Monday, November 12, 2012

Cleaning in the Regency England

Nowadays, there are many---almost too many---cleaning products to choose from. Two hundred years ago, that was not the case.

Today, Maria Grace talks about cleaning on the English Historical Fiction Authors' blog.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jane Austen: Unexpected Benefits

Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that reading Jane Austen may improve your attention span and focus.

Read the article here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrating Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer was the first Regency romance novelist, although the also wrote books in other time periods. I discovered Ms. Heyer's books, and Regency romances, at the ripe old age of 33 or 34, when I finished grading a set of truly abysmal final exams, then visited the main branch of the Detroit Public Library (which was just across the street on the far side of the campus) to find something interesting to read over Christmas break.

Regency Buck was my introduction to Regency romances. Fortunately for me, the library had a large selection of Ms. Heyer's books and of Regency romances. (Does anyone remember Walker Regencies, the hardcover library editions? The DPL had a large collection of them, to my delight.)

It's hard to choose a favorite book by any author, but especially hard with Ms. Heyer's books---mostly because I can't make up my mind. Most days or weeks I choose The Talisman Ring, but sometimes I choose The Reluctant Widow. Occasionally, I pick The Toll-gate.

Georgette Heyer was born 110 years ago today. In honor of her birthday and her achievements,  romance authors are discussion her books and their favorites, at USA Today's Books blog.
Celebrating Georgette Heyer's Birthday

What is your favorite Georgette Heyer novel?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

100 Books in 2012 Challenge: Update

The latest additions to my list of books read this year.

54. The Witness by Nora Roberts (2 times)
55. Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (2 times)
56. Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (2 times)
57. Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (reread from 10-15 years ago)
58. Acts of Mercy by Mariah Stewart (2 times)
59. Shattered by JoAnn Ross
60. Dark Side of Dawn by Merline Lovelace (reread from 15 years ago)
61. After Midnight by Merline Lovelace (2 times) (reread from 10 years ago)
62. Against the Law by Kat Martin
63. Count to Ten by Karen Rose
64. Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag
65. Hide by Lisa Gardner
66. The First Mistake by Merline Lovelace
67. Bad Medicine by Eileen Dreyer
68. Haunting Rachel by Kay Hooper
69. Brown-Eyed Girl by Mariah Stewart
70. On the Run by Iris Johansen
71. Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline
72. Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline
73. Sleep No More by Susan Crandall
74. The Prey by Allison Brennan
75. The Hunt by Allison Brennan
76. The Kill by Allison Brennan
77. Birthright by Nora Roberts (2 times)
78. Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown

All of the books were good. My favorites were Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag, Birthright by Nora Roberts, and Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown. Why were those three books my favorites? Hard to explain, except that I had a difficult time putting them down.

The three books in Allison Brennan's Predator Trilogy were also very good, but scary enough that I needed to put them down several times in mid-read. Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline was very good, too. It's been a while since I read a book by Ms. Scottoline, but this book reminded me why I liked Ms. Scottoline's books.

The books on the list I liked the least: Glitter Baby, which is an generation-spanning saga that hasn't aged well, and On the Run, which seemed over-the-top throughout.

What have you been reading? If I don't respond to a comment, it's because I can't. I reported the glitch to Blogger weeks ago, but they still haven't solved the problem.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jane Austen

Today, 18 July, is the anniversary of Jane Austen's death. The 195th anniversary to be precise. Although she only wrote six novels, her books have inspired and influenced more writers in the past 40 years than her more prolific contemporaries. An entire genre of books, comedy of manners novels, was inspired by Jane Austen's books. All of my books, as well as those of nearly every other traditional Regency romance author, are comedy of manners novels.

To honor Jane Austen, the Austen Only website has posted an article showing memorials of Jane Austen here.

What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? Depending on when you ask, mine is either Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why Do You Read Romance Novels?

Here's one writer's opinion on why smart women read romance novels. Mine's slightly different, but the author covers many of my beliefs.

As for women with Ph.D.s writing romance novels, I can add three more: Eloisa James, Katherine Ashe, and me. Most romance-writing Ph.D.s have degrees in literature or history, however, not engineering. Ah well.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Solder MIA a Long Time

An interesting article about the remains of a British soldier found behind the British lines at Waterloo.

Rare Remains: Soldier Found at Waterloo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

100 Books in 2012 Challenge: Update

I was an avid reader long before I ever thought about writing a novel. I'm still an avid reader. I took up the challenge to keep track of the books I read this year, and to try to read 100 books. So far, I'm making good progress toward my goal.

Here is a list of the books I've read since I last posted an update.

37. When Dreams Come True by Cathy Maxwell
38. Blame it on Bath by Caroline Linden
39. One Night in London by Caroline Linden
40. Scandal of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke
41. Once Around by Barbara Bretton
42. Sleeping Alone by Barbara Bretton
43. The Day We Met by Barbara Bretton
44. Maybe This Time by Barbara Bretton
45. At Last by Barbara Bretton
46. A Soft Place to Fall by Barbara Bretton
47. Girls of Summer by Barbara Bretton (read it twice)
48. The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin
49. The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts
50. Just Down the Road by Jodi Thomas
51. Here to Stay by Catherine Anderson
52. Home for the Summer by Mariah Stewart
53. Moonshell Beach by JoAnn Ross (read it twice)

Of all these books were good. The best of the bunch was Barbara Bretton's Girls of Summer, which is my all-time favorite contemporary romance. Also excellent were Home for the Summer by Mariah Stewart, the fifth book in her Chesapeake Diaries series; Moonshell Beach by JoAnn Ross, the fifth book in her Shelter Bay series, which I was fortunate enough to read before its release due to an advanced reading copy I won in the weekly contest on her website; and The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts, the second book in her Inn Boonsboro trilogy.

I'm on a contemporary romance kick at the moment, and I plan to start reading Ms. Roberts's new book, The Witness, tonight.

What have you been reading?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Well Do You Know British History?: Part 2

Here are the next nine groups of questions from Part 1 of last year's Townsend-Warner Preparatory Schools History Prize.

Answer these questions on brothers in history:

a) Who were the mythological founders of Rome?

b) What was the supposed fate of Edward V and his brother, Richard?

c) What did Humphrey Gilbert and his half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, have in common?

d) Who were the nineteenth century writers of children’s fairy tales, based on European folk tales?

e) Which brothers are credited with the first powered flight?

f) What was the surname of brothers Jack, Bobby and Edward, who played a major role in American politics in the last fifty years?

5. Explain briefly what historical understanding you have of the following:

a) Lollards

b) Pilgrimage of Grace

c) Dissolution of the Monasteries

d) Pilgrim Fathers

e) Popish Plot

f) Hundred Days

g) Crystal Palace

h) Miracle of Dunkirk

i) Bletchley Park

6. Answer these questions on world history:

a) Who became the ruler of the Franks in 771 and was crowned in Rome as Emperor in 800, uniting much of western Europe for the first time since the Romans?

b) Who ruled a North Sea empire in the early 11th century, which included Norway, Denmark, southern Sweden and England?

c) What name is given to the series of religious wars waged over more than two centuries for control of the holy lands of the Middle East?

d) What famous city was first called New Amsterdam by the Dutch, before being  captured by an English fleet and renamed in honour of their commander, the future James II?

e) Which modern European state was officially created on 18th January, 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles?

f) What was responsible for the deaths of up to 70 million people worldwide in 1918-1919?

7. With what do you associate the following individuals?

a) Alexander Selkirk

b) James Wolfe

c) Thomas Jefferson

d) Henry Hunt

e) David Livingstone

f) ‘Chinese’ Gordon

g) Robert Louis Stevenson

h) Cecil Rhodes

i) Vincent van Gogh

j) James Keir Hardie

k) Millicent Fawcett

l) Sir John Jellicoe

m) Mrs Wallis Simpson

n) Anne Frank

o) Pandit Nehru

p) Fidel Castro

8. What events in British history took place in these years?

a) 1485

b) 1588

c) 1688

d) 1707

e) 1832

f) 1914

9. Identify the following individuals:

a) The Queen of the Iceni tribe who led a revolt against Roman occupation in AD 60?

b) The priest who is reckoned to be England’s first Christian martyr, killed for his faith?

c) The priest who wrote The Ecclesiastical History of the English People<\i>, finished in 731?

d) The king who defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington in 878?

e) The prince who drowned in the wreck of the ‘white ship’ in 1120?

f) The first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe?

g) The grandson of James I, who was born in Prague in 1619, served his uncle as a cavalry leader in the English Civil War and later his cousin as an admiral?

h) The leader of a failed rebellion in England in 1685 against James II?

i) The general for whom the architect Vanbrugh designed Blenheim Palace in the early 18th century?

j) The landscaper of parkland in 18th century England?

k) The youngest Prime Minister, appointed at the age of 24?

l) The 19th century engineer and designer of tunnels, railways and ships?

m) The first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons?

10. Answer the following questions on British history:

a) What event in 1666 destroyed 13,000 homes in London and perhaps left 70,000 homeless?

b) What trading company collapsed in 1720, causing thousands of individuals to go bankrupt?

c) With what revolution do you associate the slogan ‘No taxation, without representation’?

d) What was the purpose of the Luddite Riots of 1811-1812?

e) Between 1788 and 1868 about 150,000 people were forced to leave Britain and were transported to work in harsh conditions overseas. Where were they sent?

f) Which bridge collapsed in 1879, whilst a train was crossing it?

g) For the last ninety years what has been the flower symbol used each November to remember the dead of World War One?

h) What began in 1936 by transmitting from Alexandra Palace in north London to about 400 households?< i) What name is generally given to the period between September 1940 and May 1941, when Britain was under serious aerial bombardment?

11. What is the link between each of the following?

a) John Ball, Richard II, Wat Tyler

b) Josiah Wedgwood, Josiah Spode, Thomas Minton

c) John Burgoyne, Charles Cornwallis, William Howe

d) 1807, Olaudah Equiano, William Wilberforce

e) William Howard Russell, Florence Nightingale, Inkerman

12. Link up these famous individuals with the ships they sailed in:

a) Francis Drake

b) James Cook

c) Horatio Nelson

d) Charles Darwin

e) Robert Scott



Golden Hind

Terra Nova


I missed a couple questions in sections 5, 7, 9 and 10, and one in section 11. Maybe I don't know quite as much British history as I thought. I did quite well with the medieval, Georgian, and Regency questions, but not as well with the 20th century questions.

How did you do? Would you win the prize?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

How Well Do You Know British History?: Part 1

Every year in Britain, the test for the Townsend-Warner Preparatory Schools History Prize is given to students at prep schools all over the country. The prize was the idea of a housemaster at Harrow, who wanted students to enjoy the study of history. The test is in two parts. The first part is a series of 100 questions requiring one-word or one-sentence answers, with a time limit of two hours. The second part is of the test is in essay form, and students can choose to write on a wide variety of topics.

Here are the first three groups of questions from Part I of last year's test.

1.Answer these questions on past English or British monarchs.

a) 1066 was the ‘year of three kings’. Two of them were Harold and William the Conqueror. Who was the third?

b) Which English king was responsible for the murder of Thomas Becket?

c) Which English king spent less than six months of his ten year reign in the country?

d) Which English king, who lost lands in France, was given the nickname of ‘Softsword’?

e) Which English king married the French king’s daughter and was accepted as heir and regent of France in 1420?

f) What name is given to the lengthy power struggle in England between two branches of the royal family between 1455 and 1487?

g) Which English ruler was known as the Virgin Queen?

h) Which king had ruled his country for 36 years before replacing the English ruler responsible for the execution of his mother?

i) Who was restored at the Restoration of 1660?

j) Who was the first reigning British monarch to visit Scotland (in 1822) since 1650?

k) Who was the British monarch from 1910 to 1936?

2. Identify the historical link between the following:

a) Woden, Thor, Freya

b) Miccosukee, Seminole, Creek

c) Marengo, Ulm, Austerlitz

d) Maxim, Lewis, Vickers

e) Magersfontein, Colenso, Spion Kop

3. Answer the following:

a) What is the modern name of Camulodunum, the first capital of Roman Britain?

b) What structure marked the northern boundary of the Roman empire in Britain for most of the period of Roman occupation?

c) What religious meeting took place in 664?

d) A raid in 793 on which ‘holy island’ off the Northumbrian coast started the Viking era?

e) What document was begun in 1086?

f) What royal Order was started in 1348 and is the world’s oldest Order of knighthood in continuous existence?

g) What book was begun in 1387 and contains 24 stories about a group of pilgrims, travelling from London to visit Becket’s shrine?

h) Which medieval English port perhaps once had a population of 5,000 and is now Britain’s most famous drowned city?

i)  What was first established in England by William Caxton in 1476 and led to the production of mass-produced books?

How did you do? I knew all but three of the answers. (I missed 2d, 2e, and 3a.) My husband, not being an amateur historian, missed a lot more.

The final group of questions will appear in a few days.

Friday, April 27, 2012

100 Books in 2012 Challenge Update

An update on my progress in the 100 Books in 2012 Challenge, which has just been thrown a complication (as have my knitting and writing challenges) by an upcoming job change and a move across the country. Most of the chaos will occur next month, which may mean I don't post as often as usual. I have several Georgian and Regency posts to finish up, when I have a little spare time.

 The books I've read recently are:
28. Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb
29. Shattered by Karen Robards
30. Justice by Karen Robards
31. Hometown Girl by Mariah Stewart
32. Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
33. Captive Queen by Alison Weir
34. Marrying the Captain by Carla Kelly (re-read from last year)
35. The Surgeon’s Lady by Carla Kelly  (re-read from last year)
36. The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal (2 times)

I liked all of the books. My favorites were Mariah Stewart's Hometown Girl and The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal, which was compelling enough to start reading again as soon as I finished it.

The most informative book was Lady of the English. Captive Queen, while interesting, was a bit of a disappointment. I read the author's biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine a few years ago, and liked it. In this novel, however, she used as fact rumors that most historians discount (including, if I remember correctly, herself). Maybe Ms. Weir's ideas about novel writing are different than mine, but I believe novels should be rooted in fact.

The Garden of Happy Endings is not, as its title might lead you to suspect, a romance. (I'd call it mainstream fiction with romantic elements.) It's a story of sisters, faith, friendship, community, and love. With gardens, dogs, and recipes. I found it riveting.

What are you reading?


Saturday, March 24, 2012

100 Books in 2012 Challenge Update

I deliberately did not post about by progress in this challenge for almost two months because I needed a long-ish list so that it wouldn't be obvious which books I read and judged for the RITA contest.

Listed below, not necessarily in the order in which I read them, are books 8-27 in my progress toward the goal of 100 books read this year.

8.  Dangerous Diversions by Margaret Evans Porter (reread from 15 years ago)
9.  Toast of the Town by Margaret Evans Porter (reread from 15 years ago)
10.  Lady Emma’s Dilemma by Rhonda Woodward (reread from 6 years ago)
11.  The Marquis’ Kiss by Regina Scott
12.  Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke
13.  Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter
14.  Heartache Falls by Emily March
15.  Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
16. Risky Christmas by Jill Morrison and Jennifer Morey (two novellas)
17.  One Summer by JoAnn Ross (sb2)
18.  The Angel in my Arms by Stefanie Sloane
19.  The Next Always by Nora Roberts
20.  On Lavender Lane by JoAnn Ross (sb3)
21.  Devlin’s Light by Mariah Stewart
22.  Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash
23.  Coming Home by Carla Kelly (three novellas)
24.  Sunrise on Cedar Key by Terri Dulong (ck3)
25.  Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb (id32)
26.  New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb (id33)
27.  Tides of War by Stella Tillyard

Of all these books, the ones I liked the best were On Lavender Lane by JoAnn Ross and Sunrise on Cedar Key by Terri Dulong. The book I liked the least was Tides of War by Stella Tillyard. The author's non-fiction books that I've read were excellent, but, unfortunately, she does not know how to write a good novel.

Considering that the year is not quite one-quarter old and I've read twenty-seven books, I think I'll succeed in this challenge.

Is anyone else participating in the 100 Books in 2012 Challenge? What's the best book you've read this year?


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fiction and the Brain

If you've ever wondered why authors describe things the ways they do, here's there answer. The New York Times' Sunday Review summarizes the results of some scientific studies.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy birthday, George Frideric Handel!

George Frideric Handel, one of the world's greatest composers, was born on 23 February 1685. (The same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarletti.) Unlike his contemporaries,  Handel was born into a family that had no interest in music. After receiving musical training in Halle, Hamburg, and Italy, he settled in London in 1712 and later became a naturalized British subject (1727).

Between 1719 and 1734, Handel started three Italian opera companies---the Royal Academy of Music, the King's Theatre, and the Opera at Covent Garden---but the British nobility came to hear the vocal acrobatics of the soloists more than the music. In 1736, he changed direction, musically, and concentrated on English choral works.

Most known for his Messiah, he was also a gifted composer of organ concerti and chamber music, such as his Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks.

From 1723 until his death, Handel lived at 25 Brook Street, now the Handel House Museum.

Handel's compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 duets, trios, and cantatas,  numerous arias, chamber music, many ecumenical pieces, and 16 organ concerti.

In addition to composing and performing music, Handel was a governor of London's Foundling Hospital, to which he bequeathed a copy of Messiah.

Handel died on 14 April 1759, a respected and wealthy man. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Here's a link to one of my favorite of Handel's shorter pieces: "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from his oratorio Solomon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How large is your vocabulary?

Did you know that the English language has more words than any other language on Earth?

The link below is a scientific method for testing the size of your vocabulary. Most people whose first (native) language is English know 30,000-35,000 words. My score was 42,400 words.

Test Your Vocabulary

Interesting, don't you think?

Monday, February 6, 2012

On this day in history...

On this day in history, 06 February 1811, the Prince of Wales was sworn in as Regent, officially marking the beginning of the period we know---and love---as the Regency. The Prince was forty-eight years old. (The portrait at right was painted in 1815 by an unknown artist in the style of Sir Thomas Lawrence.)

A Regent was needed because King George III was no longer mentally competent to rule (i.e., the king was mad and not expected to recover). The Regency lasted until 1820, when the king died and the Prince Regent became King George IV.

The Regency was an era of elegance and upheaval, which saw great changes politically, socially, militarily, and technologically. It was also a period of significant industrial and technological changes, agricultural reform, and a general movement of much of the populace from the countryside to the cities. Also during this period, hints of the development of social consciousness and women’s rights could be seen.

As a setting for romance novels, the Regency is appealing in part due to the rich dichotomy of history vs. Society, the real world vs. the apparently oblivious aristocratic world. That small, elegant, glittering world, seemingly insulated from the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars and from all types of reform, provides a real yet complex backdrop for the novels set in the period.

During the first half of the Regency, the Napoleonic War ravaged the Continent, and most British families lost husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles. During the latter half of the period, returning soldiers starved and the Luddites rioted against industrialization. Throughout it all, Society persevered in its pleasures, wearing silks, satins, velvets, and lace to balls, routs, soirees, and every type of party imaginable.

At the apex of fashionable Society stood the Prince Regent, a fat, fifty-ish, pleasure-seeking womanizer who was self-indulgent almost to the point of hedonism. He was also one of the best educated monarchs England ever had. He was a major supporter of the arts, and the scope of his interests---and his unrestrained spending---included architecture, painting, music, and fashion.

Beset by debts and profligate, the Prince was never popular with his subjects. But his collections formed the basis of the Royal Collection and the National Portrait Gallery, and he transformed Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

George IV died in 1830 at the age of sixty-seven.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Two Books Closer to Goal

I'm still in my Regency romance reading mood. I have two more books to add to my "read" list, as part of the 100 Books in 2012  Challenge. (Click on the link in the sidebar to learn more.)

The most recent books I read were:
6. The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance editted by Trisha Telep,
7. The General's Granddaughter by Dorothy Mack.

The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance true to its name was large. All the stories were good, and some were excellent. I might have wished some of them were longer, but all the stories were in the 10,000-word range, longer than a short story and about half as long as a novella. I had my favorites, as any reader would. If you've read this book, which story did you like best?

The General's Granddaughter was a book I've had for years, but it had fallen behind a stack of other books. I rediscovered it while dusting the shelf, and enjoyed it very much.

Despite having received three contemporary romances for Christmas, as well as a new research book, I have not yet opened a single one.

Do you ever get in a reading mood? If so, what time period or type of books are you most likely to choose?


Saturday, January 14, 2012

5 Books Read, 95 to Go

I took the challenge to read 100 books in 2012. (Click on the link in the left sidebar to learn more.) Most years I read more, but I'm not always good at keeping track of exactly how many I've read.

So far this year, I've read:
1. Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly,
2. The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly,
3. A Garden Folly by Candice Hern (a reread from 10-15 years ago, read on the Kindle app on my phone),
4. The Best Intentions by Candice Hern (a reread from 10+ years ago, read on Kindle app),
5. Miss Lacey’s Last Fling by Candice Hern (a reread from 10+ years ago, read on Kindle app).

I'm currently reading The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance, editted by Trisha Telep. True to its title, it's huge. I'm about one-third of the way through the book, and so far I've enjoyed almost all of the stories. Like any anthology, some stories are better than others. A few have been excellent.

As you can see from the list, I'm in a Regency romance mood. What are you reading this week?