Friday the 13th, an Unlucky Day?

Happy Friday the 13th!

As a history nerd, I decided to delve into the history of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day. According to statistics I unearthed, approximately one-tenth of Americans and British consider this the most unlucky of days. Some suffer from a true phobia of Friday the 13th. This is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a term coined by a therapist named Dr. Donald Dossey, who treats people with irrational fears. His term is an offshoot of triskaidekaphobia, which is fear of things associated with the number thirteen.  (Let us hope they don’t also have Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, a fear of long words.) Since Friday the thirteenth happens two to three times a year, this can be difficult for those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia.

So many people are afraid of the number thirteen, that some high-rises do not have a 13th floor–it skips from 12 to 14. Airline employees often have to change seat assignments for passengers who fear sitting on the 13th row on a plane. Many people consider it bad luck to have thirteen people gathered in any one place.

Why did this day become so notorious? The number thirteen is considered bad luck by many cultures, for variety of reasons. And Friday was generally known as Hangman’s day in England because that was a common day for executing criminals. Naturally, combining the two–Friday and the unlucky number thirteen–must be terribly unlucky, right? Yet, it goes even deeper.

Some historians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday the 13th. Although if this were true, why do Christians refer to that day as Good Friday and not Bad Friday, or Unlucky Friday? Other Christians believe that thirteen is an unlucky number because Jesus and his twelve disciples were present during the Last Supper, creating a total of thirteen–including Judas who betrayed him. This belief suggests that this was the only time they gathered in one place–which I consider unlikely.

Some researchers believe that the Pope had the Knights Templar arrested and, if you believe rumor, executed, supposedly on Friday the thirteenth. However, that date does not appear to be recorded in any credible sources, and many religious historians believe they were merely disbanded rather than executed.

Friday the thirteenth may actually date further back than Christians. According to  Today I Found Out:

Others theorize that Friday being unlucky predated Christianity.  The name “Friday” was chosen in honor of the Norse goddess Frigg, also known as Freyja, who was the multitalented goddess of love, beauty, wisdom, war, death, and magic.  Teutonic people are thought to have considered the day extremely unlucky, especially for weddings, due in part to the lovely goddess the day was named for. Later, the Christian church attempted to demonize the goddess, so that may or may not be a contributing factor as well.

This is a reason why the fear of Friday the Thirteenth is also called friggatriskaidekaphobia.

People’s beliefs often stem from entertainment. Books, movies, and TV shows often depict terrible misfortunes befalling people on Friday the 13th, dating all the way back to Chaucer. These events were entirely invented by the authors. Even Alfred Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899–some claim that was a Friday but according to three calendars I found here, here, and  here, it was, in fact, a Sunday.

From all I researched, there is no measurable rise in the number of accidents or disasters that occur on Friday the 13th. In fact, some hospitals and clinics report a drop in accident-related injuries, probably because people are more careful, or because they stay home to avoid bad luck on such a notorious day.

While I often embrace traditions and holidays, I flout this one. Friday the 13th is a day I’m more likely to walk under a ladder, try to cross the path of a black cat (even pet one if it will let me), and even throw a party. 

Oh, and by the way, despite all the Memes floating around social media sites, tonight’s moon will not be full. It will be a “First Quarter” or half-full moon. So don’t add fear of werewolves showing up to your list of fears about Friday the thirteenth.


Image courtesy:


The Power of Readers Prompts a New Release–A Perfect Match

Summer House party

Readers probably don’t know how much power they have. Think of it. If readers didn’t buy and read books, authors wouldn’t publish the mad scribblings they feel compelled to write. They might not even write a lot stories if no one read them. After all, there’s nothing like a deadline or fan letters asking for the next book to make a writer finish the next manuscript in a timely manner (or at all). Furthermore, readers’ opinions matter a great deal to authors, and I am no exception.

Normally I don’t read very many reviews posted on Amazon–especially ones less than 4 stars. It’s enough to know reviews are there, helping other readers find my books (because, yes, reviews really do make a huge difference–but that’s a rant for another day). I don’t often read reviews because each time I do, I subject myself to the possibility that a reader will dislike some aspect of my book (my darling baby). Criticism hurts, no matter how hard I try to grow a thick skin. However, I broke several writing rules in the third book in my Rogue Hearts series, A Perfect Secret, and I wanted to know how fans felt about it. So, I turned to reviews.

APerfectSecret2In one review, a reader said her only complaint with A Perfect Secret was that the story began with the two main characters already in love, and she prefers books that start with the characters meeting and falling in love for the first time. (The book actually starts with them getting torn apart, and the rest of the story is about how they find their way back together, get over their hard feelings, and how they learn to trust and love each other again). Anyway, after I got over my hurt and my defensiveness, I took her opinion to heart and tucked it away for another time.

Incidentally, A Perfect Secret is my mother’s favorite, probably because she relates to Genevieve–my mother, too, fled an abusive husband and found a second chance to love.

A couple years later, when the publisher invited me to participate in another TIMELESS Regency anthology called Summer House Party, I knew my novella needed to be about how Christian and Genevieve meet for the first time, how they fall in love, and how the terrible Lord Wickburgh becomes obsessed with Genevieve. So I delved into their backstory and created a prequel with all new challenges, and some fun new characters, which tells their whole backstory. The result is”A Perfect Match,” a prequel which leads seamlessly into the next part of their story told in “A Perfect Secret.” Rest assured, each tale is complete enough to be read as a stand-alone story, and the both stories, including the prequel, has a strong happily ever after ending. However,  the two books together complete Christian and Genevieve’s story as a whole.

Summer House partyA Perfect Match” is one of three 100-page novellas contained in Summer House Party. The other two novellas are penned by some of my favorite historical authors, Regina Scott and Sarah M. Eden.  This TIMELESS Regency Collection will be released exclusively on Amazon June 6, 2016 and is available now for pre-order.

So, thank you to that reader who wished she could have experienced Christian and Genevieve’s first meeting, their first touch, their first kiss, and how they fell in love that very first time. This one is for you.

Excerpt from “A Perfect Match,” the prequel to A Perfect Secret:

Christian shied away from the truth, from the horrible challenge that led to his brother Jason’s death, and the scattering of his brothers over the fight Christian caused between them and the earl. He breathed through the pain lancing his chest. “I have done things in my past that I deeply regret. Lost people I thought would always be there—some through my own actions.”

Genevieve slipped her hand into his and squeezed it gently. “Everyone deserves to be loved, to be given a second chance. Even you. Especially you.”

A Perfect Match,” one of three novellas in Summer House Party, is available now for pre-order from Amazon.

Today, to celebrate the upcoming release of “A Perfect Match,” contained in Summer House Party, I am giving away one digital copy and one paperback copy of the complete novel A Perfect SecretTo enter the drawing, simply leave a comment with your name, your email address, and if you prefer an ebook in the format of your choice, or a paperback book.


NO purchase necessary

Paperback available only to US and Canada winners–international winners will receive an ebook in the format of their choice

Void where prohibited



Servants in Regency England

By Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin -

By Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin –

Servants were an indispensable part of running any Big House throughout the ages, including those in existence in Regency England. Manor houses and castles where the upper classes lived were huge and required an army of servants to keep them clean and well-maintained. Also, the owners themselves required a great deal of help from their staff. According to  The Victorian Domestic Servant, the Duke of Bedford had 300 servants in his employ, and the Duke of Portland employed 320. To be sure, not all Big Houses had quite so many, and upper class people who lived in more modest houses employed far fewer servants. However, all seemed to have servants.

In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwood ladies had to count every penny once they were removed from their home, but they still had two servants to help them while they lived in their humble cottage. The care of clothing alone, not to mention cooking or cleaning, was a major undertaking in those days, and gently bred ladies certainly would have lacked those skills. Even members of the gentry who considered themselves poor probably had at least a maid of all work who did everything–cleaning fireplaces, laundry, dishes, dusting, sweeping, scrubbing floors, etc. and was still expected to wait on the ladies in the home. Single gentlemen who lived alone in their bachelor’s rooms had at least one male equivalent of a maid of all work, often referred to as a valet (though his tasks would have been more varied than if he were a valet for a lord in a Big House). This all-around male servant was often simply referred to as a “boy” or a “man.”

Servants’ duties mostly took place out of sight. It was good form for a servant to be silent and invisible, which is why so many houses have secret passageways–they were usually servants’ stairways and corridors. Servants arose hours before their masters and worked late into the night. They were also at the mercy of their employers and were called upon to work in any kind of weather, at any hour of the day, with few personal days off, and often had poor accommodations.

servantClasses existed in the world of servants from the top which included the head butler, head housekeeper, and chef, right down the to very bottom to the scullery maid and ‘tween stairs maid. They all knew where they fit in that hierarchy, just as businesses have a hierarchy from the president down to the janitor. Ladies’ maids were high on that ladder, often dressed well and had only to serve their lady’s personal needs, dress her, and style her hair. In some houses, the lady’s maid was also charged with caring for her lady’s clothing, but most houses sent the laundry out to a laundress. The footman was also a coveted position. His main role was to be young and handsome, wear livery (a costly uniform), and open doors as well as run the occasional errand such as carrying his lady’s packages on a shopping expedition.

Most servants were unmarried. Employers didn’t want servants distracted by spouses or children. Since servants must be at their lord and lady’s beck and call, they slept in the servants’ quarters, usually in the upper floors or attic, or on a pallet in the kitchen floor, and could be dragged out of bed without a second thought if their lord had need of them. Essentially, servants were married to their jobs. Some male house servants married, but they had very few days off a month when they could go home. Outdoor servants, however, such as stable hands, gardeners, and gamekeepers usually stayed in their own little cottages somewhere on the grounds. It was fairly common for these servants to be married and have families.

Female servants who wanted to marry did so with the understanding that their position in the house was forfeit.  Occasionally, the head housekeeper and butler were a couple, but she only joined the staff after her children were raised.

A servant’s pay was meager, the hours long, and the work often back-breaking, but there was never a shortage of applicants–after all, house servants had a place to sleep and regular meals, not something they could obtain from most other jobs such as those in a factory. In addition, their tasks usually had little to no risk of danger, also unlike factory jobs.

I admit, having a chef and maid of all work sounds very appealing, doesn’t it?


For further reading, I recommend:

The Victorian Domestic Servant by Trevor May

Novels told from a servants’ point of view which are well-written and carefully researched are:

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist


Marriage in Regency England–Special License

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold 1816

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold                                  1816

English marriage, and the methods in which one could place one’s neck in the “parson’s noose,” underwent a number of changes just prior to the Regency, and they changed again during the Victorian Era. Though a Special License appears frequently in romance novels, during the Regency Era, it was issued rarely, and only under extenuating circumstances.

During the Regency, the most common way to get married (especially among the humbler classes) was to have the banns posted also called “putting up the banns.” This required posting on the wall of the church and read by the clergy from the pulpit of both the bride and the groom’s parish for three consecutive Sundays in order to give the public a chance to object to the marriage. After that, couple could get married within 90 days, and the wedding must take place between 8 in the morning and noon in the husband or wife’s parish of Church of England, even if the couple were Catholic. Quakers and Jews were exempt, apparently.

A couple wishing to marry could also do so by ordinary license. This did not require putting up the banns, but it cost  money–not much, but it wasn’t free, and it had many of the same restrictions of marriage by banns.

Marriage by special license was different. The advantages of having a special license were that a couple could marry any time and place that they wished. When applying for a special license, certain criteria must be met. First of all, few outside of titled lords and their spouses and children were eligible, and one seeking such privilege must go appeal to His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

According to noted researcher and novelist, Susanna Ives:

“BY the Statute of 23 Hen. VIII., the Archbishop of Canterbury has power to grant Special Licences; but in a certain sense these are limited. His Grace restricts his authority to Peers and Peeresses in their own right, to their sons and daughters, to Dowager Peeresses, to Privy Councillors, to Judges of the Courts at Westminster, to Baronets and Knights, and to Members of Parliament ; and by an order of a former Prelate, to no other person is a special licence to be given, unless they allege very strong and weighty reasons for such indulgence, arising from particular circumstances of the case, and they must prove the truth of the same to the satisfaction of the Archbishop.”

“In the case where the parties applying do not rank within the restricted indulgences, a personal interview should be sought, or a letter of introduction to his Grace should be obtained, containing the reasons for wishing the favour granted. Should his Grace grant his fiat, in either case the gentleman attends his proctor to make the usual affidavit, that there is no impediment to the marriage—the same as in an ordinary licence.” 

Charles Manners-Sutton (1755–1828), Archbishop of Canterbury.

Charles Manners-Sutton (1755–1828), Archbishop of Canterbury.

When applying for a special license, both the bride and groom must be named so the Archbishop of Canterbury could verify their eligibility to wed.  Since those who could use a special license were all members of the upper class, and since the archbishop sat in the House of Lords, His Grace probably knew most of them. Regardless, he would not have issued a license without verifying their eligibility to wed.

Also, a special license cost quite a bit more than a regular  marriage license. However, a special license allowed a couple to marry in any location and at any time. It also made the posting the banns unnecessary, so if there were some reason a couple wanted to marry in haste, or didn’t want to subject themselves to public protestation, this allowed a way to do it.

Remember, though, that obtaining special license was dependent on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decree and goodwill. His Grace didn’t grant Special Licenses frequently nor lightly.

More information about the different methods available to the Regency couple wishing to marry can be found here.


Regency Era Marriage Customs

Victorian Wedding Etiquette in 1852

Intertwining Fantasy and History

evening gown 1819A little while ago, some authors were basically bashing “ballroom Regencies” where there are so many young, handsome, single dukes, and lords–all of whom fall in love with a captivating heroine–that England could not possibly have contained all of them. I don’t see the problem. Each author’s world is her (or his) own existing in different planes independent from one another. The idea that we should all write about “real” people facing real problems, is just as ridiculous that we should all write mysteries, or contemporary novels, or non-fiction.

I celebrate the diverse genres and I adore “ballroom Regencies” that take place amid the glittering lives of English nobility because I like the fantasy element–it’s pure escapism from my ordinary life.

However historical accuracy’s importance, (and something for which I strive while writing every story) the main reason why readers love to read is to relax and escape the stresses of their lives. Many Regency readers cite wanting to enjoy a glamorous life vicariously through the eyes of the characters of a book. Historical romances are a magical way to wear beautiful gowns, get help with clothes and hair from a maid, attract the notice of a gorgeous gentleman (or even a titled lord), explore the beauties of historical settings, and fall in love–all without leaving the real world. Reading about the result of people’s poor bathing habits (something more and more people changed during the Regency, thank goodness) bad teeth, bills piling up, not having enough money, and the drudgery of everyday life too closely mirrors real life to be a complete escape. True, the falling in love aspect is fun and something one can achieve with any romance novel, but “ballroom Regencies” offer a beautiful combination of historical truth, mingled liberally with a fantasy element few other genres offer.

Longleat House

Longleat House

Ordinary people in real life are often unsung heroes who quietly uplift and improve their own corner of the universe, and I don’t mean in any way to demean their contribution. But the adventurer and romantic in me seeks something larger than life. How else, but through literature, can I explore an English manor house or castle? How can I don a tailored riding habit and ride side-saddle over the English countryside in a fox hunt or steeple chase? How can I sail on a schooner or frigate and battle pirates while exchanging smiles with a gorgeous sea captain? How else can I flirt and dance and exchange witty banter with a handsome duke? Historical romance, and in particular,”ballroom Regencies,” offer these adventures all set in the backdrop of the elegant, glamorous, fantastic world of the English beau monde.

galleonBy combining these settings with the human elements of good people trying to do the right things for the right reasons, I feel that I have found the best of both worlds. I hope you enjoy those journeys with me.



Regency Easter

By the Regency Era, Easter had evolved, not quite to what is is today, but to a celebration much less pagan than its origins and more religious in nature. However, people still knew how to have fun.

Normally Parliament did not begin its first session of the year until after Easter and activities were curtailed between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, and especially during the 40 days of Lent when people were expected to refrain from “indulgence foods” like cakes or pastries, dairy foods, and fats Monday through Saturday, and from meat on Friday. (Sunday is not part of Lent) Even during years when Parliament resumed early, the official London Season with all its parties, balls, and routs did not fully begin until after Easter Sunday.

The day before Lent began was Shrove Tuesday, a day to confess sins to one’s priest (or to get “shriven”). According to Regency researcher and author, Regina Scott, it was also a day they referred to as “pancake Tuesday,” the last opportunity to eat all the foods forbidden during Lent. The custom might have begun as a way to use up any of these foods one had in the house so they wouldn’t spoil. Other cultures used their last day of anything goes to create events such as Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday.

Footboll_in_England_1846In England, a host of games accompanied Pancake Tuesday, including pancake races (flipping a pancake in a frying pan while running) and Street Foot Ball, or Hurling, which is a cross between soccer and American football. You can read more about those games here.

Then Lent, a time of fasting and abstinence began. Behavior was also curtailed during Lent.

According to noted Regency researcher, Nancy Mayer:

Though the theatres were open during most of Lent, they presented more oratorios and  benefits than   dramas. The theatres were usually closed during Holy  week– the week between  Palm Sunday and Easter.
Easter was a pivotal date on the calendar. Though  it wasn’t and isn’t  a fixed date, many  events depended on  the date of Easter. Schools, universities  and  courts had Easter terms. Several events occurred  a week or so after  Easter.
Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday were  government holidays.
Many of the fashionable set  went to London in February when Parliament resumed and the Queen’s birthday was celebrated. The official  celebration of royal birthdays, often had no connection to  the actual date of birth. The  celebration of the Queen’s birthday  usually took place in the first week of Feb.  before Lent.  Those  in town  before Easter  seem to have  had more dinners and routs  than balls– according  to those newspapers I have read. Balls were not considered proper during Lent.
Even the royalty had a custom for Easter called “the Maundy,” usually the Thursday before Easter Sunday. On this day, the ruling monarch gave food and tunics to the poor who lined up for help following the example the Savior who helped the poor. In old times, there was even a foot washing ceremony representative of when Jesus washed the feet of his apostles during the Last Supper (a ceremony still practiced in some churches). A version of the Maundy continues even today.


Many families also colored hard boiled eggs using natural sources for dyes to give as Easter gifts. Pasche Eggs, which were also called Pace Eggs, were dyed and recipient’s name and age carefully scratched out with a blade so that the white of the shell showed through the color.  Others decorated eggs by using tallow to draw a design on the egg then dying it, then removing the tallow to reveal the design. People also decorated eggs by painting pictures on them using colored dyes. Children participated in egg rolls where they rolled eggs down hills or other angled surfaces in a race to the finish line, or even to see how far the eggs rolled.

True believers viewed Easter and Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, as even more important than Christmas due to its reminder of the Resurrection. Multiple church services occurred during the week complete with choirs singing. On Easters Sunday, worship included choirs singing, incense burning, chanting, kneeling, making the sign of the cross, and lighting candles during personal prayers. Some churches today, especially larger cathedrals, still practice these traditional forms of worship. A common practice includes draping the statues in black and stripping the altar on Good Friday symbolic of mourning the Savior’s death, then on Easter morning, remove the black and dress the altar as a celebration of His Resurrection.
According to Gaelen Foley, new gowns and Easter bonnets were a must for all gently-bred Regency ladies.
Easter dinner was an important part of the day, usually including ham or lamb, and, of course, hot cross buns–a tradition that continues today.
In our family, we balance the fun of Easter with the Christian religious aspect, normally reserving the celebratory customs of decorating, egg hunts, and parties for Saturday. This leaves Easter Sunday open for church service and more reverent observances. (However, the Easter Bunny does leave a few small gifts and candy in my children’s Easter baskets, which await them on the breakfast table Easter morning.) We also have a nice ham dinner that evening upon our return from church.
What are your favorite Easter customs?


The Historical Royal Palace Blog

Lesley-Anne McLeod, Regency author blog, an article written by Regina Scott

Nancy Mayer, Regency Researcher

Gaelen Foley

When Ship Bells Ring, short story by Donna Hatch

When Bells RingWhen Ship Bells Ring

a free and complete Short Story

by Donna Hatch

Bells heralded a ship’s arrival. HMS Artemis. The name traveled through town like a wave.

Lily froze. Her breath froze. Her heart froze.

His ship. Should she go?

He’d been gone so long and hadn’t replied to her letters in months. Perhaps he’d forgotten her. After all, what were a few dances, some long walks…a kiss?

Shading her eyes, Lily watched the frigate glide into port.

“Are you going?” Aunt Ruthie asked from the inn’s doorway.

Lily gripped her basket and turned away from temptation. “He knows where I am. He’ll come to me if that is still his desire.”

Brushing past her aunt, Lily stepped inside the inn. As she set her basket of vegetables on the kitchen table, she caught sight of her hands, work-worn now, with broken nails and calluses. Further down, evidence of her reduced fortune revealed itself in her faded gown.

Aunt Ruthie dug through the basket. “He’ll see you faster if you’re at the dock to meet him.”

“He might not wish to see me. Not like this.” Lily tied on an apron. “Not at all.”

“Then you’ll know right off, and not have to wonder and wait.”

Lily took a breath, then another. Her deepest fear wrenched out of her. “What if he rejects me? Or worse, marries me out of duty?”

“If he rejects you, you’re no worse off than you are now. If he feels duty-bound, at least you’d have a home and a husband.”

A home with an unwilling husband who married her out of obligation…or pity? No, she preferred rejection.

Aunt Ruthie added, “Better than living and working here.”

Lily offered a fond smile. “My dearest Aunt, you know I don’t mind earning my keep. Besides, I’ll have possession of my dowry when I turn twenty-five, and won’t need to marry. I can buy you that new stove and—”

“You can buy a cottage with servants and live as the lady you were born to be.” Aunt Ruthie removed the vegetables from Lily’s basket. “These look better than last market day’s.” She handed them to the scullery maid who began peeling.

Lily breathed a sigh of relief at the change in topic and threw herself into meal preparation. The arrival of a ship meant hungry customers would soon flood the inn.

Would he come?

Closing her eyes, she drew a breath. Wait and see.

Her gaze strayed out the window to the frigate. Perhaps he had written and his last several letters had not reached her; wartime mail was unreliable.

More likely, his heart had changed. A gentleman such as he had his pick of fine ladies.

The Artemis’ sails collapsed as if hope drained out of them, leaving them empty, without purpose. Grinding her teeth, Lily pounded bread dough on the floured board. She refused to run to the dock and throw herself at him like a lovesick waif and put him into the position of having to fulfill his duties as a gentleman, or confess he’d found someone new. Besides, a lady never approached a gentleman; she waited for him to come to her. Not that this was a ballroom. She hadn’t worn a ball gown or dancing slippers in the two years since her world crumbled with her father’s sudden death.

By the time the first loaves of bread came out of the oven, enfolding the inn with a welcoming aroma, two sailors carrying sea bags entered. But neither wore the uniform of an officer.

Lily swallowed disappointment.

“Don’t let pride get in your way of happiness,” Aunt Ruthie urged. “Go to him.”

Lily gestured at the dining area. “I can’t leave you now. You already have customers.”

“We’ll manage. People come for my cooking; they’ll wait to be served. Go.”

Go? Did she dare?

She pictured him completing his duties as an officer and disembarking. Would he look for her?

Be relived she wasn’t there with reminders he considered best forgotten?

Or disappointed she hadn’t welcomed him home?

She imagined him on the dock—alone—while around him fellow sailors ran to the arms of their wives or sweethearts. No returning war hero should come home without a welcome. Risking humiliation would be a small price to pay to prevent such tragedy.

Go. Yes!

After practically tearing off her apron, she washed flour from her hands and face, and dashed to the dock. A crowd waited as sailors disembarked, some into open arms. Calls, tears, and laughter filled the air, mingling with cries of gulls and clanging of bells. Grim-faced men strode with the rolling gaits of seamen down the dock alone.

As the stream of arrivals slowed, the crowd thinned. Disappointment tasted bitter on her tongue.

A solitary form appeared. The uniform of an officer graced his lean frame. He turned his head slowly as if searching. Sunlight shimmered on his dark hair, illuminating russet highlights in his closely cropped waves.

Was that him? Lily took a step nearer, shading her eyes. The Lily of seven years ago was a gentleman’s daughter who wore a stylish white muslin afternoon gown and waited in a parlor. The Lily of today was an innkeeper’s impoverished niece who wore an outdated, faded frock and waited at a dock.

Lily’s courage faltered. She could slip away. Before he noticed her. Rejected her. Pitied her.

As the officer turned his head, sunlight shone on his face. His face. Alternating hot and cold tingles raced over Lily’s skin.

His face had grown more angular, his shoulders more broad. A scar bisected his chin, and another crossed his jaw but his handsome face that had captured her attention long ago, belonged to him.

Home at last!

He turned his head again, and his gaze traveled over her. It passed on without recognition.

Like a sail without wind, her heart deflated. He didn’t know her. Didn’t want to know her.

Overhead, a gull cried. A baby cried. Her heart cried. He checked himself, his gaze returning. Fixed on her. Stared. Hard.

Her legs quivered.

As his eyes narrowed, he moistened lips that had touched hers so long ago, sealing a promise. The color drained from his face. “Lily?”

Clasping together trembling hands, she offered a tremulous smile. “Welcome home.”

“Am I home?” He stood, tense and wary.

“You…” her breath left her. “You aren’t happy to see me.”

Oh, why had she come? She should have remained at the inn, allowing him to slip away without an awkward confrontation.

He took a halting step forward. “You are even more beautiful than ever.” The knot of his cravat shifted as he swallowed.

She knew it! He was searching for a way to let her down.

Courage. Decorum. She squared her shoulders. “It appears my coming here was a lapse in judgement. Forgive me if I have made you uncomfortable. Clearly your regard for me has changed. After all, it was long ago.” She focused on the ship’s rigging and tried to keep her tears in check, but mast, sky, and clouds all collapsed into a blurred water color.

“Lily.” He uttered her name like a prayer. “My love for you has changed—it has grown. But when your letters stopped, I thought…perhaps it was best, considering…”

His love had grown? Her eyesight cleared, revealing his agonized expression.

Lily held out a hand. “I wrote often. But you didn’t…” Wait. Her letters stopped? “It appears we’ve both sent letters the other never received.”

Understanding dawned in his eyes. “Another casualty of war.” He limped toward her. One arm raised, the other dangling lifelessly at his side. “I…am not the same man who danced with you.”

In a rush of clarity, it came to her. His scars, limp, unused arm—the reason for his hesitance. She whispered, “You were injured.”

His mouth worked again before he raised a tortured, shattered gaze. “I don’t walk well, and my left arm is almost useless. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want me now.” He stood, forlorn as a lost child.

With a cry, Lily launched herself at him. He caught her and wrapped her tightly with one arm. Doubt, sorrow, and loneliness faded as hope and joy took root and bloomed.

She kissed the scars on his face. “Of course I want you. I love you. If you’ll take me, an innkeeper’s niece, I’ll gladly take you, a wounded war hero.”

As he buried his face into her hair, his shoulders shook. “I feared you wouldn’t…” With a strangled groan, he pulled away enough to look at her. Smiling, he kissed her calloused fingers, cupped her cheek, and kissed her lips, slow and heart-melting. He held her as if she healed him from all the horrors of war. “Marry me, my love?”

She didn’t know whether to laugh or weep. “Yes!”

Ship bells rang like wedding bells.

“Welcome home,” she whispered between kisses.

He pulled her closer. “I am home.”


The End


More clean and wholesome historical short stories, novellas, and full length novels by Donna Hatch are available on Amazon and other book retailers.

Bow Street and the Bow Street Runners

by Donna Hatch

Bow_Street_MicrocosmNext to Robin Hood’s Merry Men, few other groups inspire images of mystery and intrigue quite as well as Bow Street Runners. They were a unique and unprecedented fighting force that paved the way for London’s modern police, Scotland Yard. They are also no longer in existence, and very little is actually known about them. Hence the mystery. And the tragedy.

Before the Magistrate of Bow Street formed the famous Runners, there was no real organized police force and no true police procedures. The few constables in London were virtually untrained and failed to do much to protect the innocent or bring justice to the guilty. There was a Night Watch made up on a rotating basis by the men in a particular district. However, most working-class men wouldn’t or couldn’t be up all night keeping watch. Besides, it was dangerous–ruffians and thugs they tried to arrest usually fought back. Some of these members of the Nigh Watch hired out others to take their turn. Often elderly men who needed the money because they could no longer work filled these roles. These night watchmen typically huddled in groups around the nearest light and hoped no one would harass them. Needless to say, they were an ineffective deterrence to most thieves.

Therefore, the average citizen performed most arrests. The citizen who’d been wronged had to gather all his own evidence, perform the arrest, drag the person before the magistrate (judge) and convince the magistrate this was their man. This citizen served as investigator, policeman, and lawyer all in one–a daunting task, to be sure. Although since the accused were considered guilty unless proven innocent, receiving a guilty verdict was usually a no-brainer. I’m sure some took advantage of this system to seek revenge for wrongs that had little to do with the law.

Bow_Street_QE3_117Into this ineffective chaos stepped the Fielding brothers. Henry Fielding was a magistrate who operated his office on Bow Street. In 1750, he organized an elite fighting force of highly trained and disciplined young men known as the Bow Street Runners. Nick-named the “Robins Redbreasts” for their distinctive red waistcoats (sometimes spelled weskits because that’s how it’s pronounced). Runners were trained to conduct investigations including rudimentary forensics, and how to question witnesses and victims. They even carried handcuffs. How early they began carrying these restraints and wearing the red waistcoats is anyone’s guess, but there are Bow Street Runners with handcuffs and red waistcoats in St. Ives by Robert Lewis Stevenson which was written in 1897.

In the early years, there were only six Bow Street Runners in London. For some reason, that number was kept constant at first. But later, those figures grew and there was even a mounted patrol who protected the highways leading outside of London from the dreaded and dangerous highwaymen. This mounted patrol changed safety, and therefore nature, of travel.

CatostconspiratorsWhile the office of a magistrate belonged exclusively to gentlemen of the nobility or landed gentry, the Bow Street Runners were working class men. They were smart, skilled, well-trained, and cunning. The Fielding brothers hand-picked them for the position. Though the Runners typically remained in the London area, there are accounts of them tracking fugitives as far as the Scottish border. They drew a modest salary from Bow Street, so most of their pay came in the form of a bounty or reward, usually paid by the victim or a group who had a vested interest in solving a crime. Runners were also hired out to conduct special investigations, and to act as body guards. I have found no evidence of foul play or bribes taken, suggesting that they were men of honor and that they had a strong loyalty to their magistrate who was always a man of integrity.

Magistrates in other districts of London followed the Fielding’s example by having a specific group of effective investigators–for example, the Thames River Police–but none achieved the lasting acclaim that the Runners did.

The Suspect's Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

The Suspect’s Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

In 1830, when Scotland Yard was organized, the Bow Street Runners became obsolete. Much of Scotland Yard’s procedures evolved from those created by the Runners, and I can only assume that many Runners became investigators for Scotland Yard. Progress is usually a good thing, but I feel a sense of loss whenever something unique is swept away to make room for something “better.”

In my newest book, The Suspect’s Daughter, the hero, Grant Amesbury often helps Bow Street to solve crimes and is heavily involved with the Runners, many of whom are also friends. But the crime of the century comes along and the magistrate of Bow street asks my hero for help. A real life event, known as the Cato Street Conspiracy provided the inspiration for my novel, The Suspect’s Daughter.




Mourning Customs in Regency England


Queen Victoria circa 1847

Mourning customs in the Regency Era were less rigid than in Victorian England. The excessively strict mourning rules we often encounter in historical novels came about after Queen Victoria’s husband died — she wouldn’t give up her black mourning clothes and she turned mourning into a firmly followed rule of propriety. Her subjects used her example to springboard their own mourning customs. Keep in mind that these are not LAWS for mourning. Any display of mourning was done at a family’s or person’s discretion. However, there were social norms, that, if not followed, might raise some eyebrows.

In the excellent book, The Rise of the Egalitarian Family, Trumbach gives the following data for mourning periods:

12 months for a husband or wife

6 months for parents or parents in-law

3 months for a sister or brother, uncle or aunt

6 weeks for a sister-in-law or uncle or aunt (no explanation for the duplication here so perhaps it had to do with the closeness or lack thereof

3 weeks – uncle or aunt, aunt who remarried, first cousin

2 weeks – first cousin (and whether they were close or not?)

1 week – first and second cousin, and husband or stepmother’s sister.

black mourningTrumbach says there was usually a designated female who kept up the family tree and ordained the degree of mourning required for the dearly (or not so dearly) departed.

Bombazine and crepe were typical fabrics used for clothing of deep mourning. Crepe was a lightweight black silk, while bombazine was a medium-weight silk and wool blend. Over time, shinier fabrics emerged in the evening. The less wealthy simply took apart their clothes, dyed them black, then re-sewed them.

Mourning–or lack hereof–could also be used as an opportunity to get back at someone you disliked by cutting down on the time or style of one’s mourning.

The widow would be in black for the first six months, and then in half mourning (black and white mixed) for the next six months. After that, the widow would go into half mourning. White, grey, and even lavender were suitable for half mourning. Again these are ideals, and not everyone observed them. Ackermann’s had a half mourning dress in a 1819 issue that was all white. Lavender is not mentioned in this issue, but it was commonly accepted as an appropriate half-mourning costume. On one blog I visited, I saw mention that there were some fashions circa 1811 of someone wearing scarlet for mourning, but “scarlet,” often a term used to describe items that are scarlet (red) in color, was also used to describe any brightly-dyed, plain-woven woolen fabric. I find it impossible to determine which meaning is being used when they say it was a scarlet mourning shawl, but I found this: February 1811 For the Promenade, cloaks in Scarlet merino or grey cloth, black velvet pelisses, lined with grey sarsenet, wrapped plain in tippets; Spanish hats in velvet, or cottage bonnets in black, grey, or scarlet cloth.

In March 1811, La Belle Assemblee Ladies Magazine said that scarlet mantels were much worn during mourning, and generally succeeded by short pelisses of purple velvet. Ladies Monthly Museum didn’t have any mention of scarlet. I find it hard to believe any bright color, scarlet or otherwise, was an acceptable mourning color but who knows?

A bride would never wear mourning colors to her own wedding. A new bride was not supposed to be in mourning at all; though if her parents had recently died she might wear black or more sober clothes for a period, especially as brides were not supposed to go out socializing for a month after their wedding. Also, keep in mind that communication and travel were both slow, so the family may choose not to tell a bride on her honeymoon out of a desire not to ruin her wedded bliss, and because it was unlikely she could arrive home in a timely manner. Also remember, mourning during the Regency was an individual and family-dictated observance.

mother and child in mourningJulia Johnstone (before she was ruined and became a courtesan) had her court presentation and her debut in society not long after her father died, so clearly the world didn’t stop for people in mourning. However, while in full mourning, the family of the deceased typically avoided large, formal entertainment such as balls, dinner parties and dances. They were expected to limit social obligations to necessities and church but apparently only for 4 to 6 weeks.

Upon his mother’s in 1818, the Prince of Wales announced that he intended “to wear the longest mourning that ever son did for a mother…” and he actually limited the official mourning period for the people of England to six weeks.

Men wore black armbands, black gloves and some wore black cravats. Some wore all black while in mourning. There is no mention of half mourning attire for men, however there was mention of men wearing a white band or ribband (ribbon) on their hats to mourn a young girl.

In THE WORKWOMAN’S GUIDE by A Lady (pub. 1840, long before Q. Victoria went into mourning) it says military men wore black armbands below the elbow, not above, and that affluent families put their servants in mourning etc.

When notifying relatives of death, the announcement often came trimmed in black. I have also heard of the family mailing black gloves along with the announcement of death.

Only the length of public and court mourning was set out in a fixed manner. The Lord Chamberlain notified the Gazette as to what it would be. If anyone were invited to court during this time, they were also sent instructions as to what to wear.


A hatchment or a mourning wreath would be suspended over the front door of a deceased person’s house for 6 to 12 months, after which it was moved to inside the parish church. The last recorded use of a hatchment I found was hung in a London street in 1928.

Widows were not supposed to dance or to go to the more frivolous and silly plays while wearing mourning. Widows were not supposed to marry until a year had passed (to see if she were expecting the child of her former husband) to end any doubt about the identity of child’s father if she were found to be increasing, but many did remarry. This could cause a scandal but it was usually forgotten in a year or so.

Widowers did not have the same reason for waiting a year to remarry, and if they had small children, widowers were forgiven and even expected to remarry soon.

There were no hard and fast rules about these things. It all depended on how the movers of society reacted. Men were criticized much less for such breach of propriety than women. What a surprise!

I couldn’t find the official mourning proclamation for Princess Charlotte, but I did find this for the father of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Kent, who died in 1820:

Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Jan. 25.

Orders for the Court’s going into mourning, on Sunday next, the 30th instant, for his late royal highness the duke of Kent and Strathern, fourth son of his majesty, viz. The ladies to wear black azins, plain muslin or long lawn, crape hoods, chamois shoes and gloves, and crape fans. Undress.—Dark Norwich crape. The gentlemen to wear black cloth, without buttons on the sleeves or pockets, plain muslin or long lawn cravats and weepers, chamois shoes and gloves, crape hatbands, and black swords and buckles. Undress.—Dark gray frocks.

Herald’s College, Jan. 25.

The deputy earl Marshal’s order for a general mourning for his late royal highness the duke of Kent. In pursuance of the commands of his royal highness the Prince Regent, acting in the name and on the behalf of his majesty.These are to give public notice, that it is expected that upon the present melancholy occasion of the of his late royal highness Edward Duke of Kent and Strathern, fourth son of his majesty, all persons do put themselves into decent mourning, the said mourning to begin on Sunday next, the 30th instant. HENRY HOWARD – MOLYNEUX-HOWARD, Deputy Earl-Marshal.

Horse-Guards, Jan, 25. It is not required that the officers of the army should wear any other mourning on the present melancholy occasion than a black crape round their left arms with their uniforms. By command of his royal highness the commander-in-chief.

HARRY CALVERT, Adjutant-General.

Admiralty-Office, Jan. 25. His royal highness the Prince Regent does not require that the officers of his majesty’s fleet or marines should wear any other mourning on the present melancholy occasion of the of his late royal highness the duke of Kent and Strathern, than a black crape round their arms with their uniforms. J. W. CHOKER

For more information on mourning clothing, I highly recommend The Jane Austin Centre.

London Bridge is Falling Down, but not anymore

circa 1500

by Donna Hatch

London Bridge has been an icon of England for centuries. But did you know that the London Bridge of today is not the same bridge of ancient construction? The Roman Empire built the original London Bridge which spanned the Thames River, constructed of wood and built on piers. The timber construction had to be repaired and replaced periodically.

Between 1176 and 1209, Peter of Colechurch replaced the timber bridge with a stone arched bridge. It stood for over 600 years. It provided a major thoroughfare, a business center, and even a source of amusement for thrill-seekers.

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica:  As a result of obstructions encountered during pile driving, the span of the constructed arches actually varied from 15 to 34 feet (5 to 10 metres). In addition, the width of the protective starlings was so great that the total waterway was reduced to a quarter of its original width, and the tide roared through the narrow archways like a millrace. “Shooting the bridge” in a small boat became one of the thrills of Londoners.

circa 1860

It was also on this bridge that a gruesome display of severed heads of traitors served as warning of punishment for treason. One of these included the famous rebel, William Wallace. Thankfully, this ghastly practice of heads on spikes along London Bridge ended in 1660 during the reign of King Charles II.

Since the bridge, the only one spanning the river at that time, was a bustling roadway, the new stone bridge soon became a coveted site of businesses and homes. Shops lined both sides of the street, and a number of passageways leading from one building to the next created a tunnel-like shopping and residential district.

However, this heyday would not last. In fact, it almost seems as though the bridge was cursed, suffering a massive fire, a collapse, the removal of the homes and business, erosion, and sinking. (No wonder children sing a song about “London Bridge is falling down.”) Each time, the intrepid British rebuilt the bridge.

In 1971 the new, box girder bridge of concrete and steel took its place. Oddly enough, rather than simply destroying the bridge, the Common Council of the City of London found a buyer. American entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch purchased the stone arch bridge in 1968 for a staggering $2,460,000!

Each block was numbered before dismantling and then shipped to Lake Havasu City, Arizona in the U.S., over 5400 miles from London. There it was painstakingly reassembled. Lake Havasu City rededicated London Bridge in a ceremony on October 10, 1971. The New London Bridge spans Lake Havasu behind Parker Dam on the Colorado River.

Next to the Grand Canyon, London Bridge is Arizona’s largest tourist attraction, and a charming tourist community sprang up around the historic structure. As a history geek, I, for one, am happy the 600 year-old bridge has a new home where it is preserved and appreciated.