History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

28 February 2007

More trees...

Continuing on with my research about trees in the British Isles...

The Walnut Tree grows to about 40 to 60 feet and can be up to 20 feet or more in circumference with a huge spreading head. It has large leaves and both male and female flowers that grow on the same tree. It blossoms in the spring before the leaf-buds have burst. Walnuts become ripe around the beginning of October. They make a fine oil. The value is as a fruit tree, but the wood is also useful in making furniture. The wood is dark and of a course grain. Because the wood is both light and tough, it is a good material to make the stocks of guns and rifles. It was introduced to Britain around the middle of the 16th century and there are laws to preserve the species.

The Box tree is frequently found in parks and ornamental grounds, but is only indigenous to a few area: Surrey, Kent, Buckingham and Gloucester. This tree grows to a height of 15 to 20 feet with a girth of about 20 inches. Its slender branches are clothed with small, oblong, leathery leaves about an inch in length. They are polished on the upper side. Small, inconspicuous flowers form from January to May and are found clustered between the leaf and the steam. They are whitish-green and the sexes are in separate flowers. The tree grows very slowly so the grain of the wood is very fine, very hard and very heavy. It will not float. It is used by wood-engravers for "wood-cuts."

The Wych Elm is one of the three types of Elms commonly found in England. The rough-leaved Wych Elm, the smooth-leaved Wych Elm and the Common English Elm. There are also local varieties and hybrids of Elms such as the Cornish Elm, the Huntingdon Elm, and the Jersey Elm. It was thought until recently that the Common Elm was introduced to Britain by the Romans, but now thought that perhaps it descended from crossing the two Wych Elm species. Wych Elms are also called Mountain Elm, Scots Elm and Witch Hazel. The Wych Elm has a large trunk and rises from 80 to 120 feet or more in height. It has rough, corky bark and long slender branches. The leaves are somewhat oval but the two sides are unequal in size and shape. Their edges are toothed and the surfaces are rough and harsh. They have hairs on the undersurface that protect the breathing pores from dust. Brown bell-shaped flowers, a quarter of an inch long, are produced in bunches in February or March.

26 February 2007

Film as Research

Monday morning after the Oscars. What else is there to talk about? Yes, I stayed up and watched the whole thing (a great excuse to work the Sunday crossword while I kept an eye on both computer and TV screen.)

Some truly fine movies were recognized and equally impressive acting. My favorite for the year was Little Miss Sunshine, but The Queen was the movie that stayed with me the longest. Its penetrating insight into the life and times of Elizabeth II was more compelling than any book I have ever read about royalty. For the first time I felt more sympathy for her than I did for Diana.

Movies enlarge our world in so many ways. Since our blog is about research, here are a few that impressed me with their accuracy and invite you to do the same. A disclaimer first: I definitely prefer movies that leave me feeling better about the universe. That does not mean I avoid difficult stories (I loved Hotel Rwanda and Crash) but I am sure that I will never see The Departed.

Since the Regency is the period I write about I nominate Master and Commander as m favorite. Not only for the impressive historical accuracy but also for the excellent adaptation of the O'Brian novels. Yes, the movie made a few mistakes and the character of Steven Maturin was not fully developed, but Russell Crowe had Aubrey down. And director and screenwriter Peter Weir treated the period with all the loving attention of a true artist and devotee of the series.

Yes, Sense and Sensibility and Emma must be on the list. I did not even see like Mansfield Park (should I?) because I was sure from the reviews that I would hate it. The Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice was a fascinating visual interpretation of the period, much more Georgian than the usual almost Victorian of other films. A comparison of the various version reminds me, once again, that the Regency is a bridge between the two periods.

That is the end of praise for that version of Pride and Prejudice. t I think the director or screenwriter had Darcy all wrong. He is all about pride and prejudice which equals arrogance. Not the insecurity and shyness that came through in this version. The climactic scene where Darcy comes walking through the early morning fog with his great coat flapping and his shirt open literally made me laugh out loud. Give me the Darcy portrayed by Colin Firth and not just because he was so much fun to look at.

Milean Canonero's Oscar win for costume for the 2006 Coppola film, Marie Antoinette, was well deserved. Even though I think the movie is much more about our world than about France before the Revolution, it did give sympathetic insight into how Marie's world changed her and how she changed it. If you are as fascinated by the sociology/psychology of clothes as I am, there is a must-read book called "The Queen of Fashion." Written by scholar Caroline Weber, it is readable and worth the time, with 100 pages of footnotes in case you want to know even more.

There are a number of lesser known movies that I consider worth sharing. The Emperor's New Clothes and Princess Cariboo. I thought that Becky Sharpe was too inaccurate to be of any use. And I cannot wait to see Amazing Grace. What makes your list of fabulous and failure?

23 February 2007


How do you know where you’re going, or more specifically where you characters are going? It’s one thing to make up a town and do with it as you will, but it’s something else entirely when you simply need to know the layout of a real city at a specific point in history.

Luckily, many antique maps are now available on the web. I set my novels in the late Georgian period, and some of the action takes place in London. I’ve walked the streets of Mayfair, so I know about how long it takes to stroll from Grosvenor Square to White’s. What I don’t know from my modern walking tour is what the street names were in back then, what streets existed and which ones are new, If the house I want to use had mews, etc.

So, I must search out a period map (ok, I don’t really have to, but I’m anal this way). The maps that have been the most useful to me are Richard Horwood’s map of Westminster and Southwark, c. 1792, John Rocque’s London, Westminster and Southwark, c. 1746, John Fairburn’s London, Westminster, & the New Docks, c. 1802, and J. Cary’s 15 Miles Round London, c. 1786.

Have you found any terrific maps out there for your period/place of interest?

22 February 2007

Discovering the Maya with Sariah S. Wilson

I had only a rudimentary knowledge of the Maya when I started my research, so everything I came across was completely fascinating to me.

One of the things I found most interesting was what the Maya considered beautiful and the lengths they went to achieve it.

It’s easy enough to look at the pictures left behind in stone to see that they loved feathers, huge headresses and elaborate jewelry (and they had piercings all over - in their ears, nose, their tongue). What you can’t see is what else the Maya did to their bodies.

Tattoos were very commonplace, although obtaining one could turn deadly. Tattoos were made by literally engraving them on someone’s skin and filling it with ink. You can imagine how many infections this might have caused, and how painful it would be! For that reason, tattoos took a very long time to create. People could only tolerate so much at a time, and when a portion of the tattoo had healed they would return to do the next part.

The use of body paints was widespread - and the Maya decorated their faces and bodies with beautiful colors and designs. You had to be careful about your colors though - each color had a meaning. Sacrificial victims were painted in all blue, as blue was the color of death.

The Maya especially prized high, sloping foreheads. This was another beauty trick that caused a lot of deaths as mothers would take their newborn children and place them in a vise of two flat stone tablets. This would either give your baby the desired high sloping forehead or it would kill him. The Maya also shaved their hair at the top of their forehead in hopes that by moving their hairline back the forehead would seem even higher. And speaking of hair, both men and women wore their hair long and the nobility often wore colored ribbons, leather strips and gorgeous feathers in elaborate braids and coiffures. Slaves’ heads were shaved to signify their lowly status.

Head forming wasn’t the only thing done to babies - being cross-eyed was considered especially attractive, so mothers would put strings with a tiny bead or shell around the baby’s forehead. The bead would hang at the top of the nose, right between the baby’s eyes. It was hoped that by staring at the bead the baby would become permanently cross-eyed.

And for the Maya a beautiful smile did not mean even, straight white teeth. They like their teeth to be pointed, and they filed them so that they were. (It made me imagine very feral looking warriors when I first read that.) They also inset jewels and stones (jade being the most precious) into their teeth.

It seems no matter what time period or civilization you live in, people are almost always willing to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve the perfect look.

21 February 2007

The History of Us All

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to post one of my very favorite speeches. I first heard it in a Women’s Studies class in college and it brought tears to my eyes. It still does.

In the spring of 1851, the second Women's Rights Conference was held in Akron, Ohio. Most of the discussion at the conference was centered around women’s suffrage and (surprise) most men in attendance were denying that women were entitled to equal rights, saying not only that women weren't intelligent enough to vote, but also that they were less able in general. Weak and useless, essentially.

Sojourner Truth, a former slave, was the only black woman there. During the second day of the conference, she stood to give her opinion:

Well, children, where there is so much racket there
must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South
and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a
fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be
helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place
everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives
me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have
ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And
ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could
get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen
children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my
mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's
this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey.
What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't
hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me
have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women
can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your
Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had
nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough
to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able
to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do
it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old
Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

It's simple, short, and moving.

Sojourner's speech captures a brief moment in the life of one black woman, a former slave, but also a whole era of feminine life in this country. Our great-great-grandmothers were not, for the most part, the kinds of women we write about in our romances. They were laborers and servants, farm-wives and slaves. They lived in crowded tenements or on the unyielding isolation of the frontier or in the slave quarters of the South. This country was built on their backs and in their wombs, and I, for one, plan on teaching my children about that before they get to college!

20 February 2007

Welcome Sariah S. Wilson!

Secrets in Zarahemla
by Sariah S. Wilson
Covenant Communications, Inc.--February, 2007

As she hangs upside-down in a hunter’s snare, Kiah feels a wave of fear as her captor comes into view. By his looks, as appealing as they are, the tall Lamanite is the mortal enemy of Kiah and her people. She can’t hope that her father, Captain Moroni, and his Nephite soldiers will rescue her—the strong-willed young woman has wandered well beyond the safe borders of Zarahemla. However, she is determined to use her warrior training to fight the Lamanite called Jeran until the end, no matter how hopeless the odds.

The land of Zarahemla has long been under serious threat from its enemies. But recently, its worst foes come from within—including Corahan, a man who would stop at nothing to fulfill his desires. One of the things Corahan most wants is Kiah as his wife. Now Kiah and her new unlikely ally must call on all their faith and courage to save Zarahemla in a struggle that will bring either deliverance or death—to both of them.

Journey to 62 BC and discover adventure, intrigue, and romance in a story where evil must be fought against, no matter how high the cost.

Secrets in Zarahemla is set in 62 BC, in the Mayan civilization . How did you become interested in this time period and location? What you love about it?

That’s actually a loaded question! First - I find the Mayan civilization fascinating - the level of complexity in their civilization, the knowledge they had, the beautiful buildings they left behind, and we have little to no record of them. Only three Mayan original documents remain. Everything else we know about them we’ve either surmised from archaeology or gleaned from the journals of the Spanish conquistadores. I had to base a lot of my research on the idea that pervades those who study the Maya - that things in 2000 are not much different than what the Mayan life was like in 1500 (with some obviously notable exceptions) and so the theory goes that if things didn’t change much in 500 years even with outside influences, that things were probably similar in 1000 and 500 and 0 and 500 B.C., etc.

I’m also interested in this time period (and this is probably what I love most about it) because of my faith - I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons. We have a scriptural text called the Book of Mormon, and to make a long explanation short, it is believed that the people of Central America are those people that left behind that text. But since the Book of Mormon is heavy on spiritual doctrine and we only get glimpses of the culture, I love studying the Mayans because it helps me to fill in those blanks.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

Well, women were not treated very well (but I think that’s pretty universally true for any civilization in this time period). That was probably my biggest challenge in writing this book and the following ones - that I wrote women who did not fall into the typical women’s roles, but I made sure to let the reader know that they weren’t typical and to explain why. And of course people didn’t marry for love, but it wouldn’t be much of a romance if people didn’t fall in love, would it?

What sparked tis book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

What first sparked this book was this picture I had in my head of the hero being imprisoned and the heroine freeing him. It just showed up one day and it made me start to wonder. I began to imagine a “Romeo and Juliet” type romance (only without the dying in the end) and branched out from there. When I found a historical event that would perfect match my story (the heroine’s city is being taken over by men who want to overthrow the current government and install a king), it really grew from there. Scene after scene popped in my head, dialogue seemed to just be spilling forth and I knew I had to write it.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really intersting that you didn’t already know?

Oh yes, massive amounts of research. I checked out every book the library had on the Maya, and ordered many books from Amazon (just don’t tell my husband). I don’t even have a fraction of the books I would like to own! I know this is a cop-out answer, but everything I ran across was fascinating to me, because everything was new. One of my most exciting research finds was when I had a scene of my heroine and a secondary character saying farewell to one another. It was important to me that the secondary character treat the heroine like a fellow warrior (because she is great with weapons and really does kick butt in the book), only I didn’t know how it would be done. I looked in book after book - I even contacted some Maya professors at my alma mater. Nothing. Then one day, while doing some research, I came across a passage that perfectly described it. I can’t tell you how thrilling that was, and how excited I was to put in something that I knew was historically accurate rather than something I made up.

What/Who do you like to read?

I’m one of those a-little-bit-of-everything people. But I have great love for the Regency (and hope to write some traditionals someday soon) and I love chick lit. I’m very sad that the market is considered “dead.” I also like light and frothy paranormals. As I go through the Romantic Times to circle the books that sound interesting to me, those three areas are what I usually pick out.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

My writing process has been very different on each book I’ve written. So far what I’ve noticed is that I do a lot of what Lisa Kleypas calls “wool gathering.” I have to think and think about the book, about the characters, their goals and motivations, how I can get those into conflict, that sort of thing. If I had my way, I’d have at least three or four months just to think about it. While I’m thinking about it, my Muse kicks in and I start getting ideas for scenes and snippets of dialogue (which I always rush to write down because if I don’t get it immediately onto paper, my recreation of it is never, ever as good as my original idea). Then when I feel like I have enough (or my editor calls and asks, “Are you ever going to write this thing?”) I start to write the story. I like to put the thought outline I’ve created down on paper, inserting scenes and dialogue into the appropriate place. But I’m constantly deviating from it - and I have had my characters surprise me sometimes with what they want to do next.

I also don’t write multiple drafts. That would drive me insane. I write down a scene or a chapter, and then I go back and revise it until I have it exactly how I want it to be, and then I continue on. Each morning I usually reread what I wrote the day before and fix it. I do one read over when I’m finished, and I submit.

What are you planning to work on next?

I have another book set in the same time period tentatively entitled “Devotion” coming out this fall, and right now I’m working on a third book, also in the same time period. Then after that I hope to write a traditional Regency. And maybe a chick lit. And a light and frothy paranomal. Maybe I can write all three together!

19 February 2007

More About Paste Jewelry

From my favorite antique jewelry dealer, The Three Graces:

What is paste? The origins of the term paste are unknown. However paste is a collective word used for cut leaded glass that is faceted to resemble gems or precious stones. Sometimes it is referred to as strass. Georges Frederic Stras, a Parisian jeweler in 18th Century France lends his name to these stones. Around 1730 and after, he became world famous for his paste jewelry. Appointed to the post of jeweler to the King of France in 1734, Stras's fame was assured. He used a mixture of glass and lead that makes glass highly reflective and began mounting them in the most sumptuous of settings. The stones are coated with a metal coating or foiling, sometimes tinted, to make them even more brilliant and refractive. The mid and later 18th Century was awash with paste and even Marie Antoinette wore it copiously.

The craftsmanship required to cut paste is demanding and is thought to be more difficult than the art of cutting diamonds. Diamonds are harder thus easier to work with in many respects. Examining 18th Century paste shows the variety of stone cuts – marquise, oval, pear and all manner of shapes and sizes. A surprising variety of shades and colors was utilized. The jewelry can be of very high quality and skill and is usually set in silver. Paste was used in everything from men's shoe buckles, to the most magnificent of tiaras. Most strass or paste jewelry ranges from the 18th century through about 1850, but the word has come to be used to encompass other finer imitation stones through the early 19th Century. Paste jewelry has drawn a special collector, thus quite expensive and more andmore difficult to obtain, particularly in the earlier examples or ones with color. Its luster, glow and shimmer are incomparable.

Black dot paste is paste which has a tiny black dot painted on the very bottom underside of the stone. It is thought to have mimicked the open culet of early diamond cuts, which often look quite dark or black. The culet is the bottom of the stone, where in today's modern stone cuts all the facets come to a perfect point. In years past, the facets did not meet in a point but joined around a flat area on the bottom. Black dot paste is one hallmark of very fine quality paste. However, there are many examples of excellent paste which do not have these tiny black dots.

Don't forget to enter my Lord Sin contest for a chance to win the pin shown.

17 February 2007

Contest for LORD SIN!

To celebrate the publication of my first book, I’m giving away a period piece of jewelry! It’s a paste lace pin, c. 1800, such as might have been worn by the heroine of Lord Sin to hold her fichu in place.

This tiny pin is made up of clear pastes surrounding a larger teal paste (paste was a very popular “stone” for Georgian jewelry, and was not meant to fool people into thinking it was a precious or semiprecious stone the way a modern cubic zirconia is). The clasp works, and it’s very wearable.

All you have to do to be eligible for the drawing is join my quarterly mailing list before Lord Sin hits the shelves (1 May 2007).

13 February 2007

Welcome, Delle Jacobs!

His Majesty, The Prince of Toads
by Delle Jacobs
Awe Struck E-Books, Available Now (in paperback, too)

Reviewers' Choice Favorite Romance Read for 2006!

Returning from the Peninsular War, Lucas Deverall discovers he's inherited a bankrupt title, and the only hope he has for salvation is the deceiving chit who tricked him into marriage six years before. Time to call upon his most effective weapon, and charm her into his bed and out of her money.

That's not how Sophie sees it. Now the Toad who forced their marriage is offering forgiveness, in exchange for his presence in her bed? Revenge comes more to Sophie's mind.

Lots of Regency romances are filled with fireworks and secrets, but few of them are so much fun . . . Delle Jacobs is the only author to have won three Golden Hearts, and HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS was one of them.
-- Joy Calderwood, Reviewers Choice Reviews

Delle Jacobs creates a believable page-turner. With some well-rounded secondary characters and tight emotions, this reader found this refreshing tale thoroughly captivating.
Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance

HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS is a treat historical readers won't want to miss.
Jane Bowers, Romance Reviews Today

HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS is set in January, 1815. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

Originally I planned it to end at Waterloo, so the story needed to begin a few months before the battle. Then, even though I dropped the battle, I found I loved writing a winter story, so I kept it there.

When I wrote my first Regency, I didn't even know it was a Regency. I picked the time period because I didn't want my heroine to be able to strike a match. Of course I knew my research was inadequate, but I also needed to be writing, not just reading, so I wrote. Don't worry, no one but me will ever see that book. But it led me into the fascinating Regency era, and I began to discover other authors who wrote about that period. Then an editor told me Regency settings were hot, so I jumped in with both feet, abandoning my previous Medieval work. Now I have two time periods I love to distraction.

I think I love the Regency for its transitional position in time and space. It's like the world was on the cusp of change, and could go either way. I love the pre-railroad/steam/mass transportation period, so much slower and in some ways simpler. World exploration and trade were still exciting and fraught with danger. The threat of world domination by Napoleonic France had the potential to overrun and extinguish both democratic ideals and the aristocracy. Society was moving and changing in so many ways, away from the society of the group to that of the individual. Something of freedom and experimentation seems to be reflected in the styles of the times, with the powdered wigs of the previous generation left behind and restricting crinolines still in the future. I can actually visualize a lady walking across the fields in this period, but not before or after. I think it's almost as if the Regency period cherishes the parts of modern life I like, while omitting what doesn't appeal to me.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

The constraints on women are probably what bother me most, yet intrigue me at the same time. What we really want most when we read historicals is to be back in time, yet we really wouldn't want to live the life women lived then. We don't want to read about modest, demure ladies whose major job in life was to make a good marriage and produce heirs. That's really not all that romantic to the modern, sexually liberated woman. Nor would we find men in stays with pale complexions all that attractive. We love our tanned, muscular guys. I'm a modern woman, fully aware of flush toilets, electricity, white bread, birth control, Penicillin and bad carbs, and it's hard to deal with a world that didn't revolve around things I'd never be willing to do without. I really want the fantasy with a historical gloss. And it gripes me because I want to believe I'm actually writing history. I'm not. But if I don't put in enough history to satisfy my own personal fantasy of being back there and in a romantic relationship, I know I won't please the reader, either.

Another difficulty is religion. In almost all previous European times, religion permeated everyday life and beliefs, yet romance generally elides right over its influence. I think I find religion easier to handle in medievals simply because it is so vastly different from religion today. But in Regencies, it sometimes bothers me that there's often not even casual mention of something that was so vital to everyday life. Not even going to church on Sundays, which is something one did. Period. In my last finished manuscript, I did a fervently religious adversary to the hero and heroine, and I'm seeing that he will have to

be toned down. His internal conflict between his jealousy and his sincere religious beliefs just makes him too strong a character, too sympathetic, and detracts from the romance. Sigh. My one attempt to touch on religion accurately. But it has to go.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

It all started with a joke, way back in 1996. Self-actualized, enlightened princess meets male chauvinist pig frog prince. Remember it? A friend sent it to me, and I re-wrote it as a fairy tale. Here it is:

Once upon a time, a beautiful, intelligent princess lived in a lovely kingdom by the sea. One day as she strolled in her garden alongside her favorite fountain, a frog leaped to the fountain wall beside her, startling her.

"Good morning," said the frog as he strutted along the wall (no mean feat, considering the shape of his legs). "I have come to rescue you."

The princess studied the frog quizzically, for she had never seen a talking, strutting frog before, and certainly could not imagine why she might need rescuing.

"I am not really a frog, you see, but an enchanted prince. One kiss from you and I shall return to my former glorious state, whereupon I shall save you from spinsterhood and carry you off to my castle where you can cook my meals, do my laundry, and bear me dozens of sons who will all be as handsome as I am."

That evening the princess sat down to supper at her table, set with the finest china and Waterford crystal, and smiled as she speared her Frog Legs Forestiére with her golden fork.

Oh, that was Lucas! I just had to write him and see him get what was coming to him. Yet at the same time I knew he had in him what it took to become a man worthy of Sophie's love. I needed to give him his chance to prove it. And he did.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

Lucas's war days took me into studying the Peninsular War far more deeply than I had before, for I needed to know what he had been through that made him the way he was. I discovered David Hamilton-Williams' Waterloo; A New Perspective, and became fascinated with that battle and how it changed the world. Unfortunately, I cut Waterloo out of my story, but it will come up again someday, I'm sure.

But researching Sophie's hidden past as the half-English, half-German daughter of a diplomat took me into completely new territory. I came across an interesting set of books called Picturesque Europe which is now quite valuable as well as intriguing. Although written and illustrated in 1876, I found fascinating information about 19th Century touring in Switzerland and how the Chamouni Pass had been very little known and used by the outside world until the very late 18th Century. The perfect place for the tragic ambush of Sophie's family. Then my husband brought home a book published by the City of Hamburg, Germany, celebrating its history. In it, I learned how the city nearly starved when the French closed down its port, and how people were smuggled past the French occupiers in 1806, simply walking across the border into Altona. That completed Sophie's backstory and gave me Sophie's terrible secret.

What/Who do you like to read?

For fiction, I read almost entirely historical romance, but some paranormal and occasionally contemporary. I love straight historical fiction, too. I sure wish I could see more medieval and ancient historical romance. I have such a wide variety of favorite historical authors, it's almost impossible to name any. Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Mary Balogh, Lynn Kerstan and Jocelyn Kelley always grab my attention. Diane Perkins and her alter ego, Diane Gaston, thrill me, as does Janet Mullany with her really sexy Regencies. And I'm crazy about Colleen Gleason whose first Regency-set vampire story has just hit the stores. I've already read the next one that isn't out yet, so I know she's going to be hot.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

Well, how about both? Most of my stories have begun with a strong outline, but sometimes I just haven't known where a good beginning will take me and I've had to keep writing until I found the end, or more likely, the middle. But while I love that creative flow when I just let things go, I find I'm often misled and influenced too much by my current mood ot events around me. Then I'm off track and have to do it all again.

I do multiple drafts, so this doesn't bother me all that much, but it really is hard to whack out what I think is wonderful writing just because it doesn't belong. And even when I have outlines, my stories often take me in directions I hadn't planned, and lead to endings that totally surprise me. I usually don't truly understand my own story until at least the second draft, so I might as well just write writing straight through. I enjoy using the Book In A Week technique, but in my case it's more like a month. I make notes directly in my manuscript in BOLD CAPS on any changes I'd like to make in the next draft.

What are you planning to work on next?

I'm doing a paranormal medieval right now, combining the dark fantasy of sorcerers and demons and other creatures in a head-on collision with the real historical world. It's a great era for really scary stuff, and the mythology of the period is full of possibilities, to me, much like Lord of the Rings. My current heroine is a halfling faerie, but believe me, she is no ordinary Tinker Bell, and she does a lot more than kiss hobbits on their foreheads. No wings, either, but she sure can kick butt. It's a very sexually tense story, too. The hero is the biggest challenge for me this time, because it takes a really strong heroic hero to be worthy of such a strong heroine.

12 February 2007

Doreen's new release

I have a new book out this week!
Bedding the Beast
I hope you all love the cover as much as I do. Loose Id has some of the classiest covers. Full disclosure: I own part of Loose Id. But we still have great covers!

Back to my book, Bedding the Beast. It's an historical with paranormal elements set in the 1880s in Pennsylvania. The characters live on a small farm, the kind with one room and a stove used for heating. It's far removed from my usual Regency realm, but I had a great time writing it -- even though I had to do research on what kind of soap they were likely to use to do laundry. That's probably as close as I've come to actually doing laundry in years (sometimes it's nice to have a house husband).

As you can probably guess from the title, the story is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. But my real inspiration for the book was a true story about my great-grandparents.

My great-grandfather, Giuseppe Sciullo (ironically, that name translates to Joseph Smith), paid a man in a small village in Italy to give him one of their daughters, Maria Suzio. Giuseppe and Maria came to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania. Within a year, Maria died in childbirth.

Always a frugal man, Giuseppe went back to Italy and told her parents that the wife they'd given him was defective. He wanted his money back. Maria's father, who could trade horses with the best of them, refused to give Giuseppe a refund. Instead, he forced another daughter, Pasqua (Esther), to marry Giuseppe.

Pasqua had a life in Italy, and had no desire to come to the United States. She hated Giuseppe and never got over her bitterness, despite raising her sister's child and four of her own. I remember thinking, as a child, how different her life could have been if she had been a little more forgiving, and a little more accepting of her life. She could have been a relatively happy woman, if she hadn't focused on the bitterness of how she came to be married to this stranger.

I gave her a new personality, changed a few aspects of the real story, added a ghost and a ton of hot sex, and Bedding the Beast was born. I have to say that this is one of my favorite stories I've written. It's the book that convinced me I could write historicals.

Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear from other authors who based a book on a true story. History is full of great plots. Know of any that are ripe for a good fictionalizing?

Cheers to all,

P.S. - You'll be able to purchase Bedding the Beast on Tuesday, February 13, at Loose Id. Just in time for that big Hallmark Holiday.

08 February 2007

Regency Romance: Notes of a Reluctant Rebel

Offering some musings from my inner litcrit groupie and theory slut, partly inspired by Kathrynn’s post last week of Major Sullivan Ballou’s beautiful love letter – and also, come to think of it, by Vikki’s lacemakers and the Cheryl’s St. John's wonderful piece on the Harvey Girls…

One of the things I love about the discussions on this blog is the willingness to question the conventions and prejudices of our genre. To wonder if historical romances might be able to illumine certain less-celebrated aspects of history, to imagine stories beyond the Vicar’s Daughter Marries Duke variety.

Which I’m all for in theory. And even sometimes in practice – I had great fun at the end of the first romance I wrote, when my French hero the Viscomte d’Auvers-Raimond proposes to my heroine and announces that he’s been offered a… position (which is the best his lovely aristocratic mouth can do with the concept of “job”), after which he also confides that he’s resolved to renounce his title.

A relatively easy shot. After all, in a few more years the French Revolution would come along and he’d have been pretty pleased to be able to introduce himself as plain Monsieur Raimond.

But I must confess that after The Bookseller’s Daughter, I began to set my books in the English Regency. And the sad truth is that I’ve never found a way to go beyond that subgenre’s class conventions.

I don’t think it’s only that I've been dazzled by the glamour of Regency high life, or the fact that it's not easy to think up viable, comfortable lives for people who lived on less than, say, a thousand pounds a year (though that certainly contributes to the difficulty). Nor do I believe that the romance readership won’t buy the prospect of modest happiness (think of Nora Roberts' down-to-earth heroes; and romance readers buy Nora in some number, as perhaps you’ve noticed).

In the case of the Regency, I think that the conventions are so strong because Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer have (each in her own way) created such coherent mythologies of a society that we want to escape to. Even if it’s a society based upon a stable, formidable system of class inequality, it’s also a coherent and highly moral universe.

I stammered about this topic on RomanceB(uy)TheBlog a few months ago. At that time I was working on the idea of what I called “natural aristocracy” as a romantic trope – the Edenic dream of a world where virtue and inheritance have a natural (instead of an ironic) linkage. Everybody knows that life doesn’t actually work by these rules very often, but everybody sort of wishes it did. And what's even better is that the romantic version of the myth of natural aristocracy places love at the center of the social and political world. (Unlike the royalty or the aristocracies of her time, Jane Austen’s pairs of lovers – the Darcys, the Knightleys, etc. – wind up exerting a kind of loving parental authority from the center of their respective worlds).

But since then I've found this wonderful quote from Jane Aiken Hodge’s The Private World of Georgette Heyer, which puts the case even better:

“…her private Regency world… had snobbery built in, historical, and therefore respectable. We are all snobs of some kind, and it is comfortable to find oneself in a world where the rules are so clearly established, where privilege and duty go hand in hand, and a terrible mockery awaits anyone who takes advantage of position. This is a world, like that of Shakespeare’s comedies, where laughter is the touchstone and the purifier; where exposure to the mockery of one’s equals is punishment enough equally for Montague Revesby in Friday’s Child or Parolles in All’s Well that Ends Well.”

I adore that bit about “a terrible mockery” awaiting “anyone who takes advantage of position”: not only is our romantic Regency Eden ruled by love, but by wit. A hard act to follow, and a hard tradition to buck, going all the way back to Shakespearean comedy.

And yet the rebel in me still believes that there’s room to spread out, to democratize, to find gutsy new ways to talk about old worlds, both actual and imagined. Which Regency (or other historical) romance writers do you think have done so?

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Visit Bath with Celia May Hart

It’s tough coming up with a topic to talk about. Mostly, I just read and read and read and it gets taken in by osmosis. So I can surely tell you where to look things up, but off the top of my head? Nah.

However, I thought I might talk a little bit about Bath, England, although my current book isn’t set there. You don’t want to hear how I fudged the whole travel thing from Durham to Dover in MADE FOR SIN. Trust me.

A lot of us don’t have the chance to visit the places which we write about. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Bath three times (so far). I love the city!

Bath was host to the Sydney Gardens (walk over the Pulteney Bridge and keep walking west until you hit the gate). This was much like Vauxhall in that it was an adult pleasure gardens. It had bowling greens, walks, waterfalls, tea pavilions, a grotto, a faux castle ruin, a “ride” for horseback riding, illuminations and a labyrinth (with a Merlin’s chair in the center). This was created in the late 1700s, during the peak of Bath’s popularity with the ton.

Wait, you’re asking. What’s a Merlin’s Chair? There is some debate about it. I’ve seen a picture that makes it look like an oversized swing (big enough for two people at a time), almost like a primitive ferris wheel. I’ve read a reference that the half-paralyzed Lady Duncannon was able to propel her Merlin Chair across the room, which doesn’t make it sound like a swing at all. There’s a reference to an exhibition catalogue by Anne French called “John Joseph Merlin, the Ingenious Mechanick” (London, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, 1985), which supplies the clarification that the Merlin Chair was actually an invention in addition to the “health-giving” swings of Sydney Gardens.

So there you have it. Everybody is right.

At any rate, the Gardens were a favorite haunt of Jane Austen’s and they are still there, although it requires a heavy dose of imagination to see how it might have been, with the railroad cut through, the ruins and labyrinth gone, the addition of tennis courts, among other things. But there a plenty of prints that paint a delightful scene of evenings there.

Oh, and one more Bath tip before I go: don’t forget to include the sensation of incredibly steep hills in any work set their. Because if you’re not going uphill in Bath, you’re going downhill. (With the exception of the area close by the Abbey. There are always exceptions.)

If you haven’t been, maybe one day you too will make it to the City of Bath.

07 February 2007

Trees of the British Isles

I love trees. They are fascinating. I picked up a small book called The Observer's Book of Trees and Scrubs of the British Isles when we were in Hay-on-Wye and I thought I might do a series of blogs on the different species.

Here are the first three.

The Holly Tree: well distributed throughout the British Isles. The bark of the Holly is smooth and grey. The leaves are oval and leather with sharp spines. When the Holly has attained a height of ten feet or so, often the leaves do not have spines. Perhaps sometime in it's early history it developed the spines in self-defense against cattle. It produces small white flowers that are about a quarter of an inch apart. The fruit is similar in structure to a cherry and is called a drupe. There are male and female trees and the solely male trees will produce blossoms, but not berries.

The Horse Chestnut: native to Greece, Iran and Northern India. Introduced to Britain around 1550. It is not a tree that is found in the woodlands, or even the wayside--but at public parks and gardens. The leaves are almost circular with fingers. The flowers are bell-shaped with five lobes supporting five petals. They are pure white in color, but splashed with crimson and yellow. They have seven curved stamens and one longer style. The tree grows rapidly and produces a soft wood. It is not good for durability, but it's extremely even grain and the ability to take a high polish makes it useful for indoor work, such as cabinet making.

The Elder:
More of a tree of the wayside than the woodland, often of low bushy growth. It grows rapidly in it's early years and can be used as a hedge. The tender shoots quickly harden, making a tough tube with a pithy center. These tubes are useful to make blow-pipes, pop-guns, hearth bellows, and music pipes. The flowers are creamy white and give off an offensive odor. The berries are small purple-black globes and are used to make Elderberry wine, which is said to have medicinal properties.

Well, now I'm longing for a picnic and a walk in the woods.

:) Jessica

06 February 2007

Welcome back, Celia May Hart

Made for Sin
by Celia May Hart
Aphrodesia—January 30th, 2007

Two very different sisters with one thing in common--the good fortune to find men who'll show them how heavenly sin can be...

Lucy Waverton's wild escapades are the talk of the ton. Fleeing the notorious Earl of Radbourne's carriage after a delicious seduction, she meets a soldier whose hard body and rebellious streak stir her newly awakened desires. Sergeant Michael Hall may be low born, but his every caress takes Lucy higher and higher, into a realm of pure carnal ecstasy...

Searching the country for her reckless younger sister, Caroline Waverton instead finds herself in the company of the rogue who reputedly ruined Lucy. Alex Radbourne is decadent, depraved, and devilishly skilled at uncovering Caroline's secret, forbidden desires. The refined Miss Caroline has a thoroughly wanton side, and though each knows the affair is wrong, nothing could feel more right than surrendering to sinfully erotic abandon...

Made for Sin is set in Regency England. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

For that, we need to go back into the mists of time.... I think the culprit would have to be either my introduction to Georgette Heyer, or the movie “A Hazard of Hearts”, based on a Barbra Cartland novel. I fell in love with the costuming and the “hamming” by the actors and decided that this must be a fun period. Heyer’s adventure tales confirmed it, plus that added wit. Since then, I have glommed Heyer and Austen and every film adaptation I can find.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

A woman’s reputation is always to be upheld. They certainly don’t gamble, get into a closed carriage with a man who is no relation and oh, all sorts of things. Fortunately, my heroines are bad girls. They still face the consequences of their actions (for the most part) and that makes it interesting.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

It’s interesting -- the wild-child younger sister Lucy and the army sergeant started this book. I wanted to move out of refined circles a bit, where “manners” don’t matter. About half way through though, Lucy’s older sister Caroline and her Earl captured my attention, so the book ended up about evenly split between the two, which is unusual.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

I had to figure out how long it took to get from Durham to Dover -- and whether or not I could avoid London altogether in so doing.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

Last time I participated in this interview, I wrote that I was a bit of both. I think that is still true, although lately, all I’m getting is a beginning and I’m brave enough (once I’ve thought of a few things that might possibly be happening) just to jump into the void and have the characters take me where they will. I sometimes still have to stop and brainstorm what happens next and when I get started on that, I practically plot all the way to the end of the book. It’s weird. I used to just write in one certain style or routine, and now it’s whatever gets the words down.

What are you planning to work on next?

Is I wrote last time, I send in some new Aphrodisia ideas and I’m still waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up a Dark Ages romance proposal, which is a tough sell given that everyone isn’t in fine attire. The wit, I have to say, is still quite dry and biting. I mean, that’s half the fun of writing a Regency.

After that, I need to go back to an Elizabethan historical fantasy idea that I started last year before contracts derailed me (not that I’m complaining!!!!)

04 February 2007

More on Civil War Era Letters

Kathrynn's post of the achingly loving letter from Major Ballou to his wife, Sarah, inspired me to hunt up Lincoln's Letter to Mrs. Bixby. February is the month when we honor our Presidents, but in this letter a President honors a woman who gave more than any mother should be asked to give. It reads as follows:

Executive Mansion,
, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,--

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

What impresses me most about this letter is its heartfelt sympathy. My favorite line: I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. I would consider my life a success if I could write one line as fine as that.

I have always wondered how deeply commanders feel the loss of their men, especially when the commanders are far from the front. When you read the closing of this letter, is there any doubt that this was written from the heart, by a man who grieved every death in a war he oversaw as Commander in Chief?

Honesty compels me to tell you the rest of the story. It was later discovered that two of Mrs. Bixby’s sons survived. One was a deserter and the other honorably discharged. According to one web site I checked, Mrs. Bixby destroyed the original letter as she was a Confederate sympathizer and did not like Lincoln. This makes me wonder how someone with such strong convictions could have raised five sons who fought on the side she opposed. As my friend, writer Marsha Nuccio, says, “Every life is a novel.”


03 February 2007

The Medina

The medina is the old city. The one behind the gates. There are several gates, but all of them can be closed and barred, and would have been once upon a time. Incidentally, I learned something about them that I thought was pretty cool, the biblical saying It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven comes from a curious practice at these very gates. The two smaller doors into the medina are the “eye” and anything that had to be removed from a laden camel so it could get through the “eye” was taken as a tax. So what that proverb really means is you can’t take it all with you, and you need to share.

Once inside there is a twisting, turning maze of streets and shops and homes. I’ve already shown you the amazing things that lurk behind the anonymous walls, but I didn’t show you the tiny streets, the donkeys and mules everywhere (no cars allowed in the medina), and the press of humanity. The medina here in Fes dates backs to the 8th century, with bits being added and rebuilt over the intervening centuries (the riad I stayed in is relatively new, dating to only 1915).

In the heart of the medina is the tannery. I’ve never really smelled anything like it. Imagine a sewer back-up on a hot day, and then imagine that it’s been like that for hundreds of years in the same spot . . . yeah. The tannery has been in constant use since something like the 12th century, and all the work to tan the hides is still done the same way today. Urine and pigeon dung are used to tan the leather. Vats of natural dye stuff sit in the same vat they always have, ready for use. Everything is simply topped off as needed (and a good rain, or snow as they had they day before I arrived!) can make the place overflow into the streets.

There are also old caravansaries, hotels with rooms for the traders, stables for the beasts, and a large square for trading. Many of the finer riads have become either hotels, restaurants, or shops. We bought pottery, the kind Fes is justifiably famous for, from one such that the shopkeeper told us has been in his family for more than 300 years (they still live in the rooms above the shop, just the main rooms have been turned in to a place of business).

If you’re interested in the history of Morocco, I’d say Fes is not to be missed.

02 February 2007

Major Sullivan Ballou's Love Letter

I couldn’t bear to watch the whole of Ken Burn’s 1990 PBS documentary on the Civil War. But every now and then, I have a flash-recall of the bit I did see and hear---the words written by Major Sullivan Ballou in a letter to his wife, Sarah, just a week before he died the first Battle of Bull Run:

"The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard for me it is to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar - that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name . . . "

"But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night - amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by."

Here are the words of a common man who was uneducated and born into poverty---who passionately loved his wife. He was not a duke or an earl or a member of the American elite, but he was a romantic hero on so many levels. I can’t help but wonder about Sarah Ballou, and how she must have reflected upon this letter after her husband’s death, knowing she was loved so completely.

It’s this part that really moves me: . . . and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by."

Wow. I remember that passage seventeen years after I heard it. It's one of the best written examples of everlasting love I’ve ever read. In honor of St. Valentine and February and history, I had to share it.

If you would like to read the whole letter, go to: http://www.brotherswar.com/These_Honored_Dead-7e.htm

Okay, now I have to go get a hankie.


01 February 2007

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Tamed The Wild Frontier

Cheryl St. John continues her visit with the Hoydens . . .

My February '07 release THE LAWMAN'S BRIDE features a heroine on the run from a con man and the law. She fakes a background and references and chooses the least likely place imaginable to hide herself: working as a Harvey Girl in Newton, Kansas. Of course the hero is the City Marshal, so they collide in a good many fun and dangerous ways.

Much has been written about women who traversed the continent by wagon train as well as those who were mail-order brides. But there’s a less well-known, more unique, and equally important percentage of young women who blazed a trail of civilization from east to west coast. These were the Harvey Girls.

As the railroad charged across the west, little thought was given to the comfort of passengers. Food was inedible or lethal and service sloppy. Some café owners even went in cahoots with railroad crews and scammed passengers: No sooner was the food placed before the patrons who had paid half a dollar in advance, than the whistle would toot. Afraid of being left behind, passengers ran for the train and the food was “recycled” for the next trainload of unsuspecting victims.

Fred Harvey, an Englishman, worked his way up in fine eating establishments in the East before trying his hand at a partnership which failed. After brief service on a riverboat and a stint as a postal worker, he sold advertising for a newspaper and invested in cattle ranching, finally deciding while working as a freight agent that there was a crucial need for improved food and service along the rails.

Harvey negotiated with Santa Fe Railroad and built his first dining operation in a wooden depot in Topeka. The premises were spotlessly clean. Premium prices were paid for top-quality supplies and ingredients, and table settings included Irish linens and English silver. Harvey’s standards brought instant and overwhelming success.

At his second establishment, a restaurant-hotel at Florence Kansas, he hired a chef away from Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel and paid him a $5,000 salary, more than the local bankers earned. The little town of Florence became famous for its Harvey House meals.

Uniforms, fingernails, place settings, food lockers, and all facilities came under stringent regulations. Harvey, perfecting the Sudden Unannounced Visit as a means of quality control, would suddenly appear and conduct a white-glove inspection, tossing an offending manager out onto the platform at the least infraction.

New Harvey Houses opened up at the division/meal-stop points, and by 1883, Harvey was operating seventeen establishments along the old Santa Fe Trail. The restaurants made a profit despite their devotion to quality food, generous portions, and elegant furnishings. The only drawbacks to their success were the staffs of unreliable male employees who either showed up for work hung over or were injured in brawls.

In 1883 Harvey implemented a policy that would be his greatest impact on the American West. Advertisements appeared in several eastern and Midwestern papers:

WANTED: Young women, 18 to 30 years of age, of good character, attractive and intelligent.

Harvey hired waitresses the same way he’d set about locating the finest food, furniture, chefs and managers. Women were screened with the same perfectionist methods. Upon signing a contract (twelve months in the early days), she usually had twenty-four hours to tell her family good-bye and begin rigorous training in Newton, Kansas.

Between 1883 and the 1950’s, tens of thousands of women applied and learned “the Harvey way”. The first women answering the ads had many motivations for doing so, financial reasons most prevalent: Starting out, they were paid $17.50 per month, plus tips, room and board, and unsurpassed meals.

Though black and white uniforms, black shoes and stockings, hairnets, and no make-up were intended to diminish their appearance, the Harvey girls were the best “dishes” the dining halls served up for the frontier men. The girls were friendly faces in an often lonely land.

Most dormitories had a courting parlor where gentlemen could call, plus a sewing room. The girls were among the best paid and best dressed females in their towns. Many, being farmers’ daughters, sent earnings home to their families.

The women worked their way up from the lunch counter to the dining hall and earned promotions or transfers to other houses along the Santa Fe. They worked six- and seven-day weeks, often twelve hours a day in split shifts around meal trains. When not serving, they cleaned and polished and kept their station ready for the next train.

When they did have free time, they rode the rails free, visiting family, or played softball. Some Harvey Houses had their own teams which traveled up and down the line competing in other towns.

A Harvey House was a social and business gathering place. Many real and imagined romances were spawned in the elegant setting. Countless contracts were broken and pay forfeited when Harvey Girls met and married railroad men, cattle ranchers, and businessmen. The impact of these “good, attractive, and intelligent” women on the towns they poured into shouldn’t be underestimated.

As approximately 5,000 of them married and raised families, eastern culture and civic improvement spread throughout Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and eventually the rest of the states. These were the women in the forefront of the law and order movements, improving safety and quality of life. Their voices were the ones heard in civic activities, church choirs, and community stage productions.

The Harvey Girls who married and settled in the West tended to marry men of high standing and to be the most capable women in the community. It’s been claimed that thousands of boys born to these couples bore the names Fred or Harvey or both. More so than dining experiences and service standards, Harvey’s most profound contribution to the civilization of the American West was the advent of the Harvey Girl. They worked hard, but with dignity and a sense of purpose. They were professionals worthy of respect and admiration.

Many Harvey Houses survived the great depression o the 30’s, and as part of the war effort, Harvey Girls served thousands of troops during WW II. The disappearance of Harvey Girls is historically linked to the extremes of war and to progress in the form of automobiles and airplanes, an appropriate and worthy end to the legendary women who settled the West.

Will Rogers, western philosopher and humorist, recognized the contribution of the Harvey Girls with this: “In the early days the traveler fed on the buffalo. For doing so, the buffalo got his picture on the nickel. Well, Fred Harvey should have his picture on one side of the dime, and one of his waitresses with her arms full of delicious ham and eggs on the other side, ‘cause they have kept the West supplied with food and wives.”

THE HARVEY GIRLS, Women Who Opened The West, Lesley Poling-Kempes
THE HARVEY GIRLS, The Women Who Civilized The West, Juddi Morris
THE HARVEY HOUSE COOKBOOK, Memories of Dining Along The Santa Fe Railroad,
George H. Foster and Peter C. Weiglin
THE RAILROADERS, Time-Life Old West Series
STEEL TRAILS TO SANTA FE, L.L. Waters, University of Kansas Press

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