Full Steam Ahead!

1024px-Sir_Marc_Isambard_Brunel_by_James_NorthcoteAndrea here, musing today on technological innovations and how fast they can change our world. I don’t know about you, but for me it sometimes feels that the ground shifts beneath our feet weekly—or even daily if one peruses the news reports carefully. Much of it is good, of course, making us healthier, safer, more comfortable and productive in our daily lives.  Still, the dizzying rate of change can be disorienting, if not downright frightening.
Murder at the Merton Library-315My Wrexford & Sloane historical mystery series uses technological innovations as the "McGuffin” in the plots because one of the things that fascinates me about the Regency era is that it, too, was a time of momentous change because of technological innovations. In fact, I love that I find parallels in the past to so many issues that we grapple with today.
Getting back to technology, in doing my research, the innovators I discover are as fascinating as the things they invent. My latest release, MURDER AT THE MERTON LIBRARY revolves around ocean-going steamboats and the next book in the series, which I just turned in, revolves around  . . . heh, heh, no spoilers yet, but they both involve a father-son team of engineering titans—Marc Isambard Brunel (above) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel—who were really major players in the Industrial Revolution, though most people have never heard about them.

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An interview with Alissa Baxter

Baronet's Lady BiologistMary Jo:

Today I'm interviewing my Regency writer friend, Alissa Baxter. She lives in South Africa so we first met online, but she inspired me to travel to South Africa twice to visit with her and her family, and once to speak to ROSA, the wonderful South African Romance Writers group. Yes, romance really is everywhere!

Alissa is having a very busy year, and will have four new Regencies published in 2023– and ALL FOUR of the heroines are scientists!

Her first book of the year was The Baronet's Lady Biologist, the third in her Linfield Ladies Trilogy. And that is the author on the cover!  Alissa, can you tell us how you came to be your own cover model?


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AAW: Word for 2023

Choose a Word for 2023:

by Mary Jo

Since 2022 is drawing to a close (already?!), it's time to think ahead about what we'd like in 2023. I've done this before here and in another group, but I think it's an interesting and mindful exercise to choose a word that can be a keyword or inspiration or talisman for the year ahead.

Do you want to EXPERIMENT and try something new? Learn to RELAX and let go of as much stress as you can? How about learning to FOCUS better? (That's a word I've claimed in the past!) Do you want to CLARIFY relationships or other elements in your life? Worth 512px-Fritz_Syberg _Ved_frokosten _1906 _privat_ejethinking about!

And the Wenches have been thinking about this!  Pat Rice is first:

I fear I very much live in the moment. Thinking or planning for a year doesn’t happen. Worse yet, I’m not inclined to meditation, inspiration, or reflecting on the past or future, possibly because I don’t believe I have much control over the events that most shape our lives. So I am hopeless at questions like these.

At best, I can plan for the events I want, and hope that eventually, the Fates will offer me opportunity. Does that constitute a keyword—opportunity? Once upon a time, I practiced writing, taught myself craft, wrote thousands of pages, and eventually, after years of sending out books, a new publisher decided to start a historical romance line and bought my book. I am not entirely certain opportunity encompasses all that.

 So I’ll simply choose the word ENJOY. While I’m wishing and hoping and plotting, I mean to enjoy the moment I’m in. If an opportunity to go out to lunch with friends interferes with my deadline, I’ll forget the deadline and enjoy the lunch because the chance might not come again.

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Lady Johanna St.John’s Recipe Book

Heritage-open-days-2021_0Nicola here. A couple of weeks ago I took part in the UK’s Heritage Open Days Festival, the biggest celebration of history and heritage in the country. The theme of this year’s festival was Edible England and our display, put on by the Friends of Lydiard Park in Swindon, centred on a most fascinating historical document, a “recipe” book that was created by Lady Johanna St John in the 17th century. Lady Johanna, as well as having many menus for sumptuous banquets, also used vegetable, flower, and herbal cures for everything from piles to nosebleeds. These are also included in her books and referred to as “recipes” so there is everything from a mutton stew to a cure for cramp! Some of the recipes are also for cosmetic treatments, such as to make your hands soft. We tried that one and the mixture worked beautifully as a hand cream; the only problem was that the cream – and us – smelled very strongly of vinegar! In fact a number of ingredients in some of the recipes would raise eyebrows now, including the use of cow dung!

As part of the festival, we invited Lucy Whitfield, women’s history specialist, to choose and recreate some of the recipes for visitors in the walled garden at DSC05209 - Copy Lydiard Park. The garden, which was created in the Georgian period and restored in 2007, is divided into six sections with wide pathways, a well and a sundial. The narrow beds contain trimmed shrubs and perennial plants, alternating with individual flowers and bulbs. Along the walls and in the centre of flowerbeds are trained apple, pear, greengage, peach, plum, cherry, apricot and fig trees. A part of the garden is dedicated to growing the types of herbs and other plants that Lady Johanna would have used in her recipes so it was the perfect setting to showcase some of the ingredients from the book. (I took lots of pictures which I was hoping to use to illustrate this bog, but when I tried to post them up, they all came up upside down so I've had to improvise!)

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The Art of Dunking (A Biscuit)

220px-Dunking_a_biscuitNicola here with a classic post from a few years ago that I originally posted on the UK Historical Romance Authors Blog. It got such an interesting response then that I thought I would update it and share it here because I was keen to hear what the Wenches and Wench readers thought of it.

So here goes. Do you dunk? I’m using the word “dunk” in the British sense of the word which means “to dip a biscuit or some other food, usually baked goods, into a drink, especially tea, coffee, or milk." Dunking releases more flavour from confections by dissolving the sugars, while also softening their texture. With the UK/US differences in language I had no idea about the basketball definition of dunking until I looked it up!

It turns out that dunking is an ancient tradition but it’s also a divisive one. Apparently in a recent survey done by the Great British Bake-Off TV Programme, 52% of people said they wouldn’t dream of dunking a biscuit – they never had and they never would!

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