Following Jane Austen’s footsteps in Chawton House

Chawton House is an Elizabethan manor in the village of Chawton in Hampshire, England. Formerly the property of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, it is now is managed by the National Trust and open for tours. I couldn’t hardly wait to visit this historic site during my research tour in England.

The current Chawton house was built by the Knight family in the 1580s on the site of a medieval manor house dating back to the 1200s.  

The Knights were not quite in the class of gentlemen, but rather yeomen, which is a step below, but still considered respectable, ranking higher than the working class since they owned property with tenants. During the Elizabethan era, the Knight family embarked on the construction project for much of the present-day Chawton House. 

The 17th-century house was constructed of flint with a tile roof and stone dressings. The three gabled-south side has two storeys and an attic. It also possesses a famous library with an impressive number of books which were an expensive commodity in those days. Today many of those volumes are priceless. What makes this library so unique is the number of tomes written by women poets and novelists, and those written by men who were what people today would consider feminist they way they glorify women warriors. I wonder if they inspired Jane Austen in some small way.

Some good-looking guy keeps photo bombing my pictures. Oh, wait; that’s my husband 🙂

 Today’s entrance hall was once the great hall. Screens to help cut down on drafts originally stood along the great hall near the door, but later descendants walled off a walkway or passageway to keep the great hall warmer. 

                                  Buckets in the entrance hall.

When I first walked in, I noticed buckets along the ceiling. Apparently, they were stored there in the event of a fire; the residents could quickly form a bucket brigade.  

In later years, the Knight family was plagued by a lack of sons, and so many males who were not direct descendants inherited the house and property over the generations, each changing their birth surname to Knight to assume ownership of the property. The Knight family adopted Edward Austen, one of Jane Austen’s older brothers. Adoption was a very rare event in those days, and I have not yet discovered exactly why they chose Edward as their adopted son. The Knights were relatives who had no children and the Austens had 5 boys.

Formal adoptions — where parental rights are extinguished and a child became part of a new family– didn’t become legal until 1926 in England.  However there was a long tradition of a  family with many children a widower giving a child to a  richer family or childless family to raise and treat as their own. Often the father had papers drawn up–like a settlement– promising education and money to the child.  That is what happened with Edward Austen. He didn’t become Edward Austen Knight until both Mr. and Mrs. Knight were dead.
 According to Regency researcher, Nancy Mayer, Mr. Austen put it in writing that he allowed Mr. and Mrs. Knight  all the rights and privileges of parenthood over Edmund. The Knights could have reneged on  the agreement but then could have been sued like any other contract. If Mr. Austen had suddenly inherited a fortune or became a peer, Edward would still be in line for a child’s inheritance and second after James for the peerage. Being fostered by another family didn’t cut family relationships or rights of inheritance. However, when Edward’s adopted family died and he inherited the estate, he also changed his surname from Austen to Knight.

My gorgeous husband who is 5’8″ illustrates just how low the doorways are.

Jane Austen stayed in Chawton house on and off during her life. After Edward inherited the estate, he allowed his widowed birth mother and unmarried sisters, Jane and Cassandra, to live in a cottage nearby. It is here where Jane seemed most happy and enjoyed the most success as an author. 

                  The dining room at Chawton House

Chawton House was considered one of the big houses in the area. However, I was struck by its humble nature compared to other stately homes I toured during my visit to England. The rooms are small, dark, and cramped, with very low doorways. The floors on the upper levels slope dramatically. Still, compared to the cottage where Jane lived the last several years of her life, as well as the tiny and primitive tenant homes that must have been on the estate, it probably seemed grand, indeed. The house is full of quaint and charming rooms, many of which are furnished with the same furniture Jane and her brother used. I couldn’t help but reverently run my hand over the very table where Jane dined during her visits. 

Today’s estate on which Chawton house resides is approximate 275 acres. The grounds and gardens are lovely! I could have spent hours exploring them despite the record heatwave England suffered during part of my visit. The grounds offer a combination of a wilderness through which paths meander, and more formal gardens. Natural lawns spread out in all directions where animals graze, contained by discrete ditches cut into the hillside known as ha-has which are virtually unseen from the house. The grounds also have terraces, stone stairways, a profusion of flowers and flowering shrubs, fruit trees and shade trees, and comfortable places to sit and enjoy the great outdoors.

Edward’s house and garden made an impression on Jane Austen and seem to have influenced her novels, especially Emma. Some scholars believe Mr. Knightly’s Donwell Abbey was based upon the Knight family’s Chawton House. Perhaps this is why Jane chose the surname of Knightly for her fictional hero, who, by the way is one of my favorite Austen heroes. 

Tony & Julie Roberts in the back lawn of Chawton House. They are such a cute couple!

My friend and fellow Regency Author, Julie Roberts, and her husband Tony, were so kind to offer us their hospitality during this portion of our trip to England, and to bring us to this historic location. I will always appreciate their generosity.

Our friends, Tony & Julie Roberts sitting with my husband and me in their son and daughter-in-law’s backyard. We had a lovely visit with our attentive and gracious hosts!

 

Sources:

My visit in June of 2017, the Chawton House Guide, and Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bath, Time Traveling to Rome or Georgian England

by Donna Hatch

When Rome occupied England, the quaint English town now known as Bath was a hub for social, religious, heath, and recreational activities. The sick–those who could afford it–flocked to the healing mineral waters of a warm natural springs. They sought cures, or at least relief, from all manner of health complaints such as palsy, arthritis, gout, skin diseases including leprosy, and many chronic and terminal illnesses.  It seems that both genders bathed together, some clothed, some not. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to decide whether they stayed focused on getting relief from their ailments.

The engineering that went into creating the spa two thousand years ago is truly mind boggling. There are many rooms and a complex system of pumps and pipes that carry the water from the main spring to other parts of the elaborate Roman structure.

I might have been tempted to bathe in a shallow tub of the mineral water if I’d been allowed, but I would never have gone into that enormous pool of murky green water that occasionally bubbled unless I was desperate. It was also kinda creepy not being able to see the bottom. Still, I had to admire the workmanship that went into the design and construction of the building, and the fact that such an ancient structure remains. It is truly a testament to those who lived and worked here so long ago. In the midst of that venerable structure, I imagined people long gone visiting the spa. In the waters, some frolicked for pleasure, and others simply immersed themselves hoping for a miracle. All of them walked or were carried across the rocks that still bear the wear marks of thousands of feet.

Today, the original bath is open for tours but not for bathing so as to preserve its structure. Visitors are admonished not to even touch the water. Modern bath houses provide visitors the opportunity to bathe in the warm mineral waters that many agree has healing properties. Unfortunately, England was in the throes of one of the worst heat waves on record during my visit, so a warm bath lacked its usual appeal.

After the Romans pulled out of England, they abandoned this unique area to the ancient Saxons and Normans. Later, Christian churches arrived.

During the Georgian Era, Bath became a fashionable resort town. People came here to “take the waters,” a Georgian term meaning bathe in the warm mineral pools.

“Taking the waters” also meant to drink water from the Pump Room, which became a gathering place to socialize and flirt, as well as drink the water they believed had additional healing properties if ingested. Inside the Pump Room is a lovely, antique pump that squirts out water in a continuous fountain to allow those with the desire to sample its offering. The Pump Room I visited was a new version built in 1777 to replace an older one originally constructed in 1706. Apparently, the excavation process of this new Pump Room led to the discovery of the Roman Temple.

In case you are wondering, I did not drink the water when I was there. Remembering its green, murky origins a few feet below, not to mention its smell of Sulphur and its reputation for tasting awful, was enough to discourage my sense of adventure. I suppose if any of my characters ever drink the water, I will have to get more detailed second-hand accounts of its taste.

But let us return Georgian society in Bath. With the arrival of the wealthy, some of whom only stayed for the summer, and others who made Bath their permanent home, beautiful homes and neighborhoods cropped up, including The Circus, a circular-shaped neighborhood of beautiful townhomes, and Royal Crescent, an even more upscale set of luxury mansion-style townhomes in the shape of a crescent as its name suggests. I toured one of these townhomes, Number One Royal Crescent, which is a glimpse into life as a wealthy, Georgian gentleman.

                                         The Royal Crescent

 

Jane Austen lived in Bath for several years with her family. While many claim that Jane disliked living in Bath, a large portion of two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, took place in Bath which she portrays as an exciting and lovely place.

Bath Abbey

 

Beyond enchanting, Bath has a timelessness about it. Walking the streets, I easily imagined myself a character in a Jane Austen novel. Strolling along the river, having afternoon tea in the Pump Room, prowling the streets,  and exploring the Roman Baths creates a sense of having time traveled. With each step I took, I could almost see images of those who’d trod those cobbled paths before me including kings and queens, lords and ladies, and poets and authors including our beloved Jane Austen.

My interest in Bath began long before I visited this fascinating city. Five years ago I wrote my Regency Romance novel, A Perfect Secret, which has a few chapters that take place in Bath. Now I may have to write another book that takes place in this ancient and unique town just to relive my adventures there.

The Avon running under Pulteney Bridge

 

 

 

Sources:

My research for this post comes from personal experience as I toured Bath. However, you might enjoy these other sites for more information:

Taking Cure in Bath

The Lakes District and Slate Rock

Like the millions of visitors before me, the Lakes District instilled in me a sense of wonder and awe. The beauty of the area is balanced by a yesteryear charm, including unspoiled vistas, the multitude of lakes also called “meres” and “waters,” delightful names such as Windermere, Ambleside, and Loweswater, and the preservation of history. They even  have a stone circle called Castlerigg that predates Stonehenge.

There is something magical about this area. The colors are more vivid, the light more pure, the landscape more natural and more passionate than any I’ve ever visited. I could point my camera in any old direction with zero to no set up and capture a print-worthy image. Even the photos of me in the area turned out well, and that’s saying something!

Once of the many fascinating aspects of the area was the use of slate stones to build fences, barns, bridges, businesses, and pretty much any type of structure. When the early settlers found farming difficult due to the multitude of stones in their fields, they removed the offending elements, and like any enterprising settler skilled at making lemons out of lemonade, put these rocks to good use in constructing all their buildings. Slate rock was readily available, study, and durable—perfect for building material.

Today, the skill used to build these stone structures is in danger of becoming a lost art. They use a technique called dry stone. Builders literally use dry stones, with no mortar or cement to glue them together. Like a master puzzle solver, the specialist meticulously chooses each rock for its shape and size, and fits them together to create a strong structure that holds up to animals, weather, and even time itself.

A technique called stone cladding, is placing a thinner layer of stone to the outside of buildings. Unlike shingles, siding or stucco, stones never need painting and seldom need repairs or replacing. Some of the buildings also had a white exterior called pebble dash, which is similar to stucco but uses local materials.

Slate rock structures are just one of the many unique and memorable reasons I fell in love with the Lakes District of England. I fell in love with this beautiful part of England and fully expect to set at not so distant future novel in the magical Lakes District.

 

 

 

Americans vs Brits Book Giveaway

***Contest closed***

Win up to 14 American vs British eBooks!

You are invited to join this multi-author event and settle the question of which you love more–American romances or British romances. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. My Regency Romance, The Stranger She Married, is included in this grand event. You might win as many as ALL the books in this promotion.

Enter the giveaway here: http://AuthorsXP.com/giveaway

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Hurry! Giveaway ends August 21, 2017. Winners will be announced August 22, 2017.

London Townhouses, the Servants’ Entrance

                                London Townhouse

If you’ve studied history or read historical novels, you probably have a good idea of a few of the differences between the rich and the poor. By the Regency, there was a growing middle class, but they were new and small. Many of these fairly well to do members were working class who had made money in trade of some kind such as factories, banks, or shipping. But the vast majority of England’s population still fit into either the rich or poor category. Of course, there were layers within those categories, but it came down to working class versus ladies and gentlemen of leisure. And nothing draws that distinct line more sharply than does the door through which one was admitted when entering a London townhouse.

The servants entrance or tradesmen entrance of a London townhouse

Family and guests entered through the front door. But the working class, including servants and deliverymen, entered through the servants entrance.

Boot scraper at the front door of a London townhouse

When I was in London this summer, I was surprised to discover that these two doors were only a few linear feet apart, but yet they were worlds apart. The front door might be at the street level, or it might be raised by a few steps, depending on the contours of the land on which it was built. Many front doors of London townhouses have columns or pilasters which are flat pillars, a boot scraper where gentleman could scrape mud and other undesirables from their boots before entering, and ornate trim such as a fan light over the door, and perhaps even friezes. Most front doors boasted bright colors such as red or blue or rich green. On either side of the door one often saw potted plants, flowers or topiaries. On either side of this lovely entrance ran a wrought iron fence.

The servants entrance or tradesmen entrance of a London townhouse. Today this probably leads to the front door of a flat on the lower level.

The servants entrance however, is accessed through a gate in the wrought iron fence. Today, these wrought iron fences are mostly black or gray, a tradition that started in the Victorian Era. However, during the Regency, these fences could be any color, shades of blues and greens seemed most popular. The gate in the fence which lead to the servants entrance below was locked at night. To get to the servants’ entrance one must go through the gate, down a step and sometimes winding flight of stairs, across a small area open to the sky, and then through the kitchen door which was often almost directly below the front door.

The servants entrance or tradesmen entrance of a London townhouse.

If a servant or deliveryman had the audacity to knock on the front door, the butler would instantly direct them to go to the servants entrance. Can you imagine carrying boxes or parcels down such a steep flight of steps? And yet, most people seemed to think nothing of the reminders of one’s social station, including separate entrances.

Today, many of these townhouses are broken up into separate apartments, or flats, but the reminders of by gone eras remain prevalent in London’s townhouses.

Fortunately, my heroes and heroines of my Regency romance novels are usually members of the upper classes and so enter through the front door.

 

Sources: Most of my knowledge comes from years of research, as well as my observations during my trip to London. However, another source for further reading is Gaelen Foley’s excellent blog about Regency  Country House & Townhouse.

 

 

 

 

200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s Death

Today is a special post to remember Jane Austen on this, the 200th anniversary of her death, with a few photos of her cottage in Chawton. What a mark she made in history! I hope you enjoy these photos I took during my recent trip to England.

Jane and her mother and sister, Cassandra lived in Chawton, courtesy her brother, during the latter part of Jane’s life. According to historians, Jane was happiest here because she could write to her heart’s content. Her books were first published to wide acclaim, though she never published under her real name until after her life. Hundreds of adaptations, both literary and in film have been made of her stories.

Jane Austen and her witty, unique novels such as Pride & Prejudice influenced nations and inspired innumerable authors, including me. So, on this day, I just want to say thank you to Jane for her stories.

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.

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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

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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.

Mistletoe Magic and Wassail

20161202_141654Remember the holiday tune “Here we come a-wassailing?”

Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring so fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you, And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.  And God bless you a happy New Year.

Ever wonder what a-wassailing means?

It means to sing for some wassail. I guess it’s kinda like singing for your supper, only the carolers go from place to place hoping for a nip of the traditional hot beverage.

One of my winter and holiday favorites is Wassail, also know as spiced hot apple cider. It’s one of those things it’s hard to get wrong. All the recipes I’ve tried are yummy and satisfying. Some include citrus such as lemon and orange. Traditionally, it contains alcohol such as wine or rum or even ale, but I don’t drink alcohol so I make it without.  No matter how you make it, wassail is a comfort for cold winter nights as well as a solution for a sweet craving. A few years ago, a friend shared with me her trick: apricot juice. It adds a richness and complexity other recipes don’t have.

wassailHere it is:

1 large jug of apple cider

1 can of apricot juice

3 cinnamon sticks

4 nutmeg cloves

a dash of nutmeg

a dash of allspice

Optional: orange or lemon slices

All of these can be adjusted according to taste so you may want to experiment.

Simmer for at least an hour but you can simmer all day. It does get stronger and stronger so after several hours, you may want to tone it down with a bit more apple cider. It makes the house smell heavenly!

mistletoe-magic2In my Christmas novella, Mistletoe Magic, the heroine adores the wassail her friend’s mother makes and will go to great lengths to get the recipe…as well as take advantage of the mistletoe at the annual Christmas ball.

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Note: The Colonial Williamsburg blog has lots of fun history behind this traditional drink.