Mother’s Day Giveaway

Mothers

Mothers are the best! Despite heroines in my Regency historical romance novels who seldom seem to have a mother nearby to help them, I adore mothers. My mother is the closest thing to a saint I’ve ever known. She taught me to love books, poems, and stories by reading to me every night when I was little. She listened as I read to her when I grew old enough. All this reading inspired in me to tell stories of my own, even as a child.

My mother taught me to appreciate music by playing good music in the home, taking me with her to church choir rehearsals, teaching me to play the ukulele, taking me to symphony orchestra performances and annual visits to the ballet to enjoy the Nutcracker during the Christmas Season. This led to my years of singing in choirs, performing as a soloist for local and church events, and playing the guitar (briefly–but I won the 7th grade talent show doing it) and years of playing and teaching the harp .

Mom patiently listened to my woes, didn’t roll her eyes (visibly) at all my drama, helped me memorize my times tables, taught me to cook, tried to teach me to sew (my fault–not hers–that I didn’t learn it well!), kissed skinned knees and elbows, and always greeted me in the morning with a hug and a smile. She even tried to teach me gardening, a skill I didn’t appreciate or try to cultivate until I had a home and garden space of my own.

As a mother of my own six children, I often reflect on Mom’s example and try to emulate her. No, I don’t sew clothes for my children like she did for me, but I consider how she would handle any given situation that I face with my children.

Mother’s Day was invented over a hundred years ago, and I’m so happy for the opportunity to help us each to remember our mothers and make a special effort to express appreciation for she who gave me life, but more importantly, who raised me, nurtured me, taught me, and loved me.

Shari’s Berries Mother’s Day Selection

Since Mother’s Day is coming up, I’d like to give a gift to a special mother. If you are a mother, or if you have an amazing mother (who lives within the United States) or an influential surrogate mom or a wife who is a fantastic mother to your children, you can enter to win a dozen fancy Mother’s Day berries to give to her from Shari’s Berries.

In addition, the winner will also receive one paperback or digital (your choice) of any of my books or novellas. You can view the selection on my bookshelf. Keep in mind that some of them are only available in digital format.

*****CONTEST CLOSED*****

The winner of the random drawing for the chocolate-cover strawberries and one of my book titles of her choice. And the winner is…..

Julie Langevin!

Congratulations, Julie! You have won With every Heartbeat, per your request, and Shari’s Berries Mother’s Day strawberries. How awesome is that?

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by and left such wonderful, meaningful comments.

Enter:

*****CONTEST CLOSED*****

To win the berries and the book, simply tell me in the comments below:

1. One thing you love about this wonderful mother, or one thing you love about being a mother

2. Which book you’d like to win

3. Your complete email address so I can notify you if your name is chosen.

That’s it! This random drawing will take place and be announced on ***CHANGE!!! May 11, 2017 at noon Pacific Time*** in order to ensure delivery before Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!

 

Rules:

Open to US mailing addresses only. I still love my international readers, but mailing overseas won’t work in this situation.

One entry per person, please. This means you can enter your mother or yourself but not both. This also means you can ask your husband or children to nominate you 😉 .

Winner (meaning the mother) must be at least 18 years old.

Void where prohibited.

*****CONTEST CLOSED*****

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

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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

 

Love and Courtship in Regency England

I admit I’ve been out of the dating scene for (ahem) a few years now. However, from what my single friends tell me, not much has changed since I was dated. In today’s world a man asks out a woman, (or if she’s braver than I ever was, she asks him out). They might meet online, or be introduced by a friend, but eventually they end up on that first date. It might be dinner or drinks or just coffee (in my case, hot cocoa). It might involve a movie or miniature golf or a museum. It might even occasionally include another couple but it never involves parents or chaperones, and no one thinks anything of an adult man and a woman being alone together in a car or a house.

Dating in Regency England was very different. For one thing, it was called courting or wooing. But most importantly, a young lady of good breeding who wished to keep her reputation pristine so she would be a candidate for marriage never, ever put herself alone with a man. (The double standard is, of course, that the man was expected to have “sown his wild oats” and could have a very sullied reputation and still be considered a good match if he were wealthy and well-connected enough.) Therefore, courting was a very public affair.

First, they needed an introduction by a mutual friend before conversing. They often met at balls which were THE places to meet those of similar social backgrounds, but they might also meet at a dinner party, soiree, musicale, or even the opera or the theater.

If the man wished to get better acquainted with the lady he’d met, he might send her flowers the next day (but never gifts or letters), and later pay a visit upon the family during their “at home” hours where her mother or aunt or other chaperone would be present. He might take her for a stroll in one of the walking parks, with a chaperone close at hand. He might even take her riding on horseback or in an open carriage—open being the operative word since riding in a closed carriage could ruin her reputation as quickly as being alone in a house with a man.

Courting could be short or take place over a long period of time. At a ball, if she refused to dance with any other man but him, she basically announced to the world that they were engaged. If she danced with him more than twice in one night, everyone assumed she was either engaged to him or was “fast,” a terrible label for a proper young lady. If he spent a lot of time with her to the point where people began to notice how much they were together, public opinion placed them as engaged. If he failed to make an offer of marriage for her, people said he had failed to come up to scratch and shook their heads and wondered if she were unsuitable or if he were. Either way, the couple’s reputations suffered. At that point, their only option would be to marry or live with tainted reputations. Depending on his status, his reputation would probably recover but hers would likely remain tainted.

Such courting practices may sound rigid and even sterile to the modern-day woman, but I think it leaves so much open. For one thing, they relied on witty conversation rather than getting physical to get to know each other. And since the courting practices were pretty predictable, a man had to use creativity to impress a lady.

Once he felt secure she returned his affections, the gentleman would make an appointment with the girl’s father and formally ask for her hand in marriage. His income would be scrutinized and they would draw up a prenuptial agreement called a marriage settlement which included her pin money, dress allowance, jointure, and other ways he’d provide for her, as well as what dowry would go to the man. With all that settled, the father would break the news to the girl and the wedding preparations would commence.

My goal as Regency romance author is to keep in mind these social customs known as ‘manners and mores’ and yet find unique ways for my hero and heroine to meet and fall in love. I enjoy creating a unique twist on acceptable courting, throwing lots of obstacles in the way of their happily ever after, and revealing the final, happy, triumphant ending.  That doesn’t make me a hopeless romantic, it makes me a hopeful romantic.

My tagline is ‘Believe in happily ever after’ because I do believe in it. Do you believe in happily ever after?

Cover Reveal for new Regency Historical Romance Novel

I’m super excited to share with you the cover for my new book titled Courting the Countess. This all-new novel launches a new series, but still features a few characters you may recognize from my Rogue Hearts Series. And since this series pre-dates the Rogue Hearts, you’ll even get the meet the parents of the unconventional Amesbury siblings.

Haven’t read the Rogue Hearts? No worries; this is a stand-alone novel so you can start with this one if you are so inclined.

So, are you ready to see the new cover?

Okay, here we go:

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courtingthecountess_w10747_lrg

Ta da!

Isn’t it lovely?

This new novel will be available to purchase in October, but can be pre-ordered now so you don’t have to remember to order it when it is released. Just follow this link to pre-order your copy now.

Here is the back cover blurb for Courting the Countess:

When charming rake Tristan Barrett sweeps Lady Elizabeth off her feet, stealing both her heart and a kiss in a secluded garden, her brother challenges Tristan to a duel. The only way to save her brother and Tristan from harm—not to mention preserve her reputation—is to get married. But her father, the Duke of Pemberton, refuses to allow his daughter to marry anyone but a titled lord. The duke demands that Elizabeth marry Tristan’s older brother, Richard, the Earl of Averston. Now Elizabeth must give up Tristan to marry a man who despises her, a man who loves another, a man she’ll never love.

Richard fears Elizabeth is as untrustworthy as his mother, who abandoned him when she ran off with another man. However, to protect his brother from a duel and their family name from further scandal, he agrees to wedding Lady Elizabeth, certain his new bride will betray him. Yet when Elizabeth turns his house upside down and worms her way into his reluctant heart, Richard suspects he can’t live without his new countess. Will she stay with him or is it too little, too late?

Pre-order your copy of Courting the Countess here.

 

Harps and Music

harp3

Harp belonging to Adrienne Bridgewater

If you’re like me, the very thought of a harp creates a magical wistfulness inside. When I was twelve years old, I had an opportunity to take harp lessons, and something came alive inside me. Instantly, more than anything. I wanted–no, had–to learn to play. It’s been an ongoing love affair ever since.

Playing the harp takes years to master, and a great deal of time must be devoted to technique, not just learning to read music. It has been said that harp is the second most difficult instrument to learn to play. (Apparently bagpipes is the hardest.)

Back when I used to perform, many people come up to me after my performance and tell me that they’d never seen a harp up close before. I assume that’s a fairly common situation. So, I thought I’d give you a few basics of a classical pedal harp’s anatomy.

The “base” is the bottom part of the harp where it stands on the ground. The little claw looking things all around the base are called “feet.” When the harp is in use, it balances on the feet and rests against the inside of a harpist’s knees as well as lightly against the right shoulder. The long, thin part at the left of this picture is called the “column.” You probably could have guessed that, couldn’t you? The column is filled with long mechanical gears that help change the strings. The column exterior is usually intricately carved. Some of the more expensive harps, like Adrienne’s harp in the picture, are also gilded with gold leaf.

harp base

Adrienne’s harp

The photo on the right is a close up of the harp’s base where you can see the feet. You can also see the pedals (the black things that stick out). There are seven different pedals, one for every note in all the octaves. For example, one pedal controls all the harp’s C strings. Another pedal controls all of the D strings, and so forth. Moving the pedals into different positions can make each string either sharp, natural, or flat, as desired. When the moving the harp, the harpist can flip the feet up using a hinge so they rest closely against the harp’s body, cutting down on the likelihood of damage.

Until about a hundred years ago, harps had an eighth pedal which opened a panel in the back to allow access to changing out strings. Today’s modern harps have oblong holes that provides the same access. Strings must be fed through these access holes, through the holes in the soundboard, and wound around the little pegs in the picture below.

DSCF8208

Harp belonging to Donna Hatch

This photo of my harp to the left is a close up of the top, curving part of the harp, called the “neck,” which also shows the harp string pegs and all those little lever thingies which are called the “action.” These levers move when the harp pedals move, which shortens or lengthens the strings to change key depending on the position of the pedal. To tune, one tightens or loosens the strings, similar to tuning a guitar or violin, but a special tool is required–one cannot turn them with fingers.

You’ll also notice that some of the strings are red, some are black, and the rest are white. The red strings are C, the black are F. This allows the harpist to easily find the correct strings, although an advanced harpist pretty much knows where the strings are by the position of their arms and hands, but everyone needs an occasional guide, especially for performance. The strings are laid out like a piano (minus the black keys)–A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Then it repeats. My harp had six and a half octaves. The full-sized concert harps have seven. Smaller harps have fewer octaves.louisxviharp

The wide part of the harp that has all the scrollwork and painting is called the “soundboard.” Large soundboards usually have the biggest, richest tone. Tone can also be affected by the kind of wood used and age–the older ones have a gloriously rich tone.

A folk harp or lever harp is similar to a pedal harp–just smaller and has levers instead of pedals to change key. Folk harpist use their hands to change keys by flipping up a lever; classical harpists use their foot pedals.

Unlike some images, the harp is played with the body of the harp resting against the harpist’s right shoulder, opposite the column. Reportedly, Harpo Marx, who was a self-taught harpist, started playing the harp backwards–with the column, instead of the body of the harp, resting against his shoulder. When he realized his error, he changed his technique which, I am sure, helped him develop his skill. Many pictures show the harpist resting the body of the harp against her left shoulder which is not considered proper technique and indeed I would find very confusing because one would have to play the treble clef with the left hand instead of the right.

Harpists spend years perfecting the art of harp playing, and if done correctly, make it look easy by the graceful motion of their hands. Because of my great love for the harp, I mention a harp or harpist in all of my novels, and in most of my short stories and novellas.

Since music is such a part of my life, I decided to write a series of  novels about musicians. The first one in the series is called Heart Strings which features a harpist and a violinist. In fact, one of my most beloved teachers was the great Phyllis Schlomovitz. I give a nod to her in my newest short novel when my heroine identifies her teacher Phillip Schlomovitz.

heartstrings2_fullHere is the backcover blurb for Heart Strings, book 1 in the Songs of the Heart Series, coming September 7, 2016, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Gently bred young ladies don’t run away from home to find employment, but when forced to choose between marrying a brutish oaf or becoming another man’s mistress, Susanna makes an unconventional decision. Following her passion for music, she flees to London with dreams of securing a position as a harpist. Becoming entangled with a handsome violinist who calls himself Kit, but who seems too aristocratic for a working-class musician, may be more problematic than sleeping in the streets.

Kit’s attention is captured by Susanna’s breath-taking talent, admirable grace, and winsome smiles…until a lawman exposes the new harpist as a runaway bride and a thief. With peril lurking in the shadows, Susanna’s imminent danger not only forces Kit to choose between his better judgment and his heart, but he must also embrace the life to which he swore he would never return.

Heart Strings, book 1 in the Songs of the Heart Series, coming September 7, 2016, now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Cover Reveal for Sweet Regency Romance Novel, Heartstrings

Announcing my newest sweet Regency romance novel, Heartstrings.

Synopsis:
Gently bred young ladies don’t run away from home to find employment, but when forced to choose between marrying a brutish oaf or becoming another man’s mistress, Susanna makes an unconventional decision. Following her passion for music, she flees to London with dreams of securing a position as a harpist. Becoming entangled with a handsome violinist who calls himself Kit, but who seems too aristocratic for a working-class musician, may be more problematic than sleeping in the streets.

Kit’s attention is captured by Susanna’s breath-taking talent, admirable grace, and winsome smiles…until a lawman exposes the new harpist as a runaway bride and a thief. With peril lurking in the shadows, Susanna’s imminent danger not only forces Kit to choose between his better judgment and his heart, but he must also embrace the life to which he swore he would never return.

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And now … are you ready to see the wonderful new cover??

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To celebrate, I’m having a cover reveal party on Facebook, going on all day, with lots of chances to win free stuff, including Amazon gift cards. So please come join the fun! Follow this link to the fun!

Titles and Heirs

Sir_Arthur_Wellesley,_1st_Duke_of_WellingtonSince the subject of titles in Regency England seems to be both confusing and detailed, it bears revisiting. For today’s post, I will focus on heirs: both heirs apparent and heirs presumptive.

An heir apparent is the son of a titled lord or landholder. Let’s say, for example, the father is the Earl of Charming. Charming probably has a secondary title or two (or more) because most peers did, due to the whim of royalty over the years. If one of Charming’s secondary titles were, say the Viscount Handsome, then Charming’s eldest son would bear the courtesy title of Viscount Handsome. Handsome is Charming’s apparent heir, so he bears the courtesy title and is known as his “heir apparent.” I think of it as; “His heir is apparently his son.”

Note: Despite what you may read in some novels, sons who are heirs apparent cannot be disinherited from their rightful titles just because the father thinks the son is undeserving. It takes an act of parliament to do such a thing and those were granted in extreme cases.

Longleat House

Longleat House

Now, what if the Earl of Charming has no son–only daughters (or no children)? At this point, he now must grant his title and estates to his heir presumptive. It may be his younger brother or even a distant cousin–whomever is the closest living male relative. The heir presumptive does not use the courtesy title of Viscount of Handsome, but he can presume that he will someday be the Earl of Charming because no other living male heir stands in his way. Yet. Anyone who can be supplanted in the line of succession by the birth of a boy is an heir presumptive, no matter how unlikely that birth seems. One can think of this as; “The heir presumptive presumes he will inherit the title and property.”

If, of course, the good Earl of Charming eventually has a son, even in his latter years, the heir presumptive no longer can hope for such a grand inheritance, because it all goes to Charming’s son, his heir apparent. Immediately upon his birth, the new baby boy bears the courtesy title, Viscount of Handsome.

The only heir apparent is the current title holder’s eldest son.

Now this works the same way even if there is no title involved. Let’s say Mr. Dashing is a landowner, similar to the Bennett family in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. If Mr. Dashing had a son, his son would be his heir apparent. If he had 5 sons, the eldest would be his heir apparent. If, however, Dashing has no sons, only daughters (or no children) all of his entailed property now goes to the closest living heir–a younger brother or a nephew or a cousin, even if he is as obnoxious as the unforgettable Mr. Collins. In other words, the heir presumptive is granted the same way regardless if there is a title or courtesy title involved.

http://www.ancestryimages.com/proddetail.php?prod=f1181If Dashing’s estate is entailed, he cannot choose to whom he will leave the property. It’s set in stone. It goes to the closest living male relative or heir. Dashing can will non-entailed property to anyone he wants, but nothing entailed, which most estates were.

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Book One of the Rogue Hearts Series

In my Amesbury family series, The Rogue Hearts Series, the father of this unruly bunch is the Earl of Tarrington, and his eldest son, Cole, is his heir apparent who uses the courtesy title Viscount Amesbury and has since birth. When the Earl of Tarrington dies, Cole becomes the new Earl of Tarrington, and all secondary titles go to him as well. Cole’s heir presumptive would be his younger brother Jared. But Jared never uses a courtesy title. When Cole and his wife have a son, the child becomes the heir apparent and uses the courtesy title, Viscount Amesbury from the moment of his birth.

So, in a nutshell:

A lord’s son is his heir apparent.

A lord’s brother or nephew or cousin, whomever is closer to him in the bloodline, is his heir presumptive.

I hope this has cleared up any confusion and is useful to you in some way, even if all it does is explain why the annoying Mr. Collins assumed he would inherit Mr. Bennett’s property and why Mrs. Bennett was in such a state of agitation that she and her daughters might be thrown out into the cold, cruel world immediately upon her husband’s death (which actually kind of happened in Sense & Sensibility, if you’ll recall).