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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank you

I've been MIA more often than not due to school, but I remember when we started this blog. I wanted to say thanks to my fellow bloggers and readers for making Historical Hussies so fun to read and write.
Have a great holiday season this year. I believe our love for romance reflects our own love of beauty and belief that love will always triumph.
Thanks again, everyone. I'm thinking of you even when I'm out of the picture.
Jen Childers

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Conversation with Mistletoe

Greetings all, I am Mistletoe. You know me--the green plant with white berries you most often see at Christmas time. My association with Christmas arises because I am an evergreen and will remain green even in the dead of winter, but you can see me all year if you know where to look. Mainly on apple and oak trees.

Most often, people hang me or one of my relatives from chandeliers or above doorways so gentlemen can kiss their sweethearts. Ah, Christmas love. I thoroughly enjoy my role as a Christmas matchmaker.

I enjoy it so much, that I am the hero of Linda Banche’s Mistletoe Everywhere. What, you say? How can a plant be a romance hero? Isn’t Sir Charles Gordon the hero? Well, he thinks he is, but my name is in the title, not his. And I have the pivotal role in the story.

In any event, how can the didactic Charles be the hero? He never again wants to see the lovely Penelope because she jilted him. Or so he says. Meanwhile, according to Penelope, Charles withdrew his marriage proposal after she had accepted. While I have no intention of taking sides, something havy cavy is going on.

Although I am best known as a Christmas fertility symbol, I have another persona as the plant of peace. In medieval times, enemies who met under the mistletoe had to lay down their weapons and call a truce for twenty-four hours. This ceasing of hostilities afforded them a chance to talk out their differences rather than resorting to violence.

Can either of my identities help Charles and Penelope? I flatter myself that I am just the plant to do it. As luck, or perhaps, design would have it, I am on the scene as both fertility symbol and plant of peace in Mistletoe Everywhere.

Let me see if I can reunite Penelope and Charles.

Thank you all,
As told to Linda Banche

Mistletoe Everywhere Available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other places ebooks are sold. See my website ( for complete list of vendors.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Emery Lee: Georgian Gambling

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Emery Lee and her lush, exciting Georgian historical romance, Fortune's Son. Prequel and sequel to her previous book, The Highest Stakes, Fortune's Son is set in the London world of high stakes gambling. Here she talks about the types of gambling popular in the Georgian era.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Fortune's Son which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Emery will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Emery selected is christinebails! Congratulations, Christine, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome Emery!

Emery Lee:

Gambling in all its various forms, from horseraces to cockfights, to cards and dice, and spinning wheels, reached a zenith of popularity in the Georgian age; but wherever large sums of money are staked, there are always those who prey on the unwary. In FORTUNE’S SON, Lady Susannah Messingham secretly believes the green tables are the answer to her financial woes and uses all her feminine wiles to persuade Philip Drake to teach her. In the following excerpt her extremely reluctant pedagogue endeavors in vain to open her eyes to the dangers.

(Excerpt from FORTUNE’S SON Chapter Six)

Are you not a professional gamester?” Lady Messingham asked.
Philip looked uncomfortable. “The question is not so easily answered. I don’t deny taking my living from the green tables but I assure you that I endeavor to maintain… certain standards… in my play.”
“Do you indeed?” Her half-smile bespoke disbelief.
“First of all, I endeavor never to sit down with a lady, or even with a man who has already over-imbibed. I find no allure in taking from those so disadvantaged.”
“So you deny that you win by cheating?”
He flushed. “’Tis such an unpalatable word, cheating, associated with swindlers, cutthroats, and highwaymen. By my troth, my lady, I have never marked a card, or rolled weighted dice. These are the trademarks of a cheat. I would merely say that I play with enhanced skill. I do not seek out victims to dupe, nor do I play intentionally to ruin any man. If, however, one has not the sense to know when to leave the tables, he deserves what he gets.”
“Are you not still a sharp, Philip?”
He paused to consider, “No. I do not say so. Not in the truest sense of the word. Besides, the term hardly encompasses the entire world of professional gamesters.”
“You speak almost as if it were a society in itself.”
“It is precisely that. Simply put, there are many types of players; varying degrees of Athenians, Captain Sharps, Amazons, blacklegs, tricksters, bamboozlers, and outright swindlers, inhabiting both the upper and the lower classes of society.”
“I have heard of the Greeks, but I don’t understand why the brethren of our much-venerated Aristotle are so vilified.”
“Ah,” Philip answered, “’tis a story that goes back to the days of Louis XIV, when a certain chevalier, A Greek named Apoulos, was admitted into the court. He was astonishingly adept at play and won a veritable fortune from the princes of the blood before his true methods were revealed.”
“What happened to him?”
“The king was much displeased and sentenced him to twenty years in the galleys. A true Greek tragedy,” he quipped.
“Thus, all players of his stamp are called Greeks?”
“Nay, only the select few. It is the name reserved for only those who play with great mastery. The Greek of the ton is by far the subtlest, most adroit, and the cleverest of creatures. He is accustomed to the best of company, and his deportment and manners are all that can be desired. He is capable of the most challenging conjuring feats—the partial shuffle, the false cut, the shift-pass, mucking, palming, pegging, and culling. No one surpasses his skill in drawing the ace, or breaking the cut, concealing cards or placing them. He raises the practice to an art.”
By now, Lady Messingham hung in rapt attention upon his every word.
“He is a master who lives for naught but the game, playing each one with unparalleled skill and equal perfection, yet plays only for others’ ultimate destruction. Attempts to hide emotion from him are in vain. He discerns the least movement or contraction of the features, peering with uncanny ability into his adversary’s very soul…”
“Lackaday! It sounds as if you describe Beelzebub, himself!”
“He is not far removed!” Philip laughed. “True vice, my lady, would frighten us all, if it did not wear the mask of virtue.”
“If that is so how does one evade a fate as his victim?”
“One can easily do so by avoiding deep play,” Philip answered “Since he is a master who only delights in high stakes, steer clear of his table, and you’ll never fall victim.”
“Do you not count yourself among those who are ‘equal in his talents’?” she asked.
“Not I, madam!” Philip barked. “I’d never make such a boast.” He paused with a thoughtful frown. “Nay, I do not endeavor to make my fortune so. I do not live for the play as others do.” His voice grew pensive. “I still have hope of something better.”
He met her quizzical look without further elaboration, and abruptly shifted back to their prior topic. “You have yet to learn of the wandering Greek—” He flashed a grin, breaking the solemn mood.
“Not to be confused with the wandering Jew?” she quipped back.
He laughed. “Indeed not. Although this manner of sharper does travel from place to place. He frequents the taverns, public assemblies, and pleasure gardens, seeking out the young and unwary, but rarely working alone.”
“He has an accomplice?”
“Yes, he employs a decoy, often an Amazon.”
“An Amazon? A woman? So there are, after all you said, women who are successful gamesters?” she remarked thoughtfully.
“I have never encountered one who does not act in conspiracy with a man. Her role is more to play the shepherdess to lure the hapless sheep to the wolf. Yet this is not even the worst type of sharp.”
Philip’s voice now took on a harsh, gritty quality. “The lowest sort of creature is the varlet who frequents the public gaming hells, and the low drinking dens. They are naught but evil wretches, wrought out of idleness and debauchery. After plying a victim with strong drink, their ‘games,’ involving any manner of trick or treachery, begin.”
“You speak as if you have fallen victim.”
“I was very young… and a fool. I am lucky to have escaped with my life.
She stared at him, stunned even more by what his words had not said than by what he had revealed.
Have I now opened your eyes?” he asked softly. “Or are you still bent on this inane gaming scheme?”
“It is only harmless diversion,” she lied. “It’s not as if I intend to make my living at the tables.” (end excerpt)

Philip Drake, an impoverished but titled gentleman, is forced to liquidate his assets and go back to his past gaming habits in an effort to right himself. Lady Susannah Messingham is a woman with a past and nearly ten years Philip's senior. After watching him at the tables, she propositions him to teach her to win at gaming. This fascinating and original look at an uncharted aspect of English life explores a gentleman snared by gambling, the threat of debtor's prison, and the wayward lady who redeems him.

About the Author
Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina. She is a self-professed “Georgian Junkie,” and is also the moderator for Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers. Her first book is The Highest Stakes, which is the prequel to Fortune's Son.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, All!

All cultures have harvest festivals. The United States harvest festival is Thanksgiving, now celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Our current Thanksgiving dates from 1621. Two years after their 1619 landing in the New World, the Pilgrims in Plymouth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony held a feast to celebrate their first good harvest. Strictly speaking, this celebration was not the first one. Settlers in Virginia and the Spanish explorers in Texas held harvest/thanksgiving celebrations earlier.

The actual date for Thanksgiving has varied through the years. Since Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, the day generally occurred in October or November. Each state set its own date until 1863, when, by presidential proclamation, all the states celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. But November can have four or five Thursdays, so Thanksgiving remained a moveable holiday until 1941, when federal legislation fixed it at the fourth Thursday in November.

Now for some Thanksgiving quotes:

For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. O. Henry

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. Native American Saying

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
Author Unknown

And my favorite quote, which I saw in a Thanksgiving greeting card: "Thanksgiving--the one day in the year we give thanks for turkeys."

Gobble, gobble.

Thank you all,

The picture is "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe. From Wikipedia

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Sharon Lathan--Classical Music: The Disco of the Regency Era

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Sharon Lathan and Miss Darcy Falls in Love, her latest Pride and Prejudice sequel in which Georgiana meets her match. Today she talks about the disco of the Regency.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Sharon will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Sharon selected is Karen H! Congratulations, Karen H, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome back, Sharon!

Sharon Lathan:
A hundred years from now if a person were to ask, “What was the popular music during the 1970s?” disco will probably still be the first answer to pop into most people’s minds. Yet a rapid look at that decade reveals the emergence of hard rock, new wave and punk, the fusion of country with rock (Southern rock, as it was dubbed), and the growth of urban rhythm and blues, just to name a few. Two hundred years ago the same question would not be answered with as much diversity, but just like in the 70s, music was evolving and styles varied.

Somewhere in the very early decades of the 1600s Baroque music with it’s complex tones and formalized themes supplanted the simpler melodies of previous periods. There was a major shift to the preference for keyboard instruments, and stringed instruments became more sophisticated. Opera as a staged musical drama and vocal embellishments also began during this period. Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Handel are well known examples of Baroque musicians.

Classical period music sprung forth around 1750, lasting until 1820 when the Romantic period emerged. Although today the term “classical music” is used to encompass all three musical styles, the differences are distinct. True Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture with melodies consisting of varied rhythms and frequent changes in timbre. Orchestras increased in size with a wider number of instruments. This lead to the birth of symphonies and concertos, the importance given to instrumental performances that were independent of vocal performances. Composers Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Hummel, Schubert, and of course Beethoven were revolutionary in how they wrote music. Unafraid to experiment and break established rules, their unique twists and willingness to embrace the emotional elements ushered in the Romantic era of music.

The Regency Era, especially when referring to the broader years, was a period of change in all the arts. It was also the time when music was no longer under the control of wealthy patrons or the aristocracy, this freedom initiating a burst of expression. Institutions for learning were established for men and women, rich or poor, to study and enhance their talents. England tended to move slower than the rest of Europe, as is evidenced by the preponderance of Italian, French, German and Austrian composers versus English ones. The influence was certainly felt, however, and the compositions crossed the Channel to be enjoyed by English audiences large and small.

When I decided to give Georgiana Darcy the gift of composing and mastery at playing the pianoforte I honestly had no clue how intricate the world of music was. Most of what I wrote in the above paragraphs I only marginally understand, even after months of study. I learned the bare essentials necessary to write my novel via a crash course in musical theory!

A woman of Georgiana’s class would have begun studying music at a very young age. Probably from her mother at first, and then from tutors. In general a woman only needed to be skilled enough to entertain her future husband and guests. If, however, she showed a greater aptitude and the desire, she could receive instruction from a “master” - that simply a man (typically) who had been educated and who had experience as a practicing musician. She would also attend the opera, symphony, and concertos while in London. Books on musical theory were plentiful, and since being an “accomplished woman” was valued, a woman could converse with men on the subject and practice endlessly. Yet beyond that an English woman had few other options.

Other countries in Europe did have conservatories that women could attend, and women actively participating as a singer or musician for staged performances was common. Last week on Peeking Between the Pages I wrote a blog about this subject if interested to learn more. For my purposes it was fabulous to discover that Georgiana did have an option and with her conveniently in Paris anyway I was able to leap onto the opportunity for her to enroll as a student in the Conservatoire of Music.

Nevertheless, while it was plausible for Georgiana as I arranged it, an extensive education for an Englishwoman, or acceptance as a composer, prior to the 1900s was rare. But then so was being a published author, and we all know at least one writer who managed to do that!

Synopsis of Miss Darcy Falls in Love--

Noble young ladies were expected to play an instrument, but Georgiana Darcy is an accomplished musician who hungers to pursue her talents. She embarks upon a tour of Europe, ending in Paris where two very different men will ignite her heart in entirely different ways and begin a bitter rivalry to win her. But only one holds the key to her happiness.

Set in post-Napoleonic Empire France, Miss Darcy Falls in Love is a riveting love story that enters a world of passion where gentlemen know exactly how to please and a young woman learns to direct her destiny and understand her heart.

Sharon’s Bio--

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her previously published novels are: Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, A Darcy Christmas, and The Trouble With Mr. Darcy. Miss Darcy Falls in Love is Georgiana’s tale of love and adventure while in France. Complete with a happy ending. In addition to her writing, Sharon works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. Visit Sharon on her website: and on Austen Authors, her group blog with 25 novelist of Austen literature:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest Grace Burrowes: Regency Music

Linda Banche here. My guest today is New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes with Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish and The Virtuoso, the latest books in her saga about the Regency Windham family. Here she talks about Regency music.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of two copies of The Virtuoso which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Grace will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winners Grace selected are Hope and Kitchen Witch! Hope and Kitchen Witch, please contact me at by November 24, 2011, in order to claim your prizes.

Welcome back, Grace!

Grace Burrowes:

As with many aspects of culture, the Regency was a musically fascinating time. Art in general was making a transition from the highly structured, elegant restraint of the classical approach to the more emotionally expressive, spontaneous Romantic approach. Musical ensembles grew from the small chamber orchestras maintained at court or by wealthy nobles to professional orchestras and opera companies capable of playing to large audiences. For example, His Majesty’s Theatre in Haymarket—a popular concert and opera venue—was expanded during the Regency from a seating capacity of 1200 to 2500.

Technological advances played a significant part in this evolution. Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) and his sister toured London in 1764 and 1765, for example, and would have been performing on a five-octave piano with limited volume. By the end of the Regency period, the piano keyboard encompassed least six octaves (more for concert instruments), and due to improved material for the piano wire, sound board and mechanism, had a much louder sound with a better sustaining mechanism.

Music continued to be a source of entertainment and pleasure in better homes, with hostesses showing off both skilled amateurs and promising professionals at informal musicales. The Regency also, however, saw the rise of the virtuoso.

The musician most often referred to as the first piano virtuoso is English-educated Muzio Clementi (1752-1832). Clementi squared off against Mozart for the entertainment of Emperor Josef II of Austria-Hungary, in 1781 (the emperor graciously declared the contest a draw), then went on to enjoy a long career as a composer, performer, piano manufacturer, and music publisher. While we recall him today mostly for his sonatinas, though in the Regency period he was a musical celebrity of great renown, and musicologists credit him with influencing Chopin, Liszt, and other later Romantic composers.

Beethoven (1770-1827) was, of course, active during the Regency period, having written his first eight symphonies and all five of his piano concertos prior to 1814. The London Philharmonic Society, forerunner of the Royal Philharmonic Society, founded in 1813, takes some of the credit for commissioning a choral symphony from Herr Beethoven in 1822, which eventually developed into the wonderful Ninth Symphony with its choral finale. English demand for chamber pieces (string quartets and piano trios) also prompted Beethoven to include these forms in his later repertoire.

And while works for public performance were becoming longer, more complicated, for larger ensembles and to be played on more sophisticated instruments, in the case of the piano, at least, smaller, simpler versions of the instrument were making music an affordable pastime for more and more households. These cottage pianos were as little as three feet high, with a shortened keyboard and modest cabinetry.

In the Regency period, the English continued a long tradition of luring Continental talent to London for lucrative performance opportunities. Josef Haydn (1732-1809) enjoyed success as both a conductor and composer in his English travels in 1791 and 1794, and many an operatic talent traveled from Italy to perform offerings such as Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, Cosi Fan Tutte, and La Clemenza di Tito.

With music becoming at once more accessible, more sophisticated, more public, and more available in the home, and instruments becoming more plentiful and of better design, it’s hard to imagine a more exciting period in music history than the Regency.

The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes – In Stores November 2011
A genius with a terrible loss…
Gifted pianist Valentine Windham, youngest son of the Duke of Moreland, has little interest in his father’s obsession to see his sons married, and instead pours passion into his music. But when Val loses his music, he flees to the country, alone and tormented by what has been robbed from him.

A widow with a heartbreaking secret…
Grieving Ellen Markham has hidden herself away, looking for safety in solitude. Her curious new neighbor offers a kindred lonely soul whose desperation is matched only by his desire, but Ellen’s devastating secret could be the one thing that destroys them both.

Together they’ll find there’s no rescue from the past, but sometimes losing everything can help you find what you need most.

Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes – In Stores NOW!
A luminous holiday tale of romance, passion, and dreams come true from rising star Grace Burrowes, whose award-winning Regency romances are capturing hearts worldwide.

All she wants is peace and anonymity…
Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and complete disaster.

But Sophie’s holiday is about to heat up…
With his estate in ruins, Vim Charpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his spirits—but when Sophie’s brothers whisk her away, Vim’s most painful holiday memories are reawakened.

It seems Sophie’s been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true…

About the Author
Grace Burrowes is the pen name for a prolific and award-winning author of historical romances. The Heir, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and was selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2010. Both The Heir and its follow-up, The Solider, are New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. She is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in a restored log cabin in western Maryland without a TV, DVD or radio because she's too busy working on her next books. For more information, please visit

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gentlemen's Clubs in Regency England

Every respectable Regency gentleman (and a few who weren’t exactly respectable) belonged to a gentleman’s club. Some of the more popular ones were White’s, Brooks’s, (yes that is the correct spelling and punctuation) and Boodle’s. All were very exclusive.

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” If a gentlemen had been a member for 3 years, others would say “three years after his election into so and so.” All exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

By far the most revered (and oldest) of London's gentlemen's clubs during the Regency Era was White’s. It was founded as a chocolate shop in 1693 by an Italian, Francesco Bianco, who’d changed his name to Francis White. White’s was politically conservative, which means most of its members were Tory. Even today it’s still considered the most prestigious club. Originally, when White’s became a club, it was mostly a gambling hub, with members who frequently played high-stakes card games. Whist, faro, quinze and hazard were some of the most popular games played. With all the clubs, obsessive betting occurred with some frequency. The smallest difference of opinion invariably resulted in a wager and was duly recorded in a book--everything from how many birds will perch on that tree in the next hour to who is Lady B's new lover were fodder for the betting books.

Brooks’s was basically liberal, which means a large Whig membership. For a while, the Prince of Wales favoured it. He changed his preference to White’s when they blackballed his close friend, Jack Payne. As a gaming club in the eighteenth century, which is just before the Regency Era, it had been in Pall Mal. The stakes were high. It was customary for gamblers to play for 50 to 10,000 pounds! Charles Fox and his brothers reportedly lost many thousands of pounds in a single night. Hazard was their game of choice.

With Boodle’s, I’ve seen so many different characterizations of this one that it’s hard to say, but it seems to have offered deeper gaming than the above two. Some sources say Boodles was the club for country squires and those who 'rode to hounds' in the fox hunts. It wasn’t tied to any political party, at least not during the Regency Era.

Another was Watier’s which was a short-lived club started by the Prince of Wales's (or Prinny’s) chef. It appears to have specialized in fine food and very deep gaming.

There were many, many more clubs, but the above four were the ones with space in St. James's Street and thus at the core of society. There was the Beaf-steak (or Beefsteak) club, which had precisely thirty members and met once a week for a fine dinner. Their building was open to members for the usual purposes such as conversing with friends, reading the latest papers, gaming, etc. The Athenium Club focused on ancient Rome and Greece. I recall hearing that only Latin was spoken there which wouldn’t have been a problem for too many Regency gentlemen, since Latin was taught in every school.

There were private gaming hells, which, since gaming was restricted to members and guests, qualify as clubs. Many clubs had bedrooms that members could use as a sort of hotel during a quick trip to town.

My favorite was also the Four-Horse Club, also called the Four-in-Hand Club which, though originally a wild club of young men, had, by the early 1800s, become a respectable club for superb drivers. Great fodder for heroes, isn’t it? It was a small group with only somewhere between 30-40 members at its peak. They didn’t meet in any specific place. It began to fade around 1815 and disbanded in 1820, was briefly revived in 1822 but finally ended. The members met at set intervals to drive coaches-and-four out to Chalk Hill and back. Hard-core Corinthians supposedly exercised with a very specific uniform, but they didn’t have a clubhouse where they met. The rest of the time, Corinthians used Jackson’s Salon or Manton’s as their daytime hangout and might spend an evening in Cribb’s Parlor, but all of these places were open to anyone so they hardly qualify as clubs. I have always heard that the Corinthians hung out at the gambling hells more than at the clubs.

There was also the Alfred Club at 23 Albermarle Street. It began in 1808 and attracted writers and other men of letters. If I remember correctly, Byron was a member. It was a great success, and in 1855 it joined with the Oriental Club which was established in 1824 (just after the Regency Era) as a club for men who'd been "out East" in India and other areas.

So, to which club does your Regency Hero belong?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gambling History

In doing research for my latest novel, I ran across some interesting information about the history of gambling, a sport that has endured through the centuries.
Ancient man played games of chance, using the knucklebones of sheep as a primitive form of dice. Later, archaeologists uncovered a pair of ivory dice in Egypt, dating before 1500 B.C., proving that the dice of today are much like those used for centuries.
Betting on athletic games at the Roman coliseum drew wagers from rich and poor alike, and later, during the Middle Ages, gambling in all its forms took place in private homes and in city streets.
When first used, cards were a rich man’s game, as each card was stamped from a woodcut. Later, with the invention of the printing press, a deck of cards became readily accessible in every tavern in Europe.
When the English came to the New World, they brought the culture of gambling with them, but the Puritan-led Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed possession of cards and dice (along with dancing and singing). Later, the rules were relaxed, as long as the game was an innocent one and no money exchanged hands.
In Venice, men and ladies both went to the ridotto, a salon for gambling and other pastimes. Ridotti became very popular in Europe, even serving as forums for the arts. Verdi celebrated the opening of his opera, Rigoletto, in the Ridotto San Moise. In the 1800s, the Doge of Venice closed the ridotti, and they were reopened as state run casinos.
For further reading, a very good book by David Schwartz, titled Roll the Bones, covers every aspect of the history of gambling in Europe and the United States.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Regency Death and Burial

Since it's Halloween, I decided to get a little macabre and delve into the area of death and burial practices in Regency England. Though I'm an author of Regency Romance novels, I do a great deal of research in order to keep my books feeling as authentic as possible, not just as a pretty backdrop to my stories, but because their customs shaped the people, and therefore, my characters.

In England during the Regency Era, there were no funeral parlors or funeral homes. When a person died, the body remained at home. Sometimes an undertaker came prepare the body and sometimes a family member or a servant such as a valet usually did it. Most often, though, women were expected to perform that duty. (Odd that, since women weren't generally allowed to attend the funeral lest their delicate constitutions be too strained.) Anyway, whomever had this unpleasant task washed the hair and body also dressed the body. They often used props to arrange the body's position, such as under the chin to keep the mouth closed.

Bodies were usually laid out on a table for mourners to come pay their respects. The bodies were encased in a shroud, even in the coffin, which was usually made of wool or cambric unless the family were willing to pay for silk. A law was passed in the 18th century that shrouds had to be wool, unless people paid for the privilege of having something else. This act was passed to protect the wool trade. I could comment on that, but I won't. :-)

They didn't embalm in those days. Though America began embalming as early as the Civil War, (well after the Regency Era) that practice didn't take off in England for many years. To help with preservation, bodies were sometimes laid on ice. As you can imagine, that created problems with melting ice and disposing of the water. Usually, burials happened within a week since bodily decay happened quickly and depended on many factors beyond just climate. Obese bodies decay faster than thin ones. Alcoholics, contrary to popular belief, do not get "pickled" but instead decay faster. This is the same for those who suffered from long-term disease.

Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert
Prince Albert died on December 14, 1861--a chilly time of year, to be sure--and was not actually buried for nearly two weeks. The stench was so bad that the nearby guards had to be changed every two hours, despite the profusion of lilies around his coffin. Albert was relatively thin, but had been suffering from typhoid fever for probably two years.

The rich were buried in family tombs or inside churches. The middle class were buried in the ground in coffins. The very poor were thrown into common graves. I also read that poor people sometimes rented a coffin to get the body to the graveyard and then tipped it until the body slid out and into the grave. The leased coffin was then returned to the coffin maker. That conjures up all kinds of images, doesn't it?

They didn't use "caskets," they used "coffins," which had a widened area for the shoulders like what we think of for Dracula's coffin. Coffins were fresh-cut from pine after a person's death, so that the strong pine smell could help with body odors. Hmmm, maybe they should have strewn pine chips or cedar chips around Prince Albert's body in addition to the lilies :-)

A person who committed the heinous crime of suicide, also know as self-murder, was buried vertically at a cross roads, supposedly to keep the spirit from knowing which way to travel. Why, vertically, I don't know.

If you want more information, I recommend "The Victorian Undertaker" by Trevor May, a thin volume that you can read in about an hour. Although it discusses the Victorian Era, there isn't much about death and burial had changed from the Regency Era.

This concludes your trip into the macabre.

Oh, and Happy Halloween.  Mwahahaha.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Mary Lydon Simonsen: Mr. Darcy Grows Fur!

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Mary Lydon Simonsen and Mr. Dacry's Bite, her paranormal take on Pride and Prejudice. Here she tells us why she made Mr. Darcy a werewolf instead of a vampire.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Mr. Darcy's Bite which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Mary will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Mary selected is Calisa Rhose! Congratulations, Calisa, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome back, Mary!

Mary Lydon Simonsen:

Hello Linda! It’s so good to be back at Historical Hussies!

You have asked me to write about why I chose to transform Mr. Darcy into a werewolf in my novel, Mr. Darcy’s Bite. Actually, it all started as a lark. I had been reading a werewolf story on a Jane Austen fan fiction site. With Halloween 2009 approaching, I decided to write a short story called “Mr. Darcy on the Eve of All Saints’ Day.” It received such a positive response that I kept writing. Before I knew it, I had a full-length novel, and Sourcebooks wanted it for my fourth novel with them.

You also asked why a werewolf and not a vampire? Despite the enormous success of the Twilight series, I did not choose to make Mr. Darcy a vampire because that would have required dealing with a lot of blood, and I am a bit squeamish in that department. Because I eat very little meat, and what I do eat cannot remotely resemble the animal it came from, I should have had the same problem with werewolves. But I left the situations where Mr. Darcy is out in the wild hunting for his food to the imagination of my readers. If you are looking for scenes of the werewolf Mr. Darcy tearing apart a deer, you won’t find it in Mr. Darcy’s Bite. However, he does smack his lips after a satisfying hunt and a particularly tasty kill.

Mr. Darcy was not born a werewolf. Rather, he became one as a result of a bite he received in the Black Forest when he was 14. Because of his dual nature, he always thought he would marry a she wolf. You know, keep things simple. But that was before he met Elizabeth Bennet. Stalking and bringing down a buck is a piece of cake compared to telling the woman he loves that he grows fur, fangs, and a bushy tail once in every moon cycle.

At first Lizzy is horrified. Although she wishes Mr. Darcy well, she wants no part of his world. But after seeing him in his altered statement and noting how much his sister and cousin, Anne de Bourgh, love him and how much his servants respect him, she softens and eventually realizes that her love for the master of Pemberley is so great that she must share his life no matter what. Besides, what’s a little fur between two people in love?

You also asked if being a werewolf “confers power and privilege?” Yes and no. Because he is the alpha member of his small pack, he does have power, and he is supremely confident in both his manifestations. However, if his lupine nature were to be discovered, he would be killed. As a result, there is no privilege associated with his being a werewolf. Everything the Darcys do must take into consideration the danger of being exposed.

I loved writing this story because I love wolves. This goes back to the time when I was a kid reading Jack London’s stories. I was fortunate to have watched a wolf in Yellowstone Park doing his/her best to kill field mice in a meadow. I don’t know if he/she was young, but the mice were winning this day. Even so, there was something primal in watching an animal hunt.

I would love to know what your readers think about Mr. Darcy as a werewolf. Personally, I’ll take him anyway I can get him.

Thanks again. This was fun.

Mr. Darcy has a secret...

Darcy is acting rather oddly. After months of courting Elizabeth Bennet, no offer of marriage is forthcoming and Elizabeth is first impatient, then increasingly frightened. For there is no denying that the full moon seems to be affecting his behavior, and Elizabeth’s love is going to be tested in ways she never dreamed...

Darcy has more than family pride to protect: others of his kind are being hunted all over England and a member of Darcy’s pack is facing a crisis in Scotland. It will take all of Elizabeth’s faith, courage, and ingenuity to overcome her prejudice and join Darcy in a Regency world she never knew existed.

Praise for The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy:

“Simonsen spins off another superior Jane Austen homage.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Engrossing and delightful…Simonsen takes quite an intriguing approach.”

“A fast-reading, engaging style…brings a new and enjoyable immediacy to Jane Austen’s most popular novel.”
—Linda Banche Romance Author

“Creative, well-paced, and definitely diverting.”

About the Author
Mary Simonsen
Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Romantic Times. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guest Abigail Reynolds: Honor, Duty and Marriage in the Regency

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Abigail Reynolds and her latest Pemberley Variation, Mr. Darcy's Undoing, in which Elizabeth accepts another marriage offer before Darcy can renew his attentions.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Mr. Darcy's Undoing which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Abigail will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Abigail selected is Christine Bails! Congratulations, Christine, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome, Abigail!

Abigail Reynolds:

The Regency period presents novelists with all sorts of lovely plot complications in terms of society rules, trying to strike a balance between keeping our heroines respectable and having them fall in love. My latest Pride & Prejudice variation, Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, hangs on a variant of that dilemma. Mr. Darcy wants to marry Elizabeth Bennet, but while she returns his sentiments quite passionately, she has a broken engagement in her past, and this makes her an unsuitable bride for Mr. Darcy.

Unlike modern times when engagements are easily made and broken, Regency engagements were considered legally binding, and the wedding was just the church’s blessing on the legal contract of the engagement. While either party could cry off the engagement, there could be substantial repercussions to their reputations and, in the case of gentlemen, to their pocketbooks.

While keeping young women chaste was of crucial importance prior to engagement, the rules relaxed substantially afterwards. As long as an engaged couple was discreet, they could do pretty much whatever they liked, as can be witnessed by the number of healthy babies born five months after the wedding day. While that might engender a little talk, it wasn’t considered a serious matter as long as the couple had been publicly engaged. Unfortunately, this meant that a woman with a broken engagement was considered to be ruined, since her former betrothed could have made free with her charms to one extent or another. A man with a broken engagement would likely be considered unkind and something of a rake, but a woman with a broken engagement would deal with permanent repercussions and was unlikely ever to make a good marriage.

Jilted women did have one recourse apart from finding a man to defend their honor. A male relative could sue the man in question for breach of promise since the engagement was legally binding. Sometimes this would cause the gentleman to honor his commitment, though one has to wonder about how happy such a marriage would be. Unfortunately, the judgement against such a man was usually be a fine, rarely over 250 pounds, so a gentleman of means could choose to pay rather than honor his word, and 250 pounds wouldn’t go far to support a lady.

In Mr. Darcy’s Undoing, the situation is reversed, with Elizabeth choosing to end her earlier engagement after realizing that her heart lay elsewhere. Today this would open up the way for her to make a new marriage; then it turned her into a fallen woman, unsuitable to marry a gentleman. Elizabeth says as much to Mr. Darcy:

“Mr. Darcy, the rules for a woman in making a marriage are much like those at a dance. A woman may not choose her partner; she has only the right of refusal, and even that comes at a price. If she refuses to dance with a gentleman who has invited her, she must then refuse to dance with anyone else who asks, or be thought ill-bred and improper. When I chose to break my engagement, I did so with a very clear knowledge of the price I would pay. I knew it would mean I would be a scandal, that I would never marry, never have children of my own. It was not a decision I entered into lightly.”

There isn’t an easy way to solve problems like this. In my book, the HEA ending is reached by Darcy choosing to accept the loss in his social status that comes from marrying Elizabeth. Since he cared very little about his position in the ton, this was not a major sacrifice for him, though it would eventually have some impact upon their children.

A passionate new Pride and Prejudice variation explores the unthinkable—Elizabeth accepts the proposal of a childhood friend before she meets Darcy again. When their paths cross, the devastated Mr. Darcy must decide how far he'll go to win the woman he loves. How can a man who prides himself on his honor ask the woman he loves to do something scandalous? And how can Elizabeth accept a loveless marriage when Mr. Darcy holds the key to her heart? As they confront family opposition and the ill-will of scandal-mongers, will Elizabeth prove to be Mr. Darcy's undoing?

About the Author
Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing the Pride and Prejudice Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking "What if...?" She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit her website at

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guest Gabrielle Kimm: Duke and Duchess in Sixteenth Century Tuscany

Linda Banche here. My guest today is Gabrielle Kimm, author of the historical novel, His Last Duchess. Set amid the lushness of a ducal court in sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara, His Last Duchess is the story of the real people behind the characters in Robert Browning's poem. Here she tells us about the two main characters in her book, Lucrezia and Alfonso.

Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of His Last Duchess which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Gabrielle will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

And the winner Gabrielle selected is catslady! Congratulations, catslady, and thanks to all who came over.

Welcome Gabrielle! We're happy to have you.

Gabrielle Kimm:

Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog!

You’ve asked me about the real Lucrezia and Alfonso. A fascinating pair. Now, my novel was always meant to be the back-story to Robert Browning’s poem, rather than a detailed historical account of real events; as I point out in my Author Note at the back of the book, I’ve created a work of fiction rather than a history book, so where I’ve felt the need to tweak either historical events or geographical locations, I’ve done so with impunity! But my story is nonetheless grounded in historical reality and my research was painstaking.

Here are some of the things I discovered about Alfonso and Lucrezia:

Alfonso was the son of Ercole d’Este and Renée of France and the grandson of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia. I think if must have been a fairly dysfunctional family - apart from anything else, poor Renée was eventually banished from the Este court on charges of blasphemy. (As I understand things, she – a Calvinist - stood in support of one of her servants who had been accused of blasphemy while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic chapel at the Castello Estense. Both she and the servant were banished).

Alfonso married three times – to Lucrezia de’ Medici, to Barbara of Austria and to Barbara’s niece, Margherita Gonzaga. He had no children, either legitimate or otherwise, and he ended up being the last duke of Ferrara – the lands and title passed nominally to his cousin Cesare on Alfonso’s death, but they were subsequently incorporated into the Papal States, and the duchy thus lost almost all its might.

One surprising fact: Alfonso was a very gifted tennis player (this is something I deliberately omitted in my novel – it seemed far too physical and healthy an interest for my emotionally complex duke!). The game he played was ‘real’ tennis (something more akin to modern squash than Lawn Tennis) and Alfonso at one time had four courts at the Castello, and was a fearsome opponent, by all accounts.

Just as previous members of the house of Este had been before him, Alfonso was a devoted and knowledgeable patron of the arts – something Robert Browning picks up on in his poem, and thus I do in my novel – and he supported many artists and musicians (though some accounts will have it that this was not always out of his own pocket … apparently the taxpayer footed a fair number of the bills!)

Poor little Lucrezia is a much more shadowy figure. Daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici and Eleanora of Toledo, she was married to Alfonso d’Este at fourteen in 1559 (I upped her age to sixteen in my book) and less than three years later, she was dead. Opinion is divided as to the cause of her death – some sources cite natural causes, probably tuberculosis or typhoid, but most suspect foul play, and many (including Robert Browning, of course) point the finger at Alfonso himself. Lucrezia achieved little in her short life, and in reality, for most of the two years of their marriage, Alfonso was absent from the court. This, for obvious narrative reasons, was one fact with which I took authorial liberties!

I hope these are the sorts of facts you were after. As I said at the start though, my novel has always been intended to be an extension of Browning’s creation, rather than historical fact.

I’ve loved fleshing out these shadowy historical figures, and giving them a new lease of life.

The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d'Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke. Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke's entire inheritance–and Lucrezia's future. His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.

About the Author
Gabrielle Kimm is a graduate of the creative writing master's program at the University of Chichester. She is writing her second novel, The Courtesan's Lover, which features one of the characters of His Last Duchess as the heroine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pedestrian Hobby Horse

The Pedestrian Hobby-Horse was the first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine during the Regency. Originally patented by a German Baron, Karl von Drais, in 1817, the Dandy Horse was first produced in France. It enjoyed instant popularity among fashionable members of the middle class.

An innovative London coachmaker named Denis Johnson picked up the idea and created a new and improved patent in his workshop in Long Acre. His design featured an elegantly curved wooden frame, allowing the use of larger wooden wheels. Several parts were made of metal, which allowed the vehicle to be lighter than the continental version.

Johnson created hundreds of “hobby horses” and, to prove his skills as a marketer, even established a riding schools in the Strand and Soho where prospective clients could try out his new machine. Johnson then introduced a dropped-frame version for ladies to accommodate their long skirts. It was an instant success. Fashionable young men of the day known as dandies led the craze, and during the spring and summer of 1819, the hobby-horse was all the rage in fashionable London society.

The velocipede came with an adjustable saddle for steering. Atiller mechanism controlled the front wheel. A dashboard behind the front wheel helped with steering and pushing. Intrepid riders propelled the wooden 'hobby-horse' velocipede by pushing their feet on the ground. Going uphill was probably a challenge but one could coast downhill. There were no brakes; one simply dragged his or her feet on the ground to stop. I have no doubt there were a number of accidents, as a result.

The pedestrian hobby horse had many names; velocipede, hobby-horse, dandy-horse, accelerator, swift walker, and a number of other names.

For about six months, the hobby horse enjoyed a high profile in London. Once the novelty had worn off, the craze died out. Johnson's son undertook a tour of England in the spring of 1819 to exhibit and publicize the item but by then, the velocipede’s glory days were over. No doubt the London Surgeons who issued a health warning against the continued use of the hobby horse added to its demise.

Few English or French cycling literature the hobby-horse use after 1820, but apparently in central Europe hobby horses were made and sold into the 1830s.

The hobby horse enjoyed a bright, short burst of fame. However, it did lead to the invention of the bicycle in the 1860s. Based on Johnson's design, the machine was resurrected and improved; rotary cranks and pedals were attached to the front-wheel hub of a velocipede. I could find no data on when the brakes were added but that would have been a major selling point for me.