What the Wenches are Reading in April!

Christina here to tell you what the Wenches have been reading this month – an eclectic mix as always! With all of us being in isolation, we’ve had plenty of time to dive into our TBR piles and we hope you have too. Have a look and see if anything appeals to you!

The Forgotten SisterI’ll start off with my own April favourites: First and foremost I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Wench Nicola’s upcoming release, The Forgotten Sister – published tomorrow! – a Tudor mystery and time slip (dual time) novel. I can safely say that this is one of the best books I have read in a long time! It has everything you want from a time slip story and it was utterly, utterly brilliant!!! Nicola has managed to intertwine the story of Amy Robsart (wife of Robert Dudley in Tudor times) so cleverly with the characters in the present. Robert is part of Queen Elizabeth I’s court and Amy doesn’t seem to figure much in his plans. She needs a way out of their loveless marriage and thinks she’s hit on the perfect solution – but has she? The present day heroine Lizzie has her own problems to contend with and when her life begins to echo the happenings of the past, she has to uncover a centuries old secret in order to move forward. I couldn’t put this down and the characters will stay in my mind for a long time.

Read more

Valentine Tidbits

V-5 Andrea/Cara here, musing about traditions and how they evolve. This is, of course, the month of Love, with hearts, flowers, and chocolate—not to speak of a dizzying array of bling—filling the stores and airwaves in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. Now, I’ll confess right away that I’m rather curmudgeonly about this holiday. It’s always struck me as crassly commercial . . . I like to think Love doesn’t need to be scripted and that gifts should be personal and heartfelt—quirkily offbeat rather than perfectly polished.

V-1I know, I know, as a romance writer, I should be embracing it. And at heart I am, as anything that encourages the expression of love and friendship is a Good Thing. However, the history nerd in me couldn’t help but be curious about the history behind the holiday. And in doing a little research, I discovered some interesting—at least they are to me—things. So allow me to share a few randomly-chosen Valentine’s Day tidbits.

V-7There are three different Christian saints named Valentine. One legend says St. Valentine’s Day is named after an early priest, who defied the decree of Roman emperor Claudius II that forbade young men to marry. (He thought single men made better soldiers.) Valentine continued to perform marriages, for which he was put to death.

V-6Another variation of the legend say that while Valentine was in prison, waiting for his execution, when he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer, and sent her love letters signed “from your Valentine.”

Others claim that the origin of Valentine’s Day lie in the Roman pagan fertility ritual of Lupercalia that took place every spring in February. Goats would be sacrificed, and young men would roam through the streets slapping young women with strips of the bloody hide—its touch was supposed to make them more fertile in the coming year.

V-10During the Middle Ages, a common belief in England and France was that February 14th was the start of the mating season for birds—and thus the date became associated with the day of Love. Chaucer reinforced this idea in his writings—a quote from him reads: “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
/When every foul cometh ther to choose his mate."

The first Valentine poem is to have been written in 1415 by the Duc d’Orleans to his wife from the Tower of London, where he was imprisoned after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (It still exists and is in the British Library’s V-3manuscript collection.)

In the 1840s, Esther Howland created the first mass-produced Valentine cards, complete with lace and ribbons, in America. Today, it’s estimated that over a billion cards are sent worldwide. (And in case you were wondering, over 110 million roses are purchased for Valentine’s Day.)

V-9In the early 1860s, Richard Cadbury, who took over his father’s chocolate and cocoa business with his brother, had the inspired idea to package their fancy chocolate “assortments” in fancy decorative boxes. He was the first to create a heart-shaped box!

Okay, now that I’ve revealed my sentiments and regaled you with some “bon-bons” from history, let’s hear your thoughts about Valentine’s Day. Do you like the holiday? Do you send cards? What gift do you most like to receive? (Aside from chocolate, which I’m assuming is a given. I mean . . .who wouldn’t want chocolate. Even a curmudgeon like me!)

An Ode to the Love Letter

Love Letter 4Andrea/Cara here, I recently came upon a delightful post on the Jane Austen Center website—a History of the Love Letter. And as it’s still February, the month of Love, I’d thought I’d muse a little on the subject, too.

The post got me to thinking that it’s rather amazing that the art form of the love letter inspires people who would likely claim they have absolutely no talent for writing to express themselves with a passion and a use of imagery and language that they would never display elsewhere. (The Muse, one might say, is a powerful creative force!) 

Read more