My Love Affair with the Harp

by Donna Hatch

A reader recently made the astute observation that there is a harp, or at least mention of a harp, in most of the books and short stories I write. She guessed correctly when she asked if I play the harp.

harp 85 petiteI do play the harp and have loved it since I was a child. Here is a picture of my harp, a Lyon & Healy 85 petite.

I fell in love with the harp at the age of 12–sort of a love at first mention. I can’t remember ever seeing a harp before that moment, at least not in person, nor do I remember ever noticing a one being played. But when I learned that a harp teacher was willing to teach harp lessons to children at my school for free, I knew in every cell of my body that I HAD to play the that magical-sounding instrument.

So began a love affair that has lasted all my life. I don’t play professionally anymore. I do teach, but mostly I play for pleasure and occasionally in church. It does something for my soul. Nighttime seems to be the time I play most often. It helps me wind down and quiets the noise in my head.

I began learning to play on a troubadour harp, which is a small, lever harp. Lever harps are perfect for children and beginners but many professional harpists chose to stay with a lever harp for a number of reasons–portability being one of the major reasons.  I decided to go the classical route rather than sticking with more folk-style music, so I eventually ‘graduated’ to a pedal harp for each of playing accidentals and key changes, as well as having more octaves available.

Harps come in all shapes and sizes. Harpists choose their size and style depending on their’ preferences and budget. The full-size, concert grand harps you see in the symphony have a large soundboard that carries well enough to be heard in a concert hall. They also come with an equally large price tag. And you can even get them beautifully carved and/or gilded which adds to the aesthetic appeal and, of course, the cost.

My petite pedal harp provides the strings I need to play most folk and classic pieces without needed to make any modifications, and it’s more portable than a full concert grand. Since I seldom play outside of my own living room except for the occasional performance in church or Christmas parties, I don’t need a big, booming sound.

The big harps have not only larger sound boards to create a rich, resonate sound, as well as more volume, but they also have more strings–more octaves.

To change the string from natural to sharp or flat, the length of the string must be shortened or lengthened.  On a lever harp, this is done by moving a lever for each string that needs to be moved. On a pedal harp, the harpist moves a pedal which changes that note in every octave.

harp diagramHere is an illustrated diagram of a harp. What the diagram calls the foot is also often called the base. The larger harps have taller columns, more strings in both directions, and a larger soundboard. The soundboard is what gives it the sound. Generally, the larger the soundboard and body (the curved part behind the soundboard), gives more richness of sound and  more volume.

256px-Double_Chromatic_Harp_1890Some harps have more than one set of strings. The harp pictured to the left is called a Double Chromatic Harp. I found this picture on Wikimedia Commons. I have never actually seen one like this in person nor heard it played. I can only assume that one hand goes on each set of strings the way other double harps are played. I tried to find a video on YouTube of someone playing a Double Chromatic Harp but couldn’t find one listed. I did find someone playing a regular double harp, which has two sets of strings side by side. I can see some distinct advantages to having two sets of strings, namely not having to so carefully time the repeated playing of a note.

This Sunday, I’m playing my harp in church accompanying the choir. Two flutes will also be performing. We’re doing “The King Love My Shepherd Is” arranged by Mack Wilberg.

Here is a video of the same arrangement performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Do you play an instrument? If so, how has it influenced your life?

Three beautiful, clean historical romances for a special boxed price

TTT Love Unexpected 3-DIf you’re looking for a great historical romance at a bargain price–I have a treat for you; how about THREE great romances for only 99 cents?

This week only, Love Unexpected: a Triple Box Set romance including the full version of my full-length Regency romance entitled THE STRANGER SHE MARRIED  is now availble for THIS WEEK ONLY at the promotional price of only $.99 .  This is available for all ebook readers.

Here’s a link to the blog featuring my book and two other great full length sweet historical romance novels:

For some reason it’s hard to find the Goodreads Page so here it is:

Also, I encourage you to sign up for the Triple Treat Romance Newsletter so you’ll be the first to learn of new sweet (clean) romances. Here’s a link to the newsletter subscription:


Hurry! This special deal lasts only this week. Then for the next two weeks, the price goes up to $2.99, which is still a great price. Normally, the price for this boxed set is $5.99. Remember, this is three full length historical romances that you are getting in one set and you can get it for any ebook reader format.

Happy reading!

TBR Read a Thon Answers and Drawing

thestrangershemarried 2013 tinyCongratulations to Abbi Hart for winning the random drawing for my Regency Quiz. Abbi wins a free paperback copy of my Regency romance, The Stranger She Married.

Here are the answers to Friday’s quiz and entry for a free copy of The Stranger She Married, my sweet, traditional Regency Romance.

1. Where would a Regency lady wear a pelisse?

a. to a garden party.

b. to bed.

c. to go outside walking or shopping.

d. to the queen’s drawing room.

The answer is c. It was a light weight, long coat that helped protect a lady’s clothing from dirt and soot.

2. Why would a Regency ballroom have chalk?

a. to teach dance steps by drawing the pattern on the floor.

b. to decorate the dance floor and/or hide any flaws in the wood.

c.  for  dancers to wipe on the bottoms of their shoes.

d. b and c.

The answer is b and c. They hired chalk artists to do beautiful artistic designs on the floor as a way of enhancing the decorations or theme of the party, which also served as a way of providing chalk for the bottoms of dancing slippers as well as artfully conceal any flaws on the wooden floor that might be revealed by a partially empty room.

3. What is a banyon?

a. a men’s dressing robe for casual, stay-at-home days.

b. an ornamental tree.

c. another word for a corset or stays.

d. a holiday dessert.

The answer is a men’s dressing robe for casual, stay-at-home days. It was less casual than what we think of as a bathrobe, but more casual and comfortable than a snug-fitting tailored frockcoat. It was appropriate for a gentleman to receive visitors wearing a banyon. 

Congratulations to Katie, Natalie, Abbi, Heather, Paij,  Sherry, and the mysterious bn100 for getting the answers all right! A couple of you answered c for question two, which was actually d–both b and c, but I gave you credit for getting it half right. Those of you who got the questions right each win a digital copy of The Stranger She Married…unless you’ve already read it, in which case, you win any of my books or novellas of your choice. So if you’re a winner, please email me at donnahatch29 (at) gmail (dot) com to arrange for delivery of your prizes.

Thanks for stopping by!


Triple Treat Sweet Historical Romance Boxed Set Special

TTT Love Unexpected 3-DDo you love sweet romance with a bit of sizzle but no “on screen” sex? This is for you! Four boxed sets–three full-length novels each–of sweet romances are coming soon!

Starting today, Monday September 15, you can get My Forever, Book 1 of the Triple Treat Romance set for only .99 cents in ebook.

Love Unexpected, which features my historical romance THE STRANGER SHE MARRIED, along with two other full-length historical romances, will also be available at the promotional price of $2.99 for ebook. “Finally You” and “Last Chance” Triple Treat romances, also containting three full-length sweet romances, are also available for only $2.99 for the ebook set.

The main blog is here with all of the purchase links:

For some reason it’s hard to find the Goodreads Page so here it is:

Also, sign up for the Triple Treat Romance Newsletter so you don’t miss any of the fun!

Short-term availability!

Add to Goodreads!
Sign up for Newsletter!
Find new Clean Romance authors!

TBR (To Be Read) Read-a-thon giveaway, The Stranger She Married

thestrangershemarried 2013 tinyThere’s nothing more exciting than adding some fun new books to my to-be-read pile! So, here to help you with yours, I’m giving away a free copy of my Regency romance novel, The Stranger She Married, book 1 in the Rogue Hearts series.

Winners have a choice of a free ebook or a paperback copy. International winners get a free ebook.

To enter the drawing, answer three questions.  You will find the questions in the rafflecopter below. Just click on each question # and take your best guess in the space below the questions. This isn’t school–no complete sentences needed! You can just answer using the letter such as a or b.  The more questions you answer, or attempt to answer, the more chance you have to win.

Don’t know the answers? That’s okay, I give points just for trying!  Or, if you’re willing to do a little detective work, the answers can be found in previous blog posts. Just check the search box.

The answers will be revealed on Friday, September 19 so check back then.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck.

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Book giveaway

0708142138Before I became an author, I was a reader. Still am. I read all kinds of books–historical, fantasy, young adult, inspirational, science fiction, paranormal, and others.  My favorite books are historical, specifically historical romance, but I like my novels “sweet,” meaning, without swear words or sex scenes. Finding books that don’t have those can be tricky. However, there are some authors that I know will always be clean.

Recently, I moved my office into a different room and got it all arranged. As I did so, I went through a bunch of paperback books on my bookshelf and realized I had more books than I needed. Since there are very few books that I ever read a second time, I decided to give a few of them away. They are all clean or sweet romances. The authors of the books I’m giving away are: Shirley Kennedy, Regina Scott, Janet Dean, and Melanie Dickerson. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please tell me what is your favorite historical era  in the Rafflecopter below.

You have more chances to win if you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter.

I will contact you via email to ask for your address so I can mail the books to you.

Sorry, due to the high cost of mailing a box internationally, not to mention the time involved, this contest is only open to the U.S. and Canada.
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Regency Childbirth, the Practices and the Risks

In Regency England, childbirth was one of the most dangerous threats to a woman’s health and life. Most sources I read claimed that up to 20% of all women died either in childbirth, or immediately following birth, most often due to infection. Many accounts place the infant mortality rate at about the same level. That’s a sobering reality.

After giving birth six times to six healthy babies, I have a deep appreciation for the medical practices of modern-day America. There were complications during two of my deliveries which might have threatened the life of my child and myself but for the intervention of knowledgeable doctors and nurses, as well as technology to provide early warning signs of problems.

Unfortunately, our historical counterparts were not so lucky. In fact, in many of the cases I read, including the tragic and fatal “lying in” of Princess Charlotte, the lucky ones were those who gave birth without the interference of doctors, midwives, and accoucheurs.

Based on today’s standards, medical treatment was barbaric, and obstetrics was no exception. Common prenatal care included purges, bleedings, starvation diets, and induced vomiting in misguided attempt to keep the baby from getting too large for the mother to deliver. Such practices were surely factors in the death of Princess Charlotte hours after she delivered a stillborn son in 1817. Charlotte was the only legitimate child of Prince George “Prinny” who later became King George IV.  Princess Charlotte’s death and her stillborn child rocked the country and caused such public outrage that the medical community took a good hard look at common practices and make some key changes. But it took time to create any real improvements.

One such common practice for prenatal care that eventually changed included “lying-in” where the expectant mother remained in bed for a period of time ranging from a few weeks to a few months before giving birth, even if the birth seemed normal with no early labor signs. Though Princess Charlotte was told to get some exercise by walking, this did not appear to be the normal practice.

Once the mother was in labor, the birthing or lying-in rooms were heated and completely shut up to prevent the flow of air. Fear of drafts causing the mother to catch cold led to the practice of building up the fire, putting blankets over all the windows and doors, and covering every crevice. Not only would have that been uncomfortable and not allowed for adequate oxygen but it would have been a breeding ground for bacteria so it likely caused the very problem they were trying to prevent.

Many accounts report the mother lying in bed directly on her back, while only a few cite having the mother lie on her side. Apparently, the upper classes were more likely to lie in beds than the poor who are generally depicted sitting in birthing chairs. This may have been due to the desire to keep the lady more modestly covered but certainly would have made it difficult to push effectively.

If the mother seemed to be having trouble pushing out a baby, some doctors and midwives during the Regency used forceps. However, forceps were a new invention and few doctors in England accepted their use. Some believe that if forceps had been used for Princess Charlotte, as was originally determined but never carried out, her baby, at least, might have lived.

Cesarean sections had been in practice for many years, but generally only if the mother had died and the doctor believed the baby could be saved. This may have been partially due to the fact that people claimed that were was no anesthesia available. However, laudanum and opium were in use many years before for chronic pain and the surgery so I don’t know why it couldn’t have been used during a Cesarean for a live mother. Maybe it didn’t matter, because the mother would likely develop infection and die. It makes me wonder how any one survived surgery of any kind considering their lack of knowledge about cleanliness. I have not discovered how successful a C-section was in those days to the baby but I suppose with nothing to lose once the mother died, the doctors were willing to try to save the infant.

If a woman were lucky enough to have survived birth, the next few weeks could still prove fatal. A new mother’s diet was often limited to warm tea and/or wine for the first several days. A lack of solid food could cause a dysfunctional intestinal system, a condition aggravated by the mother remaining lying in bed for days, sometimes weeks.

Infection was one of the most common reasons for a woman dying after childbirth. Medical personnel seemed tragically unaware of the need for washing their hands and instruments. The practice of washing hands and providing clean linens did not become common until about the 1840’s, which lowered the mortality rate from 20% to about 6%.

Childbirth in Regency England was risky enough that two out of ten women and babies failed to survive it, which means most women would have known someone who died during or immediately following birth. Some have speculated one of the reasons Jane Austen never married was due to the potential disaster for mother and child. Three of Jane’s sisters-in-law died in childbirth, according to JOAN AUSTEN-LEIGH in her article My Aunt, Jane Austen. With such a grim family statistic, I might have thought twice about marrying and having children, too.

Once again, researching Regency England serves the dual purpose of providing the information I need for a book I’m writing, as well as making me really, really glad I live in a western nation in today’s world. I’d still like to visit Regency England though :-)





Brooklyn_Museum_-_Pinning_the_Hat_(Le_Chapeau_épinglé)_-_Pierre-Auguste_RenoirMy latest foray into the research geekdom took me slightly out of the Regency Era, but since I love all kinds of old things, I decided to indulge in this new direction and share with you my latest discovery: hatpins.

To quote Wikipedia: hatpin is a decorative and functional pin for holding a hat to the head, usually by the hair. In Western Culture, a hatpin is almost solely a female item and is often worn in a pair.

The description made me smile since I can’t imagine anyone using a pin to fasten their hat to their head! Obviously, it attached to their hair :-)

In as early as the 1400’s, proper, and, I might add, probably only fairly wealthy ladies, used pins to secure their wimples and veils onto their heads. By the early 1800’s, ladies used them to keep their hats in place. Hatpins ranged in length from six to twelve inches and were made from a variety of metals including brass, copper, sterling silver, gold, or gold or silver wash, and often had a decorated head. Naturally, they had to be made by hand, which made them hard to find. In England, demand caused importers to bring hatpins from France. Apparently Parliament became alarmed at the threat to the delicate balance between import and export, so they passed a law restricting the import of pins to January 1st and 2nd. Supposedly ladies saved their money all year to have enough to purchase. Some believe this is the source of the term “pin money.” Other sources claim pin money came from the beginning of each tax she supposedly used to pay for her pins. However, I have always held fast to the popular Regency belief that ladies spent pin money to pay for pins used to fasten their gowns together, since buttons and hooks weren’t as common as modern people believe. Since the pins were made of metal, non-stainless steel, they eventually rusted and had to be replaced.

Regardless, hatpins remained a popular and necessary accessory into the 1920′s. Eventually in America, laws restricted the length of hat pins since they could be used as a deadly weapon so women had to cut them down to the maximum length.

Eventually, hatpins became mass produced, making them more readily available to the poorer classes with very simple heads. Of course, the wealthy always had fun hatpin heads made from materials such as, according to the American Hatpin Society:

HatpinsCarnival glass, rhinestones, hand blown molded glass, micro mosaic, or hand painted or transferred porcelain like the Japanese Satsuma. There were also hatpins made with ivory, emeralds, stone, amber, tortoise shell, jet, celluloid and other plastics, mother of pearl, and coral.

Hatpins spanned many styles including Baroque, Etruscan Revival, Greek Revival, Egyptian Revival, Oriental influence, Arts and CraftsArt Nouveau and even Art Deco, before waning around WW1 when metals became scarce and hats got smaller.

I was horrified to find in the picture to the right, a hatpin made in the shape of a swastika. However, the hatpins in this pincushion show a good variety of the many different styles of hatpins available. Today, hatpins are collectible items and there is an American Hatpin Society and The Hat Pin Society of Great Britain for modern enthusiasts.

Now that I know of their existence, I think I’ll have to write a scene in my next Regency historical romance novel where my heroine uses a hatpin to defend herself from a bad guy.




Lemon Ice

Lemon (1)

Ices or sherbets were as much a desirable treat in Regency England as they are today. In my Regency Historical Romance novels, my characters often go to Gunthar’s when they want to enjoy a frozen treat, and lemon was an especially popular flavor, but ices were enjoyed all year round at home and at social gatherings.  Even in winter, a room crowded with guests and candles and alcohol became stifling, leaving the guests the need for a cool refreshment.

According to the noted Regency researcher, Nancy Mayer, ice cream was a year-round treat in Russia because in the winter, the ice cream was warmer than the outside temperature. She also states that in India, cooks put the ingredients into a bag (what kind of material they used was not clear, but the sherbet or ice cream couldn’t leak through it) which was thoroughly soaked and put on a line with a pulley and pulled rapidly back and forth while servants fanned it.

The book Domestic Comforts tells about ice houses and ice ponds the wealthy built for creating and storing ice. Ice was also was imported from northern countries including Canada – once the custom agents realized it couldn’t be treated like other materials and just stacked on the dock or warehouse. Uh, doy.

But what if one didn’t have access to ice and my lady is craving one? Or what if my lord wishes to cool his wine? Never fear, saltpeter is here!

Kathryn Kane, on her blog Regency Redingote states:

“During the Regency, saltpetre was most likely to be used as a coolant in England as a scientific novelty, or for cooling when no stored ice or snow was available. An experienced and well-prepared Regency butler might keep ten to twenty pounds of saltpetre on hand in order to ensure he could cool enough wine or other bottled beverages for a family meal in the absence of ice, perhaps after an unusually warm and snow-less winter.” 

Sorbets and ices were also a popular way to cleanse the palate between courses at dinner.

Amy Guttman’s article on THE SALT “Three WaysCooking Has Changed Over The Last 300 Years” there is a great article on “The Unknown Ladies Cookbook, a 300 year old compendium of family recipes from between 1690 and 1830.”

 “What we think of today as dessert, they would have served as a second course,” Gray tells The Salt. “Their third course, or dessert, would be  ice cream, biscuits or fruit. But today, we tend to serve those things at the same time to end a meal.”

In that same article is a recipe for lemon cream, which sounds to me like a lemon pudding:

‘Lemmond Cream:’  “To four large lemmons squeesd put 3 qrs of a pd of the finest loaf sugar, 8 or 9 spoonfuls of water & a piece of the peel. Set it over the fire untill the sugar tis melted. Put in the whites of 4 eggs & strain it through a diaper napkin, doubled. Sett it on ye fire a gain & stir it all ye while. When it grows thick, take it off. Put in two spoonfuls of orange flower water. Lay some shreds of boiled lemmon peel at the bottom of the glasses.”

If you can follow those directions, you are a better chef that I am!

Here’s a much more user-friendly recipe for lemon ice from Jane Austen Centre blog, in an article entitled Lemon Ice by Laura Boyle.

 2 cups sugar

4 cups water

1 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp grated lemon rind

Dash of Salt

1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, salt, water and lemon rind.

2. Boil for 5 minutes. Cool.

3. Add lemon juice to cooled sugar water.

4. Churn freeze (in Ice Cream maker) or pour into a dish and cover.

5. Freeze at least 6 hours. Break frozen mixture into chunks.

6. Place chunks in food processor; process until smooth.

This method produces more of a “smoothy” texture. Makes 1/2 gallon. This looks especially tempting served inside half of a lemon. Simply cut your lemons in half lengthwise before beginning process. Squeeze out the juice to be used in the recipe, cut a small slice of peel off the bottom of the lemon half so that it sits upright. Scoop out excess pulp and membrane, cover in plastic until ready to fill with frozen mixture. Garnish with mint or berries.

(I think it would also look delicious if garnished with a curl of lemon peel.)

So the next time you want to get in touch with your inner Regency romance heroine, indulge in a little lemon ice and stay cool while you’re at it.

The Queen’s Drawing Room

Queen Charlotte 1762

Queen Charlotte 1762

During the Regency era, few ladies received an invitation to be presented to the queen.  Such an honor typically belonged only the to wives and daughters of peers and it was a one-time event.  Oddly enough, the presentation did not occur in the throne room, but in fact, happened in the queen’s drawing room. The event itself came to be known as “the Queen’s Drawing-room” (yes, with the hyphen, at least during the Regency).

During my research, I stumbled upon some fun facts I wanted to share. Today there are three queen’s drawing rooms in Buckingham palace; a blue drawing room, a white drawing room, and a red drawing room. Each is absolutely breathtaking and still retains the flavor of bygone eras.  Apparently the blue drawing room was originally intended to be a ballroom, but another took its place. The blue wallpaper adorning the walls has been in place since the rein of Queen Mary. It was in this room, originally called the South Drawing Room, where  ladies were presented to the queen during the Regency.

Keep in mind that I’m a gawky, middle-class American when I saw that I found the pictures I saw of the drawing rooms jaw-dropping and overwhelming. I doubt I’d ever receive the honor of actually viewing them in person, but if I ever did, I’m quite certain it would rob me of all speech.

I devoted a couple of blog posts regarding the details of what a court presentation actually entailed in the queen’s drawing room here and here but for this post, I’m concentrating on the rooms themselves.

Since I enjoy almost everything more when I share it with someone, I wanted to share the link I found of a virtual tour of the queen’s drawing rooms, which still retains grandeur of the  Georgian Era. The virtual tour is, putting it mildly, awesome–not the overused term for anything from “that’s cool” to “that’s great”–but literally, awesome as in, it inspires awe.

Click here for your virtual tour of the queen’s drawing room. I hope you enjoy it.