London Rookeries

During the late 1700’s London experienced a population explosion, and these newcomers—mostly working class—needed places to live. Unscrupulous landlords rented out rooms in medieval buildings. These areas became knowns as “Rookeries” and they were the very vilest of London slums.

Entire families crammed into single rooms with little to no ventilation because windows were taxed, so they were removed or boarded up. Since candles were expensive, many of these families lived in perpetual darkness. The ancient structures provided no easy access to water, leaving residents to carry their water from the Thames, which was so polluted by nearby cesspits and the filth that dripped through grates and by dumping into the river, that in the summer time, the stench drove most of the upper classes to the country.

Rookeries seldom provided ways to remove waste, so open sewers ran down the streets and mingled with mud. Animal dung and rotting carcasses alleys streets filled with almost-naked children and women wearing used, faded and ill-fitting clothes. Many Irish laborers, whose strong backs helped build so many London fortunes, lived in these rookeries and trudged to work daily to eke out enough to pay the rent but practically starving.

Such cheap and neglected places became breeding grounds for crime, prostitution, addiction, and all manner of filth. In some cases, newer but cheaply-made buildings were constructed between existing structures, cramming in more and more living space and creating tiny alleys where thieves prayed upon those foolish enough to venture there. It was reportedly so dangerous that attempts by the police to perform arrests often resulted in deadly violence. For about 100 years, the police simply avoided those places and advised citizens to do the same.

The poet George Galloway described one in 1792 as “a cluster of mean tenements densely populated by people of the lowest class.”

Thomas Beames, a clergyman, witnessed the unspeakable living conditions and poverty and wrote a report about it called The Rookeries of London: Past, Present, and Prospective published in 1852. He recorded: “A dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen. The street was very narrow and muddy, and the air was impregnated with filthy odours.”

I’m certain such a crowded, dark, filthy living conditions was also a breeding ground for disease, and with no means to pay for medical attention.

The dire living conditions at these dens of vice and poverty were so infamous that in 1816, a Parliamentary Committee was organized to access the London slums and seek solutions. Still, change took decades, partly because so many people had the attitude that these slums were the direct result of wickedness or idleness. They often derided the Irish laborers who lived there. Finally, journalists, novelists and social reformers convinced Parliament that the slums were largely caused by unemployment, under-employment, and little to no access to education.

Finally, the Victorians, in their pursuit for modernization and therefore sanitation, rid themselves of the rookeries and the last remnants of medieval London. As planned, those who inhabited the rookeries left. However, still in need of cheap housing, they relocated to Bermondsey, Brixton and Hackney where they continued to plague Victorians.

The Suspect’s Daughter, book 4 of the Rogue Hearts Series

In my novel, The Suspect’s Daughter,  a couple of scenes that take place in the slums of London, where the heroine, a gently-bred lady, is so horrified by the appalling conditions that she offers the young mother a job at her country home where the woman can better provide for her small children and where they will be safe. Though my heroine can’t help everyone, she helps those she can. It is a philosophy I embrace and that I hope resonates with my readers.

Sources:

http://georgianlondon.com/post/49461306842/slum-living-londons-rookeries

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-rookeries-of-london-a-survey-of-londons-poorest-quality-housing

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/st-giles-the-psychogeography-of-londons-rookery-2284879.html

18th and 19th century London Rookeries Historical Hussies

Victorian London – Publications – Social Investigation/Journalism – The Rookeries of London, by Thomas Beames, 1852

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Heroes and Time Travelers

Nestled deep in the heart of a large city park at the edge of Sacramento, visitors and school children can find a time machine. This time machine only stops in one time and place: Rhoads School, the 1890’s. Rhoads is a one-room schoolhouse where a pleasant but firm schoolmarm welcomes children and teaches values such as honesty and manners along with reading, writing, and arithmetic.

This one-room school is not a re-creation; it is a fully-restored school originally built in 1872 in Soughhouse, CA. A victim of progress, the school sat unused for many years—alone, but not forgotten.

During the bicentennial, the Elk Grove Historical Society decided to relocate and restore the school. They had the school lifted up and transported in a perilous journey underneath low-hanging power lines in its trek to Elk Gove Park. Later, junior high students restored the school in a community service project. When the Elk Grove Historical Society had the school restored to aid elementary education, they carefully chose how to do it. They even enlisted the aid of a local high school shop department to build desks identical to those used in the 1800s. Using a lone surviving desk as a guide, the shop constructed brand new desks that look exactly like their antique counterparts.

In its new home, Rhoads school helps educate children about their pioneer heritage and the history of the Sacramento valley.  As part of their living history program, third grade children take a field trip, dressed in period-appropriate attire and going by period-appropriate names they choose, to get a one-day glimpse into the schooling methods of a by-gone era.

Visiting children warm themselves by a pot-bellied stove fueled with real logs, write on slates with slate pencils, and play outdoor games during recess that children the 1800s played such as jacks, marbles, hoops, and of course, jump rope. Dressing up is part of the fun, I am sure.

The day I visited, the year was 1894 and the schoolmarm was Mistress Merrill, who teaches so authentically that she insists the children “show their manners” by standing and bowing or curtsying before giving their answers.

She even uses the dunce cap—but only to a volunteer actor/student who “misbehaves” and “has” to wear the dunce cap as punishment. At the end of the dunce cap wearer’s sentence, the teacher invites the miscreant to apologize to the class for wasting their time. She then reveals his part in the charade. He receives applause and a certificate for his performance. (Okay, so that part is not authentic but no one minds.)

Rhoads school is named after a local hero, John Rhoads. He, after uttering now-famous words, “We can’t call ourselves true men if we don’t help these people” volunteered to lead the rescue party to find survivors of the ill-fated Donner pioneer wagon train.  John Rhoads and his rescuers found the starving survivors and even carried one of the survivors, a three-year old girl, on his shoulders all the way back. This choice put John and the lives of the entire group at risk, for they counted on him to guide them back home. He refused to put her down, vowing to carry her or die trying. The child, Naomi Pike, lived into her 90’s and always called John Rhoads her savior.

The Rhoads school field trip is a memorable experience for the school children who quickly grow to respect and admire their schoolmarm. Though soft-spoken and even tempered, Mistress Merrill starts out strict and unsmiling. However, everyone is all smiles by the end of the day.

One child recently asked Mistress Merrill, “Did you really teach here in 1894?”

Another said, “You weren’t that strict; you were fun.”

After having lived it for a day, these third-grade children leave Rhoads School with a better appreciation for their heritage and local history.

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Arranged Marriages and True Love

The idea that we’d let our parents or guardians arrange our marriages leaves the modern day man and woman laughing–or possibly cringing. Yet this was a common custom throughout history in nearly every country of the world. I’m sure a few of those marriages ended up as love matches, while most grew into merely a mutual amiability born of a determination to make the most of a difficult situation. However, many such unions were supremely miserable.

Such arrangements are a favorite trope for the romance reader and author alike, inspiring countless historical romance novels about love springing from an arranged marriage. Such was the case for my very first published Regency Historical Romance novel, The Stranger She Married and again in Courting the Countess.

Which begs the question; why were arranged marriages so common?

I can’t speak for other countries, but in England, the institution of marriage was a union of rank and property rather than of love. Though many popular ballads, poems, and plays of the era praised true love, in reality, practicability ruled more heavily than affairs of the heart. During the Regency era, all women, even ladies of the gentry and aristocracy, possessed very little independence. They were, in essence, property of their parents until they married, at which time they became property of their husbands. Therefore, parents cautiously settled their daughters in what they deemed were ‘good matches.’

They valued security over love because in a time when divorce was almost unheard of–and viewed as scandalous–marriage was a lifetime commitment, for better or worse. Parents searched for a men who would keep their daughter fed and cared for. They could only hope that love, or at the very least, regard, would bloom later. Men understood that marriage was a duty in order to produce heirs.  Love itself, if it came, was a bonus.  In fact, most men had mistresses because marriage wasn’t usually a romantic relationship–it was more a business relationship.

The Victorian era solidified the idea of romantic love and marriage among the upper classes (Think of Queen Victoria; hers was a famous love match). Prior to that, while it did happen and people dreamed of it, and it happened in all of Austen’s novels, it really wasn’t what everyone expected.  Love sometimes happened with the wrong person which ruined families financially.

Prior to the Victorian Era, mistress often became an aristocratic man’s ideal of ‘lust and love.’  Heaven forbid a man fall in love with another man’s mistress!  Such a sin often meant death to that man because a man’s relationship with his mistress was intimate, one where men chose a woman to pleasure him, as opposed to duty being his deciding factor.  It wasn’t just about the sex with these mistresses, it was finding a woman who was everything his wife wasn’t.  Yeah. It makes me shudder, too. But that’s how it was, according to many sources including THE FAMILY, SEX, AND MARRIAGE in ENGLAND 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

One such example was the 1774 marriage between the 17-year-old daughter of the Earl of Spencer, Georgiana, and the Duke of Devonshire, a 26-year-old gentleman of supreme wealth, power, and influence.  On the surface, the union must have appeared an excellent match. The Duke desired a young wife of high rank to provide him with heirs.  For Georgiana, her status would be elevated to the coveted rank of duchess. According to reports, the young couple met a few times, all well chaperoned, before they wed.

Reportedly, Georgiana tried to love her untouchable husband, but he returned to the arms of his mistress. Their infamously unhappy marriage proved that money and status could not guarantee love or  happiness.

The Duchess, 2008 Hollywood film

The true story inspired Hollywood’s 2008 film The Duchess. Isn’t tThe wedding gown costume worn by actress Keira Knightly (right) gorgeous? But I digress.

But not all marriages were so unhappy. Amanda Vickery, in her book A Gentleman’s Daughter contends that many people married for affection; that it was, in fact, more common than marrying for rank or wealth. I hope that is true! Still, arranged marriages were common, often with the couple only having met a few times, or not at all, prior to the wedding.

In my stories, the characters all fall in love and find great joy together. After all, I’m all about the happily ever after 🙂

The Stranger She Married

Desperate to save her family from debtor’s prison, Alicia vows to marry the first wealthy man to propose. Her choices? A scarred cripple and a rake with a deadly secret.

Courting the Countess

When the only way to prevent a duel between her brother and the man she loves is to marry his brother, Elizabeth loses her dreams of love and happiness…unless she can learn to love the stuffy earl who might be trying to court her in his own, gruff way.

 

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Clean Romance Taking USA Today by a Storm

Starting today, April 16, through April 18, Autumn Masquerade, a Timeless Regency Romance Anthology, is only $.99 for the first time EVER. That’s 99 cents for this fantastic collection of three complete romance novellas by three best-selling authors. This sale only lasts 3 days!

Readers who enjoy historicals and Austen-esque stories set in Regency England will love this collection of sweet, romantic tales.

Let’s get this volume on the USA Today Best sellers list for Historical Romance and  prove to the world that there IS a place for Romance novels that have no sex scenes, no bad language, nor violence, and which provide a satisfyingly romantic happily-ever-after. Whether you prefer the term PG-rated, Clean, or Sweet, these heart-warming, swoony romances are sure to restore your faith in true love!

How can you help show publishers that readers do read clean romance? Here are 7 ideas:

Share this post on Facebook.

Tweet on Twitter.

Pin meme on Pinterest.

Post meme on Instagram.

Tell a friend.

Buy a copy for yourself from Amazon here or from Nook or iBooks.

Buy one for a friend 🙂

Autumn Masquerade is 99 cents only through April 21, 2018. After that, it goes back up to the regular price, so please help spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest. Ready, set, go!

Not convinced? Here is more info about this great collection of clean romances:

**Amazon Top 10 in Regency Romance**
**Amazon Top 10 in Victorian Romance**
**Amazon UK Bestseller**

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series.

Join three bestselling Regency romance authors, Josi S. Kilpack, Donna Hatch, and Nancy Allen, for three new Regency romance novellas in AUTUMN MASQUERADE.

A MERRY DANCE by Josi S. Kilpack. When Lila overhears her uncle talking about a man coming to look for property in the county, she doesn’t think twice, until her uncle says he hopes Lila will find enough interest to marry the man. How can she marry someone named Mortimer Luthford, not to mention that his advanced age of thirty-three, and especially since she’s already in love with her absent cousin Neville? But when Mortimer arrives, Lila has to try every trick known to women to act not interested in the rather fascinating man, which proves a very difficult façade to maintain.

UNMASKING THE DUKE by Donna Hatch. The last thing Hannah Palmer wants to do is flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister throws a Masquerade Ball, Hannah can’t say no to the invitation. Taking comfort behind a mask, she dances with a charming masked man, matching him wit for wit. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and the two remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover the man she’s been flirting with all night is her most despised neighbor, the Duke of Suttenberg. No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she’d ever accept.

WHAT’S IN A NAME by Nancy Campbell Allen. Penelope Timely has a terrible secret. She’s been writing letters to the Duke of Wilmington, pretending to be her ever-proper twin sister, Persephone. Now, the duke has written that he’ll be coming for the Autumn Masquerade Ball and Festival. Penelope will have to continue the charade while the duke is in town in order to protect her sister. The Duke of Wilmington isn’t fooled for a moment, but instead of confessing that he knows about the deception, he finds himself utterly charmed by Penelope and jumps into the game of deception to see how far the twin sisters will take it.

Autumn Masquerade is 99 cents for only 3 days ! Order your copy now here on Amazon, Nook and iBooks.

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“May Day” Giveaway

“It’s May, it’s May; the lusty month of May

Even though it’s not May just yet, I’m using a fun song from the classic movie Camelot to introduce a fabulous opportunity for readers of historical romance.

Romancing Yesterday, my historical author writers’ group, is having a HUGE giveaway of e-book romance novels  in celebration of May Day. Enter our Rafflecopter sweepstakes for a chance to win!

The May Queen Prize

60 books by 50 + best-selling and award-winning authors of historical romance

First Prize

A $40.00 Gift Card to Amazon

 Enter via the Rafflecopter here for a chance to win!

Winners will be drawn randomly and announced on the Romancing Yesteryear website and via social media on May 1, 2018.

Good Luck to everyone!

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Historical Fiction – My Favorite Escape

Historical Fiction – My Favorite Escape

In a recent survey, 80% of avid readers listed historical novels as one of their top three favorite types of books to read. I wasn’t really surprised, since historical fiction, especially historical romance fiction, is my favorite genre. But it got me thinking; why the broad appeal?

First, historical novels provide a fantastic escape. When life gets stressful, the first thing I like to do is pick up a novel. When I read a historical novel, I am transported to another place and time, to a setting so completely different from my reality, that it feels like a vacation without the hassle and expense of travel. Immersing myself into someone else’s life and seeing them triumph over all gives me a lift that lasts long after I close the book. Total escapism can and does happen with modern-day novels, but the less the book contains about present-day issues, the better an escape it provides. Plus, historical fiction lends itself to lovelier, more lyrical writing that modern day or futuristic novels often lack.

Second, historical novels appeal to the closet history buff. Most authors pride themselves on careful research—myself included—so we put a great deal of effort into getting our facts straight. I know an attorney who loves learning about the Napoleonic Wars and has an entire wall in his library devoted to books—both fiction and nonfiction—about that particular war. I have other friends who adore Jane Austen era novels, so they devour any books set in the Jane Austen Era or the Regency Era. As a Regency romance author, I continue to extensively research English history, particularly the early 1800’s, so I can create a virtual trip through time. Having my facts straight is not just a pretty backdrop for my stories; the manners and mores of society helped shape people who lived in that time, both those who embraced customs of the time, and those who challenged them.

Third, historical novels help teach others about a particular time in history. Many school teachers incorporate historical novels into their curriculum in addition to non-fiction. Adding historical fiction novels helps round out students’ education, gives students a personal, up-close look at history as seen through the eyes of the characters, and it blends history into a story with larger-than-life characters which helps bring the past to vivid, colorful life.

How many of us learned more about the Civil War watching or reading Gone with the Wind than we ever learned in American History class? If Georgette Heyer and other great historical authors had never taken an interest English history—specifically the Regency Era—most of us would never have heard of the Regency Era, or why it was such a unique and important time in British history.

When I was researching pirates for my pirate novel, The Guise of a Gentleman, I read many non-fiction books about pirates—Blackbeard in particular—and took a detailed on line class about pirates and ships and sailing. Lastly, to fill in the blanks, I read several novels about pirates and about sea captains from the 1600’s to the 1800’s. All of this helped provide a solid base upon which I could build my pirate story with confidence that I had the knowledge to not only portray the life of a pirate aboard a ship, but also get into their minds and figure out what drove them to their chosen lives.

I love many things about historical fiction, but I suppose it comes right down to the people who lived in that time. This may be a skewed and romanticized vision, but I see the people who live long ago as being more honorable than we are today. In Regency England, duty and honor were everything. If a man said he’d do something, especially if he gave his word, he meant it, and others could count him to follow through, even if it came a great personal cost.

I love the way people in Regency England spoke so eloquently. The upper classes didn’t maul the language—they used correct grammar and had an enormous vocabulary. They also prized wit and excelled in using the understatement. Jane Austen novels are almost like poetry. She carefully chose each word for its beautiful wording, imagery, and rhythm.

By the Georgian and Regency Eras, men and women alike were educated and could read, compute complex mathematics, speak multiple languages—French and Latin in particular—and loved philosophical debates. They were also very cultured. From a young age they were taught to dance, play music, sing, and recite poetry.

Men in many historical eras were civilized and treated women with courtesy by standing up when a lady entered the room, doffed their hats, curtailed their language, offered an arm, bowed, and a hundred other little things I wish men still did today. But they were also very athletic; they hunted, raced, fenced, boxed, rode horses. They were manly. Strong. Noble. Resolute. Honorable. I love that about them! And that makes them perfect heroes for both historical fiction and historical romance novels.

Historical Fiction, along with all its subgenres, whether it’s Medieval, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, or any other historical time, is a here-to-stay genre. And I, for one, am delighted!

I’d love to hear from you! What is your favorite genre to read? Why?

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Movers and Shakers

It’s moving day so we’re shaking things up! Due to my husband’s job transfer, our family is saying good bye to our beloved northwestern Washington and heading to Sacramento, California. I’d love to say I’m excited but I’m just too heartbroken about moving yet again and leaving behind dear friends. However, I’m anxious for our family to be reunited. With the move and all the fall out, I will probably not blog much. Once we are settled, and I have my children enrolled in their new school, I’ll resume posts about Regency fun facts, people, and places.

In the meantime, I do have a request: If you have read my Regency Romance novel, Christmas Secrets and feels it deserves an award, please nominate it for a Swoony.

The Swoony Award is a readers-choice award for “clean” aka “sweet” aka PG-rated romance novels published December 2017 through November 2018. You can vote for up to 100 of your favorite books but keep in mind their publication date.

Here is the link to the Goodreads Award

Haven’t read it yet? You still can! It’s available on Kindle and paperback.

Here are the rules:

ONLY books PUBLISHED December 1, 2017 – November 30, 2018 are eligible.
-Books must be published OR have arc reviews before nomination. Since the award is based on readers having actually read and enjoyed the book(s) they are voting for, the book has to have been published or arcs read in order to receive votes.
-Intimacy: No sex, no/low closed door/fade-to-black, no/low innuendo, nothing crude or crass. G-PG13.
-Language: None/mild (No F words or other explicit language) nothing overly crude.
-Violence: Mild/low.
-Page Count: 100 pages or higher, anthologies are okay. No short stories.
-Age: Only Young Adult, New Adult and Adult. NO children’s or middle grade.
-Religious: No Christian fiction, some *very mild* religious elements may be allowed.

You can vote for up to 100 books on the list. Books will be added throughout the year so be sure to check back often and vote whenever you finish and love a book. Voting ends December 31, 2018.

Again, here is the link to the Goodreads Award

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