Wonderful Wenchly Eighth Anniversary

 Joanna here, at the Great Word Wenches Eighth Blogiversary. 

 Today we're celebrating by harking back to our favorite blog posting evah!
There'll be four blog links today.  Four on Friday.

This is my own fourth Word Wenches anniversary.  I'm still the newest Wench — the baby Wench, as it were.  So proud and happy to be here.   

When I went looking fStevens the_bath mid c19or my favorite posting, I had quite a number that called to me.  I could go back to the one about women fighting with fists and swords.  Or the 'fireworks and explosives' post.  Or the one about Regency liquor.  (I sense a certain disreputable trend in my posts that had hitherto escaped my notice.)  But on the whole, I decided we'd go with a cleaner topic.  Bathing.

So here is Georgian and Regency Bathing Customs  – here.RupertBoye


Nicola says:

It’s lovely to be celebrating the 8th anniversary of the Word Wenches blog and with it our wonderful Wench readers and a huge variety of blog posts.

It was very difficult to choose a favourite from my time as a Wench and I got completely distracted reading through old posts and thinking anew about a range of fascinating topics relating to history and writing and much more besides. In the end, like Andrea, I chose one of my first posts as a wench, One Man and his Dog.

I was so excited to be a part of the group (I still am!) and so keen to share my quirky research interests with a group of like-minded people. The blog illustrates a couple of my passions – dogs and Prince Rupert of the Rhine – and I know I am not alone in loving both of these disparate subjects! In addition, Prince Rupert is a character in my current work in progress and so there is a nice connection from one of my early Wench posts to my writing now.

So here is a link to the blog post, with thanks to my fellow wenches for being such an amazing group and to our readers for being such  fun to chat with!

Wenches sharpCara/Andrea here,

I think one of the reasons the Word Wenches have thrived for eight years in an internet landscape where sites come and go at the speed of light is because we all have wide-ranging and eclectic interests. (that’s an erudite way of saying we are quirky!) Which makes choosing a favorite from the blogs I’ve done over the years no easy task. Like a magpie, I tend to collect bright shiny tidbits of arcane information. I call it research . . . and usually the esoteric historical information I find fascinating does end up in my books. But most, I just find the stuff fun to know.

However, after going over my contributions to the blog, I’ve decided to spotlight the very first post I did for as a Word Wench. There are two reasons—firstly because I was—and still am—thrilled to be part of such an amazing group of writers. Not only do we share a passion for writing and history, but on a more personal level, we have become a close-knit, supportive group of best friends. Secondly, I’m choosing it because it Wenches gunfireillustrates the sort of offbeat historical subject that set fire to my imagination. And what makes it even more fun is that there is an audience of kindred spirits who seem to share my passion. So without further ado, here is a link to the history of gunpowder. And I’ll also add my own colorful fireworks of thanks to all you readers whose enthusiasm for our posts keeps us going!

 Sherrie drops in to say —Image001

From Sherrie Holmes and Sparky Tabasco, happy anniversary to all the Wenches for 8 wonderful years! As your  blogmistress, I've been privileged to come along for the ride from the very beginning. It's been a trip! I can remember when I was first approached by Mary Jo about researching blog venues and then becoming the blogmistress to keep things running smoothly behind the scenes. Blogging had really exploded back then, and many authors were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the blogosphere. Now, blogs are a great way for authors and readers to connect, and a side benefit has been the wonderful friendships that have been formed as a result. Here’s to another glorious 8 years!

BathingmenAnd Jo:.

I was delighted to be invited to join the Word Wenches back in 2006, and then it seemed quite an achievement to reach our anniversary in May 2007. Of course we wanted to do a group blog worthy of the milestone, so what else but Getting Naked With the Wenches? The topic was "nakedness in the past — the fiction and the non-fiction."

I pulled together the first of three posts on nakedness. In this one the Wenches discussed bathing habits — naked or not?– and even the definition of nakedness, which uncovered (sorry!) this from the OED. 1761:  "The streets were…filled with naked people, some with shirts and shifts on only, and numbers without either." There are pictures.

We also discussed nakedness in sex. No pictures in the blog, but there's a link, with appropriate warnings. Enjoy!

 Stay tuned for Friday's posting when we'll hear from Anne, Pat, Susan and Mary Jo.  On Friday we'll offer a plentitudeand a half of Wench Book Swag to lucky commenters on either of these posts.  What kind of book swag?  Let me say — ARC!  Let me say — Newly released books.  Let me say — audiobook!

 So …  What's your favorite Wench post from the eight years of Wenchdom?

Jo Beverley reveals SEDUCTION IN SILK

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo:

I pounced on the opportunity to interview Word Wench Jo Beverley about her new release, Seduction in Silk, just out from Signet Penguin.  The story is set in Jo’s Georgian Malloren World, in 1760s England.  Jo is the Grand Master (Grand Mistress?) of the marriage of convenience romance, and SiS is another distinguished member of that tribe.

Jo, you once said that you were addicted to marriages of convenience.  Could you explain why you enjoy them so much? 

JB: I think it’s the forced intimacy between strangers. So many aspects of courtship are familiar in real life, but not many of us, male or female, are pushed into bed with a stranger. I like to pay attention to the man as well as the woman, because it won’t necessarily be easy for him. In An Unwilling Bride, the hero Lucien wonders if he’ll be able to perform, because he realizes he’s never set out to have sex with a woman without desiring her at the time.

SedinsilksmallSo I think it’s a great dramatic situation, but I also find the fantasy erotic. I wonder how many of the Wench readers feel the same.

MJP:  Tell us about the delicious Peregrine Perriam, and his very reluctant lady, Claris! 

JB: Perry is one of those characters who turn up and surprise. I can’t even remember how he came to be. In An Unlikely Countess the hero needed a friend, and there was Perry. He was such an odd match for Cate (yes, that’s the hero’s name — Catesby) that I had to come up with a backstory for my own satisfaction. (Cate had a year on the town when young which was so wild that his father tossed him into the army.)

Cate by that time is a career soldier. Perry is a Town Beau. He’s a younger son set to serve his family’s interests in London, at court, in society, in all the offices of power, and in any other sneaky way he can find. He loves it, and has no An Unlikely Countessinterest in rural life, which is why inheriting a country manor at the beginning of Seduction in Silk is such a pain in the you-know-where, not to mention the marriage forced on him.

He doesn’t expect to have difficulty in getting an impoverished clergyman’s daughter to the altar. She’ll leap at the chance. He’ll install her in Perriam Manor with the income to do with as she wishes and get back to his real life. When she insists on a marriage in name only, he has no objection at all.

Getting her to that point isn’t easy, however, because Claris has no interest in marriage. In general I find impoverished heroines who are dead set against marriage hard to believe, but Claris has survived her parents’ tortuous marriage and her father’s almost insane domination. Having gained freedom, and having enough money to survive on, she doesn’t want to give it up, especially at the demand of a stranger.

Also, she comes from strong women, on both sides. Perry realizes she has a scandalously eccentric grandmother (who is in the book) and an insanely vengeful virago of a mother. No wonder she tries to shoot him.

She does move into a grander world, however. Here’s a short fun video I made about Georgian dress and Claris.

MJP:  What are you working on now for next year?

JB: I’m going back to my Regency world, that of the Company of Rogues. It’s been a while, and readers have been asking for a story about David Kerslake, the heroine’s brother from The Dragon’s Bride. He begins the book as the local smuggling master as well as the Earl of Wyvern’s estate steward. He ends it as the earl with many problems to deal with. A biggie is that the earldom is bankrupt, so he needs to marry money. A Shocking Delight will be out next April.

MJP:  You’re starting to move into the brave new world of indie publishing.  Could Dtk22you tell us more about your plans there?

JB: It is exciting, isn’t it, Mary Jo? You’re ahead of me there. It’s such a great world for authors these days because we’re able to get our work out to readers directly if we choose. I’ve e-pubbed some of my previously published novellas. There’s a page for them here.

The one at the top is the first novella I’ve written directly for e-readers. It’s a sort of lead in to SinS. The protagonists are new, but Perry plays a small but crucial part.

Also, some of my early books have not been available for e-readers, and I’ve just Ubepubcorrected that. The first five Company of Rogues books plus the second Malloren, Tempting Fortune, are now e-pubbed, and though I’ve hired help it’s been lovely to be in control of the situation. Though I must say that it’s hard to find stock photos of clean-shaven, fairly slim blond men! Why is that? I even searched Scandinavian sites. With An Unwilling Bride I gave up and have just a woman on the cover. It suits the title that she seem alone.

MJP:  Do you have an excerpt of Seduction in Silk to share?

JB: After having been driven off a pistol-point, Perry has returned to Claris’s cottage to lay out the advantages.

    “I can’t claim great wealth, Miss Mallow, but I can provide a very comfortable life for my wife. What’s more, and you seem to have failed to grasp this, I’m at your mercy. You may demand what you will.”
    “Except, it seems, that you leave and never bother me again.”
    “Except that,” he agreed. “But you may continue to live here if you wish, or I can offer Perriam Manor as an alternative residence. It’s of modest size, but in good repair and well furnished, though in an old style. I’m sure it’s cozy in winter and pleasant in summer. It’s surrounded by parkland and gardens that I would judge adequate but ripe for improvement, if gardening is your true delight.”
    Claris kept a stony face. “Alas, with you present, sir, all would be spoiled.”
    “Then you’ll be delighted to know that I would rarely be there. I’m much engaged in Town matters and can only enjoy rural delights now and then.”
    “Even one day a year would be too much.” His amiable confidence was stirring her temper and for once she welcomed it. “Why am I debating this with you?” She loosened her arms to point at the door. “Begone!”
    “Consider,” he said, completely unmoved. “You would be the mistress of a comfortable domain, and enjoy its income. Did I not mention that?”
    “Will you not leave!”
    “The income of the manor would be yours to do with as you wish,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “You would need for nothing.”
    “Except my independence. I would have a husband, a lord and master.”
    “Alas, true, but I assure you that I am far too busy to abuse my powers.”
    “Busy? What if you have an idle moment, sir? Leave!”
    “I must remain until you change your mind.”
    Breathing hard, Claris saw he meant it. He was disregarding every word she spoke. “You . . . you . . .” She grabbed the pistol and pointed it.
    “Claris . . . ,” Athena said.
    “Leave,” she growled, “or I will shoot you.”
    The smile widened and his eyes lit. 
    He was laughing at her?
    She cocked the pistol, the click, click loud in the room.
    “You won’t fire it,” he said.
    “Oh, won’t I?” Claris closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger.
    A tremendous boom deafened her.

JP: Clearly Perry doesn’t die, or it’d be a very short and unusual book, but that’s certainly a turning point!

SedinsilksmallMJP:  Thanks so much for introducing us to Perry and Claris, Jo.  Having read the book, I guarantee it’s every bit as good as it sounds! 

Jo will give away a copy of Seduction in Silk to one commenter between now and midnight Saturday.  Share your thoughts on marriages of convenience, and the temptations of shooting a man who just won't listen!


JobigblueHi, Jo here, blogging about Eton College, one of Britains top public schools — ie private schools. Don't ask! What I asked was, at what age did boys go there?

It's really only a detail for my book. My heroine's brothers are going to go to Eton, and I wondered what the normal age was for boys to start there in the 18th century. I've poked at this detail a fewEton times before, but without great need to know. However,  the twins Peter and Tom are eleven and I wanted to know how unusual that would be. My general impression from previous looks is that about 13 was the norm. 

So I simply looked for details of some men who'd attended Eton in the 18th century — and found a pretty confused picture. Isn't that always the way it goes? Most boys went in their early teens, but some for only a short while. A few seemed to go as chidren, and those going into the navy left early.

I didn't specifically pick military men. These are what turned up.

Did heirs go to school?

I tried to find an heir to a title who was educated at Eton but failed, though I wouldn't claim my search was exhaustive. Those I found were younger sons who inherited when one or more older brothers died. So it might be fair to assume that heirs were educated at home, learning estate management as well as other subjects and going on the grand tour rather than into the military or the law.

I think the brief notes below give an insight into the pattern of education for the well-to-do, and also one not-well-to-do. Enjoy.

Admiral Sir George Cranfield Berkeley GCB (10 August 1753 – 25  February 1818), naval officer and politician. He attended Eton College from 1761 to 1766 — aged 8 to 13 — and then joined the navy.

Lord George Gordon (26 December 1751 – 12 November 1793) was a British politician whose name was attached to the "Gordon Riots" of  1780. He attended Eton College from 1758 to 1765 — aged 7 to 13 — and then joined the navy.

General John Hely-Hutchinson, 2nd Earl of Donoughmore GCB (15 May 1757– 29 June 1832) soldier and politician. "Educated at Eton College (1767–73) and Magdalen College, Oxford (1773).
He entered the army in May 1774 as cornet, and was promoted lieutenant
in 1775, captain in 1776, major in 1781, and lieutenant-colonel in 1783." (Dictionary of National Biography.) So at Eton from 10 to 16, then briefly to university and entered the army at 17. It would seem university wasn't for him.

Lieutenant Colonel John Enys (17 December 1757 – 30 July 1818) soldier."John was the youngest of six children and spent much of his childhood at Eton." He joined the army in 1775, aged 18. Unfortunately I couldn't find more about him. How young was he when he went to Eton?

Richard Porson (25 December 1759 – 25 September 1808) scholar. He came from a simple family, but his parents educated him to a high standard, and then patrons provided more education. Eventually money was raised to send him to Eton in 1774, aged 15 and stayed there until 18, when he went on to Cambridge University.

Henry Jerome de Salis, FRS, FSA, (20 August 1740 – 2 May 1810) was an  English churchman.
In 1753 de Salis was sent with two of  his brothers, Charles (1736-1781) and Peter (1738-1807), to Eton (he 
left c1757, aged 17. He went at 13, but his brothers were 15 and 17
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS (24 February 1743 – 19 June 1820) naturalist, botanist 
and patron of the natural sciences.Joseph was educated at Harrow  School from the age of 9, and at Eton College from 1756, aged 13. (Harrow is another major public school. It's also where my Company of Rogues came together.)

John Dyke Acland(1747–1778), army officer and politician. He
was educated at Eton
College (1763–4) and University College, Oxford, whence he matriculated
on 1 April 1765.(Details from Dictionary of National Biography.) So he went to Eton at 16 and left Oxford at 178. His next step was the grand tour. Perhaps not academically inclined?

Richard Gardiner (1723–1781) At Eton College from 1738 to 1739 aged 15 to 16,  and was admitted on 15 January 1742 to St Catharine's College, Cambridge. An unexplained gap there.

Anthony Champion (1725–1801), poet and politician, attended Eton College from 1739 to 1742 — 14 to 17.

Charles Townsend, first Baron Bayning (1728–1810), politician. He was educated at Eton College (1742–5) aged 14 to 17, and Clare College, Cambridge, and graduated MA in 1749

William Wellesley-Pole, 3rd Earl of Mornington 1763 – 1845. Educated at Eton (1774–1776) 11 to 13  before 
entering the Royal Navy.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington1769– 1852),He went to the diocesan  school in Trim when at Dangan, Mr. Whyte's Academy when in Dublin, and  at Brown's School in Chelsea when in London. Eton, 1781 to 1784 — 12 to 15.

John Charles Villiers, third earl of Clarendon (1757–1838), politician, was born on 14 November 1757, the second son of the first earl of Clarendon, diplomatist and politician. He was educated at Eton College (1766–74) 9-17 He went on to university and the law and became earl much later.

Do you see any interesting patterns here? Do you have any interesting 18th century Etonians to aMismistdd?

Has the Christmas insanity hit yet? 



Where and what

DewflowerHi, Jo here, first sharing a photograph my husband took of dew on a crocosmia flower. Click on it to expand. It's really pretty.

We're finally having some consistently nice weather here in Devon, though it has the autumn chill in it, and some of the annuals which seemed to have decided their year was over have perked up again, which is lovely.

I'm not, however, blogging about flowers and gardens today, but on geography/nationhood and historical romance. I'm hoping to read your thought on why as readers we seem to have such a fixed idea about what stories suit what places, particularly in Britain.

In the past, Edinburgh and Dublin had societies to rival London, but have you read an historical romance set there? If you have, I'd truly like to know so I could extend my study of this phenomenen. It seems to me that we reserve the aristocratic delights for England, and mostly for London, and expect rougher adventures in Scotland.

Check out this great site about Georgian Edinburgh, with plenty of photographs.

I mentioned geography above, because some people might say the difference in stories is dictated by geography, but the land doesn't always follow national lines. Large parts of northern England are very similar to lowland Scotland, so could be suitable for wilder stories, but I haven't seen any set in Northumberland, Durham, or Cumbria/Cumberland. Know any?

(Yesterday I listened to an interesting radio programme about the Isle of Bute, off the west coast of Scotland, not far from Glasgow. I learned that it straddles the geographic/georlogical division of Scotland, so that even though it's only about 15 miles long the northern part is highland granite and the southern part lowland sandstone.)

Ireland is a special case because of it's troubled history. Perhaps assemblies and balls and characters concerned about fashion and frolics simply don't seem appropriate, but it was an elegant, fashionable place in the Georgian age. This photograph could as easily be of London at the time. What do you think? Is it Ireland's struggles that make fun romance sit poorly there?

(Photo credit. Henrietta Street, Dublin "The original Georgian
street, it dates from the 1720's. It featured recently in David
Dimbleby's "How We Built Britain" as an example of urban decay."   © Copyright JP and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

Thunder2Then we have Wales. I confess to not knowing enough about Wales so I don't know if Cardiff or any other town there had a gracious Georgian age. I do know that there are very few Welsh historical romances. Mary Jo set Thunder and Roses there, and Mary Balogh, a Welsh woman herself, set at least one novel there, but it simply doesn't seem to suit the romantic imagination of most readers.

I do think this is reader driven, but we writers are all readers, too, with many of the same pre-conceptions and emotional responses.

On to England. In the Georgian age, the north was far from the
administrative south and could be wilder and unruly. My Countess of
Arradale, with vast estates in Yorkshire, rules with a medieval touch
still, summoning her laborers and tenants like an army when required. Instead of the rapacious duke dragging a woman off to his highland lair, why not a chilly place in the wilder heartland of Yorkshire. It wouldn't spark the reader imagination in quite the same way, would it?

(The photo is of a farm near Hathersage, which is actually just over the border into Derbyshire, where the Peak District is wonderfully dramatic. I have the pic because my father-in-law's brother worked there, and my father-in-law frequently visited.)

So let's explore this subject, and there's a book prize for a random pick of responses.

First, what historical romances come to mind set in Ireland and Wales? Any favorites set there? You can include earlier books if you wish, but I'm mainly looking at 1700 on.

If you can't think of any, of if you've not liked any you've tried, what's wrong with Wales and Ireland as a setting?

If you think it's a great setting, are there types of romances you'd love to see set there?

What about Scotland? No shortage of Scottish romances, but is there a different type of story you'd love to see set there?

And England, would you like more stories set in the wilder parts? Do you have some great ones of that sort to share here?

The winner will get the choice of Dangerous Joy, a Rogues book set in Ireland, or Secrets of the Night, a Malloren novel set in wilder Yorkshire.

Have at it!




Forbidden River

Hi, I'm Jo, and I like to put words together oddly. *G*

I'm not actually blogging about a forbidden river, though the two words do begin to conjure stories…..That's an interesting way to spark the imagination, actually.

Odd word pairings.

Randomly pick a noun and adjective and see what new ideas it sparks. Even "random spark" takes my mind somewhere. Or write a noun and then add an adjective that doesn't fit. "gruesome garden" "perfumed tractor" "leisurely labour"

I know, let's make this your challenge, should you choose to accept it. Do as I said — pick a noun, then an adjective that doesn't fit, and then share what story idea comes up. Don't worry, you don't have to write the story; only a sentence or so. For example, gruesome garden leads easily to a garden in which someone has been burying corpses, but it could be a garden where all the plants are poisonous. A perfumed tractor could belong to a Legally Blond sort of farmer, or perhaps it's used in the lavender fields of Provence.

Go for it. There's a prize for the one that delights me most — a copy of the reissue of Forbidden. Or, if you are willing to wait a few months, the reissue of Dragon's Bride or An Unwilling Bride. They're all books from my Company of Rogues world.

Forbidden For2011

The title still bugs me! I had a number in mind, though I can't remember what they were, but in 1994 single word titles were the rage and they insisted. I should have stood firm for Scandalous, even though there'd been a couple, but I let the publisher go with Forbidden because it hadn't been used. And found my book one of three Forbiddens that year!

I suppose it was "forbidden" for Serena to rape Francis — for that's what it amounts to — but the rest was pure scandal and social chaos.

Serena had been sold into marriage at fifteen, and to "Randy" Riverton, a disgusting older man who kept her at his country estate and used her as a sexual plaything. Now Riverton's dead, her brothers are planning a second sale, so Serena runs, determined never to stay free, even if it means becoming a courtesan. Far better than a married slave.

Ubnew On the road, she's helped by the gallant, and virginal, Francis Lord Middlethorpe, who's on the point of proposing marriage to the sadly crippled daughter of a duke…..

I have mixed feelings about the new cover. That does look like Serena, but she'd never be looking so provocatively at anyone. I like to think it portrays a time after the end of the book, when she and Francis are enjoying a provocative game. After all, why else would she be naked under her gown?

This is the cover for the new issue of An Unwilling Bride. I suppose it's runaway bride! And a very modern wedding dress with a zip down the back. But it's pretty, and there's plenty of white space for my name and the title.

Going Up The River Somewhere

I'm writing A Scandalous Countess at the moment (out next February) and Georgia, Dowager Countess of Maybury, aged twenty, is disgusted when her father forbids her to remove to London. She's dutifully spent her mourning year in rural Worcestershire, and she wants to get back to life. It's 1765, however, and to use the old phrase, the peasants are revolting — too complex a story for here — and so the best he'll offer is a visit to her dull sister, Winifred, who lives out of town, in Hammersmith.

A modern reader might say "Hammersmith!" in the same tone of disbelief as Georgia did, but for different reasons. Nowadays, Hammersmith isn't a particularly elegant place. Back in 1765 it was an acceptable retreat from the dirty city, but favoured by scholars and clergy. Before her husband's death, their retreat by the river had been in fashionable Chelsea.

Hofparl So when we had reason to go up to London, we took a boat trip from Westminster, right by the Houses of Parliament, to Kew, where the famous Kew Gardens are. (Click on any picture to see the full size view.)

Once out of central London, it's surprising how much green there is, and the Thames now is very clean and healthy. There is a wide range of birds living on its edges. I'll have a better idea of what Georgia sees when she travels by river from Hammersmith into Town, to the York Steps, near St. James's, where the completely ineligible but surprisingly appealing Lord Dracy awaits to escort her.

Here's Hammersmith today at the river side, where we can still see the Georgian houses. Hammersmith I'm  adding a couple of other pictures we took along the way.

But don't forget the contest. Put together those two jarring words and say what the phrase brings to mind.

I've created a couple of Amazon stores just for my books. If you want to see them all in one place, this is the American one.

And this is the British one.

All best wishes from Devon, where we're ready to start the rain dance. We haven't had rain for months. This is England?????


But it's good for getting into the mood of 1765, which was an unusually hot summer, perhaps inflaming tempers.