Friday, November 24, 2017

Christmas Ghost Stories

by Donna Hatch

An odd Christmas custom that dates back centuries is telling scary ghost stories. Have you noticed in the popular Christmas Song, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” the verse that says: “Tales of the glories and scary ghost stories of Christmases long, long ago” and wondered over it?

Telling ghost stories is an age-old tradition that many claim cropped up in the Victorian Era, including the traditional Christmas story, A Christmas Carol. However, this custom dates farther back than that.

Washington Irving penned a novel in 1819 called  The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The hero in the story visits friends in an English country house during Christmas season in a section entitled Old Christmas. While visiting Bracebridge Hall, our hero basks in the hospitality of the squire and a traditional English Christmas, which includes telling scary “winter tales.” Winter tales have long included tales of ghosts, witches, monsters, and other creatures of darkness.

In A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof the author, Roger Clarke, tells of a popular story claiming that shepherds saw ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies just before Christmas 1642.

Even earlier, the Bard, William Shakespeare, penned a collection of scary stories entitled Winter Tales.” This romance weaves a tale of tangled identities and apparent death and revival. This suggests that telling weird or bizarre stories whilst gathered around a winter’s evening fire was a wide-spread tradition long before the Bard’s time.

A predecessor of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe wrote a play entitled The Jew of Malta  in 1589 in which a character Barnabus states:

Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night

Since traditions such as this have roots in pagan practices dating back to medieval times, I assume winter tales including ghost stories have been a Christmas tradition since the days of cloak and dagger. But at the very least, the practice of telling ghost stories at Christmas has been in practice since the 1500s.

However, I’m happy that telling ghost stories, except for watching the movie or reading the book, A Christmas Carol, is no longer a major part of American Christmas customs. Can you imagine getting a child to bed who is both excited about presents and frightened of ghosts? Now that is scary!

Still, this practice of telling ghost stories is a plot point that works well for my Christmas novel, A Christmas Secret.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; to finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl with an impeccable reputation, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets released November 9, 2017 and you can download it to read instantly here

 on Kindle!

Sources:

http://www.hypnogoria.com/html/ghoststoriesforchristmas.html

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705363363/Telling-ghost-stories-is-a-lost-tradition-on-Christmas-Eve.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/23/ghost-stories-victorians-spookily-good

http://theconversation.com/why-ghosts-haunt-england-at-christmas-but-steer-clear-of-america-34629

Christmas Ghost Stories: The Ghost of Christmas Past Goes Further Back Than You Might Realize


Christmas Ghost Stories posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 17, 2017

Eat, Read, and Live Like Jane Austen 

                   Castle Comb, photo by Olivier Collet

by Guest blogger Jane Sandwood

Tea time is an important English tradition. It was a big part of life during the Regency period and is still valued today. If you love Jane Austen, you might be curious as to what her typical dining habits were – as the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Combine your love of tea time and sweet treats with your love of Jane Austen books, and immerse yourself into the traditions of the time. You’ll make your next book club meeting a sweet affair. 

The Regency period was focused on enjoying a range of sugary treats, but this wasn’t just because people in the era had a sweet tooth – it was because sugar played an important part in the country’s development so it was available to everyone. Sugar even featured in Austen’s novel “Mansfield Park” in which one of the characters, Sir Thomas Bertram, is a sugar baron. 

Here are some treats that Jane Austen and others would have loved during the Regency period. 

Honey Cake 
Breakfast during the Regency era would have been based around cakes, which sounds wonderful. A favourite choice was honey cake, perhaps because of its simplicity. You can make a delicious honey cake with just three ingredients: eggs, honey, and spelt flour. You could even add spices to the cake, which were quite popular during the period, such as saffron and ground ginger. Be sure to serve the cake with tea and hot chocolate, which were both typical beverages to be enjoyed with breakfast during the era.

Famous Bath Buns. My friend’s hand is nearby to show how big the buns are.

Bath Buns 
If you want to feel closer to Jane Austen while reading her works, eat bath buns. These were one of her preferred treats. Bath buns are sweet rolls made from dough with sugar sprinkled on top. There are different varieties, such as buns with candied fruit peel or raisins inside them, which makes them sound a bit like hot cross buns. You can make delicious bath buns with milk, flour, dried yeast, sugar, butter, and caraway seeds which were also popular during the Regency era. In fact, these seeds that taste like anise were also used in recipes for breath fresheners.

Bakewell Tarts

Tarts photo by Hisu Lee

These tarts are said to have been invented at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, a hotel in which Jane Austen stayed in 1811 and where she wrote “Pride and Prejudice.” These tarts were a custom during the Regency period – and are still delicious today. Made with shortbread pastry, and layers of jam, flaked almonds, and frangipane, they’re sure to be loved by your guests. You can make an easy Bakewell tart recipe in half an hour.

Try to imagine Jane Austen penning her most famous novel while baking and feasting on these tarts. Who knows? They might inspire you to write a cookbook or work of fiction set during the period…
You know that reading Jane Austen’s novels is a treat itself, but adding the pleasure of eating Regency desserts which the novelist enjoyed during her life is even more enjoyable. Escape modern life with some Regency treats and your beloved copy of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s a double pleasure to savour.

 


Eat, Read, and Live Like Jane Austen  posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Excerpt from Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Christmas Secrets

Announcing a new release! My newest novel, Christmas Secrets, is coming November 9, 2017. You can pre-order your copy of this clean and wholesome short novel today and have it instantly delivered to your ebook device.

Here is the back cover blurb:

Here is an excerpt from my new short Regency Christmas novel, Christmas Secrets. This scene takes place on Christmas Day when the everyone takes turn a kissing their spouse or sweetheart underneath the mistletoe ball. Now the group is coaxing Will and Holly, who have only known each other a few days, into sharing a mistletoe kiss.

“Come now, don’t be shy,” her sister called. “It’s tradition.”

The others called out encouragements.

Apology edged into Will’s uncertain expression. “Do you mind?”

Holly’s palms grew sweaty inside her gloves, and her smile probably came out wobbly. “Who are we to go against tradition?” Did she sound desperate in her desire to kiss him?

Will held out a hand. She placed hers in it and walked at his side to the kissing ball. They stood, hand in hand, facing each other. His neck cloth shifted as he swallowed. He leaned in. Her heart stumbled and her knees shook. She closed her eyes. Aching, she lifted her face. His cinnamon-spiced breath warmed her mouth.

He kissed her cheek.

Stunned, she opened her eyes. The watching guests groaned and some chuckled.

“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Joseph’s voice rang out. “Give her a proper kiss.”

Will froze. That intensity she occasionally saw in him returned. “Holly.” He swallowed again but instead of nervousness, a hunger that sent a flurry of shivers through her overtook his expression. “May I?”

She nodded. It didn’t matter if he saw how much she wanted this, wanted him. Let him know. Let the whole world know.

 He touched her chin, lifted it, and leaned in. Again, she closed her eyes. This time his lips touched hers, pliant and unbelievably gentle. Heat exploded at the contact and shot through her all the way down to her tingling toes. Different from her mystery kiss, this one sang of affection and respect and a deep longing to be accepted. Sweeter, more chaste, more filled with caring, Will’s kiss brought her a level of joy she’d never known. All the world faded away leaving Will and the power of his affection, his touch, his kiss. Every moment of her life seemed to have been designed to bring her to this single, perfect moment of bliss and wholeness.

“Ahem.” Father cleared his throat conspicuously.

Will pulled away all too quickly. A tiny sound of distress caught in Holly’s throat. It was over too soon. But oh, what a glorious kiss!

 

Pre-order your copy of Christmas Secrets today!


Excerpt from Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 3, 2017

Gunther’s Tea Shop

Negri’s business card

One of the fashionable places to visit in Regency England was Gunther’s Tea Shop in Berkley Square. Gunther’s was originally a sweet shop called The Pot and Pineapple, so named because the Pineapple was a symbol of confectioners, something only the rich could afford.

William Gunther. Note the fashionable pose.

The proprietor, an Italian pastry cook named Domenico Negri had a successful business making wet and dry sweetmeats. His shop also offered candied fruits, cakes, syrups, biscuits, delicate sugar spun creations, and most notably, ices. The Pot and Pineapple flourished, and Negri eventually took on a partner, James Gunter. Eventually, Gunter became the sole owner and changed the name to Gunter’s Tea Shop in 1799.

Ices were frozen in pewter or led molds in whimsical shapes such as fruit, vegetables, animals, a wedge of cheese, and even cuts of meat! These treats came in flavors the modern palate would find odd—parmesan and Gruyere cheeses, artichoke ice cream, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. Flower flavors also graced these fine dishes in violet, orange flower, jasmine rose, and elder flowers.

                        Berkley Square, 1813

By the Regency Era, Gunter’s had become so fashionable that those lucky few in the Beau Monde, many of whom resided at Mayfair, frequented the establishment. After going for a carriage ride at the park during the fashionable hour, many gentlemen took the ladies they were courting to Berkley Square to visit Gunter’s. They eventually formed the tradition of enjoying their sweets outside the confectionary in the Square. It seems that Gunter’s Tea Shop was the only establishment where a lady mindful of her reputation could be seen eating alone with a gentleman not related to her without calling into question her reputation. Waiters took orders from customers in their carriages, ran across the street to fetch the sweets, then raced back, dodging traffic, while carrying cold dishes filled with molded ices already beginning to melt.

Berkley Square, 2017, the site where Gunter’s is believed to have been located

Gunter’s was also known for its catering business and was a coveted wedding cake maker. In 1811, the Duchess of Bedford’s and Mrs. Calvert’s ball suppers featured the shop’s confectionary, and in 1889, Gunter’s made the bride cake for Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Louise of Wales.

Sadly, Gunter’s closed their doors in 1956, but continued to have a catering business in a new location for another twenty years.

Here is a photo I took of Berkley Square. The store, Sexy Fish, now sits in the location where it is believed Gunter’s once delighted those with a sweet tooth.

My heroes and heroines often frequent Gunter’s and I sometimes wish I could taste the ice right along with them!

 

Sources:

http://www.historicfood.com/Georgian%20Ices.htm

http://www.regrom.com/2008/09/27/regency-hot-spots-gunters/

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/

http://www.georgianindex.net/Gunters/gunters.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunter%27s_Tea_Shop

 


Gunther’s Tea Shop posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 27, 2017

Happy Halloween and All Hallow’s Eve Giveaway!

To celebrate Halloween, I am giving away a copy of ALL HALLOWS’ EVE, an exciting addition to the popular Timeless Romance Anthology series. ALL HALLOWS’ EVE is not to be missed with romance, thrills, and chills. Need I say more?

To enter the giveaway to win the Ebook, simply leave a comment in the comments section below telling me:

  1. 1. your name
  2. 2. which format you need–Mobi for Kindle, epub for most E-readers, or a PDF which can be read on most tablets, phones, and computers
  3. 3. your email address.

Here are the blurbs for each of the six different stories by six best-selling authors: Sarah M. Eden, Annette Lyon, Heather B. Moore, Lisa Mangum, Jordan McCollum, Elana Johnson.

In Sarah M. Eden’s mysterious novella OF GHOSTS AND GARDENS, if Enid Pryce has one downfall, it’s that she talks to the ghost in her garden, which doesn’t make her too popular among society’s elite. In fact, she returns to her home in Wales after a Season in Bath with not one offer of marriage. Deeming herself a failure at the nearly-spinster age of nineteen, she is pleasantly surprised when an English gentleman shows up in her garden, apparently intent on finding out more about the ghost. Burke Kennard, grandson of an English marquess, quickly becomes utterly charmed by the young Welsh woman, but the ghost in the garden is more likely to push them apart than pull them together.

In Annette Lyon’s enthralling story IT’S YOU, when Charlie and Anna both see the ghost of Nanny Mae, they think they’re losing their minds. Anna tries to find out more about the ghost and uncovers a decades’ old family secret. One that separated two people in love. Now, the ghost of Nanny Mae must set her wrongs to right. As Charlie and Anna explore the past, and the truth of what happened, they discover that the mistakes of the past might lead to love of the future.

In SOPHIA’S CURSE, a suspenseful novella by Heather B. Moore, Joan grows up in an abbey in France, believing that she is an orphan. A chance encounter with the foreboding owner of a neighboring estate, alters everything she’s understood about her parents. She discovers she’s an integral part of changing a decades-old curse, and that her life, as well as the handsome and intriguing Simon Rousseau’s life, are both in danger unless she makes an enormous sacrifice that will change the course of her dreams.

In Lisa Mangum’s haunting story THE SIRENS’ SONG, we meet recently widowed Oliver, the lead physician on a luxury cruise liner traveling to Greece. He hopes that the change of scenery will help ease his grief over his deceased wife, Cate. After falling overboard, though, he is captured by a siren and taken to a mystical island. Through the sirens’ song, Oliver is able to relive his memories of Cate—both the good and the bad—as long as he gives away his memories of her. But can he sacrifice his best memory in exchange for one last chance to say good-bye?

In Jordan McCollum’s thrilling novella THE MAN OF HER DREAMS, homicide detective Alexandra Steen dreams about real murders before they happen, seeing the crime through the eyes of the killers. But the dreams never contain enough clues to save the victim before it’s too late. Then one dream ends before a murder occurs—in a place she knows. She finds herself racing against time to prevent the deadly act, only to discover that the intended victim is a man she thought she’d never see again. Seven years might have passed since her breakup with Nick, but the years haven’t changed her feelings for him. Now, she must convince Nick that her dreams are real and find a way to prevent his death.

In Elana Johnson’s chilling story THE GHOST OF MILLHOUSE MANSION, Naomi knows her crush on Colt Jennings is unreasonable. When he invites her to his reclusive mansion to restore an old wooden rocking horse, Naomi can’t resist accepting the job. The more time Naomi spends touring his home, the more interested she becomes in Colt. Until she sees a man in the library who vanishes into thin air. She thinks she’s losing her mind until Colt tells her about the ghosts he’s been seeing for years.

ALL HALLOWS’ EVE is:

Amazon #1 Bestselling series in *New Release* for Clean Romance
Amazon Top 10 in Gothic Romance
Amazon Top 25 in Mystery & Suspense

I will do the random Drawing and announce the names on Monday, October 30th. will Remember, to enter to giveaway for the Ebook, simply leave a comment in the comments section below with:

  1. your name
  2. which format you need–Mobi for Kindle, epub for most E-readers, or a PDF which can be read on most tablets, phones, and computers
  3. your email address.

Happy Halloween and All Hallow’s Eve Giveaway! posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 20, 2017

5 Fun Facts about Regency England that May Surprise You

by Donna Hatch

1.       It was not scandalous for ladies to show their ankles during the Regency Era. A number of Regency fashion plates and caricatures depict ladies revealing silk stocking-clad ankles and low-cut slippers, which were much like todays ballerina flat, while dancing, sitting, and walking. During the Victorian Era, shoe fashions changed from slippers to the Victorian boot. This happened about the same time that hemlines lowered and skirts widened. In addition to the Victorians following their monarch’s example of becoming exceedingly prudish, it eventually became scandalous for ladies to show ankles. However, during the Regency, it really was no big deal for ladies to hold up their narrow skirts to avoid a mud puddle or to allow greater freedom of movement to walk quickly, thus exposing ankles. Fun fact: It was, however, scandalous to say “legs.” Apparently “limbs” was the more accepted word in polite company.

2.       A dance set at the ball included two dances, not just one. When a gentleman asked a lady to “stand up with him” they were committed to 20 to 30 minutes together. Of course, country dances were all the rage which allowed couples to change partners frequently during the course of the dance, so they weren’t truly “stuck” together much. This practice of dancing sets of two is partly why a gentleman seldom asked a lady for two dances, meaning two dance sets, and never three unless they were engaged, because it basically tied them up together for most of the evening, giving little opportunity for other partnering.

Drury Lane Theatre

3.       An evening at the theatre lasted most of the night. The main production was the play. However, after the main event, the theatre performed a light “afterpiece” – usually a comedy in the form of a pantomime or one-act play. A few theaters performed one short production prior to the main performance as well so there might be as many as three performances. With all these performances and intermissions, one expected to be at a London theater half of the night. Some patrons came and went, but many stayed all night, I suspect to people-watch rather than to enjoy the arts.

                      Evening Gown 1819

4.        A fashionable lady’s unmentionables did not include drawers or pantalettes. With the narrow, slender gowns fashionable during the Regency resembling statues dating back to ancient Rome, bulky drawers with drawstring waists would have messed up the silhouettes of ladies’ gowns. Also, I have not found evidence that ladies wore pantalettes during previous eras either. The only women who wore drawers or pantalettes during Georgian and Regency England were prostitutes who wore them underneath their slitted skirts. Ahem. And that’s all I care to say regarding the matter. During the Victorian Era, ladies began wearing drawers or pantalettes underneath their wide bell-shape skirts, possibly to preserve modesty should the skirt accidentally tip upwards too far. Oh my! Later, this garment was also known as “pantaloons,” however Georgian and Regency pantaloons were men’s knee-length breeches.

Yours truly modeling my shift and stays.

5.       It is a common myth that Regency ladies often fainted because their corsets were too tight. First of all, ladies during the Regency wore stays, not corsets. The difference is the shape and boning. Previous era corsets were made to cinch the waist. Regency stays, much more flexible and comfortable, were made to smooth and support. I’ve worn a corset and it is possible to feel truly uncomfortable if it is cinched up way too tightly. I even got a small bruise on my lowest rib on one side from having it laced tighter than it should have. What can I say? It was steam punk party and I wore it tighter than I would have it I’d planned to wear it all day. But I digress. I have also worn authentic Regency stays and they are so comfortable and well fitting that if they were easier to get into and out of (where’s my maid when I need her?), I would wear them every day.

My stays are a little too big as you can see since there is supposed to be a two or three-inch gap between the two sides, but one cannot fault my seamstress; I lost weight between my first and final fittings. I cannot, therefore, be unhappy about it.

I hope you enjoyed my fun facts. Comments and questions are welcome!


5 Fun Facts about Regency England that May Surprise You posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 13, 2017

English Drawing Room

 

                    Petworth House

Few rooms are as quintessentially English as the Drawing Room. The very word Drawing Room inspires a host of images, doesn’t it? “Drawing room” is a shortened version of the term “Withdrawing room” for that time after dinner when ladies withdrew to allow the gentlemen to discuss manly pursuits not considered proper in mixed company such as politics, sports, news, etc. By the Regency Era, the term had shortened to simply “drawing room.”

 

During the day, a British host or hostess often received guests in the drawing room or parlor. During chilly months, they partitioned off one end of the room with screens to keep in the warmth, and gathered together near the hearth. When not entertaining, ladies went to the drawing room of paint or sketch, sew or tat, do crafts such as glue ribbons or feathers on hats, or shell or beadwork, write letters, or keep journals. Evenings when British families stayed at home together, they gathered to read aloud or silently, play music or games, or simply talk–all in the drawing room.

For entertaining, they opened up the entire room and filled it with guests dressed in their finery, enjoying drinks, making business deals, making matches (also often business deals), and discussing the latest on dits (gossip).

                          Polesden Lacey

 

The drawing room also served as a ballroom for those houses without a dedicated ballroom. If the dance occurred spontaneously, servants—and sometimes guests—moved furniture to the edges of the room and rolled up the carpets to allow room for dancing.

For formal balls, all this preparation was done ahead of time, with chairs placed against the walls and perhaps a few small tables where ladies might leave their reticules or fans or shawls while they danced. Married and older ladies generally occupied these chairs so they could gossip with their friends while the younger folk enjoyed the often vigorous dances.

                  Chawton House Hall

If a house or castle did not have a formal drawing room, the great hall, also known simply as the hall, served this purpose just as well.

Can’t you just imagine a room filled with ladies dressed in silk ball gowns dancing with gentlemen in their fine tailcoats?


English Drawing Room posted first on http://donnahatch.blogspot.com/