Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend, full of friends, family, good food, and wonderful books to read! I will be back next week with a favorite End of the Year fashions blog, right after I recover from my family's "traditional" Christmas Eve of Indian tacos and my father's famous margaritas...

Friday, December 17, 2010


Thanks so much to all the commenters on yesterday's Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar post! You're all in the pool to win the Kindle, and the winner of my own prize--a hot cocoa and book basket for the cold winter evenings!--is CassandraR!

And the winner of a free download of To Court Capture and Conquer is--Leona!

Tis the season for reading! Please send your mailing info to me at Amccabe7551 AT

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Harlequin Historical Contest!

Happy Jane Austen Birthday, everyone! (Also, Beethoven's birthday. And my mom's, which reminds me I need to go buy her a present before this evening...) I'm so excited today is my day on the big Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar contest. First things first--go to my website and read the instructions for entering. Your comments here will put you in the running for the grand prize of a Kindle, as well as my own prize of a Cozy Winter Evening--cocoa, china mugs to drink it in, biscuits from my local British supply store, and a signed book! You can have your pick of any of the books on the sidebar of this blog, just let me know which you would like in the comments. (It can be either an Amanda or Laurel book. You can also "Like" my Facebook page, Amanda McCabe Books. And I have another contest going on this blog--just scroll down a couple of entries...)

Good luck, and thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Duchess Tour Stop

And the Duchess of Sin Blogathon is at the Borders True Romance blog today! Come bye and say hello--then I won't feel too lonely :)

And since my mother's birthday is tomorrow, I must go shopping and find the right present. Any suggestions???

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Risky Tuesday

At the Riskies today with my Jane Austen Week post (and a prize!) How is your holiday season going??

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Blogs and Blogs

At the RT Blog today! (and because it's getting busy here, I'm expanding the Undone contest to next weekend, the 18th...)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wedding Celebration

I'm talking about my royal wedding obsession at the Riskies today! And since I feel in the mood to celebrate, I'm also having an impromptu contest--one commenter will receive a free download of my latest "Undone" story, To Court Capture and Conquer! Just tell me your favorite royal moment, and I will announce a winner this weekend...

Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday Blogs

I'm at not one but two blogs today! SOS Aloha (with Nicola Cornick) and the History Hoydens. Come and say hi--it's a great break from holiday craziness...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

A few days ago I went to a friend's beautiful party to celebrate the start of Hanukkah! I'm afraid I shamefully gorged myself on the sufganiyot (the traditional jelly-filled donuts--the oil used to fry them reminds us of the miracle of the lamp oil in the Temple), and here is the recipe in case you want to throw a Hanukkah party yourself!

  • 25 grams (1 ounce) yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups flour
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) margarine, melted
  • dash of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups water (room temperature)
  • jelly (strawberry is recommended)
  • oil for frying (canola is recommended)
  • powdered sugar


1. To make the dough: Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, cover, and wait until it rises. In another bowl, mix 3 cups of flour with the melted margarine, salt, sugar and egg yolks. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour mixture. Slowly add water while stirring. When batter is smooth, cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit and rise.
2. To make the doughnuts: After the batter has risen, pour it onto a floured surface and roll it out. Use a glass with a small opening to cut out circles of the dough. Place a drop of jelly in the middle of each circle, and then cover with another circle of dough. Make sure that 2 circles attach well to form a closed ball with jelly in the middle. Cover the doughnuts with a towel and let rise.
3. To fry the doughnuts: Heat oil in a deep pot until very hot. Drop the doughnuts into the oil and fry on both sides until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

TIP: These sufganiot are only good fresh. After you make the dough, only fry a few at a time. Store the rest of the dough in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blog Tour

The month of December is shaping up to be super-busy, so I am going on a hiatus of regular blogging activity! At the end of the month, I'll be back with Hottie Mondays and Heroines of the Weekend. For now, I'm on a blog tour promoting Duchess of Sin, so be sure and visit me on some of these fun sites! (I'm also extending the contest on my own Laurel site for a few days...)

Don't forget! Books make wonderful holiday gifts!


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There's also a fabulous contest going on this month with the Harlequin Historical authors! Tons of prizes, with a Grand Prize of a Kindle. You can visit my Amanda site and click on the Harlequin Historical Contest button on the right for more details...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Risky Sunday!

I'm at the Riskies today (not my regularly scheduled blog day!) with Nicola Cornick, launching our December releases! Come visit me there and comment for the chance to win TWO books

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Happy post-Thanksgiving weekend, everyone! I hope you all had a lovely holiday, and if you ventured out to the shops yesterday you didn't get crushed by the crowds. :) I stayed safely home and did my shopping online, and then I brought in the boxes of Christmas decorations. I love that part of the holidays.

I'm also thankful to be doing these Heroine of the Weekend posts! They can be a lot of work, gathering the research and pulling it together, but I've learned so much about a variety of interesting and inspirational women. I can't wait to see who pops up here in 2011!

This weekend's Heroine is Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (usually called Ada Lovelace), daughter of Lord Byron and mathematician supreme (she's sometimes called "the world's first computer programmer"). She died on November 27, 1852, long before Microsoft was even a gleam.

She was born December 10, 1815, the only child of the brief and ill-fated marriage between Byron and his wife Annabella Milbanke, Baroness Wentworth. She was named after Augusta Leigh, Byron's half-sister (whom he may or may not have been having an affair with, scandalous!), but called Ada by everyone. She never knew her father. Her mother left the couple's London house on January 16, only a month after Ada's birth, taking the baby with her to her parents' home at Kirkby Mallory. Though fathers were always given custody in those days, Annabella and her family were very powerful and had strong ammunition in their scandalous allegations against him. In April, Byron signed the Deed of Separation giving custody to his wife, and left England. He died when Ada was 9, and never saw her again, but his legacy always had a powerful hold on her.

In childhood, Ada was often ill, with severe headaches and stomach troubles, and a bout of measles in 1829 that left her temporarily paralyzed. Her mother was not a kind and soft mummy; she was determined to root out the Byron evil from her daughter and save her from that family's insanity, and decided her own passion of mathematics would do it (Byron called Annabella "the princess of parallelograms"). Ada was given tutors in math and science from a young age, including the well-known Augustus De Morgan. He wrote to her mother that Ada's skill could make her "an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence." (As someone who struggled with math in school, I am in complete awe of her!)

By 1834, Ada had made her debut and was a regular at the Royal Court, much admired by almost everyone who met her. In July 1835 she married William King, Baron King, later the first Earl of Lovelace. Lady Lovelace's new estate was at Ockham Park in Surrey, and she went on to have 3 children, Byron, Anne Isabella, and Ralph Gordon. But Ada's ill health continued, especially after the births, though she had a wide circle of intellectual friends, including scientist Mary Somerville, and Charles Dickens.

Mary Somerville introduced Ada to Charles Babbage, who became very impressed with her intellect and skills at writing and numbers. He called her "the enchantress of numbers," and in 1842-43 she worked on translating his work on an early mechanical general purpose computer (his Difference Engine), adding her own notes. The notes actually became longer that the work itself, and she has a section with a detailed method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the engine. Modern mathematicians say it would have run entirely correctly if the engine was ever built, and this is sometimes called the world's first computer program.

She died at 36 of uterine cancer, and was buried next to the father she never knew at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall. Her legacy still lives on, though. The US Department of Defense's computer language is called "Ada," since 1998 the British Computer Society has awarded a medal in her name, and in 2008 started a competition for female students in computer science. March 24 has been named Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate the achievements of women in the sciences (I participated in this day myself last year, with a post on Mme. de Chatelet!)

A few sources on her fascinating life:
Benjamin Woolley, The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter (2002)
Joan Baum, The Calculating Passion of Ada Byron (1986)
Dorothy Stein, Ada: A Life and Legacy (MIT Press, 1985)
Catherine Turney, Byron's Daughter (1972)
Betty Alexandra Toole, ed. Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers, Prophet of the Computer Age (1998)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Blog Visits

I'm at the Word Wenches today, talking about Duchess of Sin! Come and comment for a chance to win a copy (plus a copy of Nicola Cornick's latest! It's a two-for-one today...)

This is just the launch of my blog tour, too. This weekend I will post a full schedule, so watch this space!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Risky Tuesday

At the Riskies today (because it's Tuesday!) talking about favorite movie dance scenes! Join me there....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

I'm back! It was a lovely holiday, but now I'm home again with revisions to work on, laundry to do, and Thanksgiving to plan. I'm also much too excited about the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and looking forward to a royal wedding! (I still remember when Princess Diana got married, I was a pre-schooler and got to get up extra early to sit on the couch with my mom and watch the wedding. I spent weeks wearing my dance recital tiara and a bedsheet tied around my waist for a long train. I don't think I will do that this time, but you never know...)

Speaking of royals, this week's Heroine is a queen, Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II of England. She died on November 20, 1737, and by coincidence I recently read Lucy Worsley's new book The Courtiers, about the court of Georges I and II. It's a fascinating time period I didn't know a lot about, so I went out and read some more. Caroline was fascinating woman.

She was born in Ansbach in Germany (one of the very confusing and innumerable German kingdoms that seem to have produced so very many queen consorts in history! And prince consorts too...) on March 1, 1683, the daughter of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach. She was orphaned as a child and grew up with relatives, well-educated and admired (she was considered one of the wittiest and most intelligent princesses in Europe, as well as one of the prettiest with her blond hair, blue eyes, and zaftig figure). She had the chance to marry Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, but ended up refusing because she didn't want to leave her Protestant faith. She ended up marrying at age 22 to George August, son of the Elector of Hanover. It would prove to be an unusual but happy marriage, with nine children (seven of which survived). George wrote her long love letters throughout their marriage, declaring things like "In my heart, nothing is hidden from you."

When her husband's father became George I of England in 1714, her life changed dramatically and she moved to England to become Princess of Wales. She was the first lady of the kingdom, the royal hostess, since the king had divorced and abandoned his unfortunate wife (and Caroline's mother-in-law). She was the first Princess of Wales in England since Katherine of Aragon 200 years before! But things were not well within the family, the two Georges were always quarreling, until at last a major rupture occurred in 1717. Caroline and her husband were banished from St. James's Palace and their children were seized by the king--it was a very long time before they regained their custody, and the rift was never quite healed between parents and children. In 1720, Caroline was able to use her tact (and her friendship with Prime Minister Walpole) to bring about something of a reconciliation, at least in public. Her friendship with Walpole would stand her in good stead for a long time to come.

In 1727, George I died (not much mourned) and Caroline became queen. She came into her own then, indulging her love of intellectual pursuits and the arts (she brought Handel to England). She loved garden design, and her work at places such as Kensington Palace can still be seen. She was a leader of fashion Her intelligence far outstripped her husband's--he didn't always understand her passions, but allowed her to indulge them however she chose. He kept mistresses, as it was the custom of the day. The best known was Henrietta Howard, Caroline's own lady-in-waiting and friend. She and her husband also carried on the unhappy family precedent of feuding with the son and heir, they had a very antagonistic relationship with their son Frederick. George II would make his wife regent whenever he left the country, bypassing his son. And Frederick snuck his young wife out of Hampton Court when she went into labor to deprive Caroline the chance to be present at the birth!

She died in 1737 after an operation that was considered barbaric and incompetent even by the standards of time, to repair an old umbilical rupture from the birth of her last child. The surgery killed her, and her husband went into deep mourning. When she was buried at Westminster Abbey, Handel composed Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline for the occasion. When George died 23 years later, he was buried beside her. She was much missed by the whole nation.

You may strut, dapper George, but twill all be in vain,
We all know tis Queen Caroline, not you, that reign

A few sources (besides the Worsley book, which I highly recommend!):
Ruby Lillian Arkell, Caroline of Ansbach, George the Second's Queen (1939)
Tracy Borman, Henrietta Howard, King's Mistress, Queen's Servant (2007)
John Van Der Kiste, King George II and Queen Caroline (1997)
Peter Quennell, Caroline of England, An Augustan Portrait (1940)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Holiday!

Gone for a few days--back next weekend!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Today's heroine is "pretty, witty" (according to Pepys!) Nell Gwyn, actress and royal mistress, who died on November 14, 1687.

Little is known about her earliest life, except she was born around February 1650 to a mother named Eleanor (or Helen) Gwyn of the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, and a captain in the Cavalier army. It's not even certain where she was born, and three places make the claim--Hereford, London in Covent Garden, and Oxford. It's thought her mother kept a bawdy house (and possibly was an alcoholic), but Nell later declared when called a whore, "I was but one man's whore, though I was brought up in a bawdy house; and you are a whore to three or four, though a Presbyter's praying daughter!" (again according to Pepys).

Around 1662-3 she took a lover named Duncan or Dungan, who provided her with a room in Maypole Alley and may have helped her get a job at a theater being built nearby. They were together perhaps two years or so. At this time, Charles II was restored to the throne and frivolities that were banned under the Puritans (like the theater) were roaring back to life. Women were also allowed to act on the stage for the first time, but Nell's first job there wasn't as actress but as orange girl, working for a bawd named Orange Meg who had a license to "vend, utter and sell oranges, lemons, fruit, sweetmeats" in the theaters. Orange girls would also serve as messengers between men in the audience and the actresses. After about a year of this, she became an actress herself thanks to her pretty looks, clear voice, and fearless wit (and a judiciously chosen lover or two!). She was determined to succeed in a very competitive field, and worked hard to memorize her lines despite being illiterate.

She made her debut as Cydaria in John Dryden's The Indian Emperour, but she felt the drama didn't suit her. It was comedy that would make her a star, when she appeared in May 1665 in All Mistaken, or the Mad Couple as one of a typical Restoration theatrical couple of witty, argumentative lovers. She was a big hit, but the theaters were closed by an outbreak of the plague later in the summer. Nell and her mother spent those months on Oxford, where the royal court had taken refuge. They ordered theatrical entertainments while there, and she may have appeared.

Once the theaters reopened, Nell embarked on a series of her witty comic roles, many of them "breeches" parts that showed off her pretty legs. In 1667 she became the mistress of a Court wit named Charles, Lord Buckhurst, a passionate affair that was quickly over. The affair with Charles II was said to have begun in April 1668 (an anecdote says he invited her to supper after the theater with a party that included his brother James, Duke of York, but at the end they realized they had no money with them. Nell declared "Od's fish, but this is the poorest company I ever was in!"). She continued to act despite her new position.

She gave birth to her first child with Charles, a son named Charles, in May 1670 (by some counts the king's 7th son), but she had many rivals for his affections, including his longest-standing mistress Barbara Palmer and the newly arrived Frenchwoman Louise de Keroualle (who Nell called "Squintabella" and "Weeping Willow"--they were great rivals for years, though they also often had tea and played cards together). In 1671 Nell retired from the stage and moved into a fine house at 79 Pall Mall, where she would live for the rest of her life. In 1681 she had a second son with the king, James, who would die in Paris at the age of about 10. The boys were known by the last name Beauclerc and given titles of earls and dukes.

King Charles died in February 1685, entreating his brother "Let not poor Nelly starve," and Nell was given a pension. She didn't live long to enjoy it though, dying at 37 years old in 1687 of a stroke. She was buried at the Church of St. Martin in the Fields. She was remembered for her great wit, her beauty, and her kindness.

Some sources on her life and times:
Charles Beauclerk (her descendant!), Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King (2005)
Elizabeth Howe, The First English Actresses: Women and Drama 1660-1700 (1992)
Derek Parker, Nell Gwyn (2000)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


The winner of Regency Christmas Proposals is...Ammy Belle! Please email me at Amccabe7551 AT with your snail mail info.

I'll be having a giveaway next month of my December Laurel McKee release, Duchess of Sin, so be sure and stay tuned!

(And I'm at the Riskies today, talking about historical trivia...)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Not too long ago, I got a movie from Netflix called Mad Love (released in Spain as Juana la Loca), and I enjoyed Juana of Castile's very dramatic tale so much I had to find out more! (Before this I only knew the bare facts of her life--daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, deposed from her rightful throne, died "mad," etc). I also found a novel of her life, CW Gortner's The Last Queen, and read some non-fiction. I thought she would make a great Heroine to look at this weekend, since her birthday is November 6!

Juana of Castile was born in Toledo in 1479, the third child and second daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon (one of her younger sisters was Katherine of Aragon). As an infanta she received a rigorous education in languages, history, religious studies, music and dancing, the ways of Court life, and horsemanship (her mother was a renowned rider, as well as overly-zealous defender of the Catholic faith!). Like her sisters, she was groomed for a useful alliance of a marriage. She was described as having a pale complexion, blue eyes, and reddish hair (a family trait).

In 1496 she was betrothed to Philip of Burgundy ("the Handsome"), son of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. After a proxy marriage in Valladolid she set out to join him in Flanders, never to see her mother or most of her siblings again (she would see her father later, when they were at war with each other). The couple would go on to have 6 children (two emperors and four queens!) but the marriage was notoriously unhappy. It was said that Juana was hopelessly in love with Philip, but he was chronically unfaithful and always trying to usurp her political power for his own. Their heated quarrels led to rumors she was "mad," and by 1504 (the year of the death of Queen Isabella) they were living apart.

Her life took an unexpected turn following the deaths of her brother John, her older sister Isabella of Portugal, and Isabella's son, which made Juana heiress to her parents' Spanish kingdoms. She was titled Princess of Asturias (title of the heir of Castile) and the Aragonese nobility swore an oath to her as heiress. She and Philip traveled back to Spain in 1502 to receive their fealty, after which Philip went back to Flanders and left a pregnant Juana in Madrid. After Isabella's death, Juana became Queen of Castile, depriving her father of that crown. Isabella's will stated that Ferdinand could govern in Juana's absence or as regent for Juana's son Charles, if she chose, but Ferdinand refused to accept this sop. He minted coins in the name of "Ferdinand and Joanna, King and Queen of Castile, Leon, and Aragon" and persuaded everyone that Juana was so ill she could not govern. He was then appointed her guardian and the kingdom's administrator, but Philip wouldn't accept this and fought back. Ferdinand then married the niece of Louis XII of France for a French alliance and in hopes of producing a new male heir.

But this marriage strengthened support for Juana and Philip in France-hating Castile, and the couple headed back to Spain to take control (a storm forced them to put in at England for a time, where they stayed with her sister Katherine at Windsor Castle). When they landed in Spain, the Castilian nobility abandoned Ferdinand and flocked to their banner, forcing him to hand over the government in June 1506 and promise to retire to Aragon. But Juana didn't win--her father and husband signed a treaty agreeing that her "illness" made her unfit to rule. (Ferdinand quickly repudiated this agreement, but it did him no good and he had to beat a retreat to Aragon).

Philip died on September 25, 1506 of typhoid (though there were rumors his father-in-law poisoned him!), leaving Juana pregnant with her last child, Catherine. When she tried to rule in her own name, the country fell into conflict (fueled by plague and famine and general unrest), and she fought a regency in the name of her son Charles (then 6 and being raised by an aunt in Flanders). Ferdinand returned to Castile to try and quell the unrest, and father and daughter met in July 1507. He persuaded her to return power to him and become queen in name only. She was confined to a convent and her loyal household dismissed. It was said she kept her husband's coffin with her for company.

But Ferdinand didn't end up very well. His second marriage produced no sons, and his efforts to bypass Juana's eldest son in favor of her second (who was raised in Spain) came to naught. He died in 1516 and the kingdoms passed to Juana and Charles (who came to Spain in 1517). He kept his mother in close confinement and ruled Aragon and Castile and Leon (united as Spain in 1519. He also became Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and defeated revolt in 1520.

But poor Juana lived the rest of her life at the Convent of Santa Clara, becoming more and more ill as the years went on, becoming deeply depressed. Her son wrote to the nuns, "It seems to me that the best and most suitable thing for you to do is to make sure that no person speaks with her majesty, for no good would come from it." So her isolation increased, despite the fact that her youngest daughter Catherine lived with her until her marriage and her older daughter Eleanor visited and tried to organize a household in her convent rooms. She died on April 12, 1555 at the age of 75 and was buried at Granada near her parents and husband.

Some sources for her turbulent and sad life:
Maria Gomez, Phyllis Zatlin, and Juan-Navarro Santiago, Juana of Castile: History and Myth of the Mad Queen (2008)
Bethany Aram, Juana the Mad: Sovreignty and Dynasty in Renaissance Europe (2005)
H. Tighe, A Queen of Unrest (1907)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Portrait Friday

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everyone! Remember, remember the 5th of November.... (and if you can't remember, here's a site with the history of the day!) I couldn't find a portrait of Fawkes himself, so here is James I, the monarch he was trying to blow up:

And you still have a couple of days to enter to win a copy of Regency Christmas Proposals! I'll announce a winner on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Book Giveaway!

To celebrate my November releases, I'm giving away a signed copy of Regency Christmas Proposals! To enter just leave a comment here telling us some of your favorite holiday traditions or books you like to read at this time of year....

(And my new Undone! story is available at Eharlequin!)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Riskies Tuesday

Celebrating Marie Antoinette's birthday over at the Riskies today!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Happy Halloween, everyone! (Actually our town has trick-or-treating last night, but THIS is the real Halloween!). You may have figured out this is my favorite holiday, and I'm not alone. Halloween is second in sales only to Christmas, and grows every year. But I found out this is not a recent thing.

When my grandmother passed away, I came across a box full of old letters and gorgeous postcards from the late 19th/early 20th centuries, mostly sent between her mother and her aunts. Many of them were Halloween cards, and when I looked into it I found out the Victorians and Edwardians enjoyed the holiday as well! (You can see a little about the history of the holiday here). I did a search for these postcards online and thought I would share some of the pretty...

Sunday Contests!

I will be over at the Riskies all day today, talking about my November releases (the Undone! short story, To Court, Capture, and Conquer and the new holiday anthology Regency Christmas Proposals!) and giving away copies. Come by and say hi!

Later this week, I'll be giving away the anthology here too, so stay tuned...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

When I was a kid, I briefly joined the Girl Scouts. I realized that while I very much enjoyed making s'mores and wearing the outfits, I didn't much enjoy sleeping outside at a campground (and I never even got to the point of selling cookies! Though I am addicted to eating them. Especially Thin Mints). So this week's Heroine is the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Juliette Gordon Low, who was born on October 31, 1860.

Low (who was known as "Daisy" to her family and friends) was born into a well-to-do and distinguished family from Chicago and Georgia ( her father was a Confederate captain during the Civil War), and her great-grandmother lived for a time as a captive of the Senecas as a young woman (Daisy was said in the family to share this ancestors intrepid and courageous spirit!). She attended exclusive boarding schools such as The Virginia Female Institute and Mesdemoiselles Charbonniers in New York City (a fancy finishing school). She was considered intelligent and adventurous, but had some bad luck--silver nitrate used to treat an ear infection cost her the hearing in one ear, and a stray piece of rice punctured her other ear drum at her wedding, leaving her partially deaf.

At age 26, on December 21, 1886, she married William Mackay Low, son of a wealthy cotton manufacturing family of Savannah, Georgia and part English. They had no children and went to live in England, but Juliette returned to the US to assist in the efforts of the Spanish American War (she and her mother organized a convalescent hospital for returning soldiers, while her father served on the Puerto Rican Peace Commission). The marriage proved not to be a happy one due to her husband's drinking and affairs, but before she could file for divorce (as she intended to do) he died in 1905 and left the bulk of his estate to his mistress.

In the UK she discovered the Girl Guide organization, and when she returned to live in the US in 1912 she decided to form an American version of the group. Her first group of recruits numbered 18, with her niece Margaret "Daisy" Gordon, as the first. The Girl Scouts were incorporated in 1915, and Juliette served as president until 1920 when she was titled "founder." The Girl Scouts brought together girls of many different backgrounds and took them outdoors, to discover the benefits of activity and exercise and self-reliance (at a time when those things were in woefully short supply for girls!). She showed girls that they could develop their talents and look beyond traditional homemaker roles to fulfill themselves out in the world. (From that 18 the Girl Scouts now number about 4 million).

She was also very interested in the arts (and was an accomplished painter and sculptor), she acted in plays and wrote poetry, and was an amateur naturalist with a particular interest in exotic birds. She swam and played tennis (and stood on her head every year on her birthday to prove she could still do it). Among her friends she was known for her great sense of humor and fun!

She died of breast cancer at her home in Savannah on January 17, 1927 and was buried with full Girl Scout honors at Laurel Grove Cemetery in that city. Her friends then established the Juliette Gordon Low World Friendship Fund in her honor, which funds international projects for the Girls Scout and Girl Guides. (You can visit the website for her Birthplace here)

There are many websites about her life and legacy online, but I also found several children's books helpful in finding out more about her!
Fern Brown, Daisy and the Girl Scouts
Susan Bivin Aller, Juliette Low
Helen Boyd Higgins, Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scouts Founder

Friday, October 29, 2010

Portrait Friday

October 29 marks the day Sir Walter Raleigh was executed at the Tower of London in 1618...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lute Music

This month marks the point in musical history when Robert Dowland took over as King's Lute (to James I) from his father John Dowland, continuing a proud family tradition. Since I love Elizabethan lute music (and own more CDs of it than anyone should!), I thought I'd share a little music for Thursday...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

I love Bill Bryson's books! I usually laugh out loud at almost every chapter, and so far At Home is no exception. The cover flap says that Bryson was inspired by his family's own house (a Victorian rectory in the English countryside) to "journey about his home from room to room to 'write a history of the world without leaving home.' The bathroom provides the occasion for the history of hygiene, the bedroom for an account of sex, death, and sleep, the kitchen for a discussion of nutrition and the spice trade, and so on." For a history geek like me, addicted to useless historical trivia tidbits, this book is heaven! I have only read a couple of chapters so far, but have already come across the development of the house from Roman times, the invention of the chimney, the progresses of Elizabeth I, and the windows at Hardwick Hall ("more glass than wall") among many other things. Love it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Over at the Riskies today, wrapping up a month of Spooky Tuesdays as Halloween gets closer!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Historical Etsy Find

I haven't done a "Sunday Historical Etsy Find" post in a while, but while I was messing around there yesterday looking at "Marie Antoinette" items I found this "Let Them Eat Cake" lip butter. Yum! I haven't tried it yet, but I'm definitely going to--my skin gets very dry in the winter and I'm always looking for great lip balms and moisturizers. What could be better than one that's buttercream flavored???

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

I've long been interested in the Georgian theater scene, and (hopefully!) will one day write a series with that setting (the scandals! the clothes!), so today's Heroine is actress Anne Oldfield, who died on October 23, 1730.

She was born in London sometime in 1683, the daughter of a poor soldier. Like many young women of her station, she apprenticed at a young age to a seamstress, but was noted for her beauty and her way of speaking. She got noticed while reciting poetry and was given an engagement at Drury Lane. Her good looks brought her immediate notice, but she proved to have talent as well, especially in the light drawing room comedies popular at the time, and quickly moved through the ranks. Within ten years, she was known as one of the greatest actresses of her day.

Her "break-through" role was in Colley Cibber's The Careless Husband (1704), where she created the role of Lady Modish. (He later said of her, when she appeared as Lady Townly in his The Provok'd Husband, "here she outdid her usual Outdoing"). She also was known for her roles in two Ben Jonson plays, Epiocene and Volpone, and unlike most actresses of the day, who specialized in either tragedy or comedy, she did well in both.

She was also well-known for her quiet private life and elegant fashion and deportment. Poet Alexander Pope wrote of her, "Engaging Oldfield, who, with grace and ease, Could join the arts to ruin and please." She died at the age of only 47 at her home in Grosvenor Street, leaving her considerable fortune to her 2 sons by her lovers Arthur Mainwaring (who left her half his own fortune on his death in 1712) and Charles Churchill. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, near the grave of Congreve.

One great source to learn more about her life, and the theater of her day, is Joanne Lafler's The Celebrated Mrs. Oldfield: The Life and Art of an Augustan Actress (1989)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Portrait Friday

Peter the Great of Russia was crowned on this day in 1721...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Can-Can Thursday

October 21 marks the anniversary of the premier of Offenbach's opera Orpheus in the Underworld (and also the first time the can-can was performed! But I can't verify that little tid-bit...)


A new review for "Regency Christmas Proposals" (shipping now from Amazon!) from The Season

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Today is the birthday of the "scandalous" French poet Arthur Rimbaud (born in Ardennes October 20, 1854). Part of the "decadent movement" of modern art, literature, and music, he was a prodigy who wrote almost all of his poetry before the age of 21 and died at age 37, after a restless life of travel and affairs...


Clear water; like the salt of childhood tears,
the assault on the sun by the whiteness of women’s bodies;
the silk of banners, in masses and of pure lilies,
under the walls a maid once defended;

the play of angels;—no…the golden current on its way,
moves its arms, black, and heavy, and above all cool, with grass. She
dark, before the blue Sky as a canopy, calls up
for curtains the shadow of the hill and the arch.


Ah! the wet surface extends its clear broth!
The water fills the prepared beds with pale bottomless gold.
The green faded dresses of girls
make willows, out of which hop unbridled birds.

Purer than a louis, a yellow and warm eyelid
the marsh marigold—your conjugal faith, o Spouse!—
at prompt noon, from its dim mirror, vies
with the dear rose Sphere in the sky grey with heat.


Madame stands too straight in the field
nearby where the filaments from the work snow down; the parasol
in her fingers; stepping on the white flower; too proud for her
children reading in the flowering grass

their book of red morocco! Alas, He, like
a thousand white angels separating on the road,
goes off beyond the mountain! She, all
cold and dark, runs! after the departing man!


Longings for the thick young arms of pure grass!
Gold of April moons in the heart of the holy bed! Joy
of abandoned boatyards, a prey
to August nights which made rotting things germinate.

Let her weep now under the ramparts! the breath
of the poplars above is the only breeze.
After, there is the surface, without reflection, without springs, gray:
an old man, dredger, in his motionless boat, labors.


Toy of this sad eye of water, I cannot pluck,
o! motionless boat! o! arms too short! neither this
nor the other flower: neither the yellow one which bothers me,
there; nor the friendly blue one in the ash-colored water.

Ah! dust of the willows shaken by a wing!
The roses of the reeds devoured long ago!
My boat still stationary; and its chain caught
in the bottom of this rimless eye of water,—in what mud?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Tuesday

If it's Tuesday, I must be at the Riskies! It's Spooky Tuesday Part 3, famous spooks of the UK...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

When I was a kid, I was introduced to reading romance fiction by coming across a big box full of paperbacks in my grandmother's closet! (We visited her every summer, and I loved going there because she always had books for me). That box, and the ones that followed them (my grandmother haunted used bookstores, garage sales, and library sales) were filled with old Fawcett Regencies by Marion Chesney and Barbara Metzger, Barbara Cartland (which I loved!), Heyers, old Harlequins, Gothics by Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, and a variety of classics like Emma and Jane Eyre. I have the happiest memories of those summer days reading. One of the books I came across one day was Forever Amber, the story of a wild girl in Restoration England. And today is the birthday of it's author Kathleen Winsor, born October 16, 1919.

Winsor was born in Minnesota but raised in Berkeley, California where she graduated from the University of California and decided that one of her ambitions was to write a best-selling novel. While still in school she married the football hero Robert Herwig and wrote a sports column for the Oakland Tribune. Her husband was writing a paper on Charles II, and she happened to pick up one of his research books--and was hooked on the Restoration period. While he was gone during World War II she read over 356 books on the period and began writing a historical novel.

The fifth draft of her Restoration story was bought and edited down to a fifth of its original length, but even so it was a 972-page epic of all the vivid scandals of Restoration England. This is the description of the plot from Amazon:

Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England-that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London to the intimate passions of ordinary-and extraordinary-men and women, Amber experiences it all. But throughout her trials and escapades, she remains, in her heart, true to the one man she really loves, the one man she can never have. Frequently compared to Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber is the other great historical romance, outselling every other American novel of the 1940s-despite being banned in Boston for its sheer sexiness. A book to read and reread, this edition brings back to print an unforgettable romance and a timeless masterpiece.

Fourteen states banned it (including Massachusetts, which cited "70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, 7 abortions, and 10 descriptions of women undressing in front of men", but it was a huge seller, selling over 100,000 copies in its first week of release alone. It went on to sell over 3 million total Despite the objections of the Hays Office, a film was quickly put into production starring Linda Darnell. Winsor became a celebrity, and also claimed she "wrote only two sexy passages and my publishers took them both out." No wonder I loved that book so much...

Winsor was divorced in 1946 and quickly remarried musician Artie Shaw (even though it was said Shaw once told his ex-wife Ava Gardner to quit reading such a "trashy novel" when she bought Forever Amber!). She divorced Shaw in 1948 and married her divorce lawyer. In 1953 they divorced and she married the former head of the FCC (they were married until his death in 1975). She went on to write many other novels, including The Lovers, Calais, Robert and Arabella, and 3 more, but none sold nearly as well as Amber. She died in New York in 2003, soon after a new edition of Forever Amber was published.

I found a great deal of information from the foreword of that 2000 edition, plus from obituaries online, including ones from The Independent, The Seattle Times, and The Oakland Tribune.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Portrait Friday

On October 15, 1917, exotic dancer and alleged spy Mata Hari was executed in France...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Museum Shop Love

Some of my very favorite places to shop are museum shops. They have great books, unusual jewelry and clothing, all sorts of great stuff! I'm on the email lists of several of these shops, which is a very dangerous thing for my credit card, especially as the holidays get closer and I want to buy fabulous gifts for everyone.

Case in point--I just got an email from the Met Museum shop featuring new books, including this one on Victorian jewelry (they also have one on the Romanov jewels). Want This! I have a book on Georgian jewelry I bought there that is one of my favorites in my research library. I am sooooo tempted....

What are your favorite shopping destinations?