A Closer Look at “A Touch of Honor: Book 7 in the Realm Series”

iStock_000003550914_Large.jpgWhat can I say about this book? I never planned it, but it has become one of my favorites in the Realm series. Originally, I planned three books featuring the heroes of what is now Book  1, 2 and 4 of the series. The other four gentlemen of the Realm would possibly have their own novellas. However, as I added more depth to those minor characters, soon I had a full-fledge series.

The hero of A Touch of Honor is Lord Swenton (John Swenton), a baron living in Yorkshire. He joined the Realm after his father’s passing, under circumtances that become clearer as the novel progresses. He is the strong, quiet type that rarely smiles, so if one engenders the turning up of his lips, one has received a great gift. His mother deserted him and the previous baron. The former Lady Swenton lives on the Continent, where she is well known for her flamboyant ways and her love of art and artists. Swenton manages to reconnect with her when he became part of the Realm, but he never speaks of this woman he visits often as being his mother. Many think she could be his lover.

The book opens with Swenton planning to bring his mother’s body home to the family estate. He uses the opportunity to visit with Miss Satiné Aldridge, who has assisted in the past. Swenton was among those who recovered the Misses Satiné and Cashémere Aldridge from a collapsed glass cone in book 3 of the series. Satiné had been kidnapped by a spurned courter of Cashémere. As the women are identical twins, the man did not realize that he had taken the wrong girl. When he learns of his mistake, he attempts to rape Satiné as revenge on Cashémere. Satiné’s reputation is ruined, and so her uncle, Baron Ashton, escorts her to the Continent. He travels with her and sees Satiné settled in Italy before returning to England. We learn from Ashton that Satiné considers herself a “fallen” woman, so she acts as such. 

During the recovery mission, Swenton takes a liking to the girl. In reality, he is fooling himself, for all his former comrades have chosen to marry and find happiness, and he thinks it will be easy to give his heart to the the emotionally wounded Satiné, for he himself has known great sorrow in his life. He assumes that she will accept his overtures and all will be well. [For those of you who have followed the series, you will recall that I originally planned for Satiné to marry Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford, back in book 4. However, I found I did not much care for her character and did not feel she deserved one of my heroes.] 

In Italy, Swenton calls upon Satiné’s residence, where he encounters Miss Isolde Neville. This is the woman his solicitor has hired as Miss Satiné’s companion. John has made it his business to know something of Satiné’s life and to keep a connection to the woman he admires. Although they do not know each other personally, Miss Neville regularly corresponds with him regarding Satiné’s household. He thinks of offering Miss Aldridge his hand, but Satiné’s does not immediately receive him upon his arrival. She claims to be ill, but, in truth, she is recovering from a pregnancy. She fell in love with a prince, who wooed her, seduced her, and left her. John agrees to assist her. He says he will claim the child as his, but he arrived too late for the child to be his legitimate heir. They will marry, and he will provide for Satiné and the child. 

Satiné reluctantly agrees, but she is not satisfied with what appears to be her only choice in life. Her sisters have married a duke and an earl. Being a baroness would place her below them. Being a princess would establish her superiority. Secretly, she contacts the prince with news of the boy’s birth while setting sail with John for England. She arranges a “fake” wedding before they leave, and she postpones the consummation of their vows, over and over again.  Obsessed with her beauty and her figure, Satiné starves herself to remain thin. She consumes more laudanum than she should to ease the pain of her starvation. 

Meanwhile, John’s true attraction to Miss Neville grows. Isolde Neville is the only daughter of an Irish baron, who is part of the men attempting to bring the Elgin Marbles to England, Her father’s ship went down in a storm, and Lucinda is on the Continent in hopes of finding leads to his survival of the disaster. She has taken the position as Miss Aldridge’s companion for enough money to continue her search.

Like John, Isolde proves true and loyal and honorable—a woman with scruples. She teaches John how to care for and how to tend the ailing Satiné. They become quite a force together until she learns of her father’s presence in a hospital in an English port. Only the need to see her father well can force this pair apart. [Just as a side note, I adored John and Isolde so much that they make a return visit in my latest book, The Earl Claims His Comfort, as Comfort Neville, the heroine of the tale, is Isolde’s cousin.]

Although his feelings for Isolde grow stronger each day, John is above all things, a man of honor. Even after learning something of Satiné’s treachery, he remains by Miss Aldridge’s side, for the world thinks them married. When the prince arrives on John’s doorstep to claim his child, the charade he has played begins to crumble. There are more twists and turns in this story than any of the others, and you will not be disappointed. 

And do not forget the Realm’s enemies. Murhad Jamoot is determined to find the emerald he believes one of the Realm has stolen. He has been thwarted at each turn, but as Swenton is the only member of the group left, Jamoot’s attempts become more desperate and more devious. 

ATOH eBook Cover Concept.jpgA Touch of Honor: Book 7 of the Realm Series

[historical fiction; Regenecy romance; romantic suspense]

For two years, BARON JOHN SWENTON has thought of little else other than making Satiné Aldridge his wife; so when he discovers her reputation in tatters, Swenton acts honorably: He puts forward a marriage of convenience that will save her from ruination and provide him the one woman he believes will bring joy to his life. However, the moment he utters his proposal, Swentons instincts scream he has made a mistake: Unfortunately, a man of honor makes the best of even the most terrible of situations.

MISS SATINE ALDRIDGE has fallen for a man she can never possess and has accepted a man she finds only mildly tolerable. What will she do to extricate herself from Baron Swentons life and claim the elusive Prince Henrí? Obviously, more than anyone would ever expect.

MISS ISOLDE NEVILLE has been hired to serve as Satiné Aldridges companion, but her loyalty rests purely with the ladys husband. With regret, she watches the baron struggle against the impossible situation in which Miss Aldridge has placed him, while her heart desires to claim the man as her own. Yet, Isolde is as honorable as the baron. She means to see him happy, even if that requires her to aid him in his quest to earn Miss Satiné’s affections.

The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. Publishers Weekly

Sacrifice and honor, betrayal and redemption, all make for an exceptionally satisfying romance. A Touch of Honor is a mesmerizing story of extraordinary love realized against impossible odds. Collette Cameron, Award-Winning Author

Enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter 16…

The sound of a ruckus below interrupted her thoughts. Isolde rushed from her rooms to encounter the man over whom she had spent too many hours in daydreams. Lord Swenton carried his wife toward the lady’s quarters. Lady Swenton’s limp form announced the baroness had discovered a new supply of laudanum.

“My Goodness!” she rasped and then raced ahead of the baron to open the connecting doors. She jerked the counterpane free of the bed to permit him to deposit Lady Swenton upon the mattress. “What happened?” Isolde asked as she undressed her mistress.

“Did you know?” the baron asked in accusatory tones. He stood beside his wife’s bed, his hands fisting and unfisting, arms akimbo.

Isolde’s fingers released the clasp of the baroness’s necklace and turned her mistress to her stomach so she could unlace Lady Swenton’s gown. Out of breath, she asked testily, “Did I know what?”

Lord Swenton’s voice had turned cold. “When you convinced me to escort my mother’s remains to York, did you know Lady Swenton meant to remain in London to meet her lover? Or was it your purpose for me to encounter Prince Henrí tonight? You did say this evening would be a monumental event.”

Isolde’s fingers froze in their task. “Have you taken leave of your senses?” Her hands wildly brushed away his allegations. “I have been nothing but loyal to you. Other than Lord Morse, I am ignorant of a potential lover, and I have never heard of Prince Henrí.”

“What of a heated spat between your mistress and Lady Fiona?” he accused.

“Nothing!” Isolde said defiantly. “When I came to Miss Aldridge’s service, the baroness was some four months with child. She withdrew from her social engagements shortly after my taking the position. I never held the pleasure of an acquaintance with the former baroness.” With a huff of exasperation, Isolde returned to Lady Swenton’s unconscious state. “If you will pardon me, I must attend to your wife.” Despite her best efforts, a soft sob escaped. He had never spoken to her harshly.

Within a heartbeat, the baron had circled the bed and had caught her to him. He drove Isolde backward until her spine was pressed against the interior door and his hard body plastered her front. “Forgive me,” he whispered roughly against her temple. “I never meant to harm you. Please Isolde, I have acted a fool.”

Some dark, inexplicable passion rushed through her, and Isolde instinctively pressed her center to his manhood. The white fire of need ripped the breath from her chest, and she buried her face into the crook of his neck. “We should not…”

“Should not what?” His voice sounded as breathy as did hers. “Should not claim one moment of happiness?”

Isolde could not dismiss how aware she was of this man’s masculinity. “One moment would never be enough.” She could taste the salt upon his skin, and Isolde ran her tongue along the crease of his neck. A groan of desire rewarded her efforts.

A rush of silence followed before Lord Swenton placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head and lifted his body from hers. Immediately, she experienced the bleakness of his withdrawal. “Some way,” he rasped as he gently cuffed her cheek. “I mean to finish this. For now, please assist me with Lady Swenton. I cannot fathom what the future holds, but please know somehow my soul will find its way to you.”

After they had undressed Satiné, they tucked his baroness into her bed to sleep away the effects of the medicinal. Then by silent consent, he escorted Miss Neville into his sitting room to discuss what had happened earlier.

“Evidently, my wife has discovered someone within my household to keep her confidences,” he disclosed when he had seated Miss Neville across from him and had poured her a small sherry for her and for him a well-deserved brandy.


No doubt Sally,” she asserted. “The girl has ambitions, but has not yet learned subtlety.”

Deep in thought, John nodded his agreement. “I will return the girl to Thornhill tomorrow. The duke has sent Mrs. Tailor and the boy ahead to Marwood Manor. I will see Sally returned to him.”

Miss Neville sat straighter. “Might you inform me of what occurred this evening?”

John closed his eyes to the shame racing to his heart. He dealt better with chaos when he could keep busy; this “rush” to wait endlessly vexed him greatly. “Lady Swenton could barely speak or move. If not for Lady Worthing’s assistance, the prince and much of the ton would have learned of Satiné’s dependency on laudanum. The only saving grace was my wife will likely not recall the appearance of Prince Henrí.”

“Is this prince Rupert’s father?” she asked quietly.

“In appearance, it would seem so. The boy has the countenance of the Prince of Rintoul. However, Prince Henrí claimed no previous knowledge of Rupert until he received an anonymous note announcing the child’s birth. He accused Lady Swenton of keeping secrets.” John recalled the familiar way the prince had spoken to Satiné, and fury rushed to his mind again.

“What does the prince mean to do?”

John attempted to place the tumult of his soul aside. “I have convinced Prince Henrí to call upon my household in a week. I did not think it wise for him to be seen entering Swenton Hall, but the prince made it clear he means to claim Rupert.”

“What will you do?” she whispered into the familiar silence that rested between them. John required these moments or he would run mad into the streets. The lady held no idea how important she had become to his sanity.

“What will I do?” he repeated. Every emotion within John rushed into the dark void of helplessness. “The question is what will my baroness do when her former lover and the father of her child makes an appearance on my threshold?”


A Closer Look at the Other Books in the Series…

A Touch of Scandal: Book 1 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Velvet: Book 2 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Cashémere: Book 3 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Grace: Book 4 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Mercy: Book 5 of the Realm Series

Posted in book excerpts, British history, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Ireland, Living in the Regency, marriage, mystery, publishing, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Experiment with Regency-Era “Shampoo,” a Guest Post from Rebecca H. Jamison

One of my fellow Austen Authors conducted an experiment with the methods of shampooing one’s hair during the Regency era and reported on it during her November post. I hope you enjoy her tongue-in-cheek remarks as much as I did. 

I once watched a reality show about a family who chose to live like Victorians for six months. One of the most memorable segments for me was when the mom and daughters snuck out to a drugstore to buy modern shampoo. They simply couldn’t stand to wash their hair the way Victorians did.

This made me wonder how people washed their hair during the Regency era, so I did a little research. I discovered that it was during the Regency Era that “shampooing” became available to people in England. Sake Dean Mahomed opened a shampooing bath in Brighton, England in 1814. He claimed that shampoo was “a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints”. His “shampoos” were not what we think of today as shampoos, though. They were more like massages with aromatic oils.

People generally used harsh lye soaps dissolved in water to wash their hair. Hair powders had gone out of style by the Regency Era, but women still used pomades made from lard and grease. It’s likely many people also used egg washes to clean their hair. The Jane Austen Centre published a recipe on their blog, entitled “Wash for the Hair” that was originally published in The Mirror of Graces by a Lady of Distinction in 1811. It reads as follows:

This is a cleanser and brightener of the head and hair, and should be applied in the morning.
Beat up the whites of six eggs into a froth, and with that annoint the head close to the roots of the hair. Leave it to dry on; then wash the head and hair thoroughly with a mixture of rum and rose-water in equal quantities.

The blog notes that “it’s worth a try . . .”, so I thought I’d try it. Here are my before pictures:

As you can see, my hair is on the wavy side, and in true Regency style, I am not wearing any makeup.

The recipe calls for six egg whites. I didn’t think I needed that many, so I used only four. (It turns out, I could have used only one or two.)

My mom taught me how to separate eggs when I was a teenager, and trying to keep the yolks out of the whites was probably one of the most frustrating things I ever experienced in the kitchen. I did finally master the technique, but I don’t think you need to be too much of a perfectionist when you’re making an egg wash for your hair.

The recipe says to beat the eggs into a froth, so I whipped them around for a minute with a wire whisk, which made me wonder whether people had wire whisks during Regency times. I looked it up, and it turns out the wire whisk was a Victorian inventions. During the Regency Era, people probably improvised wood brushes to beat egg whites.

Annointing my roots with whipped egg whites was quite an experience. It felt like a stiff hair gel, and you can probably tell from the picture below that instead of making my hair look wet and flat, my hair stuck out more and more as I massaged it in. I flattened it down a bit for this picture.

I followed the instructions, leaving the egg white on to dry, which, frankly, I was dreading. However, it wasn’t that terrible. It felt much like the curl cream I use and didn’t have any scent. It also dried into a nice, clear shine.

The recipe says to rinse thoroughly with equal parts rum and rose water. Since I don’t have either of those items in my house, I looked up the prices–both items run around fifteen dollars. I wasn’t about to spend thirty dollars on my experimental shampoo treatment, so I improvised with a vinegar, water, and lavender essential oil rinse.

It took a lot more rinsing than I anticipated to get the egg white out of my hair. Had I been actually using rum for that task, I would have used up an entire pirate’s boatload, but since I live in modern times, I simply stood under the shower after I used up all my vinegar solution.

My hair still felt rough and tangled after the rinse, and I was tempted to apply some conditioner. I was glad I didn’t, however, because once I combed it out, it felt perfectly conditioned. Also, my hair had a pleasant lavender scent.

Surprisingly, my hair turned out pretty well. Here are the after pictures:

My son thought that my hair looked better with the egg treatment than with my normal shampoo regimen. He may be right, but the egg treatment certainly took longer, especially since I had to let the egg whites dry on my hair before rinsing them out. From start to finish, it probably took me about five hours to wash, dry, rinse, and dry my hair. No wonder the recipe says to start in the morning!

This coming week when we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I will add shampoo to the long list of modern conveniences for which I am grateful. What about you? Have you ever tried an old-fashioned beauty treatment? How did it turn out? What modern conveniences are you most grateful for?

61WHmYqnJ-L._UX250_.jpg Meet Rebecca H. Jamison 

Rebecca H. Jamison has lived on a live volcano, excavated the bones of a prehistoric mammal, and won first prize at a rigged chili cook-off. She wrote novels just for fun until she made a New Year’s resolution in 2011 to submit a manuscript to publishers. 

Rebecca grew up in Virginia. She attended Brigham Young University, where she earned a BA and MA in English. Her job titles have included special education teacher’s aide, technical writer, English teacher, and stay-at-home mom.

You can learn more about Rebecca at www.rebeccahjamison.com


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, contemporary, customs and tradiitons, Guest Post, inventions, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, modern adaptations, reading habits, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Obsession with Money and Society in Austen’s Novels

tumblr_niksgt9n0l1tafu2co2_r3_500.gif Austen’s novels speak loudly with society’s obsession with money and connections. Money and status was obtained through marriage. What we soon come to accept as a reader of Jane Austen’s novels is that her heroines marry for love (and a bit money). It is not ironic that Austen’s heroines marry within their class. It was expected that a woman do so. Harriet Smith in Emma is criticized for she aspires to wed into the landed gentry. The hero gentlemen in Austen’s books have money, which they generally earn by being a the owner of an estate and collecting rents, as in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s case in Pride and Prejudice or Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, or from a living bestowed upon the man by a land owner, as in the case of Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility or Henry Tilney, in Northanger Abbey, who is comfortably placed as a beneficed clergyman on his father’s estate.

When we learn of Sir Walter Elliot’s nod of acceptance to Captain Wentworth in Persuasion or of Darcy’s acceptance of the Gardiners’s and Mr. Bingley’s connections to trade, we “praise” the men. These actions are examples of Jane Austen’s values. The fact they more rightly fit the values of the current century is pure happenstance. 

743eeb7d-934a-48df-aeb8-d8930c27e9c1.jpgAusten’s feelings as applied to silly girls such as Lydia Bennet and Harriet Smith are obvious. She also disapproves of snobs and women who pursue rich men, as in the case of Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, Lucy Steele in Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion, Mrs. Elton in Emma, and Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park. Rakes are often found upon Austen’s page. Mr. George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice woos half of Meryton with his lies. He has no intention of marrying Lydia Bennet until his hand is forced by Mr. Darcy. Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility is equally as vile. Frank Church plays Emma against Jane Fairfax. Tom Bertram in Mansfield Park has both his good points and his bad ones. He starts off the novel as Mary Crawford’s love interest, and he’s instrumental in getting the “Mansfield theatricals” off the ground. Tom is also responsible for a lot of the major plot points that dominate the start of the novel. His gambling debts are part of the reason why Sir Thomas has to go to Antigua to take care of his financial problems. Tom’s debts also mean that Edmund won’t be able to move into the Parsonage at Mansfield Park when he’s ordained, which of course results in the Grants and the Crawfords moving in. And Tom introduces Mr. Yates, Julia’s future husband, to the Bertrams. Mr. Elliot in Persuasion not only attempts to seduce Anne, but we discover he has much to do with the poor conditions in which Mrs. Smith must live. 

Austen’s pages are also full of the ridiculous: Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet, and Sir William Lucas in Pride and Prejudice; Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park; Mary Musgrove and Mrs. Musgrove in Persuasion; Mr. and Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey; and Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility

511-JhUYa+L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg 200px-Vindication1b.jpg Austen’s heroines are intelligent females, as was she. Her family permitted Austen much latitude. She discussed politics and religion and society’s issues with her brothers and her father. One can easily imagine Austen arguing with her brothers over important issues in the same manner as her heroines do with the heroes of her books. The difference in Austen and her heroines is that she never married. Many take these “liberties” that she presents her characters as being a “women’s liberation” sort of thing. I beg to differ on that opinion. Although Austen may have hoped for more freedoms for women, she is accepting of what many thought could not be changed. She is no Mary Wollstonecraft writing A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Austen was writing fiction based on what she knew of society.  In John Wiltshire’s essay (found in The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, Cambridge University, 14 February 2011), Wiltshire suggests that Emma and Knightley are the most compatible couple in Austen’s works, for the pair are comparable in intelligence, wit, empathy, and confidence. Darcy and Elizabeth trail in Wiltshire’s estimation, especially because of a lack of confidence in their relationship found in both Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. 


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, estates, family, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Jane Austen, literature, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, reading, reading habits, Regency personalities, Regency romance, romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Quest of the Officers, a Guest Post from Diana J. Oaks

Below you will find another of the fabulous posts one might find on any given day on Austen Authors. Diana J. Oaks explores the “appeal” of a man (or woman) in uniform. 

Lydia Bennet. She’s naughty, she’s loud, she’s determined to expose herself as ridiculous and bring disgrace to her family in the process. In spite of these things, I relate to her in one intrinsic way. She’s drawn by the compelling figure of a man in uniform, especially a military uniform.

Lydia Flirts with the Officers

She, of course, was particularly fond of the militia officer in his regimentals; the goal of encountering exactly that sort of person was the impetus for an excursion to Meryton.

“Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them.”

Lydia spots her prey, an officer with whom she is already acquainted, accompanied by a man who in Elizabeth’s view is rather good looking. It is through her eyes that we understand that his appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty—a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” In today’s terms, where such opinions are relayed via text messaging as succinctly as possible, he was “hot.” The introduction of this man carried happy news:

Rupert-Friend as Mr Wickham

“Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say, had accepted a commission in their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming.”

It took me a few readings of Pride and Prejudice before I caught the subtle nuance here. Perhaps swayed by the adapted versions that emphasized that Lydia and Kitty were the officer-crazed sisters, I totally missed the hint that Elizabeth, whose point of view carries the majority of the book, is also a bit enamored of men in uniform.

It’s evident that Jane Austen was aware of the place military officers held in society. Closely tied to nobility and aristocracy, the upper-level officers were drawn from the elite strata of society. Even the lower officers were supposed to be landowners, and therefore, one could construe them to be eligible matches for the gentry. Things are not always what they appear, however, particularly in militia regiments.

Members of the militia were not bound for foreign soil; they were the local peacekeepers.  The commanding officers were typically titled and among the largest landowners in the county from which the regiment was drawn. They were given a quota to fill, with the station of officers fully reflective of the social and financial status of the members. Captain Carter was a much better marital prospect than Mr. Denny.

As with almost anything, appearances can be deceiving. Those with the resources to do so could hire a proxy to serve in their place, and when the quota wasn’t matched by those who met the minimum standards, the powers that be allowed the standards slide a bit. Mr. Wickham, though not a landowner, was educated, gentlemanlike and attractive—all characteristics which would lend distinction to the regiment, so he was let in. What is less clear is how he paid for his uniform, which is an expensive proposition. When the fact that he isn’t a landowner, nor an heir to land becomes apparent, Austen lets her readers use their imaginations as to how he qualified.

mr-wickham-pride-and-prejudice-1995 militia

Militia regiments, though populated from a common region, never served in their home county. This was partly to prevent abuses of power and partly to prevent its members from being distracted by temptations of their familiar turf. The fact that Wickham has joined the regiment stationed in Meryton strongly implies that it is the Derbyshire militia stationed there. His connection to Pemberley would be known and respected, and one could surmise that this is how he got around the landowner requirement to be an officer.

Aside from all the social associations, there is a psychological reason that persons dressed as military officers impress. Recall Caroline Bingley’s claims of what makes an accomplished woman, and there is a piece of it that could as easily be applied to officers. I changed the pronouns for emphasis of the point. “…he must possess a certain something in his air and manner of walking, the tone of his voice, his address and expressions…”

Military training, particularly for officers, does reinforce a commanding bearing, confident air, purposeful stride and disciplined behavior. These things, accompanied by a finely tailored uniform, brass buttons, gold braid and other embellishments of design combine to create the perfect storm for a young girl’s fantasies. Is it any wonder that when I first laid eyes on my husband and he was dressed in a work uniform that was military-esque, I found him completely charming?

undress-uniform Captain Wentworth
…something in his air and manner of walking, the tone of his voice, his address and expressions…

What say you? Do you love a man (or woman) in uniform?

41i7+3KAdcL._UX250_.jpg Meet Diana J. Oaks: Diana Oaks is the third of eight children. She grew up in a large and loving home inclusive of the hi-jinx one would expect with six brothers in the house. She has been known to bemoan the lack of any serious childhood angst to draw upon when writing. She graduated in 1981 from Ricks College in Rexburg Idaho. Diana has been married to her husband Adam since 1982. She is the mother of three adult children and several grandchildren.

Her debut novel, “One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy,” was released in August 2012.
The sequel, “Constant as the Sun: The Courtship of Mr. Darcy” which chronicles the events of the engagement was released on October 31, 2016. A third book focusing on the early months of their marriage is planned.

Diana currently resides with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, British Navy, George Wickham, Guest Post, historical fiction, history, Living in the Regency, manuscript evaluation, military, Pride and Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moral Ramifications of Wife Sales

514VIHgKhTL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg customs_in_common.jpg Last week, I looked at Wife Selling as a Means to a Moral Divorce, but Not Necessarily a Legal One. Today, I will stay with the moral aspects of this practice of the late 1700s and the first half of the 1800s in Britain. E.P. Thompson, a British social historian and political activist and author of The Making of the English Working Class and Customs in Common studied some 218 cases of wife selling from 1780 to 1880. In the books, he addresses the custom and its ramifications. Specifically, in Customs in Common, The New Press tells us, “In a text marked by both empathy and erudition, Thompson investigates the gradual disappearance of a range of cultural customs against the backdrop of the great upheavals of the eighteenth century. As villagers were subjected to a legal system increasingly hostile to custom, they tried both to resist and to preserve tradition, becoming, as Thompson explains, ‘rebellious, but rebellious in defence of custom.’ Although some historians have written of riotous peasants of England and Wales as if they were mainly a problem for magistrates and governments, for Thompson it is the rulers, landowners, and governments who were a problem for the people, whose exuberant culture preceded the formation of working-class institutions and consciousness. Using a wide range of sources, Thompson shows how careful attention to fragmentary evidence helps to decode the fascinating symbolism of shaming rituals including ‘rough music,’ and practices such as the ritual divorce known as ‘wife sale.’ And in examining the vigorous presence of women in food riots from the sixteenth century onwards, he sheds further light on gender relations of the time.”

Common-law marriage, also known as sui iuris marriage, informal marriage, marriage by habit and repute, or marriage in fact is a legal framework in a limited number of jurisdictions where a couple is legally considered married,  without that couple having formally registered their relation as a civil or religious marriage. The original concept of a “common-law marriage” is a marriage that is considered valid by both partners, but has not been formally recorded with a state or religious registry, or celebrated in a formal religious service. In effect, the act of the couple representing themselves to others as being married, and organizing their relation as if they were married, acts as the evidence that they are married. (Common-Law Marriage) Common-law marriages are there own entity in family law. Those cohabiting in today’s society are often referred to as living in a common-law marriage. Such an agreement certainly makes a “divorce” easier, which was one of the reasons a “wife sale” became popular among those who could not afford a divorce in England. 

41JER476bAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Whose wife is the woman is a great question. In my previous post, I mention the Thomas Hardy book The Mayor of Casterbridge. If one has read the book, he/she will notice that Susan is sometimes referred to as Mrs. Henchard and at other times, as Mrs. Newson. The reader can make that assumption that a wife sale is agreed upon as legal and the customary way of speaking of the woman, as in this case, would be Mrs. Newson. However, without a divorce, she is LEGALLY still Mrs. Henchard. In the Hardy book, Henchard “buys back” his wife, by extending her a gift of five guineas, the amount for which he originally settled with Newson. He also agrees to “remarry” his wife for propriety’s sake, rather than for legal purposes. As Susan lived with Newson for some twelve years. Is she an adulterer? A bigamist? Does custom outweigh the law in this case? Is the agreement of all three parties—original husband, wife, and new husband—a binding contract? It would have a variety of witnesses as it was a public auction of the wife. Does it take the death of either of the husbands to make a marriage legal? In Hardy’s book, Susan assumes that Newson is dead before she agrees to return to Henchard. 

51bKm3vaFVL._SY445_.jpg The problem in Hardy’s book is exacerbated by the fact that Susan bears Newson a child. Illegitimacy was not looked upon kindly during the period. There are several twists in Hardy’s tale regarding the birth of a child, and I shall not add spoilers to this post. E. P. Thompson tells a tale of a wife sale in 1819 that became quite complicated. The man sold his wife after she had given birth to his child(ren). When she left him, the children accompanied her to the new home. They were raised by the new husband. He even provided that their names be recorded as his in the church’s baptismal records. Later, when legal action was sought, the court declared the children the original husband’s responsibility, for when a child was born to a LEGAL marriage—whether the child was the original husband’s or not—LEGALLY, the child is considered to belong to the original husband. The wife sale DID NOT mean a legal divorce had occurred. If the sale is not a valid transaction, the original husband is the child’s father. 

We must remember that prior to 1753, the means of speaking vows, as was present in a wife safe, was legal. It was a verba de praesenti contract. The Marriage Act of 1753 made marriage contracts invalid. It required a marriage ceremony by a clergyman of the Church of England and a calling of the banns (or) the purchase of a license. Unfortunately, the custom remained, and the Church was sore to stop it. 

Adultery, according to the law, occurs when either the original husband and the wife, or both, take up with another. Legally, under common law, a promise to marry, which is followed by sexual intimacy, is a valid proposal. A man could be sued for “breach of promise.” Breach of Promise is a common law tort. From at least the Middle Ages until the early 20th century, a man’s promise to marry a woman was considered, in many jurisdictions, a legally binding contract. A woman could extract damages if such occurred.

We find in looking at this practice that it was more common among those of the lower classes than those of the middle class or the aristocracy. So, what is my new fascination with this practice? As you may have guessed, it is a plot point in a novel to be released in the Summer of 2018. 


Posted in British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, history, Living in the UK, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, real life tales, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tale of Richard Bertie Continues, Part III

You may view the previous two posts on Richard Bertie at these links: Part I and Part II


Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk (Wikipedia)

Briefly, Richard Bertie (ca. 1517 – 9 April 1582) was an English landowner and religious evangelical. He was the second husband of Catherine Willoughby, 12th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and Duchess Dowager of Suffolk. As his wife was a baroness in her own right, Bertie made claims to be styled as “baron.” The claim was denied, but it was appealed. In the opinion of Bertie and his wife, her right to her father’s Barony held no relevance to his claim to bear the title in her right, but was rather the cause of his claim being initiated. They based this appeal on the grounds that her right to the Barony had been upheld against her uncle’s claim against it. Moreover, her uncle’s son was refused the title of Willoughby of Eresby and assigned the title of Willoughby of Parham in 1547. Therefore, why could Bertie not bear the title of Lord Willoughby and Eresby?


William Cecil, Lord Burghley ~ via Wikipedia

Two years after the first ruling against them, Bertie was granted a second hearing to make his claim. In a letter dated 14 April 1572, Bertie writes to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s chief advisor throughout most of her reign. The draft of that letter is among Burghley’s papers. In the letter, Bertie included a list of other men who had made claim in right of their wives and who enjoyed the dignity of “baron” and who had been called to Parliament in every King’s government since the Conquest. 

That list included  one “John Talbot, a Norman, who came to England with William the Conqueror and married Matilda daughter of Richard, Lord Talbot of Longhope, in whose right the sayde John was Lord Talbot of Longhope, of whom the Earl of Shrewsbury is descended.” (Peerage and Pedigree, Study in Peerage Law and Family History)

The Domesday book states that during the time of William the Conqueror, Longhope belonged to William the son of Baderon. Longhope descended through William’s line, who were called the Lords of Monmouth. Eventually, the line ran out of male heirs. Some 200+ years after the Norman Conquest, Longhope passed into the hands of a Talbot. 

The list also included Josselyne (Jocelin), son of the duke of Brabant, who married Agnew, the daughter and heir to William Lord Percy. Josselyne was styled as Lord Percy. The earl of Northumberland descends from this line. (Collins, Arthur. The Peerage of England: Containing a Genealogical and Historical Account of All the Peers of That Kingdom. Vol. VI of VIII)

The complete list was sent to Burghley in April 1572. Bertie pressed for an agreement on two points: the right of an heiress to inherit a barony and to transmit said right to her heirs. The Berties won on this account. The the claim of Richard Bertie to hold his wife’s title and to be summoned to Parliament in her right had proven obsolescent, falling out of use and unable to be transferred from one situation to another. 

Many experts believe that Richard Bertie’s petition was ignored because it came at a time when people argued over the legality of such claims. How far was Bertie’s claim valid? It was determined that “the writ of summons to his son (in his own lifetime) on his mother’s death (1580) was, in this, an epoch-marking event, being absolutely fatal to the view that a barony could be held by ‘the curtesy of England.’

“The lawyers’ perplexity is seen in the report on Bertie’s claim by the Attorney General and Solicitor General, to whom Burghley had referred it:—

‘We have conferred with four of the judges that be now in London concerning Mr. Bertie’s case, and they be all of opinion that he cannot challenge to have the Barony and the Title thereof in right of his wife, or else as tenant by the courtesy after her decease. We did make doubt whether her Majesty might not do. But because the course if very rare, they desired to have conference with the rest of the judges, when they shall come to town, etc.” (Peerage and Pedigree, Study in Peerage Law and Family History)

Posted in British history, England, estates, heraldry, Inheritance, marriage, marriage customs, peerage, primogenture, research, titles of aristocracy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jane Austen’s Health Problems, a Guest Post by Kyra Kramer


Jane Austen’s Problematic Health

Predicting the due date of a pregnancy is a matter of guesswork, even in these modern times. Babies are notorious for following their own schedule rather than the convenience of their mother, midwife, or obstetrician. Nevertheless, it is rare for a pregnancy to extend much beyond 40 weeks, and it is almost as dangerous for a baby to arrive in the 43rd week as the 36th.

When I was edging toward my 42nd week of pregnancy with my second daughter, my midwife began issuing warnings that intervention would be necessary should my stubborn wee infant refuse to emerge within a reasonable time frame. Thankfully, the baby was simply waiting for the full moon on May Day to make her appearance, and she burst into the world without undue biomedical harrying. Jane Austen’s mother, Cassandra, was less fortunate than myself.

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775, a full month after her parents had expected her. This would put her into the dangerous zone of a 43rd or 44th week gestation, which is given the benign name of a “postdate pregnancy” but is actually a cause for serious concern. As Annette Upfal explains in her article for the Journal of Medical Humanities:

There is a heightened risk of birth injury or death, and over 20% of postdate infants show signs of wasting of tissues – a medical condition known as post-maturity, which in severe cases can be fatal … If a pregnancy is prolonged, the placenta begins to degenerate and the fetus may receive inadequate nutrients from the mother.

Being born postdate can cause serious problems for the baby, including listlessness, irritability, inadequate feeding, failure to thrive, and a lifelong immune insufficiency as a result of in utero malnutrition. In plain English, a person born postdate may never develop a fully adequate immune system, and be susceptible to infections and chronic illnesses his or her entire life.

Although Jane Austen is usually thought of as robust (barring an almost fatal case of typhoid fever when she went away to school) right up until the 18 months prior to her death, a trawl through her surviving letters and other resources reveals she was incredibly vulnerable to contagious diseases a healthy adult would normally be able to fight off.   


Illustration of Lecture Hall from the Glasgow Looking Glass, 1825-1826 https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/05/17/the-physician-in-the-19th-century/

For example, she was plagued with chronic conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, more colloquially known as pink-eye or red-eye, is an eye infection that can be caused virally or (in worse cases) by bacteria. In either case, with no treatment a person’s body usually fights of the viral or bacterial invader within 3 to 6 weeks. In contrast, Austen’s “sore eyes” persisted for months and became an acute case. For years she had to deal with intermittent return of the illness, and by the latter years of her life the “reoccurrences would be more frequent and disabling”.

Austen also caught whooping cough in 1806, when she was 30 years old. Whooping cough is incredibly rare in patients over 10 years of age, and when an adult infection (known as catarrhal) does occur it is typically mild and of short duration. In contrast, Jane Austen’s illness became serious enough for her sister, Cassandra, to have sent out letters among family and friends to apprise them of the trouble, as evidenced by the need for letters written “to inquire particularly” about Austen’s condition.

In the late summer or early autumn of 1808 Austen once more contracted an infection – this time in her ears. Interestingly, the same bacteria that commonly cause pink-eye — Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumonia, or Haemophilus – are also the bacteria that commonly cause ear infections. It is spread either through internal sinus drainage from the diseased eye into the ear canal, or when the patient rubs their itchy, swollen eyes and then touches their ear. The bacterial infection causes painful inflammation in the ear canal, and can even lead to hearing loss in some cases.  A joint case of ear and eye infection is most common in infants and young children, who don’t have fully developed immune systems yet. It is rare for healthy adults to develop this issue. Yet it happened to the supposedly healthy Jane Austen.


Moreover, the 33-years-old Austen’s ear and eye infections lingered beyond any reasonable expectation. They also worsened, and became enough of a health problem that her family and friends were sending her ‘receipts’ of home-made remedies for treatment in an attempt to alleviate her condition. Happily, the family apothecary, Mr John Lyford (not the surgeon Dr. Giles Lyford who would attend her final illness in Winchester), was able to effect a cure by advising her to apply cotton soaked with “the oil of sweet almonds” to her. Upfal believes this to indicate that Jane Austen was suffering from otitis externa, and infection of the outer ear, but I think it to be more likely that it was her inner ear canal that was infected. Sweet almond oil, either undiluted or mixed with olive oil, is an antibacterial agent that has been used for medical treatment for thousands of years. Sweet almond oil seeping from a wad of cotton at the opening of the ear canal would have coated the inner ear and killed the bacteria causing the infection.

In 1813 Jane Austen began to experience terrible pains in her face, which Upfal attributes to postherpetic neuralgia but from the symptoms recorded I think the pains were most likely the result of trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia causes, “ sudden attacks of severe sharp shooting facial pain that last from a few seconds to about two minutes … similar to an electric shock. The attacks can be so severe that you’re unable to do anything during them … The pain can be in the teeth, lower jaw, upper jaw, cheek and, less commonly, in the forehead or the eye … After the main severe pain has subsided, you may experience a slight ache or burning feeling … [or] a constant throbbing, aching or burning sensation between attacks.”

Jane Austen must have been in agony.

Trigeminal neuralgia seems to be caused most often by an enlarged blood vessel (usually the superior cerebellar artery) putting pressure on the trigeminal nerve (the 5th and largest cranial neve) close to the nerve’s connection with the pons, the descending section of the brainstem, but that pressure can also be created by a cyst or tumor.

One of the ailments most often given as the reason for Austen’s early death is Hodgkin’s disease, also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Upfal supports this hypothesis, and I half-way agree with her. I believe Austen was suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is any blood cancer — includes all types of lymphoma – that isn’t Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The reason I believe Austen have been suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is directly connected to her neuralgia. One of the not-uncommon symptoms of NHL is trigeminal neuralgia, caused by the swelling of the lymph nodes or tumors in the cranial region. Common symptoms of NHL also include the intermittent low-grade fever, weight loss, itchiness, and fatigue that were Austen’s most common complaints in the last year of her life. Furthermore, NHL can have periods where the patient feels just fine, before the tiredness kicks in again. This is especially true of ‘indolent’ or slow-growing lymphomas. It can also cause the skin discoloration, the “black and white, and every wrong colour” that Austen lamented. Moreover, one of the most common risk factors for NHL is poor immune function, which Upfal argues (in my opinion, persuasively) that Austen experienced as a result of her postdate birth.

But why, if Austen was persecuted by ill health for most of her life, isn’t it more widely referenced?

41lKxP+dk+L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg First, there is the determination of Austen herself not to be a “poor honey”, a silly female hypochondriac determined to secure attention for herself by her ailments. Austen could not stand that sort of thing. She complained to her brother Frank Austen in 1813 that Mrs. Edward Bridges was “a poor Honey – the sort of woman who gives me the idea of being determined never to be well — & who likes her spasms & nervousness & the consequence they give her, better than anything else.”

In her letters, Austen often turns any report of her illness into a joke, or minimizes the effects of her sickness and assures her correspondent that she is doing very well NOW, thank you very much. She frequently implies that any poor health was merely playacting on her part, such as when she tells her sister that, “It was absolutely necessary that I should have the little fever and indisposition which I had; it has been all the fashion this week in Lyme”. Her complaints are also seldom admitted to be serious, as when she downplayed the onset of her whooping cough as “a cold”. The health of other people was a much-mentioned topic in her letters, but her own health was ignored for the most part.

This pattern continued to the very end. A little more than a year before her death she assured a niece that she had “got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying the air,” joking that “Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life,” and cheerfully reporting “the advantage of agreeable companions” was the only medicine she needed. Only a few weeks before she died she wrote to one her nephews that, “I am gaining strength very fast. I am now out of bed from 9 in the morning to 10 at night: upon the sopha, ’tis true, but I eat my meals with aunt Cass in a rational way, and can employ myself, and walk from one room to another.”

Austen’s persistent negation of her own illness has created a belief in her good health that is more accepted than proven.

In addition, there are the “missing” letters; correspondence destroyed by her family after her death. In those letters Austen could have vociferously complained about dismal health and we would have no inkling of it. She could have likewise admitted to debauchery, cannibalism, and necromancy and we’d be none the wiser. Anything that would contradict the ‘ideal’ Jane Austen, the beloved sibling and aunt who had nothing more important in her world than her domestic concerns, was carefully eradicated by relatives eager to preserve her reputation in the Victorian era. Creating the idea that Jane Austen had fortitude in the face of illness, as well as a near-implacable refusal to acknowledge bodily functions below the neck, would have been the goal of her preservationists, and any letter indicating differently would have gone onto the fireplace grate.

We lost a tremendous amount of information about Jane Austen’s personality, life, and writing thanks to the destruction of her letters, and (alas!) we’ve also lost most of the clues that might have helped us unravel the mystery of her tragically precipitous death. A death that may have occurred so early because her birth was so late.

71KIG+Es3uL._UX250_.jpg Meet the Author: Kyra Cornelius Kramer is a freelance academic with BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She has written essays on the agency of the Female Gothic heroine and women’s bodies as feminist texts in the works of Jennifer Crusie. She has also co-authored two works; one with Dr. Laura Vivanco on the way in which the bodies of romance heroes and heroines act as the sites of reinforcement of, and resistance to, enculturated sexualities and gender ideologies, and another with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley on Henry VIII.

Ms. Kramer lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband, three young daughters, assorted pets, and occasionally her mother, who journeys northward from Kentucky in order to care for her grandchildren while her daughter feverishly types away on the computer.

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