Regency Pyrotechnics

Catherine wheels wikiJoanna here.

What do Vauxhall, the court of Queen Elizabeth, Cuper's Gardens, (which is described intriguingly as "the scene of low dissipation . . . and the great resort of the profligate of both sexes" — rather like our local mall,) thFurttenbach_Feuerwerk1644e celebration of the wedding of George III, and Kensington Gardens have in common?

Fireworks.  Big, bright rockets and Catherine wheels and crackers.  Fireworks were the sound and light show of the Eighteenth Century.  The extravaganza that marked all great and festive events.

Sometimes there was music.  You can listen to Handel's Fireworks Music, for instance, here.  I'll admit I was expecting something with more booms in it.


“…. fireworks had for her a direct and magical appeal. Their attraction was more complex than that of any other form of art. They had pattern and sequence, colour and sound, brilliance and mobility; they had suspense, surprise, and a faint hint of danger; above all, they had the supreme quality of transience, which puts the keenest edge on beauty.”
Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver


Fireworks came out of China, like printing, dim sum and Bruce Lee.  The original fireworks date back to the Ninth Century or so.  They, were firecrackers made of gunpowder, stuffed into thin bamboo shoots.  Oddly enough, the original use of pyrotechnics was not warfare.  All this gunpowder was set off at the new year to scare away evil spirits.  It probably worked.

Knowledge of gunpowder arrived in the Middle East and Europe in the 1200s.  Marco Polo sometimes gets the credit, and why shouldn't he? 


“You're much better than fireworks. They're all over in a moment, and you're going to stay for a fortnight. Besides, fireworks are noisy, and they make too much smoke.”
Kate Ross, Cut to the Quick

One of the first mentions of fireworks is in Roger Bacon's Opus Majus.  Roger-bacon-wiki

"… that children's toy which is made in many diverse parts of the world, a device no bigger than one's thumb. From the violence of that salt called saltpetre, together with sulphur and willow charcoal, combined into a powder, so horrible a sound is made by the bursting of a thing so small, with no more than a bit of parchment containing it, that we find the ear assaulted by a noise exceeding the roar of strong thunder, and a flash brighter than the most brilliant lightning."
Early English fireworks specialists were — it's not surprising — military gunners.  The same men who used gunpowder to send an iron ball shooting out of a cannon, used that knowledge to create and explode fireworks.  They formed craft guilds across Europe, traveled, exchanged information, and wrote long treatises on the formulas and methods.    

Fireworks 2 and illuminations 1749This here is a vast fireworks display over the Thames in 1748 at the Duke of Richmond to celebrate the ending of the War of the Austrian Succession.  This is the shindig for which Handel wrote that music linked above.  

See there in the middle of the Thames?  Those rockets going up and letting off a globe and lights falling out were called 'stars'. 

To make falling stars —
"… the stuffe which is to be put into the Rocket for to flame and give crackes is made of twelve partes of Saltpeeter refind, of Citrine Brimstone nine partes, of grosse gunpowder five partes and 1/4 of a part mingled togeather with your hand."

That mixture was moistened and formed into small pieces, then packed into a ball and wound tightly Fireworks wikiround with packthread, given a fuse, and placed in the head of a rocket.  When the rocket exploded, the stars would stream down in the air.

One observer said it seemed "as if the sky has opened … as if all the air in the world is filled with fireworks and all the stars in the heavens are falling to earth …  a thing truly stupendous and marvelous to behold."


"We were ready for the apocalypse and when it didn't come we were very disappointed. So we drank more absinthe and set off fireworks."
Marilyn Manson


Black powderWhat our Regency folks would have called 'gun powder', what we might call 'black powder' today, was made from three main ingredients.  There were some other additives, but thee were the Big Three.

Ground charcoal.  The best charcoal, the sort used for fireworks — was made from willow, alder or black dogwood. 

Sulphur, which had to be perfectly clean and free from sulfuric acid. 

And saltpeter. Saltpeter is interesting stuff.  It's mainly potassium nitrate.  The name, sal petrae, 'salt of rock' is because it's found as an incrustation on rocks.  Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century folks mined it in dungheaps and farmyards and caves favored by bats for many years. Or they cultivated it deliberately by composting manure for a year, adding additional urine.  It was the urea in urine that bacteria broke down to the useful nitrates.

I haven't found any Regency reference to the idea that saltpeter suppresses sexual desire.  Either I just haven't found it or they hadn't thought that up yet.

Back to the ingredients for fireworks.
It's somewhat a matter of what they didn't have. Iron filings might be added to make a brighter and more intense flame, but fireworks were white and yellow.  They didn't have color.  It wasn't till the 1830s that folks started adding the metals that give color to fireworks.  All our red, blues and greens, the Regency folks never saw.

The rockets that launched all this display looked something like these Congreve rockets — military rockets — from 1805. Congreve_rocket pub dom 1805
  Rockets for firework displays were made of paper, filled with powder.  The height of accent and the timing of the explosion was carefully controlled by the tightness of the packing, the size of the case and the length of the cotton fuse.  A long stick fixed the rocket to the ground, setting the flight at the proper angle.

And they had Catherine wheels.  As early as 1540, Florence and Siena in Italy erected huge wood and papier mache wheels set in motion by rockets and fire tubes.  Fireworks 2 display for muhammad shah

Fixed designs like modern fire fountains shot streams of lit powder into the air from rolls of pasteboard filled with gunpowder. I'm particularly impressed with this picture from the mid-Eighteenth Century that shows these fire fountains and the court ladies of Mohammad Shah playing with fireworks.  Brave ladies.

Another fixed display was a spherical 'sun'.
Sun firework 2 public dom
"In the centre of the block of the sun drive a spindle on which put a small hexagonal wheel whose cases must be  filled with the same charge as the cases of the sun…a sun thus made is called a Brilliant Sun because the wood work is intierly covered with fire from the wheel to the middle so there appears nothing but sparks of a brilliant fire."

For the entry of Louis XIII into Lyon in 1623, fireworkers constructed a huge artificial lion with fire bursting from its jaw.

Fireworks were spectacle, display, public celebration.  In 1814, in a jubilee in celebration of peace in London —

"The senses were next astoniFireworks_1856 wikished and enchanted with a pacific exhibition of those tremendous instruments of destruction invented by colonel Congreve. Some notion even of their terrible power might be formed from the display of the night, and their exceeding beauty could be contemplated, divested of its usual awful associations. Each rocket contains in itself a world of smaller rockets: as soon as it is discharged from the gun it bursts, and flings aloft in the air innumerable parcels of flame, brilliant as the brightest stars: the whole atmosphere was illuminated by a delicate blue light, which threw an air of inchantment over the trees and lawns, and made even the motley groups of universal London become interesting as an assembly in romance."


What's the most memorable fireworks you've ever seen or participated in?  Anything from Black Hawkbackyard sparklers to the aurora borealis or australis.  

One lucky commenter will win their choice of Black Hawk or Forbidden Rose.



Black Hawk

Black HawkJoanna here, talking about my new book, Black Hawk.

This is Adrian's story.  I don't know about anyone else, but I'm relieved the boy finally has his happy ending. 

We've met Hawker as a secondary character in the other books.  He's Hawker, or Adrian Hawker, or sometimes Sir Adrian Hawkhurst, depending who he's pretending to be and who he wants to impress.  He is deadly and sarcastic and maybe a bit too fond of sticking knives into people.  Naturally he has the making of a Romance hero.   
Two of the most dangerous spies of the Napoleonic War — on opposite sides, natch — fall in love.  Think Montague and Capulet.  Think Yankees and Red Sox.  Think Hannibal and Scipio Africanus.  Think about the owl and the hawk, two birds that  might share the sky for a while, but can't live together. 

Hawker rose up snarling out of the slums of London.  His mother was a country servant, forced Getty108271594 cropped for use2into prostitution when she turned up pregnant.  She dies under the fist of a brutal customer, leaving Hawker to survive alone on the streets. By the time he's ten, he's becomes the most cunning thief and the most skilled, ruthless assassin in the service of the King of Thieves.  He's rescued from that life, by the British Service who have uses for his particular skill set.

3237624_sJustine DeCabrillac, daughter of the nobility, is a woman just as formidable as Hawker.  Her parents die in the chaos of the Revolution and she is betrayed into a decadent child brothel.  She's rescued by a woman of the French Secret Police.  In time, Justine, too, becomes a great spy for France.

It was inevitable Justine and Adrian would meet.  The shifting intrigues of war and peace between England and France bring them together again and again, sometimes working toward a common goal.  Sometimes wholly at odds.  But a friendship forms between these two young spies, the best of their generation, based on common knowledge and common respect.  Spies of different nations have more in common with each other than with the armies clashing across battlefield or the civilians at home in bed. 

They become lovers.  3justine and adrian frm stk phot 4
This is a great error.

For Montague and Capulet, owl and hawk, tragedy is inevitable.  The demands of
loyalty will drag them apart. 
But they can't seem to stop.

Then, in two decisive confrontations — one on the steps of the Louvre, one outside Paris as armies advance to take the city — they hurt each other.  They do the unforgivable. They speak words that can't be taken back. 

Their love story is over.

Ironically, years later, when England and France are at peace and Justine has given up her old spy games, she learns of a plot to discredit and destroy Adrian.  She's attacked on her way to warn him and staggers into British Service Headquarters, bleeding.

As Adrian carries her upstairs, unconscious, he knows it's a second chance at love.  If they can work together, they might just find out who wants to kill Justine and frame Adrian.  If not, they'll both fall.

And, an excerpt:Adrian with beige background


His chin was shadowed with a need to shave. She had known a boy three years ago. She did not really know this young man.

I do not know how to ask. Everything I can say is ugly. I do not want this to be ugly.

She gave her attention to pouring hot water onto the tea leaves. Rain drummed on the roof. Since they were not talking, since they were not looking at each other, it seemed very loud. He said, “As soon as you drink that, you should leave. It’s getting worse out there.”

I must do this now, before I lose my courage. “I am hoping to spend the night.”  She chose words carefully, to clarify matters beyond any possibility of misunderstanding. “It is my wish to spend the night with you, in your bed.”

Hawker was silent. He would be this self-possessed if tribesmen of the Afghan plains burst through the door and attacked him with scimitars. The refusal to be ruffled was one of his least endearing traits.

Time stretched, very empty of comment, while she swirled the teapot gently and he was inscrutable.  Finally, he took the oil lamp from the end of the mantel and busied himself adjusting the wick, lighting it with a paper spill from the fire. “The hell you say.”


In the books you love, what love stories were never told? 

For me, it's the story of Cat in Sharon and Tom Curtis' Windflower.  I would love to read his story.

I'll be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to one lucky commentator.



Secrets Under Paris

Joanna here, talking about the secrets under the belly of Paris.  Women drinking beer manet
It's 1800 or so. 
There you are, sitting in a café in Paris, relaxing, wearing somethin
g Parisian with great éclat and style. 

Unless you are feeling deeply philosophical it's unlikely you wonder about what secrets lie hidden beneath your feet.   

"All secrets are deep. All secrets become dark. That's in the nature of secrets." 
Cory Doctorow

It is not solid earth down there.

By 1800 there's fourteen miles of sewers cut through the rock under Paris.  I don't know why folks always point out how far something like this could stretch, but that amount of Wiki _Nelson,_Nelson's_Column Eighteenth Century sewer would run from the Nelson column in Trafalgar Square to Terminal Five at Heathrow, neither of which was in existence in 1800, of course.  

We aren't going to talk about Regency-era sewerage, fascinating though that subject is.  We're going to delve deeper.  We're headed to the mines that lie far below that sidewalk café.

Carririere des caputchins pridian net

Paris feeds on itself, like the Worm Ouroboros chews its own tail.  The fine building stone of Paris is pulled from beneath the city's feet. 

From Medieval times onward, folks took that excellent limestone out of the ground and threw up little trifles of work like Notre Dame and the Louvre. 


Miners burrowed down sixty feet, cut blocks, hauled them out, and left behind a labyrinth of mine shafts, tunnels, and galleries under the earth.  



  Carririere des caputchins pridian net 2  Esprit de sel  escallier cc attrib no derive Esprit de sel  rue cuvier cc attrib no derive Esprit de sel  neons3 cc attrib no derive
There's 180 miles of tunnels and quarries running under the Left Bank.  When our Regency heroine sits in a café on the Boulevard Saint-Michel, she's a stone's throw above one of those old mines. Carririere des caputchins pridian net 4

And for a while there, the world crumbled from beneath.

While the miners were digging away over the centuries, they left big pillars of stone  in place, unexcavated, and built walls to support the roof of the mines.  This worked handily to keep the place upright while the stone was being removed, which was what the  miners were concerned about. 


However — you knew there was a 'however' coming — folks eventually came along and built on the ground above, having absent-mindedly forgotten about those pesky, empty underground spaces. 

Wiki Val_de_Grace_dsc04637

 It turned out the miner's pillars and walls were not so much sufficient to support the weight of cathedrals and palaces that were being built up top.  There was a bit of an 'oops' factor when some of these grand structures began subsiding into the ground. 


The French formed a bureaucracy to deal with this.  In 1777 Louis XVI — you will recall he came to a bad end — ordered the formation of an Inspection Générale des Carrières (General Inspectorate of the Quarries) to explore and map the underground, to dig wells, to control new mining, and to build stonework to shore up the old mines.  Plaque in quarries

They marked the place, so they could find their way around.   Since the tunnels tended to run under the main streets, they carved the names of those streets in the walls, matching the routes through the mines to the streets of Paris above.  


Le petit montreur de singe savant fragonard jaconde late c18


Streets and  houses stopped giving way and sinking into the bowels of the earth, much to the general rejoicing of the Parisians.





A visitor to the quarries in 1784 describes them —

"The general height of the roof is about nine or ten feet ; but in some parts not less than 30 and even 40. In many places there is a liquor continually dropping from it, which congeals immediately, and forms a species of transparent stone, but not so fine and clear as rock crystal.

As we continued our peregrination, we thought ourselves in no small danger from the roof, which we found but indifferently propped in some places with wood much decayed. Under the houses, and many of the streets, however, it seemed to be tolerably secured by immense stones set in mortar; in other parts, where there are only fields or gardens above it, it was totally unsupported for a considerable space, the roof being perfectly level, or a plain piece of rock."


When I came across these descriptiions of the quarries I just knew there had to be a story there. 

Aaajapanese fb

In Forbidden Rose I send my characters walking through the tunnels and galleries of these old abandoned quarries.  While I've never visited myself, I consulted some of the intrepid modern 'cataphiles' who do explore there.  



This is Maggie and her cohort entering the quarries: Candle light attrib florriebassingbourne

     This was what hell had been like when it was first constructed and lay empty, before the demons moved in with their cauldrons of fire and their pitchforks.  Hell would have smelled like wet plaster before it filled with the fumes of sulfur and whatever devils smell like.

     They carried candles, bringing five small points of light into this world.  Of all the uncanny occurrences since Marguerite had descended to this place, the strangest rested here in her hand.  The candle flame stood upward, only stirring when her breath fell across it.  There were no currents of air, no connection to the winds under the heavens.

     The rock around her was damp, full of minerals, without the least trace of life.  This was the Realm of the Underworld.  The Kingdom of Darkness.  Their candles did not challenge it at all. 


Author Real Life Note here:  I lived in Paris for a number of years and not once did I feel any urge to go exploring around below ground.  I don't say I'm claustrophobic, exactly.  I would just rather not walk about in dark places deep under the ground with tons of rock hanging above me just waiting to fall down, thank you very much.

Which may be why I put my characters down there . . . 

Picture attrib coffee roboppy, Carrières one, two and six by samuel marshall at pridan net, Carrières three, four and five by espritdesel, candle by florriebassingbourne.

"Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong.  No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always go there first, and is waiting for it."
Terry Pratchett


When you read, what's the scary environment you want to see the protagonists face? 
Or, what do you most definitely not want to read about?

All that glistens is not . . . goldfish

Joanna here, talking about English Goldfish. 

You've probably asked yourself, from time to time, if there are any Shakespeare  Thomas Benjamin Kennington quotes about goldfish. 

Did Shakespeare say, "That which we call a goldfish, by any other name would be as bright"? 
Or insult some catiff with a, "Thou wimpled, reeling-ripe goldfish-licker!" 

He did not. 
Goldfish didn't make it to England till nearly a century after Shakespeare's death.  We got Shakespearean dogs and cats, camels, carp, marmosets, mackerel, and whales . . . but no goldfish. 

Basically, the goldfish is the carp who made good. 

The carp is a wide-spread, useful and tasty fish that's been domesticated for a couple millennia in China.  While the Chinese were raising carp for the table, they'd noticed a common mutation that threw an orange or gold fish Grabbing_for_goldfishin among the ordinary ones. 

After centuies of noticing that, about a thousand years ago, the Chinese set down to the serious business of breeding these bright-colored fishes as garden ornaments.  The women of the imperial court doubtless engaged in a little friendly rivalry as to the beauty and vigor of their particular line of goldfish.  They'd bring them inside in big porcelain basins to enjoy.  Especially favored courtiers would be invited over to watch the fish swim, this being before TV and Wii.

When trade routes opened in the 1600s, goldfish were freed from their splendid isolation in the Mandarin's garden and went travelling the world.  Japan first.  Then southern Europe, coming in through Portugal.  Then just about everywhere.

The Japanese Kanji characters for goldfish are 'gold' and 'fish'.  'King yo'.  In Dutch, goldfish is goudvis.  French, poisson d'or.  Spanish, carpa dorada.  Goldfish tend to be called 'goldfish'. 
When goldfish hit Europe, it settled a bit of an artistic conundrum.  Chinese  paintings had been arriving in Europe with representations of goldfish.  "Pooh," said some.  "Mythical animals." 

Turned out it wasn't artistic license. 
It was fish.

Legend has it goldfish were brought to France as a present for Madame de Pompadour.  In Russia, Prince Potemkin gave goldfish to Catherine the Great. 

Goldfish were the Tiffany trinket of the Eighteenth Century.

And across southern Europe in those years, it became a tradition for husbands to give their wives a goldfish on the first anniversary as a symbol for prosperous years to come.

1800boillyjfillesafentre crop1800boillyjfillesafentre 

Here's a pair of impeccable French goldfish from 1800 in an impeccable period fishbowl. 

Goldfish moved into England in 1728, brought over to a Sir Matthew Dekker who handed them out to his friends and neighbors in London. 

They were, when first introduced into England, considered rare and fragile.  As late as 1821, a naturalist could write,

"Great care is necessary to preserve them; for they are extremely delicate, and sensible of the least injuries of the air; a loud noise, such as that of thunder or cannon; a strong smell, a violent shaking of the vessel or a single touch, will often destroy them."

Admittedly, the survival of a goldfish in the care of a ten-year-old boy is somewhat of a crap shoot.  But it's not as bad as that.

The most illustrious patron of goldfish in Georgian England was Horace Walpole, who kept a pond of them at his home, Strawberry Hill, bred them and gifted them about Europe. 

Horace walpole  Said Walpole: 

"I have lately given count Perron some gold-fish, which he has carried in his post-chaise to Turin: he has already carried some before. The Russian minister has asked me for some too, but I doubt their succeeding there . . ."

Goldfish:  Eighteenth Century baksheesh, greasing the wheels of international diplomacy.



Walpole tells the story:  

"I Was prevented from finishing my letter yesterday, by what do you think ? By no less magnificent a circumstance than a deluge  . . .  About four arrived such a flood, that we could not see out of the windows: the whole lawn was a lake . . .  I had but just, time to collect two dogs, a couple of sheep, a pair of bantams, and a brace of gold-fish; for, in the haste of my zeal to imitate my ancestor Noah, I forgot that fish would not easily be drowned.

The goldfish by henri matisse In short, if you chance to spy a little ark with pinnacles sailing towards Jersey, open the sky-light, and you will find some of your acquaintance. You never saw such desolation ! A pigeon brings word that Mabland has fared still worse."

I can see Walpole, retreating from his flooded house with his 'brace of goldfish'.  (ETA:  This is Horace Walpole, not Robert Walpole, as I originally wrote.  Jeesh.  Pay attention, Joanna.)

That's Strawberry Hill somewhat far above, Walpole's magnificent Gothic madness.  To the left and slightly above is an entirely unrelated set of Matisse goldfish.

Elsewhere Walpole says,

"You may get your pond ready as soon as you please; the gold fish swarm: Mr. Bentley carried a dozen to town t'other day in a decanter.
You would be entertained with our fishing; instead of nets and rods and lines and worms, we use nothing but a pail and a basin and a tea-strainer, which I persuade my neighbours is the Chinese method."

It's not impossible your goldfish — if you have one — is descended from the adventurous fish of Walpole's pond at Strawberry Hill.

By the Regency, goldfish were a commonplace in the parlor, kept in goldfish  bowls that looked exactly like the modern variety.  Goldfish seem to have made 'unexceptional', affectionate presents.

In Maria Edgeworth's novel, Belinda, goldfish are sent to an invalid. — "I have  some gold fish, which you know cannot make the least noise: may I send them to her?"

This picture to the right is Kitty Fisher, Eighteenth CenNathaniel Hone portrait of Kitty Fisher, her cat, and the goldfish bowltury courtesan, with goldfish bowl and cat.

Developing on the courtesan theme, below Kitty is the courtesan Wakamurasaki playing with a goldfish.  

Folks tended to moralize about the whole 'gold' thing.  In Thomas Gray's poem, The Cat and the Gold Fish, the poor cat falls into the goldfish vase:

No master came, no servant stirr'd;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard :
A fav'rite has no friend!

Learn hence, ye fair ones, undeceiv'd,Chokosai-eisho-a-bust-portrait-of-the-courtesan-wakamurasaki-of-the-tsunotamaya-playing-with-goldfish
False steps are hard to be retriev'd,
And be with caution bold.

Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes,
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters gold.

In Regency England, if you weren't lucky enough to be gifted with goldfish, you might buy your own from the itinerant goldfish peddler.  The Regency was a great time for merchandise coming to you instead of t'other way round. 

George Dunlop, R.A., LeslieThe Goldfish Seller

In the interests of providing a full audio-visual experience, I'm going to wander far afield from the Regency and bring in Debussy's piano piece, Poisson d'or

Poisson d'or — 'Goldfish', of course.   Debussy's work was inspired by this particular lacquer artwPoissonsD'Or+19thCenturyJapaneseLaquer+MuseeClaudeDebussy+Saint-Germain-En-Layeork here to the right.  It hung in his study. 

You can listen to Poisson d'or here.  That's Magda Tagliaferro playing, and she's 92.

Debussy used to call the times when inspiration ran dry, his 'factory of  nothingness."

While you're listening to that goldfish music . . .

I became interested in the question of Regency and French Revolutionary goldfish, (allow me to pause while I rid my mind of the image of small revolutionary fish carrying banners,) because, in my book, The Forbidden Rose, my heroine keeps fish.
Well . . . she kept fish.

In this scene her chateau has been burned and looted, and naturally no one thinks about the fish in a situation like this.  It's always the innocent fish that suffer.

***** ***

Aaajapanese fb He stood, looking formidable. Behind him, dawn curved like a shell.

The wide granite pool was white as the moon.  It was cold as the moon when she dipped her hand beneath the surface of the reflection. “Will you tell me what you plan to do with me? I am naturally curious.”

“We’ll talk about it when we’re on the road. I want to get away from here. Soap.” LeBreton laid it beside the towels.  A metal box of soft and greasy-looking soap. “Probably not what you’re used to.”

“It is lovely. Thank you.”

“Don’t get any in the pool.”

Fish were poisoned by soap. She liked it that LeBreton knew that, and cared. It is in such small things that men reveal themselves.

Goldfish came and nibbled at her fingers. She had named them all when she was a child. Moses—because he parted the waters—and Blondine and fat, lazy Rousseau.  Once the noisy Jacobin riffraff took themselves off, Mayor Leclerc would come from the village with tubs to steal her fish for his own pond. He had coveted them for many years.  She hoped he would hurry. They should not be neglected in this fashion.

. . . (and later) . . .

She wore nothing at all. It was strange to be unclothed under the open sky. 

Her reflection looked up at her from the fish basin, more pale than the sky, rippling in the circles that spread where fish came to lip at the surface. The rim of the basin was gritty under her, with little puddles in every unevenness. The wind of the new day scraped her skin like a dull knife. She put her feet in the water. The slippery film of mud at the bottom of the pool crept up between her toes.

Cold. Immeasurably cold.

Quickly, before she lost her courage, she wet half the towel, rubbed water down her arms, over her stomach, hissing every breath in and out. Then up and down her thighs. She washed every scratch, every cut. There was not one of them without a sting. It was not helpful to remind herself that she was the descendent of warriors.

Moses and Rousseau and the other great rulers of the pool held themselves aloof, but many small fish came to nibble at her calves and ankles and the knuckles of her hands with little bites, like kittens.

*****  ***

Author anecdote here:  My aunt had a goldfish named Moses who lived in a big ornamental pond behind her house.  He used to come up to the top and blow bubbles when she rang a bell.  When you write your own books you get to name the fictional goldfish after goldfish you have known personally.

Anyhow . . . While goldfish were swimming happily about in English drawing rooms in 1730-ish, they didn't arrive in America till about a century later.  They showed up sometime in the early years of the Nineteenth Century.  No one knows just when.  Actress Fanny Kemble recounts finding goldfish in a pool at a florists in New York in the 1830s.

Which brings us at last to the vexatious question of goldfish versus koi. 
The cagematch.

Koi to the left.  Goldfish to the right.   

Both g-Koi_wiki commonsoldfish and koi were bred from wild carp Goldfish bfraz licence cc by nc sapopulations.  
Goldfish started out in China, a thousand years ago.  Koi arose from a different breed of carp, in Japan, in the mid Nineteenth Century. 

Koi are Johnnies-come-lately.  No Regency koi, alas.

Since I cannot resist talking about koi anyway:  The Japanese word 'koi' means simply 'carp'.  What we call koi the Japanese call 'nishikigoi'.  'Brocaded carp'. 
By chance, the Japanese word, 'koi', is a homophone  for another word that means 'affection' or 'love'.  Koi are therefore symbols of love and friendship in Japan.

In celebration of the goldfishes Blondine, Rousseau and Moses, I'll be giving away a copy of either The Forbidden Rose or the trade paperback of Spymaster's Lady, (your choice,) to one lucky poster in the comment trail.

So — what pet should the Romance heroine, (or hero,) keep?  Monkey, hedgehog, ferret, hummingbird?  Maybe an attack dog?