Leading Strings

I love looking at photos and portraits of people who lived long ago. We can gleam so much information by the way they dressed and posed. I often wonder about them, their lives, their thoughts. One detail in pictures that involve small children that I sometimes see is the presence of a belt or rope attached to the child’s garments right under the arm. These fabric belt is called Leading strings, sometimes also called Leading Reins.

Leading strings seemed to have served two purposes: to aid the child while learning to walk, and to keep the child from straying too far away.

By Pieter de Hooch (1629–after 1684) – http://www.mdbk.de/sammlungen/detailseiten/pieter-de-hooch/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40616518

As a mother of six children, I spent a lot of time leaning over, with my fingers extended, so my babies could hold onto them to keep them steady as they learned to walk. A leading string might have saved a lot of time with a tired back. And in a busy public place, keeping track of a toddler can be a challenge. I always had the fear that the second I looked away, they would run off after some new fascinating diversion or be spirited away by a stranger.

Translation: “A young governess helps a very small child to walk. He wears a little sailor suit and carries a (rattle?), and still wears leading strings.”

 I sometimes wonder why we stopped this practice of sewing leading strings into children’s clothing, don’t you?

 

Why Regency is my Passion

I love many eras in history, but my favorite is the Regency. There are many reasons for this favorite. It was such a unique–and short–time in history. The Regency came amidst much social and economic change, filled with turmoil and trouble. What draws me to is are the customs and people who lived in that time. This may be a skewed and romanticized vision, but British gentlemen who live long ago as seemed more honorable than we are today. In Regency England, duty and honor were everything. With few exception, if a gentleman said he’d do something, especially if he gave his word, he meant it; others could count him to follow through, even if it came a great personal cost.

By the Georgian and Regency Eras, gentlemen and ladies alike were educated and could read, compute complex mathematics, speak multiple languages—French and German seemed to be particular favorites and boys were taught Latin in school. They loved philosophical debates.

They were also very cultured. From a young age they were taught to dance, play musical instruments, sing, paint, and recite poetry. Even many of those of the working classes were receiving an education at that time, an unprecedented movement in England.

I love the way people in Regency England spoke so eloquently. The upper classes didn’t maul the language—they used correct grammar and had an enormous vocabulary. They prized wit and excelled in using the famous British understatement. I love their dry humor. They also spoke and wrote beautifully and spent a great deal of time writing stories, poems, letters, and journaling. Jane Austen’s novels are almost like poetry. She carefully chose each word for its wording, imagery, and rhythm to deliver the exact nuance she wanted.

Gentlemen were civilized and treated ladies with courtesy in a hundred little ways. They stood when a lady entered the room, doffed their hats, bowed, curtailed their language, offered an arm, and more. They were also athletic; they hunted, raced, fenced, boxed, rode horses. They were manly. Strong. Noble. Resolute. Honorable. I love that about them! All of this is what makes them perfect heroes for both historical fiction and Regency romance novels.

By the Regency Era, ladies and gentlemen had gotten rid of those powdered wigs of the past few centuries, toned down previously excessive manner of dress which once included excessive ruffles and lace, and even–my personal favorite–bathed daily. Men’s three-piece suits worn today are patterned after Regency gentlemen’s clothing.

Another aspect of the Regency that draws me is that it landed in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, which creates a natural backdrop for tension and conflict. Men and boys went off to war. Some didn’t come home; others came home but were forever changed. This darkness in history creates what’s known as the tortured hero, and I love helping my fictional tortured heroes find peace and healing, and matching them up with ladies who understand and love them.

The Regency is a charming, unforgettable era thanks to literary masters such as Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I only hope to do their legacy justice.

Do you have a favorite era in history? What is it and why does it fascinate you?

Release Day for The Matchmaking Game


On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Review & Excerpt Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Matchmaking Game
By Donna Hatch

Happy Release  Day!

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the reviews
or reading the first chapter of the book, go back and do so now…

Launch – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 1

England 1814

Rowena Emerson studied her longtime friend, Evan Barnes, and tried to judge by his expression if he’d be game for a new scheme. It was hard to tell; he had come home from the war a mysterious stranger, with only glimpses of his former playful self who had always been ready for a new lark.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Review

“I loved reading this book. I have read several Donna Hatch’s books and loved everyone of them. . . . I would definitely recommend this book to other readers, especially those who enjoy a good clean romantic novel.”

Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 2

“Semantics. Come.” She stood. “Let’s go out for some air, and I’ll tell you all about it. There is a terrace outside,” she added in case he didn’t remember the layout of their host’s home.

He rose, his posture straight as a tin soldier. The lamplight shone on his dark hair, regulation-short rather than stylish, but it suited his new military bearing. “I have a feeling I’m going to regret even listening to your idea.”

Bookworm Nation – Review

“… I was quickly sucked into the story and didn’t want to leave. I loved the slow buildup of the romance between these two, and how everything works out. Like I said, its a charming regency that will warm your heart. Very enjoyable.”

Zerina Blossom’s Books – Interview

Q: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

A: Wow, that’s a tough question. The first chapter was effortless; it practically wrote itself. I loved the chapter where they really see each other as attractive adults, and not as the childhood friends they used to be. The big kissing scene was also super fun, and, ahem, very much put me in the mood when my husband came home.

Wishful Endings – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 3

She laughed at his indignation, then put a hand over her mouth to muffle the sound. “I’m only quizzing you, Evan. I haven’t done that sort of thing for at least a month.”

He raised his brows and she chuckled. His departure for the war had put an end to most of her pranks. Losing her friend and cohort, not to mention her heartbreak at his absence, had taken the joy out of many of her favorite pastimes. She’d settled for more mundane activities in his absence. Now that he was back, she could finally breathe easy.

Hardcover Feedback – Review

“The ending was great and I enjoyed every minute of reading this book. I think anyone who enjoys reading stories set in this period will love The Matchmaking Game too.”

The Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 4

Rowena pointed her chin at the couple. “Look at her. Look at my papa. I think they have always been fond of one another—they are often near each other. It probably wouldn’t take much on our part to help them realize they would make a perfect match.”

Evan lifted a dark brow. “You want my mother to marry your papa?”

Christy’s Cozy Corners – Review

“You will love Rowena and Evan. They are very fun characters! I really enjoy when a novella can make a romance believable in such a short few pages. The Matchmaking Game is another one to add to your lists!”

Katie’s Clean Book Collection – Review

“The progression of the storyline is sweet and natural, causing the reader (me included) to feel swept up in the events and to feel a part of the story, as it’s very believable.”

Reading Is My SuperPower – Review

“The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch is a delightful treat for the heart! With sizzling kisses, charming humor, and a tender friendship, it’s the perfect choice for a quick weekend read. You will fall in love with the characters and be sad to bid them farewell. And did I mention the kisses?!?!”

Heidi Reads… – Review

“Such a great story! The characters are vivid, the setting is awesome, the conflict is angsty, and the romance is… so romantic! . . . I loved this Regency romance and could not put it down until I was finished!”

Rainy Day Reviews – Review

“I would call this a Regency read for sure, but I appreciate the love story, the story line itself and the loving romance. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I am sure most every other reader will too.”

deal sharing aunt – Interview & Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 5

Q: What do you think makes a good story?

A: Good stories stem from unforgettable, complex characters who overcome obstacles, find new strength they didn’t know they had, and learn to place others’ happiness above their own. I love it when the hero is strong and yet has a vulnerable side to him—I find that very endearing. And of course, the happily-ever-after!

Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 5

Rowena gave his arm a little shake. “I adore your mother, and I think she’d make my papa very happy. He needs the influence of a wife and companion, as I’m sure your mother would welcome a man to love and care for her.”

“Ro, this isn’t our place.”

Mel’s Shelves – Review

“It’s a great story of childhood friends whose feelings evolve as they get older. They are perfect for each other, but there’s an obstacle to overcome to get to a happy ending. I enjoyed how it all played out. This is a great pick if you’re looking for a quick, clean Regency romance to keep you entertained for an afternoon!”

Getting Your Read On – Review

“Donna Hatch does such a good job of creating characters that feel real and sincere. I love that. . . . This book was just fun. It made me smile and left me feeling happy.”

Bookworm Lisa – Review

This book has some cute twists and turns. All is not as it seems. There are counter plots in the making. The book is a short and fun book to read for the pleasure of reading. I enjoyed my time engaged in the story.

Celticlady’s Reviews – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 6

She heaved a sigh. “Very well, then. What else can we do?”

“Stay out of their business?”

She smacked his arm with her fan. “Don’t be a wet blanket. This is just what they both need. Think of how devious and clever we’ll have to be to make them each realize that the other is interested.”

Booklove – Spotlight

Nicole’s Book Musings – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 7

Perhaps Evan’s reluctance sprang from a new source. Rowena softened her voice. “She can still love and honor your father’s memory even if she remarries.”

He murmured, “I know.”

Beck Valley Books – Excerpt, Chapter One, Part 8

Rowena opened her mouth and then closed it with a snap. The last thing Evan needed was a husband-hunter like Cynthia Pritchard dogging him. Evan had only been home from war a short time and had much more pressing issues—like helping match her papa with his mother.

Singing Librarian Books – Review

“From page one readers will be pulled into the story and not want to put it down until the end. It is a sweet romance that will fill the heart with happiness and warmth.”

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below, if you haven’t already…

The Matchmaking Game
(Timeless Romance Single)
Donna Hatch
Adult Historical Romance
ebook, 126 pages
April 18th 2017 by Mirror Press

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling & #1 Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series in Clean & Wholesome Romance, comes the Timeless Romance Singles line.

THE MATCHMAKING GAME: A brand new historical romance novella from bestselling author Donna Hatch.

Rowena’s childhood friend, Evan, has returned home from war a handsome, but mysterious stranger. In an effort to bring happiness to her father, not to mention uncover the Evan she remembers from their youth, Rowena seeks to unite their parents. Who better to match a lonely widow and widower together than their adoring children? Her matchmaking game could help their parents find happiness and draw out her childhood friend buried beneath Evan’s new reserve … or it could break more than one heart.

GoodreadsAmazon

Tour Schedule

April 6th: Rockin’ Book Reviews Hearts & Scribbles
April 7th: Bookworm Nation & Zerina Blossom’s Books
April 9th: Hardcover Feedback & The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
April 10th: Christy’s Cozy Corners & Katie’s Clean Book Collection
April 11th: Reading Is My SuperPower & Heidi Reads…
April 12th: Rainy Day Reviews & deal sharing aunt
April 13th: Mel’s Shelves & Getting Your Read On
April 14th: Bookworm Lisa & Singing Librarian Books
April 16th: Celticlady’s Reviews & Booklove
April 17th: Falling Leaves & Nicole’s Book Musings
April 18th: Grand Finale

About the Author

Donna Hatch is the author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” and a winner of writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award. A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and also juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband). A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty five years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

WebsiteBlogGoodreadsFacebookTwitterAmazon

Tour Giveaway

1 winner will receive a print copy of Heart Strings by Donna Hatch (US only)
 1 winner will receive an ebook of Heart Strings by Donna Hatch (open internationally)
– Ends April 22nd

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grab Our Button!

Regency Easter Customs

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org
/w/index.php?curid=50313

By the Regency Era, Easter had evolved from its pagan origins to a much more religious, and family-friendly tradition. 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.

In 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 my 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?

Sources:

The Historical Royal Palace Blog

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

Nancy Mayer, Regency Researcher

Gaelen Foley

 

The Matchmaking Game, an Excerpt

 


On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

The Matchmaking Game
By Donna Hatch

I’m absolutely trilled to announce the blog tour of my newest Regency Romance, The Matchmaking Game, coming April 18, 2017 and available now for pre-order HERE

For your reading pleasure, here is the first excerpt, the beginning of chapter one…

Excerpt

Chapter One, Part 1
England 1814

Rowena Emerson studied her longtime friend, Evan Barnes, and tried to judge by his expression if he’d be game for a new scheme. It was hard to tell; he had come home from the war a mysterious stranger, with only glimpses of his former playful self who had always been ready for a new lark.

Of course, two family deaths in as many years, not to mention all he’d suffered during war, would subdue even the liveliest spirit. Still, perhaps Evan’s old personality could be coaxed into returning. A diverting new mission might be just the thing to draw him out. Besides, if this plan worked, their parents would find happiness. her Silent and rigid as a soldier, Evan made no move, except his eyes while other members of the dinner party laughed and conversed in the drawing room. Was he glad he’d come home or did he long to return to aid his countrymen in the ongoing war against Napoleon?

Rowena nudged Evan with her elbow. “I have an idea.”

Evan groaned under his breath. “The last time you had an idea, I nearly broke my neck.”

“Oh, pish. You only fell a short distance, and it was worth it. Besides, I concocted several diverting ideas while you were gone, and no one fell to his death.” She leaned forward and peered into his face. Are you still there? she longed to ask.

Without turning his head, he slid his gaze to her. His eyes remained that same intriguing mixture of brown and green, yet somehow different—wary, cautious. “That’s because no one else is foolish enough to go along with your madcap plots.”

She grinned. “Only you, which is partly why I missed you so much. I need a courageous friend for this idea.”

Follow the rest of the tour to continue reading excerpts from chapter one and reviews of the book…(or pre-order your copy here)

The Matchmaking Game
(Timeless Romance Single)
Donna Hatch
Adult Historical Romance
ebook, 126 pages
April 18th 2017 by Mirror Press

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling & #1 Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series in Clean & Wholesome Romance, comes the Timeless Romance Singles line.

THE MATCHMAKING GAME: A brand new historical romance novella from bestselling author Donna Hatch.

Rowena’s childhood friend, Evan, has returned home from war a handsome, but mysterious stranger. In an effort to bring happiness to her father, not to mention uncover the Evan she remembers from their youth, Rowena seeks to unite their parents. Who better to match a lonely widow and widower together than their adoring children? Her matchmaking game could help their parents find happiness and draw out her childhood friend buried beneath Evan’s new reserve … or it could break more than one heart.

GoodreadsAmazon

Tour Schedule

April 6th: Rockin’ Book Reviews Hearts & Scribbles
April 7th: Bookworm Nation & Zerina Blossom’s Books
April 9th: Hardcover Feedback & The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
April 10th: Christy’s Cozy Corners & Katie’s Clean Book Collection
April 11th: Reading Is My SuperPower & Heidi Reads…
April 12th: Rainy Day Reviews & deal sharing aunt
April 13th: Mel’s Shelves & Getting Your Read On
April 14th: Bookworm Lisa & Singing Librarian Books
April 16th: Celticlady’s Reviews & Booklove
April 17th: Falling Leaves & Nicole’s Book Musings
April 18th: Grand Finale

Tour Giveaway

1 winner will receive a print copy of Heart Strings by Donna Hatch (US only)
 1 winner will receive an ebook of Heart Strings by Donna Hatch (open internationally)
– Ends April 22nd

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Grab Our Button!

Kitchens in Regency and Georgian England

I’m having my kitchen remodeled, a daunting and messy project that is not yet complete. Naturally, this event sparked the question in my historically-minded imagination about Regency kitchens.  This, of course, led to research. But first, I thought I’d share photos of my unimpressive kitchen.

The homebuilder originally installed two lower cabinets, two and a half uppers, and a drawer bank which is next to the sink and dishwasher on the island. No doubt someone from a hundred years ago would have found it luxurious, but as a spoiled modern-day woman, I found it wholly inadequate with nowhere near enough counter space–so did the previous owners, apparently because they installed a set of ugly but utilitarian cabinets in the far left corner. Still, the kitchen does not have enough counter space. If any dishes are left on the sink, a frequent occurrence in our house full of children, there is little to no space for food preparation.

Pre-demolition kitchen


view 2 of pre-demolition kitchen

 

 

 

 

Packing cabinets. It felt like moving.

Removing old cabinets. Their new home will be the garage.

Last week, we tore out everything.  

Sink cabinet

First we packed, as modeled by my youngest son to the right.  We did the demolition ourselves to save money. My oldest son and daughter-in-law were visiting at the time, and they had so much fun helping. I had more fun caring for my granddaughter and keeping her away from the mess. Thanks to their help, it was kinda fun, but certainly very messy. Here are the demolition photos:

Pipes where my kitchen sink used to be

When the kitchen is finished, I’ll post completed photos. But for now, let’s move on to the historical tie-in.

Most of my characters are wealthy enough not to spend much time in a kitchen and certainly never need to cook for themselves–a far cry from my reality. They probably wouldn’t know how to cook over a hearth use an oven.

Still, what were kitchens like in Regency England?

Years of soot

Food and kitchens, like clothing, education, and social issues, underwent great change in the late Regency/early Victorian Era. Before that time, food in England was more primitive than that found in France and Germany, and other European countries. Ovens were inefficient and produced a great deal of smoke. Notice the soot in this photo to the right above the tourists’ heads.

Cooking over a spit

Oven at Hampton Court

Cooking was done over the hearth on spit or in posts hanging over the fire. Baking occurred in large ovens.

As far as storing food and cooking implements, they had some cupboards, but most seemed to have used shelves or a larder. Food stayed cold in a bultery, or buttery.

During the Georgian and Regency Eras, great food had become an integral part of family and social life. Many kitchens were updated from hearths, to either the Rumford fireplace, which allowed for better air circulation and therefore more effective cooking, or to even more modern cooking ranges. )Unfortunately, I have yet to find a photo of this “new fangled” range. If you have one that you are willing to share, please let me know.) 

The most innovated houses now boasted plumbing for both hot and cold water. New kitchen designs and even took advantage of light, minimized odors and regulated temperature. 

These three photos, courtesy Shannon Arthur, are from One Royal Crescent in Bath.  The house is restored to the Georgian era circa 1770s with some items as late as 1832 added. Apparently, they occasionally used 1800s  reproductions of the 1770s stuff that had been sold off.

 

 

 
Note: that’s not a real fire like in the Hampton Court pictures.

I found this photo to the left on Wickimedia Commons, but I cannot identify if this is a colonial or English kitchen, nor if this is during the early or late 1800’s. Still, it gives a good feel for what kitchens must have been like. Countertops did not exist for centuries. Instead,  servants used large tables to do all their food preparation. Eventually, marble or other stone slabs appeared on these tabletops, as pictured in this photo to the right, which probably made the entire process easier and cleaner. 

Here is a stove, circa late 1800s. It features a very modern-looking stove, but the table does not look authentic to me. Still, it shows a butter churn, and gives a fun historical feel overall.

Compared to these photos, my old kitchen was pretty posh, but I can’t wait to get my new kitchen, complete with new drawers, cupboards, and a nice, big island. Oh, and running water. Yeah, that will be great!

 

 

Mounting a Horse in Regency England

The Countess of Coningsby in the Costume of the Charlton Hunt     circa 1760

RIDING on Horseback is, confessedly, one of the most graceful, agreeable, and salutary of feminine recreations. No attitude, perhaps, can be regarded as more elegant than that of a lady in the modern side-saddle; nor can any exercise be deemed capable of affording more rational and innocent delight, than that of the female equestrian.

From a Young Lady’s Equestrian Manual, published 1838.

With few exception, most of my female characters are accomplished horsewomen. I cannot claim to be accomplished, but I do love to ride. Still, sidesaddle, or aside, is a bit different. When writing my soon-to-be released novella, The Matchmaking Game, I needed to fine tune the details about how a lady mounted a horse. To this end, I turned to the aforementioned manual, and found the details that I wanted. Here they are:

The horse being thus left to the lady’s government, it is proper, that, in passing her hand through the reins she should not have suffered them to become so loose as to prevent her, when her hand is on the crutch, from having a light, but steady bearing on the bit, and thus keeping the horse to his position during the process of mounting.

She next places her left foot firmly in the right hand of the groom, or gentleman, in attendance who stoops to receive it. The lady then puts her left hand on his right shoulder; and, straightening her left knee, bears her weight on the assistant’s hand; which he gradually raises (rising, himself, at the same time) until she is seated on the saddle. During her elevation, she steadies, and even, if necessary, partly assists herself towards the saddle by her hands; one of which, it will be recollected, is placed on the crutch, and the other on her assistant’s shoulder. It is important that she should keep her foot firm and her knee straight.

Armed with this knowledge, here is how I wrote my scene in The Matchmaking Game, when the hero and heroine, childhood friends, first realize there may be more between them than friendship:

How kind of you to notice,” she said dryly. “Give your major a leg up?”

With a smile at her reference to the honorary rank he’d given her at the ball, Evan dismounted. He laced his fingers together so she could mount her horse. A pert smile came his way before she placed her left foot in his cupped hands. She put one hand on his shoulder to steady herself as he boosted her up. Her soft body brushed his arm and chest. Her scent, something soft and feminine he could not name, tingled his senses. Mere inches away, her smooth cheek and moist lips taunted him. His chest squeezed and his knees wobbled. Awareness of her, of the desirable woman she had become, rendered him immobile. She glanced at him, one brow raised, and a half smile curving those luscious lips. A burning energy formed in the middle of his stomach and shot outward like sunbursts.

She parted those lips and spoke. “Am I too heavy for a big, strong man like you?”

“Er, no. Of course not.” He cleared his throat again and boosted her up with a bit too much force.

Despite his aggressive boost, she placed her right leg over the leg rest of the side saddle and found her balance. She settled the long, heavy skirts of her riding habit around her while he helped position her left foot in the stirrup.

With the reins in one hand and her riding crop in the other, she eyed him with an expectant lift to her brows. “Shall we?”

The Matchmaking Game will be released April 18, 2017 and is available now for pre-order here

 

 

 

Riding Sidesaddle in Regency England

Riding sidesaddle was the epitome of genteel upbringing for the Regency lady. It provided a convenient form of transportation, a good method of obtaining fresh air and exercise, and a great way to socialize–especially with gentlemen 😉 . Riding sidesaddle also effectively proclaimed one’s wealth and status. Sometime during the 17th Century, ladies started riding sidesaddle, also known as aside. Prior to that they rode astride or sat in an awkward riding seat and hung on for dear life.

In order for a lady to be a good rider in Regency England, she had to have both time and money. She must take riding lessons, have time to practice the art of riding, and be wealthy enough to afford a horse trained as a lady’s mount. Work horses could simply graze; riding horses called for more expenses–a stable, feed, grooms, tack, farrier fees, etc. A lady competently riding aside, combined with a stylish riding habit, spoke louder than words of her social standing.

Riding habits were usually made by tailors, although some sources cite ladies dressmakers, or modistes, making riding habits, too. Riding habits included a fitted bodice with long sleeves, or sometimes a spencer, that fit well through the torso and shoulders. A long, full train covered the legs while riding. Regency ladies’ riding habits did not include a split skirt–those didn’t appear until the late Victorian Era. They seem to have come in a variety of fabrics, depending on weather, velvet being very popular.

Little girls were taught to ride astride on a pony or donkey. Then, as they grew in competence and size, they learned to a sidesaddle and usually graduated to a horse. This was a sign of skill and distinction. In urban areas, riding donkeys seemed to be pretty common, but riding in London seemed to require a beautiful horse, since in London, appearances became crucial.

Very few grown ladies rode astride in the city or country; not only was it unladylike and downright scandalous, it could be viewed as a declaration of one’s incompetence at riding side saddle.

Jane Austen herself didn’t learn to ride until nearly at the end of her life. Historians believe Jane had a fear of riding. If this is true, it may be due to a dear friend of the Austen family being killed while riding. Jane’s personal records cite this loss. It’s also possible that Jane didn’t ride in her youth because her family simply didn’t have the money for such a luxury. Most of her novels suggest a certain disapproval of ladies riding, and in a few cases, a touch of envy.

The Countess of Coningsby in the Costume of the Charlton Hunt, circa 1760

A common misconception about riding sidesaddle is that it was uncomfortable. In truth, it’s actually comfortable. The seat and pommel are both padded. In addition, one does not sit twisted, but rather with one’s back straight. It’s a lot like sitting in a chair with the right leg crossed over the left. I often sit sideways on the sofa with one knee propped up higher than the other. This is not much different than riding sidesaddle.

Others claim that riding aside is difficult. However, many women today who learn sidesaddle prefer it to astride. Both ways of riding are more about balance. When I ride astride, especially if the horse is large, I get sore in the soft tissue in my inner legs. Riding more frequently would help, I am sure, but sidesaddle would at least alleviate discomfort due to the girth of a horse.

Another myth is that it’s hard to get on a horse with a sidesaddle. Actually, one only needs a mounting block to mount a horse. Of course, having a handsome gentlemen nearby to give on a “leg up” is always welcome 🙂 Also, a trained lady’s mount stands very still for mounting or dismounting, they have a smooth gait, a light mouth, and are a pleasure to ride.

Many critics claim that it’s easy to fall off and therefore dangerous to ride aside. This is true of riding in general. Some riders, as my writer friend and horse expert Shannon Donnelly says, could fall off a merry-go-round horse; other riders can stay on anything–even a bucking bronco.  Look at rodeo riders. They don’t rely on strength; they stay on by keeping their center of gravity over the horse. Again, riding is all about balance and skill whether a person rides astride or sidesaddle.

Another common myth about riding aside is that one can’t gallop or jump. Again, this goes to skill–a skilled rider and well-trained horse can jump, gallop and do haute echole (dressage movements)–anything that can be done astride can also be done sidesaddle. There are numerous documented recordings of Georgian and Regency ladies riding side saddle as they “rode to hounds” which required a fast pace and much skill to charge through the country side after a pack of hounds chasing a fox.

Riding sidesaddle is fun! Part of the trick is a well-trained horse. Some horses have a harder time adapting to his rider’s legs both on one side but others pick up on it quickly.

Now, like everything, the side saddle has evolved. However, the Regency side saddle was very similar to today’s side saddle. The main differences are that there was no no leaping horn, and the Regency stirrup is a ‘slipper stirrup’ which is different from today’s.

Some images from the Regency Era show ladies riding with a sort of belt wrapped around them. It’s not clear to me if it’s attached to the saddle or not. It’s possible it was merely a way of keeping a lady’s skirts down flat, since I can’t imagine any woman would have secured herself to the saddle.

Is today’s saddle safer? Probably. But many Regency ladies managed to ride anywhere they wanted, and as fast as they wanted, just fine, thank you very much.

Sources:

Much of this information came through years of research. However, some recent sources are:

Shannon Donnelly on Historical Hussies

Jill Ottman on the Jane Austen Centre of North America

Kathy Blee on Ladies Ride Aside

Regency Gentlemen’s Greatcoats

“Greatcoat” is a broad term for any Regency overcoat, also referred to as a “surtout” which gentlemen wore during Regency England. Greatcoats were heavy wool coats worn over the regular a gentlemen’s attire, providing protection from cold and rain. Wool is remarkably warm even when wet, and would have been a welcome layer against harsh weather conditions. Most styles of gentlemen’s greatcoats were long, full, and sported pockets.

The boxcoat had several short capes. Having a number of capes was a way of showing off one’s taste and wealth, due to the cost of the additional fabric and labor. The additional capes would also have provided extra layers of warmth. The name is attributed to the wearing of coachmen who drove the coaches from the driver’s box, which seems contradictory to me since I doubt very much coachmen were considered wealthy. Perhaps their kind employers supplied them. Either way, they would have been an essential part of a coachmen’s wardrobe since they drove out in the open during all kinds of weather. In this picture circa 1811 to the left, this coat has a cape, which means it was a Boxcoat. Notice the almost Sherlock Holmes-style of beaver hat? 

The demi-surtout, pictured to the right, was form fitting at the torso and flared a little around the legs to allow freedom of movement. Pictured is a demi-surtout from the late Regency/early Victorian Era, circa 1825, with a fitted waist and cape. It also has a collar which could be turned up against wind or rain.

Cloaks were still in fashion in the Regency but gentlemen were more likely to wear cloaks as they traveled or as formal wear. Sometimes these came with shoulder pads. They were often lined with silk in rich colors. The cloak pictured to the left appears to made of velvet, signifying, along with his black tailcoat, pantaloons, and dancing slippers, that this gentleman is dressed for a formal occasion. 

So, the number and type of coat your Regency hero wears will be a signal to others how fashionable, or how wealthy (or both) he is.

Regency Gentlemen’s Waistcoats

Beau Brommell

By the Regency Era in England, men’s fashions had undergone dramatic transformation. This happened largely in part to the French revolution when displaying one’s aristocratic wealth might result in the loss of one’s head. Since the British often followed the French, that trend of dressing in a simpler manner came to England, as well. A surprisingly influential English gentleman named Beau Brummel facilitated this new, less ornate style into a true British fashion statement. This new style highlighted a tailor’s skill and the quality of the fabric as a sign of distinction. For a change, French fashion took their cues from the English.

Despite the new simpler fashions, Regency men’s attire was decidedly more complex than that of today. To help solve the mystery of the various layers and terminology of the Regency man’s attire, I will address the Regency men’s waistcoat.

Over a shirt and braces (suspenders), gentlemen wore a waistcoat. Pronounced “weskit,” it is nothing more than a vest. To evening affairs, a stylish gentleman wore either a crisp white or pure black waistcoat made of silk or cashmere, such as this fine gentleman to the right is wearing. The waistcoat often included ornate embroidery.

For daytime, waistcoats in bright colors and patterns–primarily stripes–and often intricately embroidered were popular, although some gentlemen seemed to prefer plainer colors or simply white, even during the day. This photo to the left is of an embroidered waistcoat featuring flowers and vines. Dandies, especially, fancied bright colors and patterns. They sometimes wore them (under disapproving eyes) for evening wear as well. 

The waistcoat was cut long enough to be seen above and below the buttoned tailcoat, and could be straight across or come down to a point or two. Waistcoats covered the top of the breeches (pronounced “britches”). They often sported lapels or wide collars which could be turned fashionably up to frame the neckcloth. Most examples I have seen of waistcoats came with at least one small pocket, perfect for a fob watch, a handkerchief, calling cards, or even a coin or two.

The waistcoat buttoned up the front, and could be either single- or double-breasted. Single-breasted seems to have been more in vogue for evening wear. Waistcoat buttons were usually covered with matching cloth.

Notice the  gentleman in the picture to the left is wearing buckskin breeches, a white waistcoat, a white cravat, and a dark coat. Do you see his riding crop and gloves tucked into his pocket? And the hat, of course 🙂 Very stylish, indeed, my good man!

Next week, I’ll discuss gentlemen’s coats, so check back then.