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?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I'm over at the Riskies today, with the second of my Spooky October Tuesdays (famous ghosts of the UK today!). I also found out today marks the anniversary of the very first Oktoberfest, in 1810. It was more a wedding party, a celebration of the marriage between Crown Prince Leopold of Bavaria and Princess Teresa held in a meadow near Munich. There was a horse race, dancing, beer, and feasting! So go and find an Oktoberfest today...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Happy Saturday, everyone! I'm on my way out to the farmer's market to buy some lovely autumn veggies, but first we have our Heroine of the Weekend! This week we look at sculptor Harriet Hosmer, born on this day in 1830. She was one of the most successful female artists of her day, and her friend Elizabeth Barrett Browning called her "a perfectly emancipated female."

She was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, the daughter of a physician who later let her study anatomy with him. Her mother and elder sister died when she was very young of tuberculosis, and her father then encouraged her to pursue healthy outdoor pursuits, and she became very proficient at rowing, skating, and riding. She even traveled alone on the Western frontier, meeting Indian tribes and exploring rivers and mountains. Another childhood pursuit was art, and she found she loved modeling in clay. She went to study in Boston in 1852, and one of her early works, a model head called "Hesper" was displayed to great acclaim. She then traveled to Rome to study with sculptor John Gibson.

While living in Rome she became friends with people like Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne, George Eliot, the Brownings, and a group of women artists (including Anne Whitney, Louisa Lander, Florence Freeman, etc) that Henry James referred to as "The White Marmorean Flock" (he also said she was always "the life of the party"!). She worked in a neoclassical style, and her subjects were usually women from classical mythology, such as Daphne and Zenobia. She had immediate success with her work--in 1855 her statue called "Puck" sold thirty copies, and when she briefly returned to the US she had a line of commissions waiting. She made a reclining statue called "Beatrice Cenci" for the St. Louis Public Library in 1857, and the huge "Zenobia" (she considered this her masterpiece) in 1859, followed by a bronze statue of Thomas H. Benton for Lafayette Park, also in St. Louis. Her "Sleeping Faun" was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1867. She made a great fountain of Hylas and the water nymphs, a statue of the Queen of Naples posing as "Heroine of Gaeta", and many others. She proved that the current opinion that sculpture was beyond the strength of a woman and she should stick to nice watercolors was a myth.

She lived for 40 years in Rome, with short visits home, and was much talked-about both for her art and for her unconventional manner of dressing and casual manner! She had a long relationship with a widowed Scottish noblewoman Lady Louisa Ashburton, and worked on technology along with her art. She was working on a perpetual motion machine when she died in her hometown of Watertown on February 21, 1908.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Museum Exhibit

I would LOVE to see this exhibit--Wedded Perfection at the Cincinnati Art Museum. I will definitely be buying the book...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Spring Fashion

As always at this time of year, I've been spending too much time online looking at pics from the spring fashion shows! It seems weird to think about next spring when I haven't even started wearing fall clothes, but there it is. How gorgeous are these gowns from the Alexander McQueen show???? I WANT that black one to wear at RWA next year (dream on!)

And I also love Keira Knightley's new haircut. I'm thinking I may need a trip to the hairdresser now...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Risky Tuesday

Over at the Riskies today, talking about haunted houses (it's October, yay!), finishing the book, and new covers!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

Saturday already, and I'm wrapping up the WIP to send in Monday, and getting ready to take my dog Victoria to Pugfest (a fundraiser for Pug Recsue) later today, but first it's time for this weekend's Heroine. We'll take a look at Italian actress Eleonora Duse, born on October 3, 1858.

Duse (as she was often known) was born in Lombardy to an acting family, and she joined the family business at the age of 4. They were poor and she was forced to work pretty much continually, traveling from city to city. As she grew up she became well-known for her emotional style and gained more and more fans, until her fame spread and she embarked on very successeful tours of the United States and South America as well as Russia and all of Europe. In a time where most actors used stiff mannerisms and stereotypical expressions, she was famous for her technique of "elimination of self," a sort of Method acting she used to connect emotionally with her characters. In private, she was reserved and introverted, rarely giving interviews (unlike her rival Sarah Bernhardt, who never said no to publicity!). But she was generally considered a genius of the theater, and later became the best-known interpreter of the works of Ibsen.

As well as for her talent and elegant style, she was well-known for her series of romantic affairs. In 1879 she met the journalist Mattino Cafiero in Naples, but he left her less than a year later when she was pregnant with their child. The child and Cafiero both soon died, and Duse then joined a new theater company and met handsome actor Teobaldo Checchi, whom she married in 1881. They had a daughter, Enrichetta, but divorced in 1885. By this time her star was on the rise, and she went off on tour to South America and formed her own company. Affairs followed with Arrigo Boito, a poet best known as Verdi's librettist (they remained friends until his death many years later), and playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio, a man 5 years her junior who wrote 4 popular plays for her. Their affair ended when he dared give Bernhardt the lead in his new play La Citta morta. In 1909 she embarked on an affair with a woman, Lina Poletti, and was rumored to be involved with Isadora Duncan.

In 1896 Duse became the first actress to attend a tea in her honor at the White House on her US tour (President and Mrs. Cleveland attended every Washington performance). Everywhere she went she was applauded and lauded. It was said "...she allowed the inner compulsions, grief and joys of her characters to use her body as their medium for expression, often to the detriment of her health." She retired from acting around 1909, but still mentored many young actresses and artists, including Emma Gramatica, Yvette Guilbert, Martha Graham, and poet Amy Lowell. She suffered from ill health most of her adult life, but continued her grueling schedules of touring and work.

In 1916 she made a short film, Cenere ("Ashes"), and corresponded with DW Griffith about working together, though nothing came of it. In July 1923 she was the first woman to be on the cover of Time magazine. She died April 21, 1924 in Pittsburgh while on a tour with her company of the US. She lay in state in New York for 4 days before being sent back to Italy, where she is buried in the cemetery of Sant' Anna in Asolo.

Some sources:
William Weaver, Duse: A Biography
Helen Sheehy, Eleonora Duse: A Biography

Friday, October 01, 2010

First Review!

My first review of Duchess of Sin, from Fresh Fiction! I am sooo excited...

Poetry Friday

October 2 is the birthday (in 1879) of one of my favorite poets, Wallace Stevens. To celebrate, here is one of my favorite poems of his: Peter Quince at the Clavier:

Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the self-same sounds
On my spirit make a music, too.
Music is feeling, then, not sound;
And thus it is that what I feel,
Here in this room, desiring you,

Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk,
Is music. It is like the strain
Waked in the elders by Susanna;

Of a green evening, clear and warm,
She bathed in her still garden, while
The red-eyed elders, watching, felt

The basses of their beings throb
In witching chords, and their thin blood
Pulse pizzicati of Hosanna.

In the green water, clear and warm,
Susanna lay.
She searched
The touch of springs,
And found
Concealed imaginings.
She sighed,
For so much melody.

Upon the bank, she stood
In the cool
Of spent emotions.
She felt, among the leaves,
The dew
Of old devotions.

She walked upon the grass,
Still quavering.
The winds were like her maids,
On timid feet,
Fetching her woven scarves,
Yet wavering.

A breath upon her hand
Muted the night.
She turned —
A cymbal crashed,
Amid roaring horns.

Soon, with a noise like tambourines,
Came her attendant Byzantines.

They wondered why Susanna cried
Against the elders by her side;

And as they whispered, the refrain
Was like a willow swept by rain.

Anon, their lamps' uplifted flame
Revealed Susanna and her shame.

And then, the simpering Byzantines
Fled, with a noise like tambourines.

Beauty is momentary in the mind —
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.

The body dies; the body's beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
So gardens die, their meek breath scenting
The cowl of winter, done repenting.
So maidens die, to the auroral
Celebration of a maiden's choral.

Susanna's music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
Left only Death's ironic scraping.
Now, in its immortality, it plays
On the clear viol of her memory,
And makes a constant sacrament of praise.