Regency and Research, Writing

Book Blitz: A Hero To Hold

I’m so pleased to be participating in this Book Blitz for my friend Sheri’s first book, A Hero to Hold.  Keep reading all the way through, and besides learning more about this great book, there’s a giveaway at the end!


Title: A Hero to Hold
Author: Sheri Humphreys
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
 Release Date: June 9, 2016


Disillusioned by the scandal that took her husband and standing in society, Viscountess Charlotte Haliday will return to London and come face to face—and mouth to mouth—with a wounded war hero, the best man she has ever known.




Viscountess Charlotte Haliday has lost her illusions. Scandal took her position in society and the husband she thought she loved, and his mysterious murder followed shortly thereafter. But now is the time to return to London, time to find whatever small portion of happiness remains to her.

The first step will be proving she is her own person, unafraid of the lies and deceit that came before. Then she will defy her father and all others who try to steal her independence. Never again will Charlotte have a husband or seek the perfect marriage of her best friend Jane, but perhaps she will dare the wrath of the gossip-mongers and indulge her tiniest desire. To do so will bring her face to face with a stranger in an alcove. It will lead to learning Mr. David Scott is not only a war hero soon to be awarded the Victoria Cross, but also the most formidable man she has ever met. Broken in every way except the ones that count, he just might make her believe in love. And only she can show him that he is not alone.


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“Lady Haliday, what a pleasure.”

The malicious edge of humor in the baroness’s voice made her words a parody, and resentment speared Charlotte. “You’re a poor liar, Lady Garret, and you really needn’t expend the effort. I’m immune to your poison.”

The baroness noticed their silent companion, whose gaze was fixed upon her. “What, no introduction, my lady?”

The man did not react in any way. Well, Charlotte decided, at least he dealt out rudeness impartially.

The man shot her a look, brows lifting as if in question—as if he knew her and was silently communicating. Following blind instinct, Charlotte settled herself next to him on the empty half of the settee. She felt immediately and impossibly steadied.

Lady Garret’s mouth firmed, and her attention returned to Charlotte. “I’m surprised to see you here, my lady. Especially tucked away in a corner with a gentleman. It’s been a mere eighteen months since your husband passed. I’d go so far as to say this makes a mockery of his memory.”

Charlotte schooled her expression to one of polite interest. She would not show Lady Garret even an inkling of distress.

“I’d guess your actions will provide society with some entertainment,” the baroness continued. “A bit of a scandal is always appreciated. At least, it amuses me. It might even inspire me to pen another novel.”

A slow smile curled her enemy’s lips, and a quivering beset Charlotte deep inside. She kept her vision fixed on the baroness’s glittering eyes and wrapped her hand around the edge of the divan seat, anchoring herself. Over and over, for the past year she’d imagined this meeting. God willing, she would prevail.

She leaned back against the divan and forced her shoulders to relax. She had to appear confident, so she concentrated on keeping her voice composed. “I’m no longer that naive young woman you manipulated and tried to destroy. This time I won’t stand by while you spread lies about me. I’m not afraid of you, and I won’t crumble.”

The gentleman beside her turned his head, the chilly look gone from his eyes. Like heat from the sun, waves of quiet strength radiated from him and emboldened Charlotte. She marshaled her thoughts, leaned forward just enough to lend emphasis to her words, and continued with a harder voice. “You tell lies about me again, and I’ll make sure all of London is familiar with your machinations and your wicked soul. Until then, I’ll leave you be.”

Lady Garret’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. “How dare you threaten me?”

Charlotte did not look away. Didn’t this woman understand that she had already been consumed by the fire of scandal and risen from the ashes?

“You can say whatever you like about me,” she vowed. “You can tell all of London you saw me walk naked down the center of Regent Street. I don’t care. If it happens again, this time I won’t hide myself away—and I’ll make sure no one believes you.”

She felt the man sit straighter beside her, and a sudden desire to do something actually outrageous overcame Charlotte. To do something worthy of gossip, possibly even scandalous, and to do it without a care for the watchful eyes of Lady Garret. The thought left her giddy, and Charlotte closed her eyes to steady herself. Such an act would prove beyond all doubt that she had no fear of the baroness.

The gentleman beside her still radiated waves of quiet heat. His hand rested on the divan, and before she could consider the wisdom of her idea, Charlotte found herself caught up in it. She placed her hand atop his and laced their fingers. He tensed, and her heart began to race. What was she thinking? And yet, her daring thrilled her as nothing ever had, and when Charlotte looked at Lady Garret and saw the baroness struggling to hide her surprise, suddenly she was sure.

“At least this time,” she announced, “what you write will be based on truth instead of falsehood.”

In the grip of something foreign and reckless, Charlotte turned to the gentleman, gazed into his eyes and curled her hand around the back of his head. He resisted a bit as she drew him near, but she couldn’t afford to hesitate now. She didn’t relent.


 Author Bio
After a satisfying career as an emergency room nurse, Sheri closed the book on her diverse nursing experiences and followed a lifelong love for writing and historical romance to a new vocation as an author. She lives with a Jack Russell mix rescue, Lucy, in a small town on the central California coast.


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 There is a giveaway for 2 winners will each receive $15 in Boroughs Bucks plus an e-copy of A Hero to Hold

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Regency and Research

Glossary of Wacky Words I Love (And Use)

This week’s post is technically just about the Regency Period. Instead, I wanted to provide a brief glossary of words I enjoy, and which I use (sometimes to the confusion of others).  Please forgive my definitions, as any mistakes are certainly my own.

Bow Street – reference to the Bow Street Runners or Bow Street offices, which were formed in the late eighteenth century and disbanded by 1827 with the arrival of the London Metropolitan Police. They were somewhere between a private detective company, thief-takers, and formed one of the primary methods of crime investigation prior to Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police.

breeches – a type of men’s clothing, these were often a very tight pair of pants (guess skinny jeans have brought that back), and if “knee-breeches” came just below the knee, often help up with bracing. Black breeches were an essential part of formal attire for a good portion of the Regency era, especially in more conservative settings, before thankfully being replaced by black trousers (thanks to the style of Beau Brummel).

chocolate house – chocolate finally reached England in the 1650s, and the cost meant it was a treat only for the wealthy. There were shops dedicated to serving this as a beverage (the drink formed from blocks of solid cocoa), served alongside ale, beer, snacks, and coffee. One of the most famous Gentleman’s Clubs, White’s, originated as a chocolate house when it first opened in 1693.

flip – a hearty drink consisting of beer plus some variety of stronger alcohol mixed with sugar than energized by a red-hot iron thrust into the middle of it.

gold sovereign – not just gold-painted royalty (sorry, couldn’t resist), this was a description for a one pound coin, a decent amount of money at the time.

greatcoat – although this can reference other types of men’s clothing, when I use it in  a Regency setting this refers to a multi-caped long coat (with sleeves, it wasn’t a cape) that was an essential in most Regency bucks wardrobes. This is a generic term, describing coats that were long and room, had big pockets, and were usually waterproof (handy in London).

hell – in Regency terms, this could refer to both the Christian hell, and a place of gaming and vice, that is, a “gaming hell.”

rake – not useful for clearing leaves, this was a slang term for men during the Regency (a shortened form of “rakehell”) who were known for their vices, especially seducing and bedding numerous women. From this reputation, despite the modern romantic connotations, I suspect they were also rife with various STDs.

sidhe – in the most basic of terms, a fairy. Pronounced “see-lee.” This harkens back to mythology and different groups of fairies, amongst them the Tuatha, and you had the “seelie” and “unseelie” court.

The Watch – Another form of law enforcement / prevention in England and London.  These were men who were on guard to “watch” for crime and take reports of fires and other crime when it came to them in their watch-boxes, positioned throughout London. While they had a reputation for being inept and essentially useless, there were some men within the Watch who were very effective at their duty.

topper – another slang term used to describe a beaver hat, ie the classic black top hat.

über – actually a German word, but used in informal English as a prefix usually for emphasis. It means above, over, or across, but can also be meant as the best, ultimate, superiority or excess.

So what about you – any favorite words? What about those that people confuse or misunderstand all the time? Do share, so then we won’t make the same mistake!

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a fantastic week.

Regency and Research

Escape to the Regency: 10 Reasons I wish I could escape through time

It’s been one of those weeks / months, and I’ve been thinking about running away. I’ll let you know whether that’s a literal escape, or a figurative one.

And while the Regency period, and in fact, most periods of any context (including our own) have both their qualities and dark underbellies, I’m ignoring the dark bits today in favor of fantasy (ironic indeed, when it’s the dark bits that most interest me about the Regency.)

Nonetheless, I thought I’d share my 10 Reasons I wish I could escape through time, and run off to the Regency.

  1. No social media or internet, or computers. Communication was in person or with a personal touch, hand-written. While there are many things that are wonderful about modern technology, sometimes escaping it all would be fabulous.
  2. Lady’s fashion. I am not a willowy individual, other than perhaps I’m as tall as some willow trees. And the high-waisted Empire gowns, and an appreciation for an, ahem, fuller figure, would leave me quite content. Plus, I’m naturally pale as a ghost, so I’d scarcely need any of that lead-powder. 😉
  3. The shopping. I suppose whatever manner in which I escaped to this alternative history wouldn’t let me bring back souvenirs, but still, to browse up and down Pall Mall at the height of the Season? What treasures and fascinating objects would await in those shop windows?
  4. The men in fitted waistcoats and jackets with tails, and one mustn’t forget the topper! Even if some gentlemen resorted to stays and eventually corsets of their own to achieve the perfect “manly figure,” there is something quite lovely about a man in a suit, and especially in one tailored so perfectly to hardly close or allow movement.
  5. A chance to visit the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Indeed, it would be expensive, but fantasy allows any expense, does it not? What did the fireworks look like, and how did they differ from modern ones? What illicit behavior occurred? How did most fun-seekers behave?
  6. An afternoon outing in St. James’ or Hyde Park. Circling in my own fine equipage (perhaps I’d dare a sports car-like high gig? with a steady driver on the reins, of course), this was the place to see and be seen for the fashionable. What heights of extravagance were in evidence? Who was seen with who?
  7. The opportunity to attend readings or possibly meet some incredible authors. I hardly need mention Jane Austen, who has become almost synonymous with the period. But also Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, William Blake, and Sir Walter Scott, among others.
  8. A night at the theaters in Covent Garden. The theaters provided a spectacle it’s difficult for the modern audience to appreciate, and was often more about being seen than watching the play itself. I’d like to do both. 😉
  9. The balls and entertainments! Really, how can I consider the period and the qualities without some of the lavish entertainments at the height of the social Season?
  10. The chance to experience history, to understand the details the history texts often neglect. While no period can claim perfection – including our own – how fascinating to be able to experience even just a day in another time period, within a culture that today, may be somewhat forgotten. We might remember the big historic dates, but how much has been neglected? How much has been brushed under the metaphorical rug? How fascinating to have a chance to see history in action – and be part of it.

So that’s my list. Have you ever wanted to experience history? The Regency Period? Another? Why?

Thanks for reading, and hope you all have a fabulous weekend. Happy writing!


Regency and Research, The Paranormal

The Pig-Faced Woman: Found it!

466px-The_Wonderful_Mrs._AtkinsonHave you ever found a little tidbit of research only to completely forget where or when you saw it? What you have here has eluded me for months. I originally read of this legend in Captain Rees Howell Gronow’s reminiscences. Behold: The pig-faced lady.  I finally found word of it (and was jumping up and down), at Pig-faced women on Wikipedia.

For me, it’s perfect: Regency + paranormal = fantastic!

The story goes that the story originates in Holland, England, and France simultaneously in the late 1630s, of a noblewoman with a lovely human body, but the head of a pig. Perhaps her unfortunate appearance was the result of a curse; that is unclear.  When she married, her husband was given the choice: she could appear beautiful to him, but pig-like to others, or pig-like to him, and beautiful to others. When he told her the choice was hers rather than his, the curse was broken (at which point I can only surmise she became beautiful … or maybe the story is more Shrek like).

(Sorry, I digress … all wound up with Coke and finally having found this legend!)

Anyway, the legend appears again in Dublin in the early 19th century, giving the pig-faced woman a name: Griselda Steevens. This poor woman was said to be quite shy and reclusive, often remaining in her carriage while her servants gave alms to the poor. While it’s unclear whether the rumors of her having a pig-face began while she was still alive, there are stories that dismayed (obviously!) about the idea people had about her, she took to intentionally showing off her face in public, and even commissioned a painting of herself for the hospital she had built. But alas, without avail, as locals still preferred the image of the woman with a pig’s head in the tavern across the way.

Then it shows up again in London, 1814-1815 when there were rumors a pig-faced woman was living in Marylebone. Her existence was widely reported, included many alleged portraits and sketches of her. During celebrations following the end of the Napoleonic wars, traffic was tied up, and it was said that in one of the carriages was a woman with a pig’s snout protruding from beneath her poke bonnet.

“It was rumoured that during the illuminations which took place to celebrate the peace, when a great crowd had assembled in Piccadilly and St James’s Street, and when carriages could not move on very rapidly, “horresco referens !” an enormous pig’s snout had been seen protruding from a fashionable-looking bonnet in one of the landaus which were passing. The mob cried out, “ The pig-faced lady !—the pig faced lady! Stop the carriage—stop the carriage!” The coachman, wishing to save his bacon, whipped his horses, and drove through the crowd at a tremendous pace; but it was said that the coach had been seen to set down its monstrous load in Grosvenor Square.”

[Source: Reminiscences of Captain R. H. Gronow, being anecdotes of the camp, the court, and the clubs at the close of the last war with France. Gronow. p111-113: Now I can’t lose it again!]

Belief in pig women was so widespread, that often at fairs, charlatans purported to “show” one, which were usually shaved bears they dressed up in women’s clothing. Even Dickens was said to have commented on the prevalence of the legend, remarking that every age had its own pig-lady (pardon the paraphrase).

But, belief in their legend declined eventually, leading to the last “serious” work about their existence in 1924. This was in a book Ghosts, Helpful and Harmful by Elliot O’Donnell, a supernatural researcher. He claimed there was a ghost of a pig lady in a haunted house in Chelsea. Perhaps we have seen the last of the pig-lady, but I’m sure glad I found her again! I can’t wait to tell her story. 🙂

Have you ever lost that juicy tidbit of research? Have you ever heard of the pig-faced woman?

Thanks for reading. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog. Have a great week!


Regency and Research

Regency Graveyards, Pt1

The Crypt, St. Bartholomews Church. Source:
The Crypt, St. Bartholomews Church. Source:

Remember how I mentioned that I have a thirst for the unusual when it comes to the Regency period? As a result, I have been combing resources (online and elsewhere) for information about Regency graveyards.

First note: if you want to do the same search, save yourself some aggravation, and use the search term “cemetery” instead. While the term graveyard is used, in the context it generally seems to refer to Churchyard burials rather than the larger public burial places.

So, the search started off discovering a fair bit of information about burial customs. That is, when someone died, it was often the family – usually the females of the house – who would dress and care for the body. Then, while there may have been some kind of service in a church, females rarely came out to the graveyard, considered too “delicate” for these matters. I thought this a bit strange – they hadn’t been too delicate to care for the corpse.

Then I did a bit more research.

You know the saying “6 feet under” and those cracked and ruined graveyards with moss and trees, melancholy yet picturesque? Yeah. Very much a Victorian invention, and created after things reached horrific terms by the 1820s  – 1840s.

Graveyards were noxious places. There were two central problems: grave robbers, and open graves. For while the rich were privileged enough to often have private burial places perhaps at churchyards or in family graveyards on the ancestral estate, others were not so fortunate. Graves were packed tightly together in a square formation – no wide walking paths, but narrow passage between groups of them. Worse, as populations, especially in major cities, increased, there were naturally more dead to bury. This often necessitated a grave that might be dug six feet, perhaps deeper – but it wasn’t closed before more than one body was interred, leaving perhaps a foot of earth covering the coffin if there was one, sometimes less.

Yes, by this time I was thinking I, too, would have been too delicate for the graveyard.

As today, there was still a fee for burial. And for those lacking funds? You could inter your loved ones for a time, after which their “parking spot” expired, and the remains would be removed, trundled off in the night for a fertilizer plant, all to make room for new arrivals. How long the body stayed there depended on the watchfulness of the surviving family, and sometimes just the caprice of the graveyard keepers.

This was one of the few advertisements I found directly hinting at Regency conditions:

New Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, Church Steet, Islington – This extensive GROUND has been prepared with a view to prevent those shocking depredations which now afflict the public mind: it is securely enclosed, carefully guarded, and will always be well lighted during the winter months; it also offers the best security against profane intrusion, because dry graves may be sunk in it to a depth defying such attempts, viz. 10, 15, 20 feet, or as much further as may be desired: the public will easily perceive that a grave which demands the incessant labour of two men during two long days to sink, and requires many shoring planks, must be placed beyond the power of violation. Orders for funerals taken in by the sexton, on the premises, of whom cards of the dues and fees may be had. By the particular request of several of the principal undertakers, a large general vault has been constructed, in which all interments must be in lead or iron.
    Advertisement in The Times, December 15th 1818

[source 1=”” language=”:”][/source]

High walls and strong internment caskets to keep out grave robbers (the bodies were only good if still fresh). Not certain if the lead and iron internments were just to prevent robbery. The problem with them was that sometimes, having no air holes, they could explode.

I had trouble finding contemporary account of cemeteries (weird, huh? Didn’t they know someone would want such strange information someday?).

I’ll offer just this tiny tidbit to start to give you an idea. This is a brief description of Clement’s Lane, in London.

“… The back windows of the houses on the east side of the lane look into a burying ground called the ” Green Ground,” in Portugal Street, presently to be described ; on the west side the windows (if open) permit the odour of another burying place — a private one, called Enon Chapel — to perflate the houses ; at the bottom — the south end — of this Lane, is another burying place, belonging to the Alms Houses, (‘) within a few feet of the Strand, and in the centre of the Strand are the burying ground and vaults of St. Clement Danes ; in addition to which, there are several slaughter houses in the immediate neighbourhood : so that in a distance of about two hundred yards, in a direct line there are four burying grounds ; …” [source 1=”Gatherings” 2=”from” 3=”Grave” 4=”Yards,” 5=”by” 6=”G.A.” 7=”Walker,” 8=”p149″ language=”:”][/source]

So, this post has already gotten unbearably long. 😉 Thanks for reading – curious?

Here are a few resources you can check out, available free from Google Books:

Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. Edwin Chadwick (sir.) [1843]

Gatherings from Grave Yards: Particularly Those of London. With a concise History of the modes of internment among different Nations from earliest periods. And a detail of Dangerous and Fatal results produced by the unwise & revolting custom of inhuming the dead in the midst of the living. By G. A. Walker, Surgeon. 1830. [had to include the full title; kind of explains what the book is. 🙂 ]

The Funeral Guide: or, A correct list of the burial fees, & of the various grounds in the metropolis &c. five miles round. John Cauch [1840]

Regency and Research

Stress Driving You Mad?: St. Luke’s Hospital

Bedlam, or Bethlem, Hospital has achieved such historic notoriety, certainly most of us have heard of it. Here it was that pauper lunatics were sent up until 1751.

Now, the sad fact was that the 18th and early 19th centuries were not kind to lunatics. They were often treated little better than animals. If they were lucky enough to have wealthy relatives, somebody was paid to care and keep them out of the way. For the rest of them, Bedlam was designed specifically for the purpose. Perhaps most disturbing to modern sensibilities was the addition of galleries and methods so that visitors could go to visit Bedlam and laugh and jeer at the poor lunatics trapped there.

So, note to self: if I am trapped in Regency England and declared mad, St. Luke’s is the way to go. No provisions were made for laughing and jeering at the lunatics.

This picture, again from Microcosm of London, shows St. Luke’s Hospital, one of the galleries in the female wing. By historical standards, it was quite humane. The room is clean, some of the women are working, others take turns around the room. None of them are chained, and each lunatic is provided with a bed, blankets, and if “her habits were clean enough”, sheets. Yes, again I look to my tiny 1940 edition, and John Summerson’s helpful notes.

Summerson writes:

“The building is very like a prison and was, indeed, designed by George Dance, the architect of Newgate Gaol. Dance was an artist of extraordinary power and a grim theme sometimes drew out the best in him. This gallery, with its long thin windows, fantastically high cell doors and iron grilles, might be a stage set for the Duchess of Malfi. Compare it to Dance’s Chapel at Newgate [see Aug 16th post], another specimen of the art of being architecturally grim. Today we disapprove of architecture which deliberately dramatises unpleasant things. A madhouse which looked like a setting for the hallucinations of madmen would never do. It must look like a gentleman’s residence and must be called, not a mad-house, or even a lunatic asylum, but a ‘mental home.'” (- Summerson, 19-20, Microcosm of London, 1943)

I included the last bit because I found it rather amusing, his ascerbic notation – because in designing buildings today, we’re also conscious of making them more “friendly” for the most part. Of course, we also know (or think we know) that different environments have different effects on patients and inmates (depending on whether it’s a hospital or prison – often designed by similar people).

What do you think? Does this hospital look suitable for the mad? What improvements do you think we’ve made since then? What perhaps have we forgotten? Curious about anything else? Do leave a note – you know you want to. 😉

Thanks for reading, and hey, like the post? Why not sign up for the blog and never miss a thing. Hope you have a fantastic week. 🙂

Regency and Research

Newgate: Clarifying the picture

Newgate Chapel. From my research and familiarity with the era, I know that Newgate was one of the most notorious of the prisons during the Regency Period. So, take a look at this etching, originally from The Microcosm of London. What do you think is happening?

Source: Wikipedia, public domain, source: Microcosm of London, 1810
Source: Wikipedia, public domain, source: Microcosm of London, 1810

If you’re like me, you see that it looks like a chapel and people praying around the coffin – obviously someone died.

And then you read the explanatory notes.

I was fortunate enough to receive a tiny, abridged 1943 edition of The Microcosm of London, originally by T. Rowlandson & A.C. Pugin. What’s neat about this edition is that it explains things that Rowlandson and Pugin’s contemporaries would have known – but which we modern readers miss. John Summerson provides the following explanation of the picture:

“… Pugin and Rowlandson show us the chapel (plate V), planned by a great architect, George Dance, for the hideous ceremony which took place on the Sunday preceding an execution. In the centre is the pew in which the condemned sit or kneel round a symbolic coffin. A crowd of other prisoners enjoys the rich spectacle of men and women faced with prospects worse than their own. The Governor and his wife are lodged securely in their corner pew: the chaplain prays lustily as he stares across his congregation of the damned to the painted Ten Commandments, which stare back vindictively from the squat altar-piece. Shortly he will ascend the pulpit and preach the ‘condemned sermon.'” – J. Summerson

A bit different than you expected, hmm?

Have you found something interesting like this before in your research? Care to share? Did you know when you first looked at the picture what was going on in the picture?

Thanks for reading, and hey, why not sign up for the blog and never miss another post? Have a great week, and happy writing. 🙂

Regency and Research

A Regency Woman’s “Job”

Today’s post was inspired while I poked around at other people’s lovely blogs. I came upon “The Regency Reticule” (do follow the link to check it out yourself.) Here’s the quote I liked:

“…For instance, nowadays, most parents of daughters want their little girls to grow up and find a career or vocation they can be really passionate about.  In the Regency though, what most parents thought was ‘best’ for their daughters was an advantageous (financially) marriage.  Marriage was seen, for women, like a career is now.  It was prepared for, educationally and emotionally.  We have to realize that back then there really was no social safety net other than the church, and that was the dreaded ‘charity’…” [Source:]

Harriet Arbuthnot, painted by John Hoppner; Source: Wikipedia Commons
Harriet Arbuthnot, painted by John Hoppner;
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The part that particularly struck me was “marriage was seen, for women, like a career is now.” It’s a very interesting thought – and one I don’t disagree with. The Regency period held few rights for women – inside or out of marriage. Essentially, they traded the dominion of their parents for the dominion of their husband. Divorce was extremely rare, requiring an Act of Parliament (yes, see how often that’s likely to happen – especially if some of the hubby’s friends are in said parliament).

So marriage as career. What would that mean? Certainly there’s the requisite “heir bearing” or the perennial phrase “heir and a spare” (considering high infant mortality rates, you’d probably want more than one spare). If your husband is connected within society, it’s your duty to “represent” him well out and about, to help secure connections through female relationships, and certainly make good arm candy when necessary. Though often, husbands and wives spent little time together, men preferring the company of other men, and spending more of their time at their clubs (and quite possibly with the mistress), whereas women socialized, attended teas and events with friends, and probably often found themselves alone at home at night (unless of course they engaged in extramarital affairs as well.)

What happened if, as a woman, you chose another career? Jane Austen is often a prime example of this, never marrying, and living on the charity of her brother. While she chose a career outside of marriage – and few can claim not to have heard of her – interestingly, she didn’t want her name on the early books, and when she died and was buried, she isn’t listed as “awesome writer of fantastic fiction” (well, something more in Regency-speak, but you get the drift). Instead, her eulogy makes no mention of her writing whatsoever, instead emphasizing her “sweetness.” (I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up for yourself – it’s near the end of the page: Jane Austen’s eulogy can be found here.)

There are other females who chose careers outside marriage. Such as:

  • Amelia Curran, and Irish painter and close friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • Harriet Arbuthnot had a career AND a marriage as a diarist, social observer, and political hostess.
  • Sarah Burney, English novelist, unmarried, cared for her father and family; sister to novelist and diarist Frances (Fanny) Burney. She’s an interesting example who didn’t marry, and suffers near penury, the associated scandal of possible incest (though this has since been dismissed), but lives to the ripe old age of 71. A hard, but interesting life.
  • Mary Anne Clarke, who left her husband who went bankrupt shortly after her marriage when she was 18, and is perhaps most famous for becoming the mistress of the Duke of York, and selling army commissions because he didn’t set her up to the style she required.
  • Felicia Hermans, who didn’t let marriage stand in the way of her literary career as a poet, although she died at only 41

Want to know more? Check out: Women of the Regency Era on Wikipedia; some very intriguing women, and not all of them chose marriage as their career.

So, what would you do if you were in the Regency? Would you choose a career in marriage – as was the norm? Or would you dare to be different like some of the women above? Any other different Regency women you’ve discovered?

Thanks for reading – and hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog? Hope you have a great week!

Regency and Research

A Very Brief History Of Forensics: Yes, Pre 20th c.

Like most people, I got my first “taste” of forensics through CSI, and found myself fascinated.

Unlike most people, this fascination led me to want to write a book about a Regency era detective who used forensics to solve crimes, and magic to fill in the blanks of unavailable technology. First, I had to research what was possible in early 19th century forensics. Turns out, quite a bit. I’ve included references if you’re interested in finding out more.

700s – Chinese use fingerprints to authenticate documents

925 A.D. – England’s Charts of Privileges lists the office that would become coroner (“crowners” at first), who collected taxes, and also summoned inquest juries when someone was seriously wounded or died from “misadventure”. Coroner’s became “death investigator’s” by the 13th century when they examined all dead bodies to determine the nature of wounds, diseases, and a person’s matter of death. (Ramsland, Beating the Devil’s Game, p5)

c. 1000, Quintilian, a Roman attorney, wins acquittal for his client by proving that bloody palm prints were intended to frame him.

1247 A.D. – Sung Tz’u, a Chinese lawyer, offered advice in one of the oldest forensic technique books, Hsi yüan chi lu (The Washing Away of Unjust Imputations). He based his ideas on solving cases and calculated decomposition rates on strict observation and logic. In this handbook on autopsies, the author describes how different causes of death would demonstrate themselves in the state of the body. (Ramsland, Beating the Devil’s Game, p6-7)

end of the 16th century – Battista Condronchi offered De Mortis Veneficiis, a study of poisoning deaths, followed seven years later by De Relationibus Medicorum by Fortunato Fedele. (Ramsland, ibid, p11-12)

1609 – First study on handwriting analysis by Frenchman Francois Denelle.

mid 1600s – Germany’s University of Leipzig offered a course in forensic medicine.

1670 – Anton Van Leeuwenkoek develops the first simple microscope, the world’s first powerful precision microscope.

1728 – Frenchman Pierre Fauchard writes Treatise on the Teeth, which proves teeth could be used for identification purposes.

post 1780 – “Scotland established itself as a leader in forensic investigation post-1780, such as in the case of a murderer girl where a cast of a suspect’s shoe was made, and the wound was determined to be made by a left-handed killer because the slash had started on the right. (Ramsland, ibid, p.16-17).

1784 – England. John Toms is convicted of murder because a torn piece of paper in the murder gun matched a piece of paper in his pocket; this is considered perhaps the first documented incidence of physical matching evidence.

1806 – Dr. Valentine Rose showed how arsenic could be detected in human organs, showing how toxicology was valuable to crime solving.

1807 – First forensic science institute established at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Even Americans looking to improve medical jurisprudence looked to Scottish physicians.

1811 – French pediatrician and chemist, Pierre Nysten, published results of his studies on rigor mortis, identifying various stages.

1811, December 7 – Horrific crime in London’s East End along the Ratcliffe Highway; intruder murdered shop owner Timothy Marr, his wife and apprentice, and the baby sleeping in the next room. Two weeks later, similar murders at the King’s Arm Inn. A seaman’s maul was found with the initials “J.P.” and an Irish sailor was suspected, but never convicted as he hanged himself first in Coldbath Fields Prison. (Ramsland, ibid, p. 22-23).

1813 – prodigy Dr. Mathieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila publishes the first systematic treatise on known poisons. Has a second book four years later, but not consulted by police for a criminal case – despite being the world’s authority on toxicology – until 1824. (Ramsland, ibid, p32).

1814-1815 – Vidocq, a police informant working for Napoleon (among other things he’s accused / remembered as), had a systematic approach to crime which advanced forensic techniques, like keeping detailed written records, notes, comparing spent bullets to weapons, preserving footprint casts, comparing handwriting samples, suggesting fingerprints could be used as a form of I.D.

1823 – Czech physiologist Johannes Evangelist Purkinje publishes description of nine fingerprint types, thinking they could be used for identification (and you’ll note, arriving earlier than Galton). (Ramsland, ibid, p31).

1833 – Vidocq establishes world’s first detective agency, Le Bureau des Renseignments.

1835 – Bow Street Runner Henry Goddard uses matching bullets and the discovery of an inside job to solve a crime, and become one of the forerunners of ballistics experts (Ramsland, ibid, p35).

1839 – the word “scientist” comes into use.

1843 – Belgium’s Sûreté Publique takes the first known mug shots of criminals. Throughout the 1850s, police departments across Europe and the U.S. compile archives of prisoner images. (Ramsland, ibid, p44)

1859 – U.S. becomes the first country in which photographs can be used as evidence in a court of law.

1892 – Francis Galton develops the fingerprint classification system.

1901 – Karl Landsteindr identifies human blood groups.

So, what do you think? Does forensics interest you? Have you ever gotten so interested in something that it’s led you down unusual research paths? 

Thanks for reading. And hey, like the post? Why not sign up for the blog? Hope you have a fantastic week. 🙂

Regency and Research

Strange But Fun Research Books

I’m taking a break from the Regency for this week and instead showing off some of my favorite weird-ass books that I have on my shelves for research. You know the kind: they’re kind of unexpected, they’re not exactly the kind of book you use as everyday reference, they can become an enormous time-suck, but boy are they fun to poke around in. Yep, some of those. 🙂

weaponsbookThe Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. Eds. Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair.

This dear book has been a long and dutiful friend, ever handy when I’m feeling rather blood-thirsty. It’s an old guy that I picked up at a library book sale, but it’s a great reference for actually looking up weapons … or if you just want to compare different suits of armor, or maybe look for a neat-looking dagger your heroine might use. Or you know, play. 🙂

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Master Guide: Arms and Equipment Guide.

I confess that I haven’t used this book as often as I might, but when a friend’s hubby said he was giving away books, well, first, who says no to a free book? and second, this one looked handy when it came to describing things I wasn’t familiar with. There are lots of pictures and descriptions of those pictures so you can understand what different weapons are, different costumes, etc. Again, a fair bit of fun to thumb through.

bodylangThe Definitive Book of Body Language. By Allan and Barbara Pease.

This was purchased in relation to writing, and because it was really interesting when I read through it somewhat randomly the first time (have no idea why I picked it up). As well as being handy for understanding body language so you can write about it, try reading it and then go out for dinner with friends, or especially with people you don’t know very well. It’s great fun all dinner long to read what their body language is saying, so much more interesting than the conversation. 🙂

You Can Read Anyone: Never Be Fooled, Lied To, or Taken Advantage of Again. By David J. Lieberman.

Yep, I got hooked on body language books, which is why I followed up the Peases’ book with this one. Also interesting, it delves into a bit more detail, and is especially used for kind of criminal profiling – though it also goes into why a read can be flawed on the basis of nervousness, etc. I, for example, swear I look like the most guilty person in the airport, because though I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m terrified I’ll be caught doing something and miss my flight.

bookromeTraveller’s Guide to the Ancient World: Rome in the Year AD 300. By Ray Laurence.

This was a bargain pick-up, and because someday, I swear I’m going to write a book with Ancient Rome in it. This one is a lot of fun because it’s formatted just like a modern travel book, which makes is super easy to find all kinds of information you’d be hard pressed to otherwise. I haven’t read – or double-checked – the sources and authenticity since I haven’t had to, but if you want it for actual reference, that would probably be a good idea. I’m not entirely certain how factual it is, but it is fun.

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. By Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack.

I did mention these were weird and rather random books, right? This is an interesting book in how it’s written – as though you’re actually out encountering or hunting down demons. A bit strange, but definitely interesting for the perspective.

Planet Cat: A cat-alog. By Sandra Choron, Harry Choron, and Arden Moore.planetcat

I like cats, which is where this book originates. But I found, to my surprise, that it’s also a great source for weird cat-trivia which could come in handy if you happen to have a feline character. There’s tons of myth, famous cats, history, cat in context to said history, that sort of thing. No, you probably aren’t going to find a use for most (all?) of the info in here, but more fun than you’d probably expect.

birthdayencycThe Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays: know your birthday, discover your true personality, reveal your destiny. By Theresa Cheung.

Ah, and at last we end on my favorite weird-ass book. It grabbed the attention of my husband and I in the bookstore, and despite it’s price tag, it came home with us. It’s also often flipped through by friends when they see it, and I confess to looking up most of my friends and family to see what it has to say. (Oh, and characters for books too – though again, less research, more play.)

So what the heck is it, you ask? It’s an encyclopedia of birthdays, breaking it down by zodiac, numerology and other systems, so you can look at general “sign” information, as well as just look up your birthday and read an assessment of your personality. For example, if your birthday were today, July 26, you’d find (p297):

“this is the birthday of self-assurance.

“People born on July 26 tend to be charming and strong individuals with an almost unshakable belief in themselves. … Other people tend to listen when these dominant personalities speak because they have an air about them which others respect and admire. … From the age of twenty-seven, they have an increasing desire for more practical order, efficiency, and analysis in their lives. In the years that follow, it is important for their pscyhological growth that they don’t become over-confident …”

“On the dark-side: over-confident, tactless, uncompromising.”

“At your best: honest, authoritative, confident.”

Neat, huh? Trust me, lots of time can vanish just playing with this book.

So, what are your favorite weird-ass books – whether they live in your home or not? Why do they make your list? What makes them special?

Thanks for reading, and speaking of vanishing time, I better get back to work. 🙂 Hope you have a great week, and hey, if you liked this post, why not follow the blog? Have a good one. 🙂