014-08-07 10:00:00.

Men’s Regency Hair Styles, by Susan Karsten

Hi, Susan Karsten here!

Grecian influence held sway over the men’s hairstyles (as it did for women as well). Short hair prevailed for men during the Regency. Many wore their hair natural, parts were not popular. But the fashionable set wore one of the following hairstyles.

Windswept:

 

Brutus: As popularized by Beau Brummel

Titus:

 

Coup au Vent: This modern hairdresser is doing a style that is very close to what my research describes!

Cherubin:

Which one’s your favorite? Are they what you’d imagined?

Originally posted 2014-06-19 10:00:00.

What on Earth is Calf’s Foot Jelly? by Susan Karsten

Calf's foot jelly

If you’ve done a significant amount of reading of regency fiction, you’ve come across a female character taking calf’s foot jelly to an invalid, usually someone poor. It was thought to be exceeding nutritious, but that is not necessarily true, according to my research. It was a thrifty, economizing concoction, made from a leftover part of a beef.

Calf’s foot jelly has two forms: sweet, common in 19th-century Britain and America, and savoury–called petcha, a standard of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking. Both dishes start with a long braise of split cow’s feet. The latter (for a sickroom concoction) adds garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and usually retains the meat that falls from the feet; the former (for a dessert) adds sugar, Madeira wine, brandy, cinnamon and citrus, and discards the meat. In both cases the stock is chilled until it sets, and the fat that rises to the top is skimmed.

The key component of both is collagen–a protein found mainly in connective tissue, in which feet abound. Collagen makes meat tough, but it also makes the same cut, after stewing, silky and rich. Smart cooks have long begged chicken feet from the butcher: they give chicken soup extra body. Hot, collagen imparts richness; chilled, it turns to gelatin.

To boil it down/summarize: Stock made by boiling a calf’s foot in water; which sets to a stiff jelly on cooling. It consists largely of water and gelatin, so is of little nutritional value.

Note: The New Female Instructor strongly advises against the addition of wine when the jelly is to be used for an ill person. Lemonade was often given to an ill-person along with barley water and tea.

To the readers, have you come across this, and wondered? To the fellow-Regency writers, have you ever included a character delivering this to a poor sick person?

104_2304Susan Karsten, regency blogger, author

Originally posted 2014-05-22 09:00:00.

Heroine Rescued from Fruitless Vanity by Regency Hero! “A Heart’s Rebellion”

Lovely heroine, Jessamine Barry, daughter of a vicar no less, is tempted, and gives in to vanity when she allows a flattering knave to draw her away from her standards.

A Heart's RebellionYou may have noted my journalistic headline-style title, and the 30 word summary with which I started this post. I don’t know if I got your attention, but the book “A Heart’s Rebellion” got my attention as a wonderful read. And since it has simmered in my heart and mind for a few weeks, a marvelous truth-filled spiritual theme has surfaced from the book’s delight-filled sea of lavish plot, setting, and characterization.

The hero, Lancelot Marfleet, is a Christlike man.  However, he is not deliciously handsome like so many romance heroes. But from Scripture, we learn that our Lord himself was not particularly attractive or handsome:

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him,

nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”  

Isaiah 53:2 

The heroine is Jessamine Barry, who sidetracks onto a tangent of worldliness, seeking satisfaction in being admired by a man…any man.

She reminds me of Folly, a name which could be used for Jessamine as she leaves her family home for the bright lights of London. She also discards the teachings of her youth:

“The wisest of women builds her house, but Folly with her own hands tears it down.” Proverbs 14:1

Lancelot, in his Christlike way, shows grace to Jessamine, is patient, long-suffering, and kind, even when she is not.  He ultimately rescues her from her sin and gives her a way out.  He draws her to himself in love and completely saves her.  For me, this chain of events makes this book even more worthwhile for the picture of redemption shown through the character of Lancelot.

To celebrate the release of A Heart’s Rebellion, author Ruth Axtell will be giving away two copies of her book. The first giveaway ended Monday, March 24 at midnight, and the second ends Monday, March 31 (today) at midnight. To enter the giveaway, answer the following question in the comments below:

Giveaway Question: The hero in A Heart’s Rebellion, Lancelot Marfleet, has a hobby, which is botany. What is a famous botanical garden in London, which existed in regency times?

Also, If you’ve read the book, did you notice any other Christlike attributes of the hero? I’d love to read your comments on this post, Thanks for your time, Susan Karsten

 

Originally posted 2014-03-31 02:00:00.

It’s The Season for New Releases

Fans of Inspirational Regencies, rejoice! It’s time to welcome the new crop of romances, ready to whisk you away to the early 19th century.

Axtell_HeartRebellionOver the next six weeks we will be celebrating four new titles. That’s right, four! I hope you are as excited about that as we are. Prepare for giveaways, trivia questions, author interviews, and more.

Thursday, we’ll kick things off with a look at Ruth Axtell’s new book, A Heart’s Rebellion.

Naomi Rawlings The Soldier's SecretIn April, take a closer look at The Soldier’s Secrets by Naomi Rawlings, The Husband Campaign by our good friend Regina Scott, and Laurie Alice Eakes’ newest, A Lady’s Honor.

Mark your calendars, subscribe to the blog, and tell your friends because you do NOT want to miss this amazing celebration!

 

Regina Scott The Husband CampaignHow to win the prizes: 

1. Come to the blog.

2. Answer the trivia question. (Or comment if no trivia is available that day.)

Laurie Alice Eakes A Lady's HonorIt’s just that easy! The promotion and open contest dates will run as follows:

March 20 – 31 ~ A Heart’s Rebellion by Ruth Axtell. Contest closes April 2.

April 3 – 14 ~ The Soldier’s Secrets by Naomi Rawlings. Contest closes April 16.

April 17 ~ The Husband Campaign  by Regina Scott. Contest closes April 20.

April 21 – May 1 ~ A Lady’s Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes. Contest closes May 4.

Are you excited about these amazing books? All are currently available for preorder. Check individual author websites for more details.

Originally posted 2014-03-17 10:00:00.

A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (Part 2) ~ by Susan Karsten

A Proper Prodigal (Part 2)

A Regency Short Story ~ by Susan Karsten

 Upon awakening the next morning Virginia lay back with her fingertips laced behind her head. She’d just woken up from a dream. One of those that replayed again and again. A good dream, though. In it, she danced the night away with a tall man. A man who looked like Quentin Ashleigh.

A tap on the door signaled the maid with a breakfast tray, she and her mother having decided in advance to breakfast in their own rooms. The kitchen maid placed the tray on the bedside table. Next, to her surprise, a housemaid entered with a large bouquet of flowers.

“Where would ye like this put, Miss?” The maid staggered under the ungainly weight of the large display.

“Over there.” Virginia pointed to a table near the window. “Please hand me the card, Ruthie.”

Savoring the moment, she waited to open it. When both maids left, she propped and fluffed her pillows, then smoothed her hair, before prying open the envelope’s seal.

 ‘As you have danced your way into my affections, I would like to see you today. A walk in the Primrose Hall gardens perhaps? I shall call at two. Fondly, Quentin Ashleigh, Esq.’

Virginia’s hands flew up to her warm cheeks. Oh my, a beau! Nothing I ever expected here in Beckston. I’d anticipated withering away on the shelf without a backward glance. No sooner do I submit my life completely to the Lord and he brings me a man. This time, maybe a good one. The one intended for me.

There was no doubt in her mind Quentin was interested. She’d been plagued by boys and men since she was thirteen. Her looks drew them like flies and made her a target. Oh, it was sometimes fun to get the attention, but mostly it was a bother, finding a way to let them down without bruising their amour proper.

It wasn’t until Randall came her way that she succumbed to any of them. Why did it have to be? Why couldn’t Randall have aimed his potent brand of seduction at another beautiful girl? Providence could be a hard pill to swallow, but the whole experience had brought her to a place where she threw herself on the Lord’s mercy. She’d truly put it behind her. Praise the Lord the world didn’t know of her fall.

 ***

  He spotted her. She was sitting on a garden bench under an arbor, a portrait of feminine loveliness. “The maid sent me around – told me you were out here.”

Quentin picked up her hand and kissed the air above it.  He held her hand longer than necessary, then caught himself and dropped it as if scalded. “Sorry, I lost track of my mind, I mean my thoughts. For a moment.”

What a buffoon I am. Seeing her in the light of day had thrown him. He knew she was a pretty girl, but daylight revealed her true exquisiteness. Never mind that her intelligent wit and charm drew him – she was also a diamond of the first water. He hoped she wasn’t above his touch.

“I thank you for the flowers. Roses are my favorite. How did you guess?” She tapped his arm with her fan. Thank you, Lord, she’s flirting like she likes me.

“They are my favorite as well, and our succession house had some beauties in bloom. I couldn’t think of a better place for them than to grace your vicinity.”

There. That should make up for my earlier cloddishness. The combination of her lithe yet lush figure, dark glossy long hair, classic features, and soft brown eyes caused him to go silent, wanting only to drink in the sight of her.

“Shall we walk the garden paths?” She began to rise from the bench, and he slipped his hand under her elbow to assist.

“I’d love to go down the garden path with you, Miss Mortimer.” This sally brought a delightful fluttering of her eyelashes, a delicate hand to her bosom, and a smile perking the corners of her mouth. Be still my heart. She likes me so far. Good, that’s a start.

She placed her hand on his proffered forearm, and they strolled off. Quentin noticed she was just the right height for him. Not too short or too tall. He liked that.

“This is the herb garden. Mother and I make medicines and so forth with some of these plants.” She broke off a stem of rosemary, rubbed it, and passed it close in front of his face.

“My yes, I can see, I mean smell, that would be quite medicinal, Miss Mortimer.”

“Let’s go to the fountain. It’s over there.” They moved off in another direction and were soon out of sight of the house. “We should stay closer to the house, but you must see the fountain first. I think you’ll like the inscription.”

“I love inscriptions.” Quentin wanted to say ‘I love you,’ but held his smitten tongue.

“Ah, here it is.” He struck an orator’s pose and read from the fountain’s rim, “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. A Proverb.”

“Apropos, don’t you think?” She looked up to him, as if he held the key to wisdom.

Dropping his self-mocking pose, he grasped for a response. “Apropos? The whole of Scripture is that, Miss Mortimer.”

“I have a request, sir.” She turned from perusing the fountain to face him.

Oh no. This sounds serious. Have I spoiled it?

“Since we are going to be friends, might you call me Virginia, and I call you Quentin?”

“Indeed. Yes, that would be fine.” He almost choked with relief. She’s going to be my friend? How sweet. He’d be her best friend if she’d let him.

They moved back onto the main path and toward the house. Her parents were standing on a terrace off one of the rooms on the west side of the house. Mr. Mortimer waved. Disappointed their idyll appeared to be at an end, Quentin comforted himself that he’d made wonderful progress, both in getting to know Virginia, and in gaining her favor.

“Hello, Mr. Ashleigh. Won’t you come inside before tea? I want to show you a folio I just added to my collection.” Mr. Mortimer hooked his thumbs in his vest pockets.

Mrs. Mortimer waved Quentin on. “That’s quite fine. We’ll see you back out here for tea in a trice, when Mr. Mortimer’s done showing you his new treasure.”

The two men looked over the folio, and Quentin was taken aback when Virginia’s father shoved it in a drawer, and said, “I wanted to speak with you.”

He mustered up his courage, and answered, “How amusing, I wanted to speak with you as well, sir.”

“You first, then, young man.”

“I, sir am a man of thirty years, of good fortune and good repute and I’d like permission to court Miss Mortimer. She’s a real treasure and I must make her my wife. Do I have your permission?”

“My, you’re a blunt one. Charging right to the point, no? I’ll consider it, but there’s something you must know. She’s more fragile than she looks. I mean her spirit. You must promise to value her, never hurt her, and be a valiant champion for her. You see, she needs that, after all.”

After all? What does he mean? “You have my word on that, sir.”

“Good. Since I have your word to prize her happiness, I shall let you proceed. We can discuss settlements another time, after you’ve secured her heart.”

***

Weeks of rides commenced, Virginia always chaperoned by Lizzy, who hovered in the background. A picnic with Annabelle in attendance, dinners and lunches at both Primrose Hall and Fairbrook took the couple to the point of knowing their minds.

On a warm afternoon, Quentin found Virginia alone in the garden when he came to call. “Hallo! The maid told me where you were.”

She watched his approach, drinking in the good looks of this man who’d become so dear. Finding true love came as such a surprise, but her secret made her sad. The time had come to tell Quentin the truth about her. She couldn’t let him propose, which she sensed imminent, without knowing all about her.

“Virginia, you must know that I have something I must ask you.”

He looked down at the ground, and suddenly she knew the time had come. He was going to drop to one knee. Forestalling him, she held up a hand face out. “Before you do, I have something I must tell you.”

A shadow passed across his face. The poor man, he probably thought she was about to let him down easy. The silly man, she’d go to the ends of the earth with him, if she could. “Sit here.” She patted the bench.

Hating what she had to say, she forced out the words. “I must inform you that I was taken from here by a cad, and cruelly mislead. The good Lord saw fit to restore me to my home without anyone else finding out about my shame. Before you say anything more, I need you to decide whether you can see past this blot on my maidenly escutcheon.”

“Say no more. This must be heartbreaking for you and your parents. But I see no stain on you, my lovely. God doesn’t either, since you’ve certainly repented, correct?” He put his arm around Virginia’s shoulders and lifted her chin with his other hand.

“Of course I have, but this society of ours – so harsh on a woman who errs, and giving a blind eye to the sin of the males. Never have thought that fair.” She shuddered and Quentin gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

A tear rolled down her cheek and she let it fall, not caring a whit about hiding her sorrow. “Don’t rush into this. Take the night to think it over. Make sure you can forget.”

“Darling, now I must tell you a secret. The reason my sister and I moved to the country, is that she was seduced and abandoned. Removing from society seemed best at the time. The fact that I fought a duel over her lent urgency to our departure. And I’m glad we did, because that led me to you, darling Virginia.”

In one smooth move, he went down, not on one knee, but on two. Before Virginia could get out a word of protest, he asked her to be his wife.

“My dear. I would be highly honored if you would grace my life with your presence all my days. Nothing would make me happier than to settle down with you and enjoy our life together, come what may. Say you’ll be mine?”

She couldn’t resist his dark blue eyes beseeching up at her. “I will. And I will never disappoint you. I’ll always be your proper prodigal.”

The End.

Dear readers, nay, I shall call you friends…I’d love to hear your comments! Thank you for reading this, my first Regency short story. Susan Karsten

Originally posted 2014-03-06 10:00:00.

A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (part 1) ~ by Susan Karsten

 

 “Miss Virginia!” The dubious butler called – nay bellowed – her name.

Virginia Mortimer jumped at the stentorian tones. She’d asked for the summons, but it hadn’t been necessary. It seemed she’d hardly slept at all. She’d been up and dressed for the last hour.

She took a last glance around the plush bedroom. How elegant it had seemed the night she arrived. In the light of what had transpired over the last few weeks, it looked tawdry now – faded and dusty in the dawn light now shafting through the windows.

The hackney must be here to take her to the posting inn. To ride a public stagecoach home to Primrose Hall would serve as only the latest indignity of her headlong fall from grace

On the floor, half under the bedside table, the corner of a book caught her eye. She reached for it, not wanting to leave a trace of herself behind. It was a slim leather-bound book, given to her by her parents. Stamped in gold letters on the front was the word ‘Psalter’. She jammed it into her capacious reticule.

Only then did she turn to the door, square her shoulders and respond to the odious butler. “I’m coming!”

The cad who’d brought her to this nadir was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t care to say ‘good bye’ and her departure wouldn’t matter to him when he stumbled in from another night of carousing.

The butler eyed her valise, but made no move to assist, but simply opened the door. No pretense of respect, he closed the door as she humped her own valise down the scrubbed white steps. She rummaged in her reticule, and handed a note to the driver before hiking her skirts and launching herself awkwardly into the hackney. The hackney gave a lurch, and she was on her way home. Back to the small village of Beckston to face her parents’ recriminations and her future as a ruined maiden.

Though the day was sunny, a high wind blew swirls of gray smoke down into the dusty inn yard where she waited, clutching her cloak about her and hoping her large bonnet hid her face. She wondered what the chances were that someone of her village would be making this same journey.

When the coach arrived, she was the first passenger to board. One by one, others entered the coach. She held her breath as each passenger mounted, letting it out when she recognized no familiar face. What would the grim-faced soldier, the plain lady in the depressing bonnet, or the elderly clergyman think of her if they knew what she really was, and that she was slinking home in shame?

Only two months ago, when she slipped out during the night, she’d left her childhood behind, naively thinking she knew better than her parents. She’d believed Lord Beckwith’s son Randall loved her and would do right by her, no matter what her mother and father said to the contrary.

Virginia had noticed Randall for the first time at the Beckwith’s annual picnic at their country estate outside Beckston.  He must have been down from Cambridge. The local gentry were invited for the day, which began with competitive games on the lawn for entire community, followed by a picnic. The gentry then joined houseguests and the noble lords of the manor for an evening dinner and ball inside, while the common folk reveled on outdoors.

Invited with her family to the dinner and ball, she enjoyed the lavish surroundings, and never expected to draw Randall’s attention. From the moment he’d lofted a crumpled note at her she’d been hooked. A note which landed down the front of her bodice. She fished it out, read the words ‘You’re beautiful’ and looked up in surprise to lock eyes with the impossibly handsome young man.

His wavy blond hair, chiseled straight nose, teal-blue eyes and muscular physique caught all the young girls’ fancy, and when he kept paying her, a mere barrister’s daughter,  particular attention, she was sunk.

As the coach rumbled out of the London inn yard, Virginia’s mind shied away from continuing this inward litany of her fall, and instead thought ahead to her arrival home. Her parents’ quick response of ‘yes’ to her note requesting them to allow her to come home came as a relief since she had only a few coins and nowhere else to go. Beyond that, she didn’t know what to expect of her homecoming.

***

Hours later, her mother sailed toward her with open arms. “Darling, you’re home!” Hugs, pats on the back, and murmurs of welcome caused the tears to flow. Virginia vowed right then and there never to disregard her parents’ wishes again. They had tried to tell her what was best, but she had defied them for Randall and his false promises.

She drew away from her mother’s embrace and girded herself to look her parents in the eye. “Mother – Father, how can I thank you? I am so sorry. How could I have been so blind, so foolish?” Fresh gales of tears followed.

“We forgive you, Virginia.”  Her father’s gentle tone only served to make her feel more quilty. “Here, you must be chilled to the bone. Put this on.” Her father moved around behind her and laid a fur-lined robe across her shoulders. “A little homecoming gift.”

How forgiving they were. In fact, they acted as if nothing had changed and Virginia’s flight of passion hadn’t ever occurred.  Mother led her to her old room upstairs, and Father trailed behind with her valise.

A dreamlike state swept over Virginia – how unreal to be back in her frilly, maidenly girlhood bedroom with its narrow bed, after the shameful deeds she’d done. Defying, sneaking away, rebelling outright and allowing herself to be deceived by a seducer.

“Put your things away, dear, and then come down for supper. We have a surprise for you.”

Virginia used the pretty china pitcher and bowl on the washstand to freshen up after the dusty travel. She’d left in London the lavish wardrobe Randall gave her. But here were all the dresses she left behind, hanging in the white-painted wooden wardrobe. How soft, simple, and demure the pale-colored muslin dresses appeared. Do I even have the right to dress as a maiden?

She had no one to hold responsible but herself. Taught from childhood to be pure, Virginia threw that teaching to the wind on the basis of a few kisses and compelling whispered words, and then allowed young love’s passion to take control. Yes, Randall was the instigator, but she alone chose sin, her own conscience told her that.

She picked a pink and white dress with a silk ribbon sash, and shimmied it over her head. Her parents must have dismissed her maid when she left, and she had to shift for herself, for now at least. She stood in front of the mirror, tying the sash into a bow, then turning it to the back. The high-waisted dress was almost too flattering to her young figure. She didn’t deserve to look so young and pretty anymore.

She sat down at the dressing table and picked up her silver-backed brush, scraping her long, glossy brown hair back into a tight chignon, wishing she could bind her sinful past as easily. But the relentless door to the future stood open, and she had to walk through.

***

“You look charming, my dear girl.” Virginia’s father pulled a chair out for her to sit at the intimate family table.

“Yes, not a day older than when you left.” Mrs. Mortimer beamed upon her daughter.

“Dear, don’t talk about that yet, let Virgie have her favorite dinner first.” He lifted the cover off a roast of beef, surrounded by potatoes and vegetables and a ring of parsley clusters.

“You’re too good to me. I don’t deserve this.” Virginia lifted her index finger to wipe away a tear.

“Remember, God’s love never fails. And we want to be like Him. Love covers a multitude of sins. His love and ours.” Mr. Mortimer laid his hand on her shoulder.

“Now let’s pray.” He bowed his head. “Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for bringing our daughter home. Thank you for this food, In Jesus Name, Amen. There, now we can eat.”

***

“But Father, we can’t have a party. A celebration for my return? How will I face the neighborhood?” They’d moved across the hall after dinner to the drawing room, where a fire crackled in the hearth.

“As far as anyone here knows, you’ve been visiting an elderly relative in the north. I felt the Lord would forgive a bit of dissembling to protect your name, unsullied, as it were.”

“Yes, we are just so grateful you are back, and none’s the wiser. We’ll just go on as before.” Mrs. Mortimer’s smile became tremulous.

“And, before you ask, we heard Beckwith’s son was given an ultimatum to join the army, else be shipped off to the West Indies to manage a plantation. He got into a duel in London and won’t be back here.  He’s probably landed on the continent by now. As a younger son, he won’t be needed, either. The eldest two all have well-established nurseries. But enough about that family.”

“Now let’s have a song, Virgie.”

She took her Psalter over to the piano and started riffling through the pages. Settling on one, she began to sing and accompany herself to Psalm 68. “This one reminds me of me.”

“God frees the captive and He sends

The blessedness of home and friends,

And only those in darkness stay

Who will not trust Him and obey.”

She hung her head a moment, then straightened her spine, and turned toward her parents. “Mother, Father, I want to make very clear that I am repentant and have submitted my life to Christ now. I know it’s belated, and you always wanted me to have the Faith. Now I do. It took my fall into the miry pit to bring me to my senses and to throw myself on God’s mercy.”

“We forgive you, don’t we Tansy?” Overjoyed, with tears spilling, Mr. Mortimer looked to his wife.

Mrs. Mortimer’s face lit up, wet with tears of joy, and she responded likewise. “Yes, Harold, we both forgive. Now let it go, dear Virginia. God forgives you too, and you need to move on with your life.”

“I was such a fool to believe Randall. He told me we’d be married, so it didn’t matter because we were in love, and that God knew we were sincere. He never intended to wed me. In fact, he ended laughing in my face, and told me to find my own way home.”

“Such a base seducer will always say anything to achieve his wicked will. Most rakes at least keep hands off well-born maidens. So sorry you had to learn such a hard lesson.” Mrs. Mortimer rose and put her arm around Virginia’s shoulders. “Now come over to the sofa, and let’s plan the party. All our friends will want to celebrate your homecoming with us.

***

Long, quiet days of healing commenced. Virginia helped around the house, doing little chores like peeling apples, mending linens, knitting socks, and helping plan the party her parents insisted on.

Dread flickered in her mid-section every time she thought ahead to the celebration, but she steeled her nerves, not wishing to disappoint her parents. They seemed so hopeful everything could return to how it had been before her disgrace.

Even though her parents thought nobody knew of her shameful fall from grace, Virginia braced herself each time someone came to the house or she ran into someone in the village. What if . . . someone knew something, and spread gossip? She’d hate that, but worse, hate the taint that would fall on her family.

The day of the party arrived. She could put off her preparations no longer. Up she went, to her boudoir, where her maid fussed around, waiting to work her magic.

“Lizzy, I’m so glad you were able to come back to work. I wasn’t gone long, but you could have easily been hired on somewhere else.”

“Miss, glad I am to be back here,” her young tidy maid said with a grin. “The only job on offer whilst ye were gone was at the fishmongers, cleaning fish.”

“Well then, let’s do my hair, and get me dressed. I’ve picked out that ivory taffeta, trimmed in coral.”

Lizzy’s deft hands created a stylish psyche knot.  Virginia approved, tilting her head this way, and that. “I love this style. I should have tried it sooner.” Maybe this party wouldn’t be a disaster. Her heart began to hope.

She stepped into the dress, and the maid fastened it. High waisted, it flattered her figure and whispered when she walked. A filmy fichu of ivory silk filled in the too-low neckline. Styles of the day tended toward the immodest, but Virginia was done with that. The coral cameo necklace her mother brought in earlier that evening complemented her coloring.

 *

“There you are!” Her mother scurried over and grasped Virginia’s elbow as she entered the drawing room where the guests had begun to gather. “You must meet the Ashleighs, from rural Beckston. They are twins, just your age.” Mrs. Mortimer towed her across the room.

Dread of facing the guests took the form of a rock in Virginia’s stomach. But she had no choice, the party had commenced whether she was ready or not.

“Mr. Quentin Ashleigh, Miss Annabelle Ashleigh, this is my daughter Virginia. She has just returned from a lengthy trip visiting relatives.” Mrs. Mortimer performed the introductions then turned and flitted off to greet more new arrivals. Virginia caught a glimpse of her mother’s crossed fingers.

Virginia made small talk with the Ashleigh twins. He had intelligent brown eyes and curly russet hair, and his sister though not identical, had similar coloring. Virginia relaxed and the rock of dread melted away under the bright beam of the twins’ sparkling personalities.

“Miss Mortimer, your mother is a darling, she invited us for tonight when she heard we were newly settled in Beckston.” Annabelle’s curls jiggled along with her words.

“She is a sweet lady, if a daughter’s opinion counts.” Virginia replied, smiling. “Where in rural Beckston do you reside?”

“We just moved to Fairbrook Manor – just a mile or so east of here – my family’s owned it for decades. My sister and I had our fill of London for the time.”

“Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with Fairbrook. One mile out isn’t too inconvenient. For shopping and church and so forth.”

“Not inconvenient at all. I hear there’s to be dancing later, Miss Mortimer, may I have the first dance? Nothing like being first in line.” Quentin’s twinkly dark-blue eyes danced between teasing and sincere, producing a pleasing swirl of enticement affecting Virginia’s equanimity. Was he flirting?

“Certainly. By all means, let me find my dance card. I wasn’t prepared.”

As she walked off to locate the card, Virginia wanted to kick herself for sounding like such a dull pattern card of propriety. She needed balance. Balance between being a frivolous fool and a staunch starchbucket.

She didn’t get back to Quentin with her dance card prior to the time dinner was announced, because she was greeted by old friends every step of the way. For the promenade of precedence into the dining room, she was paired with her elderly vicar Mr. Cranston, a widower in his seventies. As they proceeded, he said, “So glad you’re back from your sojourn. A short visit away can do wonders for the appreciation of home, no?”

Caught by the vicar’s words, she was busy deciphering them, searching for hidden meaning, and didn’t realize until the last moment that she’d been seated next to Quentin. She quashed the spurt of interest that rose up in her, and applied her attention to the vicar on her left. Why then, did her right side feel so aware, so alive?

“Miss Mortimer?” A voice intruded on the one-sided conversation she was having, rather listening to, with the vicar. Mr. Cranston’s avocation involved everything to do with bees, and it appeared he planned to tell her all he knew – tonight, at the table.

So it was with relief that she excused herself from the apiarist, and turned toward Quentin Ashleigh. “If you’d like to ask me anything about bees, I can now answer.”

He chuckled, and laid his index finger against his temple. “Nothing at the moment, but I shall remember to ask, should I need your new-gained knowledge.”

Virginia enjoyed the low-key facetious humor with which he answered, and felt quite amicable toward the young man.

“I wonder, did you bring your dance card to the dining room? You never brought it back for me to sign. Am I too late for the first dance?”

“Oh, no. I promised it. I have the card right here.” She lifted the evening reticule, a small bead-embellished pouch that hung on her wrist. She extracted the card and handed it with its attached pencil, to Quentin.

He took it from her, stroked his chin, and said, “Perhaps you’ll allow me two dances? If that’s not too greedy?” The candlelight gleamed off his hair.

Boggled at the pleasant sensations flooding her at the fellow’s kind, friendly, flirtatiousness, she answered without overthinking. “Yes, and no.”

Confusion played across his face before it gave way to wry humor.

He gave a bark of laughter. “You are quite concise, Miss Mortimer. I like that.”

And she liked him. More and more the weeks in London felt like nothing but a bad dream. Back in the loving climate of Mortimer House, the broken spirit she’d brought home had been replaced by a new heart, ready to live again.

No one had even hinted at a breath of scandal about her. She’d dodged the broad-reaching brush of the gossips and society was none the wiser regarding her fall from moral purity. She let out a grateful relieved breath upon this thought, only to have her attentive tablemate inquire as to her state of mind.

“That was a prodigious breath – almost a sigh. Do tell.”

“Nothing, just breathing, if that’s quite all right.” She quirked a smile his way to soften the string of her abrupt rejoinder.

The lengthy meal ended, and the women departed for the drawing room, the men remaining in the dining room for brandy. When the time came for dancing, Quentin bowed in front of her and they sailed off to join a set of country dances The figures of the dances took them apart, and only allowed moments to converse.

“You are a lovely dancer, Miss Mortimer.” Spoken before he sailed down the line, away from her.

The next time their orbits collided, she answered. “And you are a fine dancer, as well, Mr. Ashleigh.”  They both chuckled at the gap between their brief interchanges, before being swept apart again.

***

 Greetings, dear readers! Any guesses on the outcome here? Will he turn out to be a cad, as well? Leave a comment, please 🙂 Susan Karsten

Originally posted 2014-03-03 10:00:00.

Madeline’s Protector Author Interview

Play our new release contest game, the first post: http://wp.me/p2854H-Jj

To celebrate Madeline’s Protector, we’re running a special week-long contest. Starting today through next Friday, May 3, we’ll feature thought-provoking questions at the end of each post. To enter the contest, you’ll need to supply a thoughtful answer to the question. The grand prize winner at the end of the week will receive a brand new Nook.

But the contest doesn’t stop there. Each day a new post goes up (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) we’ll be giving away mini-prizes for that day only. Here’s a list of the prizes:

Fri, April 26—$10 starbuck’s gift card
Mon, April 29–iTune card
Wed, May 1–$10 Amazon Gift certificate
Fri, May 3—A paperback of Madeline’s Protector.

And that’s not all. If you want to be eligible for a second chance to win the Nook tablet, you need to refer someone else to Regency Reflections. (Note: if you bring someone on over, make sure the other person’s comment mentions that you referred them).

If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment to enter the giveaway, or if you want yet a third chance to enter, you can follow this link and enter the contest once on this site:  https://contest.io/c/8jhitnpz

As part of the launch for Madeline’s Protector, Laurie Alice Eakes interviews the author, Vanessa Riley, for Regency Reflections. At the end, please answer a question to participate in the drawing.

Vanessa Riley photo
Vanessa Riley

RR: What other question to ask a Regency author, but: Why the Regency and not some other time period?

VR: I am a certifiable Regency nut. I’m not sure whether it began from reading Heyer or Austen, or buying tons of Kensingtons. I can’t remember a month going by without reading of a ball or the Ton, or some wonderfully hilarious scandal. For me, no other time period has as much conflict and romance as the Regency: the battle between the classes, the rigor and duty of birthright, the role of honor versus personal choice. All set in the background of war, an industrial revolution, and changes in the role of religion. The Regency is a canvas of bright colors.

RR: What inspired Madeleine’s Protector?

VR: Madeline’s Protector was a dream I had in high school.  I remember having Regency overload. I had just watched Lawrence Olivier’s and Greer Garson’s black and white movie version of Pride and Prejudice, wrote a paper on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and read some new marriage of convenience novel. The dream was vivid, and I wrote it as a short story. Years and years later, I picked up one of my old writing diaries, found the story, and started rewriting it.

RR: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

VR: Writing has always been an escape. I used to love putting pen to paper. Now it’s keys to bang.  I won a few writing awards in high school, and served as an editor to my high school paper. I also served as editor-in-chief to my college magazine.

RR: Is Madeleine’s Protector your first publication including articles, short stories, academic work?

VR: I have a few technical publications about martensitic transformations of metals and rapid prototyping for metallic die-casting. (Laurie Alice, are you still awake? I think I dozed off on that one.)  I won writing awards (poems and essays) in high school, but Madeline’s Protector is my first widely-available public fiction work.

RR: You have a rather impressive curriculum vitae. Tell us about your career outside of writing, and what led you in that direction.

VR: My day job is all about software. My company designs portal software, the kind of software you use when you login in to a member-oriented site or e-Learning. In college, I wrote a number of programs to analyze data or to my organize files. It seems a natural fit to keep writing programs that help make people’s lives better or more organized.

Photo of office for day job
Vanessa’s Day Job Office

RR: Does your more logical career and your more heart-felt writing career mesh or do they conflict?

photo of Vanessa's writing office porch
Vanessa’s Fav Writing Office

VR: I think they mesh well. It’s left brain, right brain activity. The right side is the technical side, structuring code, building programming modules. I also think the technical side helps structure the plot, scene orientation, and writing about mechanical actions like working a flintlock. The left side is meant for escapism. It is the softer side that loves poetry, gourmet cooking, and lots of chocolate. Maybe chocolate goes to both sides. The anti-oxidants in the candy must benefit the technical side

RR: What does your family feel about your writing?

Vanessa Rile and hubby
Vanessa Riley and hubby

VR: My mother is very supportive. She’s always been my first editor. I was a little nervous about letting her read the romantic scenes in Madeline’s Protector. Let’s just say, she didn’t put her red pen on those sections.  My husband has given me the freedom to do the things that bring me joy. He’s very supportive but still doesn’t understand why Lord Devonshire has two names. My daughter sits at a little computer next to me trying to write a book like ‘Mommy’.

Vanessa Riley and Ellen
Vanessa Riley and Ellen

RR: What’s your favorite part of the writer’s journey?

VR: Other than typing ‘the end’ or getting the acceptance letters in the mail, my favorite part is interacting with readers. It’s very humbling listening to how someone is moved by what you wrote or even as she/he asks questions like ‘why did Madeline….’  It shows they are getting into the story, and it lets me know in a small way I’ve advance His story.

RR: As a final note, I wish to add that Vanessa, in her other life, has a Ph.D. from one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

RR Question for the audience: Since you’re visiting here, we will presume that you are interested in the Regency; therefore, please share with us:  What got you interested in the Regency time period?

Originally posted 2013-05-01 05:00:00.

The Romany (Gypsies) in Regency England

Laurie Alice here: Today, I invited Josie Riviera to present the Monday history post, for gypsies, “travelers” as they are called today, have played rolls in many Regency romances over the decades of the genre.

Josie has also offered to give away a copy of her e-book, Seeking Patience. Leave your comment, and let’s talk about your impression of gypsies.

SeekingPatience_CoverNote: Only comments on this post are eligible to win. I will announce the winner when I next post on Regency Reflections on March 15, 2013.

Gadje Gadjensa, Rom Romensa.” This is a Romany (Gypsy) saying that means Gadje with Gadje, Rom with Rom.”
or
“Mashkar le gajende leski shib si le Romenski zor.”
“Surrounded by the gadje, the Rom’s tongue is his only defense.”

So what is a gadje? A gadje in the Romany language means “not one of us.” Many Rom prefer to not allow outsiders (us) into their lives. It’s no coincidence that in my hours, days, and months of researching the Romany for my novels, little information was available. Odd, because the Rom have lived in many places throughout the world for centuries. They’re a widely-traveled people. Yet there is little written history regarding their origins, although recent evidence points to an emigration from India 1500 years ago.

Some believed that The Rom originated in Romania, but they didn’t. “Rom” means “man” in the Romany language.

I believe the reason there is little information available is because the Rom simply prefer it that way. They are a proud people who keep to themselves. And they are nomads, forever on the move, traveling by horse and wagon in caravans. In one of my novels, a bender is described in detail. It is a tent, easily constructed using bendable twigs and any available materials on the side of the road.

The first recorded mention of a Romany in England was 1514.

In England and Wales in the year 1530, King Henry VIII forbid Gypsies from entering the country, and the death penalty was imposed if they didn’t leave within the month. In 1822, the Turnpike Act was introduced, fining any Gypsies camping along the road.

It is no secret that the Rom have suffered persecution, prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination for centuries. The “Gypsy” stereotype includes a criminal, fortune-teller, blacksmith, thief, and musician, a dark-complexioned, shadowy figure. But why do so many of us harbor this unfair prejudice? Perhaps because of the Rom’s nomadic existence, lack of a solid religious belief, and exotic clothes and lifestyle. Their dialect is distinct and related to Sanskrit. Their tradition is oral, for they didn’t have the luxury of building libraries.

I explore many of their beliefs in my novels. One shared by all Rom is cleanliness. Mahrime means unclean or polluted. To avoid mahrime, clothes covering the top half of their body are washed separately from clothes on the bottom. Certain parts of the female body are considered unclean, and doctors are sometimes avoided because they deal with illness. And, a Rom can become polluted by being too close to a gadje.

Beng is a Rom word meaning devil. This evil force continually seeks to dominate a Rom’s life. The dreaded mulo are spirits, always watching, ready to mete out curses and punishments for wrong-doing.

My latest release on Amazon.com, Seeking Patience, is a Regency inspirational romance featuring a half-Romany, half English hero named Luca.

Do people prove their self-worth by strength, or by character?

Luca’s father is an English nobleman, although Luca was raised as a Gypsy. He struggles with his heritage throughout the novel, seeking hope, seeking forgiveness, and yes, Seeking Patience. He is forced to depend on Lady Patience Blakwell, a woman who represents all he loathes. She struggles with her faith, trying to understand why God is not following the plan she had for her life—to be loved and cherished by her husband. After her husband’s unexpected death, her grown stepson charges her with her late husband’s murder.

And Luca must decide whether he should turn away when she needs him, or risk his most vulnerable, forgiving self to keep her safe. By denying his English heritage, has he denied a part of himself?

Seeking Patience: http://tinyurl.com/a9nnbwy

Originally posted 2013-03-04 10:00:00.

A Suitable Match Epilogue and Prize Package Winner!

Thank you for joining us as we celebrate our first year. We had a lot of fun writing A Suitable Match and we hope you enjoyed reading it.

The winner of our fabulous prize package is…

Anne Payne

Congratulations, Anne! We’ll be sending you an email to get your mailing address. We hope you enjoy all your goodies!

Did your favorite man lose the poll? Don’t despair. For those of you who loved Twiford and Ross, we wanted to let you know what happened to them. 

London, England
July 1818

Twiford smiled as he read the letter from his good friend, Chard. It was short, a mere four lines scrawled across the paper to say that Chard had caught up with Cressida at the George and Pelican and they were getting married.

It had nearly killed Chard to wait until after the deadline to pursue Cressida. After burying his uncle, he’d shown up on Twiford’s doorstep, begging his old friend to keep him away from his love until the money was no longer an issue. It had been no easy request. Twiford nearly had to lock Chard in a room to keep him here, but the renewal of their old friendship had been worth two days of playing jailer.

As he refolded the note, running his fingers along the edges to sharpen the creases, Twiford examined his heart for the pain he had though this news would bring.

Much to his relief, there was none. He was truly free of the specter that was his affection for Cressida Blackstone.

When had it faded? Three months ago, pleading his case in a rocking chaise on the road to London, he vowed his love was a bright, burning fire that had withstood three years absence and the devastation of a close friend. Could love that strong die so quickly? Or had he been in error that he loved her at all?

He tossed the letter on the desk and strode from the room. Before the letter arrived, he’d asked to have his curricle readied and brought round. It should be out front by now.

As he shrugged into his greatcoat and donned his hat, it occurred to him that the situation was not as cut and dried as he was trying to make it. His love had been very real, but over the last three months he had gotten to know Cressida – the real Cressida – and discovered that the woman he loved, or thought he loved, wasn’t real. She had changed as much as he had with the passing of years. Over time he’d built her up, given her characteristics and ideologies that weren’t truly a part of her.

The real Cressida was a fine woman and he was glad to consider her a friend. But he didn’t love her. Though he had felt crushed when she rejected him three months earlier, he now felt freed by her honesty and strength. He was glad to know her, but glad not to be bound to her.

The sun glinted off the trim on his curricle as the jangle of harness filled his ears. He settled into the seat with anticipation swirling in his belly. Part of him had wondered, worried, that he still held feelings for Cressida. When Chard’s letter brought nothing but happiness, Twiford knew his heart was free.

He snapped the reins to send his curricle rolling down the street. Now that he knew without a doubt his heart was entirely his own, he knew exactly who he wanted to give it away to.

An overturned flower wagon caused him to pull to a stop. The mess was nearly cleaned up, so he decided to wait. Casting his eyes heavenward, he marveled at how life at come together in a few short months. “Thank you, Lord, for having a better plan than my own.”

The flower seller bemoaned the loss of his merchandise, drawing Twiford’s attention to the last of the flowers strewn across the road. He could probably buy the entire wagonload for a mere pittance. They may be too bruised and broken to sell as bouquets, but they would be quite lovely carpeting the front steps of a London townhome. Calling to the seller, he decided to put his fledgling idea into motion.

There was a young lady a few streets over that loved flowers, sunshine, and curricle rides. As Twiford moved on, a now beaming flower seller following, he prayed the young lady also loved him.

 ***

Ross Ainsworth walked into the solicitor’s office, unsure of what the man would tell him. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted to hear. Had Cressy managed to get married? He’d been by Lady Dove’s house a few days ago and nearly tripped over all the gentlemen vying for her attention. Maybe she’d married one out of desperation. Or maybe she’d traded in on her friendship with Twiford and decided to marry him after all. She certainly hadn’t come knocking on his door.

He wouldn’t blame her either way. Ross knew what it was to be destitute. To wonder where the next meal would come from, if he’d be able to afford shelter for the next week, let alone the next month. Lack of money made people do much stupider things than marry someone they didn’t love. He ran a finger along his scar. Sometimes it made you ruin your life.

Whatever news the solicitor had, it wouldn’t affect Ross overmuch. He and Cressy were family. Marriage wouldn’t change that. The money would be nice, the property even nicer, but he was well enough off now to not be in dire need of either.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Ainsworth. It appears that Miss Blackstone did not meet the requirements of the will. The jewels, property, and money now belong to you.”

Ross shook his head and smiled. Well done, Cressy. He’d prayed she would hold out for love. One thing Ross had learned when he abandoned family and country was that life without love was dismal. The road back and been long and hard, and he was no longer the carefree youth that had thumbed his nose at his grandmother’s concerns. He wished she had been able to see the man he had become.

Business at the solicitor wrapped up quickly and he left a richer man than he’d walked in. What was he going to do now? The truth was he could do anything. He had property and money. He could be a gentleman of leisure. Maybe toss his lot in with the other third tier bachelors in London and try to find himself a wife. With no title and a questionable past he wasn’t as desirable a catch as Twiford or Chard, but he had money and good looks. For some, that would be enough.

But the Season was winding down and the balls and routs held little appeal. He’d suffered the social scene for three months to be near Cressida in case she had a change of heart. He’d been hurt when she didn’t choose him, but God knew what was best. After visiting a few young ladies in Town, he knew that he would be finding his wife elsewhere.

The fact was he was tired of London. He returned to his rooms and began packing. There was somewhere for him to go now. A place he could call home. Being a country gentleman seemed a nice change of pace.

He made the trip in two days, hearing about Chard’s dramatic proposal to Cressida when he stopped to spend the night at The George and Pelican. Settling in was easier than he anticipated, the familiarity of childhood returning to make him feel at home.

Several neighboring gentlemen called to acquaint themselves with the new owner. Some he’d known as a child, but most were new to him. The quieter life away from London suited him immensely. He’d seen too much of the world to be satisfied with the glossy facade of the capitol, though nearby Bath wasn’t much better. The small area where he now lived, though, seemed real, honest. It was a place a man could raise a family to love the Lord and country.

He was walking down the street a few days after returning home, not really looking where he was going, thinking about what God might have in store for him now. His musings were cut short as he accidentally bumped into a group of women leaving the milliner’s shop.

“I beg your pardon!” Ross stooped to collect the fallen packages. When he stood again, he found himself looking into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. They were framed by twin sets of golden ringlets and sprinkling of freckles. There was a seriousness in her eyes that was at odds with the impish smile on her lips.

For the first time in a long while, Ross wanted to buck the strictures of polite society. He wanted to meet this girl, find out how someone could be happy and sad at the same time. But they hadn’t been introduced, and he knew none of the other women in the party.

“Mother,” the girl called, while still looking Ross in the eye. “Are my new gloves damaged? I want to wear them to the dance at the Assembly Rooms tonight.”

Ross raised his eyebrows and fought to keep the grin from his lips.

The young woman’s lips twitched, as if she too were fighting to urge to grin. “Perhaps that young gentleman Father met will be there. A Mr. Ainsworth I believe he said.” She tilted her head in inquiry.

Ross nodded slightly and gave way to the smile he’d been holding back.

The young woman’s mother huffed over and linked arms with her daughter. “You would know more about your gloves than I do, considering the package is in your own hands.” She cast a dark glance a Ross, before shaking her head and giving him a small smile. “And I daresay your father, who went to visit that young man this morning, will be happy to introduce you should he show up at the Assembly Rooms just around the corner with the white brick front.”

Ross nodded at the mother. He watched them walk away before turning and making his own way home, a bit more spring in his step. Yes, indeed, he thought he would like living life in the country.

Thanks for joining us. Did you enjoy A Suitable Match? We’d love to hear your thoughts and invite you to stick around as we go back to our regular blog schedule with history, book highlights, and more fun discussions. Leave us a comment letting us know what you’d like to see this year on Regency Reflections. 

Originally posted 2013-02-27 10:00:00.