Arranged Marriages and True Love

English brideThe idea that we’d let our parents or guardians arranged our marriages leaves the modern day man and woman laughing–or possibly cringing. Yet this was a common custom throughout history in nearly every country of the world.  I’m sure a few of those marriages ended up as love matches, while most grew into a merely mutual amiability born of a determination to make the most of a difficult situation. However, many were supremely miserable.

Such arrangements are a favorite for the romance reader and author alike, inspiring countless historical romance novels about love springing from an arranged marriage. Such was the case for my very first published Regency Romance novel, The Stranger She Married.

Which begs the question; why were arranged marriages so common?

I can’t speak for other countries, but in England, the institution of marriage appears to be more a union of rank and property rather than of love. Though many popular ballads and plays of the era praised true love, in reality, practicability ruled more heavily than affairs of the heart.

During the Regency era, women, even ladies of the gentry and aristocracy, possessed very little independence. They were, in essence, property of their parents until they married, at which time they became property of their husbands. Therefore, parents cautiously settled their daughters in what they deemed were ‘good matches.’ They valued security over love because in a time when divorce was almost unheard of–and scandalous–marriage was a lifetime commitment, for better or worse. Parents searched for a men who would keep their daughter fed and cared for. They could only hope that love, or at the very least, regard, would bloom later.

Queen_Victoria_1847The Victorian era introduced the idea of romantic love and marriage among the upper classes (Think of Queen Victoria; hers was a love match). Prior to that, while it did happen and people dreamed of it, and it happened in all of Jane Austen’s novels, it really wasn’t something most people expected from marriage. Love sometimes happened with the wrong person which ruined families financially. Men understood that marriage was a duty.  Love itself, if it came, was a bonus.  In fact, most men had mistresses because marriage wasn’t usually a romantic relationship–it was more a business relationship.

Mistress often became an aristocratic man’s ideal of ‘lust and love.’  Heaven forbid a man fall in love with another man’s mistress!  Such a sin often meant death to that man because a man’s relationship with his mistress was intimate, one where men chose a woman to pleasure him, as opposed to duty being his deciding factor in choosing her.  It wasn’t just about sex with these mistresses–it was finding a woman who was everything his wife wasn’t.  Yeah. It makes me shudder, too. But that’s how it was, according to many sources including THE FAMILY, SEX, AND MARRIAGE in ENGLAND 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone.

One such example was the 1774 marriage between the 17-year-old daughter of the Earl of Spencer, Georgiana, and the Duke of Devonshire, a 26-year-old man of supreme wealth, power, and influence.  On the surface, the union must have appeared an excellent match. The Duke desired a young wife of high rank to provide him with heirs.  For Georgiana, her status would be elevated to the coveted rank of duchess. According to reports, the young couple met a few times, all well chaperoned, before they wed. Reportedly, Georgiana tried to love her untouchable husband, but he returned to the arms of his mistress. Their infamously unhappy marriage proved that money and status could not guarantee love or  happiness.

The true story inspired Hollywood’s 2008 film The Duchess. The wedding gown costume worn by actress Keira Knightly, above, is gold and white, though it looks more as a candlelit cream. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

On the other hand, Amanda Vickery, in her book A Gentleman’s Daughter contends that many people married for affection; that it was, in fact, more common than marrying for rank or wealth. Still, arranged marriages were common, often with the couple only having met a few times, or not at all, prior to the wedding.

thestrangershemarried 2013 tinyAn arranged marriage born of necessity is the premise of my first published Regency historical romance novel, The Stranger She Married, book one of The Rogue Hearts Series, available in digital and print.  Their marriage, though fraught with danger, turns into a great love story.

After all, I’m all about the happily ever after :-)

THE STRANGER SHE MARRIED by Donna Hatch

When her parents and twin brother die within weeks of each other, Alicia and her younger sister are left in the hands of an uncle who has brought them all to financial and social ruin. Desperate to save her family from debtor’s prison, Alicia vows to marry the first wealthy man to propose. She meets the dashing Lord Amesbury, and her heart whispers that this is the man she is destined to love, but his tainted past may forever stand in their way. Her choices in potential husbands narrow to either a scarred cripple with the heart of a poet, or a handsome rake with a deadly secret.

Cole Amesbury is tormented by his own ghosts, and believes he is beyond redemption, yet he cannot deny his attraction for the girl whose genuine goodness touches the heart he’d thought long dead. He fears the scars in his soul cut so deeply that he may never be able to offer Alicia a love that is true. When yet another bizarre mishap threatens her life, Alicia suspects the seemingly unrelated accidents that have plagued her loved ones are actually a killer’s attempt to exterminate every member of her family. Despite the threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger to Alicia’s heart. And Cole must protect Alicia from the killer who has been exterminating her family before she is the next target.

Available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other book retailers.

Believe in Happily Ever After!

 

Regency Sunscreen a.k.a. the Parasol

Regency fashion plate, parasolUnlike the sun-kissed tans admired by some women today, (and let’s face it, chalk-white legs just aren’t coveted) a pale complexion was a fashion statement during much of England’s history. Since laborers often worked long hours outside, their skins got tanned and weathered from exposure to the sun and the elements. A lady with a creamy complexion loudly proclaimed, without uttering a word, that she was wealthy enough not to have to spend a great deal of time out of doors. But since a lady’s skin could become unfashionably brown simply by walking outside, even with the protection of a hat or bonnet, she had to take measures to protect her skin from the sun.

During previous eras, ladies and gentlemen of the upper classes powered their faces to maintain a pale complexion.  But by the Regency Era, people abandoned the powder, rouge, lipstick, and powered wigs, as well as ostentatiously ornate clothing, in favor of a more natural, comfortable look. They also started bathing on a regular basis, which I think is not a coincidence.Regency fashion plate and parasol

So, what was a lady to do if she wanted to spend time outside but keep her skin alabaster white without the use of powder? Sunscreen, obviously, was not the answer, since it had yet to be invented. Bonnets and hats certainly helped but there were times when those failed to protect a lady’s face from all angles of the sun.

Enter the parasol. Made of natural fabrics such as cotton and silk and often embellished with lace, these functional little beauties became so popular in England early in the 19th century that they became part of a fashionable ensemble.  Depending on how they were made, they could even protect a lady from a light rain.

Winter Collection, 6 historical short storiesSo the next time your Regency lady goes for a walk, make sure she brings her bonnet and parasol to keep her face un-freckled and white, and her gloves to protect her hands, lest she fall under criticism of becoming “brown.” Horrors!

For more pictures, feel free to check out  my Regency Accessories Pinterest Board with lots of images and fashion plates of parasols, fans, shoes, and other fun Regency accessories.

Laura Boyl on Jane Austen Center has some lovely pictures of ladies and children carrying parasols.

Louise Allen, on her blog, History of Costume, has a great collection of pictures as well as how the “correct” way to hold a parasol evolved.

Sources:

http://janeaustenslondon.com/tag/history-of-costume/

http://www.janeausten.co.uk/parasols/

Spotlight on author Jennifer Bryce

Today my spotlight is author Jennifer Bryce and her very first published book, Haley’s Song. This romance is squeaky clean, with a courageous heroine and a dreamy hero.

I thought I had first met Jennifer at a writer’s conference when she sought me out upon the recommendation of a mutual writer friend to get help editing her first book. But she later reminded me that we had met about ten years before; she’d done my hair when I’d moved to her town. (Jenn has a much better memory than I do.) But my family only lived there about six months, so we’d only had a few chances to talk when she’d worked on my hair (and a fabulous job she did, too).  Anyway, years later, we met again and I made suggestions on how she could improve her book. Jennifer worked really hard on revisions, submited to a publisher, got a contract offer, and now her first book is available.

In Haley’s Song, the stakes are high, the heroine is smart and brave, the hero is as likable as he is realistic, and there is a full cast of fun, quirky characters. It has a vintage, wild west feel to it. Here is more info:

Big Haley's SongSynopsis:
Hayley’s father has a gambling problem that’s now become hers. He lost her in a bet. Now, she must either leave the only place she’s ever known or marry a brute who is only interested in a servant he can control.

On the run and scared, she finds sanctuary at a ranch with seven men and one little boy. Though hired as a cook and nanny, she quickly realizes she’s found a home. With brothers, Ben and Tate, vying for her affections, Hayley starts to believe she can have a life that doesn’t involve alcohol, abuse, and gambling. But the winner of the card game has other plans.

Ed Thompson tracks Hayley down, determined she’s going to become his wife. But Tate isn’t about to allow that to happen. He’ll move whatever mountain he has to for Hayley’s safety. And when she’s kidnapped, he’ll tear the town apart to find her. But Ed has an ace up his sleeve that could end up getting Hayley killed.

Here is a short excerpt from Haley’s Song:

“Hey Gummy, how did you get your name?” Curiosity pushed her to ask as she helped Johnny sit next to her on the bench. She expected him to say it was because he always chewed gum.

“I’m a natural born scrapper as a lad and got into plenty of fights.  Once when a fight was in full swing, my gum came out of my mouth and stuck in my hair. The name Gummy ‘stuck.’” The jack of all trades chuckled. “You’re a scrapper like me. We can handle a little opposition.”

About The Author

Jen BryceJennifer has a brain that is never quiet (even in her sleep). She uses writing as an escape to be and do anything she can create. Plotting is her favorite thing to do in her down time. Raised in southern Arizona, she was influenced by being raised a cop’s daughter (plenty of teenage angst material there), Mexican food, and the old West. She is a busy mother to three rambunctious boys, is married to her amazing cowboy, she’s  a full-time nursing student, and she desperately needs a long vacation. Her biggest fear in life is to be completely mediocre.

Author Social Media links:

Facebook: Author Jennifer Bryce

BlogSpot: jenniferbryce.blogspot.com

Twitter: @JenniferBryce1

 

 

 

 

 

The Origin of Silent Night

Riedesel_Christmas_Tree

Riesdesel Christmas Tree

Christmas Eve 1818, marked the debut of the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night. Father Josef Mohr composed the words in 1816 but waited until 1818 to present them to headmaster, Franz Gruber, and asked him to compose a melody for guitar and voice. Some believe it was a desperate measure to have music in church despite the damaged organ due to recent flooding. Other historians believe the organ was functional; they simply wanted something different for their congregation that year for their Christmas service. Regardless of their motive, they performed the song Stille Nacht on Christmas Eve on the guitar for church service in Nicola-Kirche in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818. It was, clearly, an unforgettable service with what has become one of the most popular carols of all time.

It is even known as “the carol that stopped the war,” at least briefly, when during World War II, German soldiers put down their guns and sang Stille Nacht to the British. British troops joined in, singing in English, resulting in a one-night cease fire and spontaneous celebrations between enemies. You can read more about that here.

I can hardly listen to my favorite version of that song, Stille Nacht by Manheim Steamroller, without it bringing tears to my eyes. Here it is:

I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Christmas Fudge, a Hatch family favorite recipe

My daughter had an awesome 4th grade teacher named Mrs. Zimmerman, or Mrs. Z. She used to send home some of her favorite recipes for the children to try. Hers was the best fudge recipe I’ve ever had! No, this fudge has nothing to do with anything of historical significance.  I don’t even know when or where fudge was invented and right now I have too much holiday shopping to do some research.  But I love this fudge recipe, so I’m sharing it with you.  Without further ado, here is Mrs. Z’s Famous Fudge:

In large saucepan mix:

4 1/2 C sugar
1 12oz can evaporated milk
Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly. Cook 6 minutes stirring constantly.
In large mixing bowl place:
2 cubes butter (not margarine)
1  12 oz pkg MILK chocolate chips
1  12 oz pkg SEMI SWEET chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla
Pour hot mixture over ingredients in bowl and mix with mixer 3 minutes on high. Add chopped nuts if desired and stir in by hand.
Pour into well-buttered 9 x 13 pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until fudge is cooled. Cut into squares and share only with those who deserve some :)
Hint: If you want to add a little holiday dazzle, you can top with crushed peppermint sticks.
Enjoy!

New Cover for A Perfect Secret coming soon!

APerfectSecret2

A Perfect Secret–new cover

APerfectSecret old cover

A Perfect Secret–original cover

A Perfect Secret is getting a new cover!! The old cover was lovely, but the male model, handsome as he was, didn’t look like Christian. The model was too rough-looking and too old.

In fact, at a book signing when I told a prospective reader about the book, she asked, “Is this the villain on the cover?”

Um, no.

So that propelled me to more actively seek a model who fit Christian’s description and didn’t look like the bad guy.  And, as you can see, I have enjoyed success.

You may ask why I settled for a picture that I didn’t love. Well, I’d spent months searching for images for the cover  and couldn’t find the right couple wearing the right kind of clothing (not to mention to right amount–you’d be surprised how many scantily-clad couples there are out there) . And I didn’t have the budget for a custom photo shoot. So rather than put off release date for an indeterminate amount of time until I found the right couple, I chose the image that fit the best and released the book.

Over the last year since the book’s release, I’ve been casually skimming pictures looking for Christian. Finally, I found my vision of Christian–young, blond, blue eyed, and so handsome that jealous brothers would call him pretty. I think this one is perfect, don’t you?

So don’t be surprised or confused when you see this new cover pop up.  Digital and print copies of the new cover will be available soon. In the meantime, you can still buy this book with the old cover on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other online book retail stores.

Here is the book cover blurb:

APerfectSecret2Desperate to protect her father from trial and death, Genevieve breaks off her engagement with Christian Amesbury and marries a blackmailer. After a year of marriage, she flees her husband’s violent domination only to have fate bring her back to Christian. Just when she thinks she’s started a new life of safety and solitude, her husband tracks her down, stalks her, and threatens everyone she loves.

Still brokenhearted over Genevieve’s betrayal a year ago, Christian can’t believe she’s come back into his life–and worse, that she’s done it on the anniversary of his brother’s death, a death that haunts him. Though tempted to throw her back into the river where he found her, he can’t leave her at the mercy of the terrifying man she married.

When her husband torments Genevieve and puts the Amesbury family in danger, Christian will do anything to protect those he loves…anything except give Genevieve another chance to break his heart.

 

Glass Armonica

Although Benjamin Franklin was an American and therefore not part of my usual Regency geekiness, I have to admire his brilliance. It seems every few years I learn of another invention of his. This time, I discovered that he invented an unusual musical instrument called the “glass armonica.” No, it’s nothing like a harmonica–it’s more like playing wine glasses with a wet finger, only these glasses are on their sides, all attached, and the glass does the spinning.

According to http://www.glassarmonica.com/ Franklin originally named his invention the ‘glassychord’, but changed it to “armonica” after the Italian word for harmony.  The Armonica hit the musical scene in London in 1762, launched a tour of Europe, and captured the interest of both Mozart and Beethoven who wrote pieces to be played on this unusual glass instrument.

Below is a fascinating YouTube video of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on the Glass Armonica played by William Zeitler who is one of few musicians who have mastered playing this unusual instrument. It love the magical, almost ethereal notes of the glass armonica and hope you find this a fitting way to kick off a magical Christmas Season.

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The Things, Big and Small, for which I am Grateful

autum and ThanksgivingNot in any particular order, I’m grateful for these things…

Cats. They’re warm and fuzzy, and they purr when I pet them, which is strangely soothing and satisfying. And they can be entertaining in many ways.

Those roller tapey thingys that take cat hair off clothing.

Getting about 85% (so far) range of motion on my shoulder and now having very little pain.

Insurance that allowed me to begin physical therapy on my shoulder.

Chocolate–milk chocolate. You can have that icky dark chocolate, thank you very much.

Cheesecake. I’ve never had a bad cheesecake. They are alway yummy and I can’t hardly eat a bite without making moaning noises.

Zipper closure plastic baggies. I don’t know how women got by without them.

Being born into a country where I don’t live in fear of authority.

Computers.

Spell checker.

Cut/paste option in Word.

Search/replace option in Word.

Readers who like my books enough to buy and recommend them :)

GPS–because I take the phrase “directionally challenged” to a whole new level.

Mobile phones with text and voice-to-text.

Google calendar complete with alarms and reminders.

Cameras to capture those best moments with my family.

My children, and that they seem to like me okay despite countless “Bad Mommy” moments.

A husband who knows when not to speak and just offers a big hug.

A husband who understands me and likes me anyway.

A husband who thinks I’m beautiful despite bearing six children and the effects of gravity.

A husband who reminds me why love conquers all.

That the above-mentioned husbands are all wrapped up inside one man :)

The beach (if only it were closer).

My faith and how it sustains me.

If I gave it more thought, I could come up with several dozen more, but I’ll stop here.

What are some things for which  you are most thankful?

Medieval Music and Musical Instruments by Regan Walker

Regan Walker profile pic 2014Today, please welcome my guest blogger, Regan Walker, as she discusses medieval music and musical instruments.  Since I love music and I play the harp, I was especially interested in hearing about her take on the medieval predecessors to my favorite instrument. Take it away, Regan!

Regan Walker:

In my new medieval romance, The Red Wolf’s Prize, evenings at the manor at Talisand often featured music. Music was the chief form of entertainment of the people who lived during this time.

The oldest instrument, of course, was the human voice, and the oldest form of that was the plainchant, singing without instruments. It would be something like what we call A cappella today.

In my story, the Welsh bard, Rhodri, plays his small harp and the heroine, Lady Serena joins him in song, whether she is garbed as a servant in disguise or, later, as herself.

What kind of musical instruments did they enjoy?Medieval musicians

Well, if you happened to have a traveling minstrel on hand, it might be crwth, the ancient Celtic lyre, predecessor to both the harp and violin. The Oxford Companion to Music defines a crwth as:

“An ancient plucked and bowed stringed instrument which had a more or less rectangular frame, the lower half of which was filled in as a sound-box, with flat (or occasionally vaulted) back, the upper half being left open on each side of the strings.”

This is the instrument David played while tending sheep, as recorded in the Bible. It was used by bards beginning in the 8th century BC, then later in Rome where it was the lyra, the first European bowed string instrument. The number of strings varied, the original Celtic version having seven strings.

Celtic_Lyre_Harp
Harps became common closer to the 10th century when we find evidence of a triangular-shaped harp. It is the small, hand-held harp that the Welsh bard Rhodri plays in The Red Wolf’s Prize.

Medieval harps in general were small and portable. Travelling musicians often had to carry their instruments on foot or horseback, and the materials required to build a quality instrument were expensive. The shape and string material of harps during this time largely depended on what part of the world they were from. Welsh harps were often strung with hair; Irish harps with wire; Scottish harps with gut.

bard with a small harpMedieval music used many string instruments such as the lute, mandore and gittern (small lute like instruments), psaltery (a cross between a harp and a lyre with twelve strings), pipes and bells. They also might have a dulcimer, similar in structure to the psaltery and zither and predecessor to the pianoforte. It was originally a plucked instrument.

The lute remained almost unchanged from appearance, around the year 1000, up to the middle of 1500.

Medieval lute

Lest I forget, there were percussion instruments, too—drums of all kinds, as well as the pipe and tabor (pictured below). The pipe was something like the recorder today, wooden and flute like. And there were cymbals and tambourines.

Pipe and tabor Reading about medieval music is one thing. While we cannot know the precise sounds the medieval music conjured for the listener, we have their instruments so we can get close. It is a haunting sound that will definitely make you think of knights and their ladies.

To hear what medieval music might have sounded like, see this:

 

ReganWalker_TheRedWolf'sPrize_600x900The Red Wolf’s Prize

HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED HIS PRIZE
Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them.

SHE WOULD LOVE HIM AGAINST HER WILL
Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord.

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.

 

As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

 

Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)

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Disclaimer: Although I know Regan to be a careful researcher and talented author, I have not read this book.