Tea cosies

Anne here and today I’m talking about tea cosies (or cozies, if you’re American). In one sense, they’re historical artifacts but in many places today they live on — and even flourish.

What is a tea cosy, you ask? It’s a cover for a tea pot, intended to keep the tea warm for longer. (The one on the right I found on Pinterest from folksy.com but it’s sold out.)


Image on left: Made between 1870 and 1899, this velvet English tea cosy features beaded thistle and rose motifs as well as trim and top loops. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Duchess of Bedford is credited with popularizing afternoon tea in the 1840’s, and teatime became a fashionable ritual complete with fine porcelain or silver tea services and lavish table settings.

Read more

Travels in France, Part Two

Josephine’s boudoir in Malmaison

Pat here. I will attempt to stop drooling over French food this time and dive into a few of the historical places I actually went to see. (that’s a lie. I went for the wine and cheese but Josephine’s boudoir is worthy of a gawk or two)

Avignon papal palace
Papal Palace of Avignon

Our first major stop was Avignon and the pope’s palace. The original palace was begun in 1252 so the king of France could install his own pope. Later, as the political conflict in Rome became more violent, (really, one would think clergy would behave better) Clement V, of Gascony, fled there in 1309. Clement lived with the monks, but by the time Pope Benedict XII came along, the old building wasn’t sufficient for his safety. He began reconstruction of the old palace into a fortress with a cloister around 1334.

model of Papal Palace in Avignon
model of Papal Palace in Avignon

After 1342, under the next popes, an even grander palace grew on the site, taking almost the entirety of the papal budget. The conflicts in the church did not end when Gregory XI returned to Rome, ending the Avignon Papacy in 1377. The pope’s Avignon retreat was finally besieged in 1398 by antipapal forces. Eventually, as all things do, the palace deteriorated. In 1791, it was the scene of a massacre of counter-revolutionaries, whose bodies were thrown into the latrines. Much of what we see today is a restoration that has been going on since 1906. So much history in one magnificent building! This is why it’s impossible to blog about my travels. I dive down bunny holes.

Read more

Onward to Dublin and Wales!


By Mary Jo

Having had Tea on a Bus in London and flown a Spitfire simulator near Dover, it was time to cruise along to new territory.  Our next was Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, where we chose an excursion to the Jameson Distillery.  Founded in 1780 in Dublin, Jameson is the best selling Irish whiskey in the world.  The main distillery is in Cork, but the original production facility is in Dublin and hosts many tours.

We had a delightfully entertaining young guide who took us through the facility.  When talking about early transportation, he asked if anyone knew what an ostler was. I immediately said, “Horses!”  He told me that I was the first person ever to give the right answer, though clearly any historical romance reader would probably know that. <G>

Read more

Mary Jo Interviews Susan: The Scottish Bride

Today, Mary Jo interviews Susan about her newest release! Scroll down for the conversation and leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

MJP: Susan King has just released a brand-new Scottish romance! Susan, please tell us about The Scottish Bride,first in your Highland Secrets Trilogy.

SK: Thank you, Mary Jo! The Scottish Bride was released just yesterday, so we’re celebrating a book birthday this week. It’s a totally NEW novel, which is always exciting to announce. Set in medieval Scotland, it’s Book One in my new “Highland Secrets” series published by Dragonblade. Earlier this year, Dragonblade reissued three of my backlist medievals which relate to the new books–the backlists are updated with new titles and beautiful covers – The Hawk Laird, The Falcon Laird, and The Swan Laird are all available now as the Celtic Hearts series and have been doing really well on Amazon lists. It’s so wonderful for authors to know that readers appreciate the books we write.

Here’s a little about the book:

In Robert Bruce’s Scotland, a knight and a lady guard secrets while discovering unexpected romance . . .  

When Lady Tamsin Keith climbs out a castle tower to escape a threatening betrothal, she quite literally falls into the arms of a mysterious Scottish knight. Sir William Seton has been sent by King Edward to demand a secret book of prophecies in the lady’s possession, but instead of taking the bothersome book as ordered, he discovers that Lady Tamsin, a gifted seer, needs his help—and is the most stubborn woman he has ever met.

Yet even as Liam begins to thrill her lonely heart and offer the support she craves, Tamsin is reluctant to trust Edward’s Scottish knight–-until hidden secrets are revealed, and both must face a powerful foe who would tear down what they cherish most . . .

The Forest Bride, Book Two of the Highland Secrets trilogy, the story of Tamsin’s sister Lady Margaret Keith and Duncan Campbell, a Scottish judge, is now in production (yay!). Book Three, The Guardian’s Bride, the story of their sister Lady Rowena Keith and Aedan MacDuff, a Highland laird, is in the messy-but-promising writing stage. All three covers for this trilogy are just gorgeous. 

MJPSusan, you have ninja-level research capabilities!  You do careful research into historical events and also research interesting details that help bring the characters and plot to life, such as falconry, archery, and so on. The Scottish Bride centers on a heroine, a granddaughter of Thomas the Rhymer, who is writing a manuscript about his prophecies, and a hero who is a knight and a harper as well. How did your research inspire these and other aspects of the story?

Read more

A Balancing Act

The cat who lives at the Point—a neighborhood fixture
A thistle by the roadside.

Andrea here, thinking today about modern life—and how all its complexities seem to make it more and more difficult to balance all the stresses that seem to bombard us every day. Things feel so fraught on so many levels. I don’t know about you, but I’m find myself opening the morning newspaper with a sense of dread of what’s going on in the world. And then there are all the myriad things we deal with on a personal level . . .

The Point in winter

I find that a key to keeping on an even keel is a daily ritual of “detoxing” from all those stresses. And for me, it’s a daily walk—usually in the afternoon or early evening after I’ve finished my writing for the day, no matter what the season is. I call it my plotting walk because I often think about how to unravel some plot knot in which I’ve entangled myself!

But along with book thoughts, I’m also very mindful of noticing the natural world around me. I’m a visual person, and I love spotting little details—the colors of the flowers, the light on the trees or water, textures, birds and animals that capture my fancy.

So I thought I’d share some of the things I see along my daily journey and talk about why the walk is important to my sense of well-being. I follow pretty much the same route, as I’m fortunate enough to live in a charming New England town right by Long island Sound, which offers and endless variety of interesting sights, both along the country lanes and the winding road along the harbor out to a point overlooking the Sound. The midpoint of my walk, where I turn around and take a different home is usually The Point, where the harbor channel opens up into LI Sound.

Read more