Keeping House

Royalharlotfront_cover_2By Susan/Miranda

As we’ve discussed here many times before, most of the heroes and a good many of the heroines in historical romances are wealthy, or at least comfortably off.  Oh, there are the occasional governesses, poor relations, and fallen women sprinkled through the ranks of the heroines, but writers generally write what readers like to read, and that’s Characters Above the Middling Sort.

Not that I’m objecting.  If one is reading to escape modern life for the late 18th century, then it’s far more enjoyable to end up in a sunny drawing room in a grand country house than to a noisy spot beside a clattering water-powered loom in a textile factory.  Yet too often these affluent heroines (and their mothers and sisters) are depicted as frittering their days away: a little reading, a little music, a little riding, shopping, dressing, heading off to Almack’s, and, of course, a lot of doing whatever the hero is doing. 

In reality, most ladies of the time spent many hours each day in running their household.  A house was like a small business in itself, with the lady of the house (usually the wife, but depending on circumstances, an older daughter, spinster sister or widowed aunt) as the CEO, with duties that included bookkeeping, purchasing, personnel, and receiving.  Anyone who casually refers to the “idle rich” didn’t know these women, who could both micromanage the proper way to starch their husband’s shirts and oversee the large-scale social event that was a house-party at a country estate that would exhaust a score of modern professional wedding-planners.  They were caretakers of the secret family recopies for pewter polish as well as Christmas puddings, and were as adept at hiring a French governess as they were with coping with a pregnant housemaids.

All of which is an introduction to one of my favorite research books, a slender volume (why are volumes always slender, and not simply skinny books?) reprinted by the National Trust for Historic Places.  The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman is a printed version of a handwritten guide kept by the wife of a wealthy paper-mill owner in the late 18th century.  The Whatmans weren’t aristocrats, but part of theTurkey_mill_house_2 newly-rising upper-middle-class. Their home, Turkey Court, was near Maidstone, in Kent, began as a sizable three-story brick house, and as Mr. Whatman prospered, gradually expanded to include a larger, more imposing estate and house that included the family’s paper mills (The estate still exists, with the house rented out for weddings and the mills refurbished as office space –– that’s it to the right.)  Their family had three children, and their staff included a governess, housekeeper, steward, butler, coachman, gardener, cook, six maids, and a half-dozen “odd men” (which referred not to their personalities, but to the diversity of their duties.)

Mrs. Whatman wasn’t writing her book for publication (like Hannah Glasse’s Servant’s Directory, or Housekeeper’s Companion, published first in 1760), but for her own use as a guide for her staff.  Mrs. Whatman knew how things should be properly done, having served as the head of her father’s equally large household after her mother’s death.  In her Housekeeping Book, she offers a fascinating glimpse at life in her house.

She expected her servants to be up early, and to bed late, having the rooms of the house ready and the fires set before the family came downstairs in the morning and yet remain awake to assist Mr. and Mrs. Whatman prepare for bed, however late that might be.  She expected them to be industrious, too.  The book outlines all the daily responsibilities for each servant, a staggering list.  Even the cook, the comparative queen of the staff, had far more to do than simply prepare food:

Whatman_coverCook must bake her bread in the mornings time enough for breakfast. She should bake Wednesdays and Saturdays, clean her Larder and Pantries Mondays and Fridays, and rise Tuesday to wash her own things. Thursday morning wipe her pewter . . . and iron her things instead of doing it in the evenings …Cook should see that every saucepan, etc. is well cleaned within, but never scowered without, except the upper rim . . . [as she is also responsible for] filling the hog pails, washing up butter dishes and salad bowls, preserving the water in which meat is boiled, keeping all her places clean, managing her fire and her kitchen linens and keeping it mended.

The cook was also expected to oversee the lesser servants as Mrs. Whatman’s eyes in the kitchen:

Cook should see that heavy things are not set upon plates and dishes.  She may always call back a servant whom she sees do it, or if they leave bones or hard things such as spoons in a dish, and then put other dishes on it . . . . As it is very wrong to lay temptation unnecessarily in the way of anyone, the large joints [of meat] should never be left open to the inferior servants . . . .This duty of keeping away temptation is very necessary, as it would be difficult to detect depredations on a large joint, and a dishonest servant might contract a habit of doing injustice.

In other words, no snacking on leftovers.  But even with her own key to the wire safe with the roast joints, Cook still wasn’t the highest authority:

The Housekeeper ought always to be present, when the dinner is sent up.  Otherwise the Cook is apt to relax, and be longer dishing than is necessary.

Yet as strict as Mrs. Whatman was about duties, she was also (comparatively) indulgent to her servants.  They were permitted alternate Sundays off to attend church, given ale at their noon meals, and warm coverlets on their beds. “Broken victuals” (table scraps and leavings) didn’t wind up on the servants’ table, but were given to the deserving poor. The house had modern labor-saving devices such as a water-closet instead of chamber-pots, a mangle for pressing linen, and a range for cooking instead of an open hearth.  She even took care with choosing the calico for the maids’ gowns: “It is a finer one than I should have given them, but it is so pretty, that [I am sure they] will fall in love with it as I did.”

The furnishings of a great house were of considerable value, and Mrs. Whatman was ever-vigilant about preserving her husband’s assets.  There was a detailed daily schedule for opening and shutting each room’s Venetian blinds to prevent the sun from fading the furniture.  Carpets were turned over and swept every few days to clean them, rather than using water, which caused the dyes to run.  Mahogany pieces were rubbed, never waxed or polished, and special bellows were used to blow dust from intricate carvings.

Clearly Mr. Whatman’s library was his sanctum sanctorum.  The books were to be dusted “only as far as the wing of a goose would go,” and never taken out or disarranged.  Apparently with good reason, too, for there is a strained reference to a mislaid “philosophical index”, a casualty of an over-zealous maid: “I never saw her poor master so angry.”

We even learn how household bills were paid: “Mrs. Whatman pays all her house bills weekly, including the Butcher’s bills, and candles and flour when they are brought in.  But soap, wax candles, and grocery come down from London, and are paid by draft by Mr. Whatman.” Perhaps most telling of Mrs. Whatman’s thrifty housekeeping is that, while Mr. Whatman’s income was around £6,000 annually, the family’s expenses never exceeded £2,000 –– so certain a recipe for household happiness that Mr. Micawber himself would applaud.

Do you enjoy these more homely details of everyday life in novels?  Do you feel they add to the characters’ lives and stories, or would you rather read only about the more glamorous balls and dinners?

110 thoughts on “Keeping House”

  1. I love the details, particularly ones I’ve never heard before, such as “only as far as the wing of a goose would go.” A detail like that conjures a wonderfully vivid and unique picture that seems to bring everything in its neighborhood alive.

    Reply
  2. I love the details, particularly ones I’ve never heard before, such as “only as far as the wing of a goose would go.” A detail like that conjures a wonderfully vivid and unique picture that seems to bring everything in its neighborhood alive.

    Reply
  3. I love the details, particularly ones I’ve never heard before, such as “only as far as the wing of a goose would go.” A detail like that conjures a wonderfully vivid and unique picture that seems to bring everything in its neighborhood alive.

    Reply
  4. I love the details, particularly ones I’ve never heard before, such as “only as far as the wing of a goose would go.” A detail like that conjures a wonderfully vivid and unique picture that seems to bring everything in its neighborhood alive.

    Reply
  5. I love the details, particularly ones I’ve never heard before, such as “only as far as the wing of a goose would go.” A detail like that conjures a wonderfully vivid and unique picture that seems to bring everything in its neighborhood alive.

    Reply
  6. I need those details when I write, and love them when I read.
    If I can’t “see” the tiny little things going on then it’s just–what’s that term…talking heads? floating heads? Anyway, the details make a period book come alive.

    Reply
  7. I need those details when I write, and love them when I read.
    If I can’t “see” the tiny little things going on then it’s just–what’s that term…talking heads? floating heads? Anyway, the details make a period book come alive.

    Reply
  8. I need those details when I write, and love them when I read.
    If I can’t “see” the tiny little things going on then it’s just–what’s that term…talking heads? floating heads? Anyway, the details make a period book come alive.

    Reply
  9. I need those details when I write, and love them when I read.
    If I can’t “see” the tiny little things going on then it’s just–what’s that term…talking heads? floating heads? Anyway, the details make a period book come alive.

    Reply
  10. I need those details when I write, and love them when I read.
    If I can’t “see” the tiny little things going on then it’s just–what’s that term…talking heads? floating heads? Anyway, the details make a period book come alive.

    Reply
  11. “Yet too often these affluent heroines (and their mothers and sisters) are depicted as frittering their days away…”
    This seems to be a very common assumption, and I’m so disappointed when I see it made in a book. I love to read about the details of peoples lives – not in a voyeuristic way, but it goes a long way towards making a story seem real for me. I appreciate it when an author includes little details about food, and organisation of servants, and so on. All too often the focus is on how low-cut the heroine’s dress is and what the hero will think when he looks at her. (This is admittedly fair enough for a romance, but if the only mention of housekeeping is the price of a new gown, I feel as though I’m missing out!)
    When I read a book, I really enjoy having little “aha!” moments – I mean places where I can relate the events of the story to experiences in my own life. Although we don’t have servants or grand balls these days, I enjoy thinking about the ways women through the ages have practised thriftiness, bought food, arranged parties and so on. I feel more of a connection with them and therefore with the story – and I start seeing them as living, breathing people rather than “talking heads”, as Gillian says so well above.

    Reply
  12. “Yet too often these affluent heroines (and their mothers and sisters) are depicted as frittering their days away…”
    This seems to be a very common assumption, and I’m so disappointed when I see it made in a book. I love to read about the details of peoples lives – not in a voyeuristic way, but it goes a long way towards making a story seem real for me. I appreciate it when an author includes little details about food, and organisation of servants, and so on. All too often the focus is on how low-cut the heroine’s dress is and what the hero will think when he looks at her. (This is admittedly fair enough for a romance, but if the only mention of housekeeping is the price of a new gown, I feel as though I’m missing out!)
    When I read a book, I really enjoy having little “aha!” moments – I mean places where I can relate the events of the story to experiences in my own life. Although we don’t have servants or grand balls these days, I enjoy thinking about the ways women through the ages have practised thriftiness, bought food, arranged parties and so on. I feel more of a connection with them and therefore with the story – and I start seeing them as living, breathing people rather than “talking heads”, as Gillian says so well above.

    Reply
  13. “Yet too often these affluent heroines (and their mothers and sisters) are depicted as frittering their days away…”
    This seems to be a very common assumption, and I’m so disappointed when I see it made in a book. I love to read about the details of peoples lives – not in a voyeuristic way, but it goes a long way towards making a story seem real for me. I appreciate it when an author includes little details about food, and organisation of servants, and so on. All too often the focus is on how low-cut the heroine’s dress is and what the hero will think when he looks at her. (This is admittedly fair enough for a romance, but if the only mention of housekeeping is the price of a new gown, I feel as though I’m missing out!)
    When I read a book, I really enjoy having little “aha!” moments – I mean places where I can relate the events of the story to experiences in my own life. Although we don’t have servants or grand balls these days, I enjoy thinking about the ways women through the ages have practised thriftiness, bought food, arranged parties and so on. I feel more of a connection with them and therefore with the story – and I start seeing them as living, breathing people rather than “talking heads”, as Gillian says so well above.

    Reply
  14. “Yet too often these affluent heroines (and their mothers and sisters) are depicted as frittering their days away…”
    This seems to be a very common assumption, and I’m so disappointed when I see it made in a book. I love to read about the details of peoples lives – not in a voyeuristic way, but it goes a long way towards making a story seem real for me. I appreciate it when an author includes little details about food, and organisation of servants, and so on. All too often the focus is on how low-cut the heroine’s dress is and what the hero will think when he looks at her. (This is admittedly fair enough for a romance, but if the only mention of housekeeping is the price of a new gown, I feel as though I’m missing out!)
    When I read a book, I really enjoy having little “aha!” moments – I mean places where I can relate the events of the story to experiences in my own life. Although we don’t have servants or grand balls these days, I enjoy thinking about the ways women through the ages have practised thriftiness, bought food, arranged parties and so on. I feel more of a connection with them and therefore with the story – and I start seeing them as living, breathing people rather than “talking heads”, as Gillian says so well above.

    Reply
  15. “Yet too often these affluent heroines (and their mothers and sisters) are depicted as frittering their days away…”
    This seems to be a very common assumption, and I’m so disappointed when I see it made in a book. I love to read about the details of peoples lives – not in a voyeuristic way, but it goes a long way towards making a story seem real for me. I appreciate it when an author includes little details about food, and organisation of servants, and so on. All too often the focus is on how low-cut the heroine’s dress is and what the hero will think when he looks at her. (This is admittedly fair enough for a romance, but if the only mention of housekeeping is the price of a new gown, I feel as though I’m missing out!)
    When I read a book, I really enjoy having little “aha!” moments – I mean places where I can relate the events of the story to experiences in my own life. Although we don’t have servants or grand balls these days, I enjoy thinking about the ways women through the ages have practised thriftiness, bought food, arranged parties and so on. I feel more of a connection with them and therefore with the story – and I start seeing them as living, breathing people rather than “talking heads”, as Gillian says so well above.

    Reply
  16. I like details, especially, like Elaine, when I learn something new. I’m always amazed that some authors can get away with such super-superficial stuff. While I know we all long for escape from reality, sometimes some reality is necessary.

    Reply
  17. I like details, especially, like Elaine, when I learn something new. I’m always amazed that some authors can get away with such super-superficial stuff. While I know we all long for escape from reality, sometimes some reality is necessary.

    Reply
  18. I like details, especially, like Elaine, when I learn something new. I’m always amazed that some authors can get away with such super-superficial stuff. While I know we all long for escape from reality, sometimes some reality is necessary.

    Reply
  19. I like details, especially, like Elaine, when I learn something new. I’m always amazed that some authors can get away with such super-superficial stuff. While I know we all long for escape from reality, sometimes some reality is necessary.

    Reply
  20. I like details, especially, like Elaine, when I learn something new. I’m always amazed that some authors can get away with such super-superficial stuff. While I know we all long for escape from reality, sometimes some reality is necessary.

    Reply
  21. As both a reader and a writer, I’m (obviously) firmly in the “telling details” camp, and I always feel vaguely cheated if a book doesn’t have it. To borrow a popular expression from fantasy-writing, a good historical setting is “world building”, too. I want to know just how they kept that drawing room floor clean before vacuums, just as I want to know the kind of fabric and lace trimming of that ballgown that the hero’s so busy ogling. That’s probably why I enjoy non-fiction like diaries and Mrs. Whatman’s book so much — it’s the facts, ma’am. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  22. As both a reader and a writer, I’m (obviously) firmly in the “telling details” camp, and I always feel vaguely cheated if a book doesn’t have it. To borrow a popular expression from fantasy-writing, a good historical setting is “world building”, too. I want to know just how they kept that drawing room floor clean before vacuums, just as I want to know the kind of fabric and lace trimming of that ballgown that the hero’s so busy ogling. That’s probably why I enjoy non-fiction like diaries and Mrs. Whatman’s book so much — it’s the facts, ma’am. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  23. As both a reader and a writer, I’m (obviously) firmly in the “telling details” camp, and I always feel vaguely cheated if a book doesn’t have it. To borrow a popular expression from fantasy-writing, a good historical setting is “world building”, too. I want to know just how they kept that drawing room floor clean before vacuums, just as I want to know the kind of fabric and lace trimming of that ballgown that the hero’s so busy ogling. That’s probably why I enjoy non-fiction like diaries and Mrs. Whatman’s book so much — it’s the facts, ma’am. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  24. As both a reader and a writer, I’m (obviously) firmly in the “telling details” camp, and I always feel vaguely cheated if a book doesn’t have it. To borrow a popular expression from fantasy-writing, a good historical setting is “world building”, too. I want to know just how they kept that drawing room floor clean before vacuums, just as I want to know the kind of fabric and lace trimming of that ballgown that the hero’s so busy ogling. That’s probably why I enjoy non-fiction like diaries and Mrs. Whatman’s book so much — it’s the facts, ma’am. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  25. As both a reader and a writer, I’m (obviously) firmly in the “telling details” camp, and I always feel vaguely cheated if a book doesn’t have it. To borrow a popular expression from fantasy-writing, a good historical setting is “world building”, too. I want to know just how they kept that drawing room floor clean before vacuums, just as I want to know the kind of fabric and lace trimming of that ballgown that the hero’s so busy ogling. That’s probably why I enjoy non-fiction like diaries and Mrs. Whatman’s book so much — it’s the facts, ma’am. *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  26. I do like the details. It is so interesting to get an idea of what daily life was like for some people. I do enjoy reading about the balls but the everyday life of people is nice to read about as a counter balance.

    Reply
  27. I do like the details. It is so interesting to get an idea of what daily life was like for some people. I do enjoy reading about the balls but the everyday life of people is nice to read about as a counter balance.

    Reply
  28. I do like the details. It is so interesting to get an idea of what daily life was like for some people. I do enjoy reading about the balls but the everyday life of people is nice to read about as a counter balance.

    Reply
  29. I do like the details. It is so interesting to get an idea of what daily life was like for some people. I do enjoy reading about the balls but the everyday life of people is nice to read about as a counter balance.

    Reply
  30. I do like the details. It is so interesting to get an idea of what daily life was like for some people. I do enjoy reading about the balls but the everyday life of people is nice to read about as a counter balance.

    Reply
  31. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I’m going to have to get a copy of Susanna Whatman’s text.
    I love the little details. Stories that include such household/business duties help me relate better to the heroine (or hero) as I’ve spent 15+ years managing people, projects, money and events.
    But, too much “work” detail, and I loose that “transported” feeling. Then, the book gets shelved.
    As with all things, I suppose it’s a balance.
    Nina

    Reply
  32. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I’m going to have to get a copy of Susanna Whatman’s text.
    I love the little details. Stories that include such household/business duties help me relate better to the heroine (or hero) as I’ve spent 15+ years managing people, projects, money and events.
    But, too much “work” detail, and I loose that “transported” feeling. Then, the book gets shelved.
    As with all things, I suppose it’s a balance.
    Nina

    Reply
  33. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I’m going to have to get a copy of Susanna Whatman’s text.
    I love the little details. Stories that include such household/business duties help me relate better to the heroine (or hero) as I’ve spent 15+ years managing people, projects, money and events.
    But, too much “work” detail, and I loose that “transported” feeling. Then, the book gets shelved.
    As with all things, I suppose it’s a balance.
    Nina

    Reply
  34. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I’m going to have to get a copy of Susanna Whatman’s text.
    I love the little details. Stories that include such household/business duties help me relate better to the heroine (or hero) as I’ve spent 15+ years managing people, projects, money and events.
    But, too much “work” detail, and I loose that “transported” feeling. Then, the book gets shelved.
    As with all things, I suppose it’s a balance.
    Nina

    Reply
  35. Great post, Susan/Miranda. I’m going to have to get a copy of Susanna Whatman’s text.
    I love the little details. Stories that include such household/business duties help me relate better to the heroine (or hero) as I’ve spent 15+ years managing people, projects, money and events.
    But, too much “work” detail, and I loose that “transported” feeling. Then, the book gets shelved.
    As with all things, I suppose it’s a balance.
    Nina

    Reply
  36. Details of daily living help evoke the atmosphere- and I love learning about the way people lived in the past. I think it is a great way to make the characters come alive, too. How does Lady x handle the pregnant housemaid, how diligent is she in her duties to the poor, does she skimp on the servants’ rations- all telling details that can make a book truly a historical romance. But as Loretta pointed out in a post while she was working on “Not Quite a Lady”, the real test of a writer is knowing how much detail is good for a book, so that it adds to the story without becoming “A Wikipedia entry”! BTW, I don’t always like reading about the ultra rich and/or titled classes- some times I enjoy ordinary people- like Carla Kelly’s “The Wedding Journey”- and don’t forget plain Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet!

    Reply
  37. Details of daily living help evoke the atmosphere- and I love learning about the way people lived in the past. I think it is a great way to make the characters come alive, too. How does Lady x handle the pregnant housemaid, how diligent is she in her duties to the poor, does she skimp on the servants’ rations- all telling details that can make a book truly a historical romance. But as Loretta pointed out in a post while she was working on “Not Quite a Lady”, the real test of a writer is knowing how much detail is good for a book, so that it adds to the story without becoming “A Wikipedia entry”! BTW, I don’t always like reading about the ultra rich and/or titled classes- some times I enjoy ordinary people- like Carla Kelly’s “The Wedding Journey”- and don’t forget plain Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet!

    Reply
  38. Details of daily living help evoke the atmosphere- and I love learning about the way people lived in the past. I think it is a great way to make the characters come alive, too. How does Lady x handle the pregnant housemaid, how diligent is she in her duties to the poor, does she skimp on the servants’ rations- all telling details that can make a book truly a historical romance. But as Loretta pointed out in a post while she was working on “Not Quite a Lady”, the real test of a writer is knowing how much detail is good for a book, so that it adds to the story without becoming “A Wikipedia entry”! BTW, I don’t always like reading about the ultra rich and/or titled classes- some times I enjoy ordinary people- like Carla Kelly’s “The Wedding Journey”- and don’t forget plain Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet!

    Reply
  39. Details of daily living help evoke the atmosphere- and I love learning about the way people lived in the past. I think it is a great way to make the characters come alive, too. How does Lady x handle the pregnant housemaid, how diligent is she in her duties to the poor, does she skimp on the servants’ rations- all telling details that can make a book truly a historical romance. But as Loretta pointed out in a post while she was working on “Not Quite a Lady”, the real test of a writer is knowing how much detail is good for a book, so that it adds to the story without becoming “A Wikipedia entry”! BTW, I don’t always like reading about the ultra rich and/or titled classes- some times I enjoy ordinary people- like Carla Kelly’s “The Wedding Journey”- and don’t forget plain Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet!

    Reply
  40. Details of daily living help evoke the atmosphere- and I love learning about the way people lived in the past. I think it is a great way to make the characters come alive, too. How does Lady x handle the pregnant housemaid, how diligent is she in her duties to the poor, does she skimp on the servants’ rations- all telling details that can make a book truly a historical romance. But as Loretta pointed out in a post while she was working on “Not Quite a Lady”, the real test of a writer is knowing how much detail is good for a book, so that it adds to the story without becoming “A Wikipedia entry”! BTW, I don’t always like reading about the ultra rich and/or titled classes- some times I enjoy ordinary people- like Carla Kelly’s “The Wedding Journey”- and don’t forget plain Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet!

    Reply
  41. Count me as one who loves the details, so of course I loved this post and I have to get me some of that book. The workings of big houses have always fascinated me, and those “backstairs” tours of stately homes are my favorite form of house tour. Showing how much attention a character pays to the running of his/her house tells you a great deal about the character, doesn’t it? And that’s a great analogy, comparing it to running a business and/or hotel.

    Reply
  42. Count me as one who loves the details, so of course I loved this post and I have to get me some of that book. The workings of big houses have always fascinated me, and those “backstairs” tours of stately homes are my favorite form of house tour. Showing how much attention a character pays to the running of his/her house tells you a great deal about the character, doesn’t it? And that’s a great analogy, comparing it to running a business and/or hotel.

    Reply
  43. Count me as one who loves the details, so of course I loved this post and I have to get me some of that book. The workings of big houses have always fascinated me, and those “backstairs” tours of stately homes are my favorite form of house tour. Showing how much attention a character pays to the running of his/her house tells you a great deal about the character, doesn’t it? And that’s a great analogy, comparing it to running a business and/or hotel.

    Reply
  44. Count me as one who loves the details, so of course I loved this post and I have to get me some of that book. The workings of big houses have always fascinated me, and those “backstairs” tours of stately homes are my favorite form of house tour. Showing how much attention a character pays to the running of his/her house tells you a great deal about the character, doesn’t it? And that’s a great analogy, comparing it to running a business and/or hotel.

    Reply
  45. Count me as one who loves the details, so of course I loved this post and I have to get me some of that book. The workings of big houses have always fascinated me, and those “backstairs” tours of stately homes are my favorite form of house tour. Showing how much attention a character pays to the running of his/her house tells you a great deal about the character, doesn’t it? And that’s a great analogy, comparing it to running a business and/or hotel.

    Reply
  46. I like details, esp. when they serve a purpose for the story – if there is a mystery going on in the wine cellar, I want to know how those worked, who had the keys, etc. Same in other instances.
    I also wish novels would be a bit more “authentic” when it comes to servants. In many books, being a servant is seen as a good thing, with a loving master and mistress and no worries. In real life, it was a very hard existence, even if you were working for a “good” mistress. I do not doubt that there were personal relationships, esp. with valets/personal maids, but the knowledge of the superiority of the “upper oders” would always be there… (those comments are not aimed at anyone specifically, I guess I have just read one saucy idle maid to many of late!)

    Reply
  47. I like details, esp. when they serve a purpose for the story – if there is a mystery going on in the wine cellar, I want to know how those worked, who had the keys, etc. Same in other instances.
    I also wish novels would be a bit more “authentic” when it comes to servants. In many books, being a servant is seen as a good thing, with a loving master and mistress and no worries. In real life, it was a very hard existence, even if you were working for a “good” mistress. I do not doubt that there were personal relationships, esp. with valets/personal maids, but the knowledge of the superiority of the “upper oders” would always be there… (those comments are not aimed at anyone specifically, I guess I have just read one saucy idle maid to many of late!)

    Reply
  48. I like details, esp. when they serve a purpose for the story – if there is a mystery going on in the wine cellar, I want to know how those worked, who had the keys, etc. Same in other instances.
    I also wish novels would be a bit more “authentic” when it comes to servants. In many books, being a servant is seen as a good thing, with a loving master and mistress and no worries. In real life, it was a very hard existence, even if you were working for a “good” mistress. I do not doubt that there were personal relationships, esp. with valets/personal maids, but the knowledge of the superiority of the “upper oders” would always be there… (those comments are not aimed at anyone specifically, I guess I have just read one saucy idle maid to many of late!)

    Reply
  49. I like details, esp. when they serve a purpose for the story – if there is a mystery going on in the wine cellar, I want to know how those worked, who had the keys, etc. Same in other instances.
    I also wish novels would be a bit more “authentic” when it comes to servants. In many books, being a servant is seen as a good thing, with a loving master and mistress and no worries. In real life, it was a very hard existence, even if you were working for a “good” mistress. I do not doubt that there were personal relationships, esp. with valets/personal maids, but the knowledge of the superiority of the “upper oders” would always be there… (those comments are not aimed at anyone specifically, I guess I have just read one saucy idle maid to many of late!)

    Reply
  50. I like details, esp. when they serve a purpose for the story – if there is a mystery going on in the wine cellar, I want to know how those worked, who had the keys, etc. Same in other instances.
    I also wish novels would be a bit more “authentic” when it comes to servants. In many books, being a servant is seen as a good thing, with a loving master and mistress and no worries. In real life, it was a very hard existence, even if you were working for a “good” mistress. I do not doubt that there were personal relationships, esp. with valets/personal maids, but the knowledge of the superiority of the “upper oders” would always be there… (those comments are not aimed at anyone specifically, I guess I have just read one saucy idle maid to many of late!)

    Reply
  51. It always bothers me when the men are shown as lazy do-nothings as well. Being a lord was like being a CEO and a Senator (and maybe a large-scale agribusiness owner too). I mean, I don’t want to read (or write) a 10 page treatise of his lordship’s (or her ladyship’s) daily grind, but I think it’s possible to lace the info in as compelling background detail.
    While searching out and buying the “The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman” (thanks for the tip!) I also found “Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country” which looks wonderful.
    More books, yea!!!

    Reply
  52. It always bothers me when the men are shown as lazy do-nothings as well. Being a lord was like being a CEO and a Senator (and maybe a large-scale agribusiness owner too). I mean, I don’t want to read (or write) a 10 page treatise of his lordship’s (or her ladyship’s) daily grind, but I think it’s possible to lace the info in as compelling background detail.
    While searching out and buying the “The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman” (thanks for the tip!) I also found “Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country” which looks wonderful.
    More books, yea!!!

    Reply
  53. It always bothers me when the men are shown as lazy do-nothings as well. Being a lord was like being a CEO and a Senator (and maybe a large-scale agribusiness owner too). I mean, I don’t want to read (or write) a 10 page treatise of his lordship’s (or her ladyship’s) daily grind, but I think it’s possible to lace the info in as compelling background detail.
    While searching out and buying the “The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman” (thanks for the tip!) I also found “Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country” which looks wonderful.
    More books, yea!!!

    Reply
  54. It always bothers me when the men are shown as lazy do-nothings as well. Being a lord was like being a CEO and a Senator (and maybe a large-scale agribusiness owner too). I mean, I don’t want to read (or write) a 10 page treatise of his lordship’s (or her ladyship’s) daily grind, but I think it’s possible to lace the info in as compelling background detail.
    While searching out and buying the “The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman” (thanks for the tip!) I also found “Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country” which looks wonderful.
    More books, yea!!!

    Reply
  55. It always bothers me when the men are shown as lazy do-nothings as well. Being a lord was like being a CEO and a Senator (and maybe a large-scale agribusiness owner too). I mean, I don’t want to read (or write) a 10 page treatise of his lordship’s (or her ladyship’s) daily grind, but I think it’s possible to lace the info in as compelling background detail.
    While searching out and buying the “The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman” (thanks for the tip!) I also found “Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country” which looks wonderful.
    More books, yea!!!

    Reply
  56. Thank you for reminding me of this little gem of a book, Susan. I have to go and dig it up from my book room to re-read.
    In other words, I’m glad to be back home from my trip. Looks like 2008 is already off to a rolicking start for the Wenches with lots of books coming up this year. Oh, goody!!

    Reply
  57. Thank you for reminding me of this little gem of a book, Susan. I have to go and dig it up from my book room to re-read.
    In other words, I’m glad to be back home from my trip. Looks like 2008 is already off to a rolicking start for the Wenches with lots of books coming up this year. Oh, goody!!

    Reply
  58. Thank you for reminding me of this little gem of a book, Susan. I have to go and dig it up from my book room to re-read.
    In other words, I’m glad to be back home from my trip. Looks like 2008 is already off to a rolicking start for the Wenches with lots of books coming up this year. Oh, goody!!

    Reply
  59. Thank you for reminding me of this little gem of a book, Susan. I have to go and dig it up from my book room to re-read.
    In other words, I’m glad to be back home from my trip. Looks like 2008 is already off to a rolicking start for the Wenches with lots of books coming up this year. Oh, goody!!

    Reply
  60. Thank you for reminding me of this little gem of a book, Susan. I have to go and dig it up from my book room to re-read.
    In other words, I’m glad to be back home from my trip. Looks like 2008 is already off to a rolicking start for the Wenches with lots of books coming up this year. Oh, goody!!

    Reply
  61. I find these details fascinating and would enjoy reading about them periodically in a novel; they give a story depth. Who wants to hear that the girl/woman fritters away her day – how can we relate? Thanks for bringing them to our attention.

    Reply
  62. I find these details fascinating and would enjoy reading about them periodically in a novel; they give a story depth. Who wants to hear that the girl/woman fritters away her day – how can we relate? Thanks for bringing them to our attention.

    Reply
  63. I find these details fascinating and would enjoy reading about them periodically in a novel; they give a story depth. Who wants to hear that the girl/woman fritters away her day – how can we relate? Thanks for bringing them to our attention.

    Reply
  64. I find these details fascinating and would enjoy reading about them periodically in a novel; they give a story depth. Who wants to hear that the girl/woman fritters away her day – how can we relate? Thanks for bringing them to our attention.

    Reply
  65. I find these details fascinating and would enjoy reading about them periodically in a novel; they give a story depth. Who wants to hear that the girl/woman fritters away her day – how can we relate? Thanks for bringing them to our attention.

    Reply
  66. In “Not Quite a Lady,” Loretta includes a lot of housekeeping details that I found enlightening and fascinating! It all fit in with the story so well, rather than interrupting. So, yes, details, please!

    Reply
  67. In “Not Quite a Lady,” Loretta includes a lot of housekeeping details that I found enlightening and fascinating! It all fit in with the story so well, rather than interrupting. So, yes, details, please!

    Reply
  68. In “Not Quite a Lady,” Loretta includes a lot of housekeeping details that I found enlightening and fascinating! It all fit in with the story so well, rather than interrupting. So, yes, details, please!

    Reply
  69. In “Not Quite a Lady,” Loretta includes a lot of housekeeping details that I found enlightening and fascinating! It all fit in with the story so well, rather than interrupting. So, yes, details, please!

    Reply
  70. In “Not Quite a Lady,” Loretta includes a lot of housekeeping details that I found enlightening and fascinating! It all fit in with the story so well, rather than interrupting. So, yes, details, please!

    Reply
  71. What I have always loved about historical novels is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the way people lived, so yes, I do love all the little details. I’m a bit disappointed by books that, no matter how enjoyable, are distinguishable from contemporaries only by the fact that the heroine dons a spenser to go out and the hero wears Hessians.
    Among the many things I wonder about is what the hardworking hero actually does all day in his study to manage hs estate. Just what does that involve? (But then I’ve also been a bit curious about what on earth a CEO actually does.)

    Reply
  72. What I have always loved about historical novels is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the way people lived, so yes, I do love all the little details. I’m a bit disappointed by books that, no matter how enjoyable, are distinguishable from contemporaries only by the fact that the heroine dons a spenser to go out and the hero wears Hessians.
    Among the many things I wonder about is what the hardworking hero actually does all day in his study to manage hs estate. Just what does that involve? (But then I’ve also been a bit curious about what on earth a CEO actually does.)

    Reply
  73. What I have always loved about historical novels is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the way people lived, so yes, I do love all the little details. I’m a bit disappointed by books that, no matter how enjoyable, are distinguishable from contemporaries only by the fact that the heroine dons a spenser to go out and the hero wears Hessians.
    Among the many things I wonder about is what the hardworking hero actually does all day in his study to manage hs estate. Just what does that involve? (But then I’ve also been a bit curious about what on earth a CEO actually does.)

    Reply
  74. What I have always loved about historical novels is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the way people lived, so yes, I do love all the little details. I’m a bit disappointed by books that, no matter how enjoyable, are distinguishable from contemporaries only by the fact that the heroine dons a spenser to go out and the hero wears Hessians.
    Among the many things I wonder about is what the hardworking hero actually does all day in his study to manage hs estate. Just what does that involve? (But then I’ve also been a bit curious about what on earth a CEO actually does.)

    Reply
  75. What I have always loved about historical novels is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the way people lived, so yes, I do love all the little details. I’m a bit disappointed by books that, no matter how enjoyable, are distinguishable from contemporaries only by the fact that the heroine dons a spenser to go out and the hero wears Hessians.
    Among the many things I wonder about is what the hardworking hero actually does all day in his study to manage hs estate. Just what does that involve? (But then I’ve also been a bit curious about what on earth a CEO actually does.)

    Reply
  76. I like the details, both about men and women. Like Kalen I wouldn’t want to read page after page but woven into the fabric of the story would be nice. I guess if I had given it a lot of thought I would have realized that there were a lot of things involved — it does explain why heroes are always looking for someone they can rely on to have been properly trained in the running of their homes and estates. But I never did think about it and it makes more sense than thinking that they all slept until noon, then went to a fancy al fresco luncheon and sailing on the Thames only to come home and change clothes to get ready for that night’s ball, going to be around 3AM to sleep until noon the next day and start all over again. Thanks for the insight, Susan.

    Reply
  77. I like the details, both about men and women. Like Kalen I wouldn’t want to read page after page but woven into the fabric of the story would be nice. I guess if I had given it a lot of thought I would have realized that there were a lot of things involved — it does explain why heroes are always looking for someone they can rely on to have been properly trained in the running of their homes and estates. But I never did think about it and it makes more sense than thinking that they all slept until noon, then went to a fancy al fresco luncheon and sailing on the Thames only to come home and change clothes to get ready for that night’s ball, going to be around 3AM to sleep until noon the next day and start all over again. Thanks for the insight, Susan.

    Reply
  78. I like the details, both about men and women. Like Kalen I wouldn’t want to read page after page but woven into the fabric of the story would be nice. I guess if I had given it a lot of thought I would have realized that there were a lot of things involved — it does explain why heroes are always looking for someone they can rely on to have been properly trained in the running of their homes and estates. But I never did think about it and it makes more sense than thinking that they all slept until noon, then went to a fancy al fresco luncheon and sailing on the Thames only to come home and change clothes to get ready for that night’s ball, going to be around 3AM to sleep until noon the next day and start all over again. Thanks for the insight, Susan.

    Reply
  79. I like the details, both about men and women. Like Kalen I wouldn’t want to read page after page but woven into the fabric of the story would be nice. I guess if I had given it a lot of thought I would have realized that there were a lot of things involved — it does explain why heroes are always looking for someone they can rely on to have been properly trained in the running of their homes and estates. But I never did think about it and it makes more sense than thinking that they all slept until noon, then went to a fancy al fresco luncheon and sailing on the Thames only to come home and change clothes to get ready for that night’s ball, going to be around 3AM to sleep until noon the next day and start all over again. Thanks for the insight, Susan.

    Reply
  80. I like the details, both about men and women. Like Kalen I wouldn’t want to read page after page but woven into the fabric of the story would be nice. I guess if I had given it a lot of thought I would have realized that there were a lot of things involved — it does explain why heroes are always looking for someone they can rely on to have been properly trained in the running of their homes and estates. But I never did think about it and it makes more sense than thinking that they all slept until noon, then went to a fancy al fresco luncheon and sailing on the Thames only to come home and change clothes to get ready for that night’s ball, going to be around 3AM to sleep until noon the next day and start all over again. Thanks for the insight, Susan.

    Reply
  81. Details, definitely. They make the times and the characters much more real and intimate somehow. I like details that help me see the similarities between life then and now. As for balls and parties and such, I can do without too much of them, but again, I enjoy them most when I can relate them to modern life. I’ve been reading Amanda Foreman’s biography “Georgiana,” and I’m enjoying the parallels between the Duchess of Devonshire’s life and that of modern day celebrities.

    Reply
  82. Details, definitely. They make the times and the characters much more real and intimate somehow. I like details that help me see the similarities between life then and now. As for balls and parties and such, I can do without too much of them, but again, I enjoy them most when I can relate them to modern life. I’ve been reading Amanda Foreman’s biography “Georgiana,” and I’m enjoying the parallels between the Duchess of Devonshire’s life and that of modern day celebrities.

    Reply
  83. Details, definitely. They make the times and the characters much more real and intimate somehow. I like details that help me see the similarities between life then and now. As for balls and parties and such, I can do without too much of them, but again, I enjoy them most when I can relate them to modern life. I’ve been reading Amanda Foreman’s biography “Georgiana,” and I’m enjoying the parallels between the Duchess of Devonshire’s life and that of modern day celebrities.

    Reply
  84. Details, definitely. They make the times and the characters much more real and intimate somehow. I like details that help me see the similarities between life then and now. As for balls and parties and such, I can do without too much of them, but again, I enjoy them most when I can relate them to modern life. I’ve been reading Amanda Foreman’s biography “Georgiana,” and I’m enjoying the parallels between the Duchess of Devonshire’s life and that of modern day celebrities.

    Reply
  85. Details, definitely. They make the times and the characters much more real and intimate somehow. I like details that help me see the similarities between life then and now. As for balls and parties and such, I can do without too much of them, but again, I enjoy them most when I can relate them to modern life. I’ve been reading Amanda Foreman’s biography “Georgiana,” and I’m enjoying the parallels between the Duchess of Devonshire’s life and that of modern day celebrities.

    Reply
  86. +IHS+
    I love the details! =D
    When I first started reading Romance, I was content with, say, a short paragraph about the hero spending the whole day in his study with a secretary or steward, managing the estate . . . whatever “managing the estate” meant.
    Today, however, that sounds too much like a child saying, “Daddy spends the day in the office.” It doesn’t tell you much about what his father does in the office, just giving you a vague idea of someone in a suit, sitting behind a desk piled with papers. =S
    So, yes: details, definitely! I’d like a better sense of what the characters do than a vague paragraph–all the better if their work has something to do with the story and is not just “historically accurate” wallpaper for the plot.

    Reply
  87. +IHS+
    I love the details! =D
    When I first started reading Romance, I was content with, say, a short paragraph about the hero spending the whole day in his study with a secretary or steward, managing the estate . . . whatever “managing the estate” meant.
    Today, however, that sounds too much like a child saying, “Daddy spends the day in the office.” It doesn’t tell you much about what his father does in the office, just giving you a vague idea of someone in a suit, sitting behind a desk piled with papers. =S
    So, yes: details, definitely! I’d like a better sense of what the characters do than a vague paragraph–all the better if their work has something to do with the story and is not just “historically accurate” wallpaper for the plot.

    Reply
  88. +IHS+
    I love the details! =D
    When I first started reading Romance, I was content with, say, a short paragraph about the hero spending the whole day in his study with a secretary or steward, managing the estate . . . whatever “managing the estate” meant.
    Today, however, that sounds too much like a child saying, “Daddy spends the day in the office.” It doesn’t tell you much about what his father does in the office, just giving you a vague idea of someone in a suit, sitting behind a desk piled with papers. =S
    So, yes: details, definitely! I’d like a better sense of what the characters do than a vague paragraph–all the better if their work has something to do with the story and is not just “historically accurate” wallpaper for the plot.

    Reply
  89. +IHS+
    I love the details! =D
    When I first started reading Romance, I was content with, say, a short paragraph about the hero spending the whole day in his study with a secretary or steward, managing the estate . . . whatever “managing the estate” meant.
    Today, however, that sounds too much like a child saying, “Daddy spends the day in the office.” It doesn’t tell you much about what his father does in the office, just giving you a vague idea of someone in a suit, sitting behind a desk piled with papers. =S
    So, yes: details, definitely! I’d like a better sense of what the characters do than a vague paragraph–all the better if their work has something to do with the story and is not just “historically accurate” wallpaper for the plot.

    Reply
  90. +IHS+
    I love the details! =D
    When I first started reading Romance, I was content with, say, a short paragraph about the hero spending the whole day in his study with a secretary or steward, managing the estate . . . whatever “managing the estate” meant.
    Today, however, that sounds too much like a child saying, “Daddy spends the day in the office.” It doesn’t tell you much about what his father does in the office, just giving you a vague idea of someone in a suit, sitting behind a desk piled with papers. =S
    So, yes: details, definitely! I’d like a better sense of what the characters do than a vague paragraph–all the better if their work has something to do with the story and is not just “historically accurate” wallpaper for the plot.

    Reply
  91. The Whatman book is indeed a treasure, I’ve read it for information and also purely for fun.
    Primary source materials, enabling us to read the words and “hear” the voices and peer into the lives of the people long gone is so important for writers of historical fiction.

    Reply
  92. The Whatman book is indeed a treasure, I’ve read it for information and also purely for fun.
    Primary source materials, enabling us to read the words and “hear” the voices and peer into the lives of the people long gone is so important for writers of historical fiction.

    Reply
  93. The Whatman book is indeed a treasure, I’ve read it for information and also purely for fun.
    Primary source materials, enabling us to read the words and “hear” the voices and peer into the lives of the people long gone is so important for writers of historical fiction.

    Reply
  94. The Whatman book is indeed a treasure, I’ve read it for information and also purely for fun.
    Primary source materials, enabling us to read the words and “hear” the voices and peer into the lives of the people long gone is so important for writers of historical fiction.

    Reply
  95. The Whatman book is indeed a treasure, I’ve read it for information and also purely for fun.
    Primary source materials, enabling us to read the words and “hear” the voices and peer into the lives of the people long gone is so important for writers of historical fiction.

    Reply

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