The Luxury of Tea

Tea kanji

Kanji meaning tea

Christina here. Despite being half British, I’ve never been much of a tea drinker. I don’t mind it, but it’s not my favourite beverage. It doesn’t work on me as a panacea or cure-all either, the way most British people seem to see it. If I have a cold or the weather is chilly and damp as now, however, I do occasionally enjoy a cup of Twinings English Breakfast with lots of milk and sugar. It’s cosy and yes, quite comforting. And we all take for granted how cheap and easy it is to buy it – but that wasn’t always the case!

Wooden_tea_caddy _Museum_of_Liverpool Reptonix free Creative Commons licensed photos  CC BY 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0  via Wikimedia Commons


Although nowadays we can buy tea bags of every variety in the supermarket, or loose weight tea in specialist shops without any problems, in the 18th century it was a luxury commodity. Housewives kept the tea in lockable tea caddies so that only they could dispense it. And there was a reason for that – importing it was quite an undertaking. While doing the research for my first historical novel, Trade Winds, I read about the journey an East India merchant ship had to make in 1731/32 order to go to Canton in China to buy tea and other goods to bring back to Europe. I couldn’t believe how complicated and hazardous it all was!

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Pretty, Pretty Porcelain

Demonstration of the translucent quality of porcelainJoanna here, talking about porcelain,
as in what you make dishes of,
(also electrical insulators, scientific crucibles, and toilets, though these predate our historical characters by a good bit and are thus of less immediate interest than they might otherwise be.)

Porcelain is arguably the luxury product of the Georgian and Regency eras. All those fancy dinner parties …? Porcelain is what they were eating off of.

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DrakenHowdy from the snow-dusted mountain of Joanna.
The Ask A Wench question for November is:

"If you were writing a Historical Romance set in an unusual place and time — and you didn't have to worry about sales — where would you choose and when and why?"


Mary Jo has not only thought of writing about some of these exotic places. She's done it.

 As a kid in the classroom, I used to gaze at the map racks hanging from the blackboard, and I was particularly interested in the vast, empty tracts of Central Asia.  What was there?  How interesting it would be to visit!  So when I started to write, I thought it would be really cool to write a book set in Central Asia.

Oh, wait!  I did.  The book is called Silk and Secrets, and it was loosely based on a real rescue mission to Bokhara in the 1840s by Dr. Joseph Wolff, an eccentric Anglican missionary.  Wonderful material in his memoirs.  The last in that trilogy, Veils of Silk, was set in India, with adventure and mystery and romance.  But India isn't quite so far off the beaten path, historical romance wise.

Well, China could be interesting.  So very different from Western Europe, with an ancient civilization and an aura of mystery. Err…, I wrote that in The China Bride,  with a Chinese/Scottish heroine and an English hero with an explorer's heart. 

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The Wenches Welcome Jeannie Lin!

Pat here, welcoming back Jeannie Lin, author of Chinese historical romances and soon, a mystery set
Jeannielin_photo_highresduring the Tang dynasty. Jeannie started writing her first romance while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. Her first three novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and The Dragon and the Pearl was listed among Library Journal's Best Romances of 2011.

Jeannie currently writes historical romances for Harlequin Historical and Harlequin HQN.

 Jeannie, you’re a science teacher! What drew you to writing romance?

When I started my first book, it was actually a “West meets East” sort of fantasy set in a land based on ancient China. Yet as I was creating what I felt was an epic tale – double crosses, love triangles, dramatic deaths – I realized I didn’t feel anything on the page for my characters. I wondered, how do I fix that? How do I learn how to write emotion?

Well, the answer was on the other part of my bookshelf: in romance novels.

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