I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Waiting for Spring

Amanda Cabot delivers another enjoyable historical romance with Waiting for Spring, set in the days before Wyoming became a state.

Waiting for Spring: A Novel (Westward Winds)Charlotte Harding Crowley and her blind infant, David, flee Laramie when her husband is murdered, and she opens a high-class clothing boutique for the ladies of Cheyenne. She hopes "The Baron," her husband's killer who thinks she knows where his treasure is hidden, won't be able to find her since she's using her maiden name, but she's still living in fear of gaining too much notice. One of her clients, Miriam, plans to be engaged to local politician Barrett Landry, who needs to make a good match if he's to run for senator of his soon-to-be state. He should marry Miriam, but he's drawn to Charlotte.

But the past has a way of coming back where it's least wanted. Barrett's plans crumble, and Charlotte may not be able to protect herself those she holds dear from danger. With God's help, can they triumph and find happiness together?

The identity of "The Baron" isn't difficult to figure out, but there still manages to be a bit of light suspense. I truly felt for Charlotte and her challenges. I also found Barrett likable.

Although this story is second in the Westward Winds series, it isn't necessary to have read the first novel, Summer of Promise. I hadn't read it, and I didn't feel at all lost.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review by the publisher, Revell. A positive review was neither promised nor required.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Time to Post that Letter--Jane Austen Stamps! (For our British friends, at least)

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, Britain's Royal Mail released a series of Jane Austen stamps this week.

 The designs show scenes from Austen's six novels. Which is your favorite?


This isn't the first time Jane Austen (and her creations) have been featured on British stamps. In 1975, a set of stamps was issued to celebrate Austen's 200th Birthday.

The 1975 set

Monday, February 11, 2013

Language of the Fan

"Men have the sword, women have the fan and the fan is probably as effective a weapon!" --Joseph Addison

Cleopatra's slaves used them to keep her comfortable as she sailed on her barge. The Chinese associated them with mythical characters. The folding variety we all recognize originated in Japan, but China became famous for them. Once they arrived in Europe around 1550 with traders from the far east, they became a plaything of the nobility. Nowadays, I seldom see them, except on warm summer Sunday mornings when a woman inevitably puts one to use during church services.

Fans have come a long way, baby.

Anatomy of the fan
As a historical writer, fans are an essential accessory to my female characters. (And through the post I'm sticking to European--primarily British--fans.) I knew they were used for flirtatious purposes, and I knew they were beautiful, but who knew they had their own language?

Lady Holding a Fan by Francesco Bartolozzi
First, a bit of background. Fans became an essential accessory for well-bred females, and they no doubt own different fans for mourning and various types of social events. In the early 1600s, fans were often "fixed," or made of feathers attached to a handle: they did not fold. By the end of the century and into the eighteenth century, folded fans had come into their own, and it appears that if a lady used a fixed fan, she labeled herself as not at all up on things. Or common. Tsk tsk.

Folding fans seem to have come in three types: the plain old folding type (yes, the name sounds obvious) is where a set of sticks is fastened together at one end and pleated material (silk, leather, or other fabric) is fastened to the sticks. (Feathers and lace, by the way, went in and out of fashion.)
Folding fan, circa 1690, from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Ladies also used cockade fans, which are pleated paper attached to two sticks. They open into a full circle with the end sticks forming a handle--although I have not seen them in portraits or read of ladies using them at balls. However, I am not an expert. Just passing along the info.
Cockade fan, 19th c., Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There were also brisé fans, where separate sticks are fastened together at one end like the folding fan, but they did not use fabric or leather. Rather, the sticks were painted individually to create a scene or were ornamental, like the one below, and were often held together at the top with a ribbon. It was much harder to paint on these fans than a folding fan. The one below is painted with gilt.

French brise fan, 1820
Painted fans were certainly popular, and often depicted pastoral, Asian, mythological, or Biblical scenes. In the eighteenth-century through the Regency period, Vernis Martin fans were valued. Vernis (French for varnish) was a technique developed by the Martin brothers, who hand-painted the scenes. This Vernis Martin Fan had mother-of-pearl guards.
Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; photograph, A.C. Cooper Ltd.
 Apparently, ladies painted images on their own fans, too: The fan pictured below belonged to Princess Augusta, aunt of Queen Victoria (and it now belongs to her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II). According to documentation, it was created around 1790 and the medallions painted on the panels were done by "one of George III's daughters."
Princess Augusta's brise fan

Here enters the so-called Language of the Fan.The fan was no longer a pretty frippery, or a cooling device, but also a method to convey secret codes.

The notion probably began as an advertising technique by fan-makers, but Fan Languages were published in contemporary magazines and books on etiquette. Charles Francis Badini wrote a book called Fanology or Ladies’ Conversation Fan, which was published in 1797. It listed many gestures along with the secret codes they conveyed, including: 

Carrying Open fan: come speak with me
Twirling the fan in the right hand: I love another
Twirling the fan in the left hand: We are being watched
Placing the fan near your heart: I love you
A half-closed fan pressed to the lips: You may kiss me
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: Yes
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: No
Dropping the fan: We will be friends

Other sources decoding fan language offer some pretty specific statements:

Placing fan on left ear: I wish to be rid of you
Carrying fan in right hand in front of face: Follow me
Drawing fan across the forehead: You have changed
Drawing fan through the hand: I hate you
Threaten with shut fan: You are imprudent
Gazing at shut fan: Why do you misunderstand me?

Perhaps he misunderstands because this gets so complicated, m'dear. While many a female no doubt practiced these motions before the looking glass, one wonders how many gentlemen scratched their bewigged heads in utter cluelessness. Was that her right hand or left hand? Also, how many matchmaking mamas were so oblivious that they wouldn't understand what it meant when her daughter threatened a suitor with a shut fan?

Still, there was plenty of fan-fluttering about. "My, the ball room is overwarm." Flutter of fan. Hint hint. Or slow fans over one's face while batting one's lashes at Lord Fancypants....

Hey, I am not mocking. I'd have totally done it, too.

The Language of the Fan seems to fallen out of vogue for a generation: the Regency. But fans were still an essential accessory. This Regency lady is ready for a magical evening at Lord and Lady Fabulous' ball. She is wearing her gown of pink crepe, a toque on her head, elbow-length kid gloves, her satin slippers, and carries--of course, her fan. She may not use it to send secret codes, but no fashion-minded, status-conscious British lady of the 18th and 19th century would attend a ball without one.

Rolinda Sharples' painting, Cloak Room, Clifton Assembly Room, was painted in 1817. Look at all these Regency ladies holding their fans! It might be difficult to view, but many of the fans appear to be white or sheer.
Cloak Room, Clifton Assembly Room, 1817, Rolinda Sharples

The Victorians took fans to a whole different level. French maisons created fans for the very wealthy. Tablitiers carved exquisite sticks, and famous artists painted (and signed) fans. As the language of flowers became popular again, no doubt the language of the fan refreshed, as well.

"The Political Lady" by James Tissot, 1884. Get a load of her feather fan! And gorgeous gown...

Alas, fans as a fashion statement seem to have gone the way of the elbow-length glove and the bonnet. So for now, my experience with gorgeous fans will have to be limited to my imagination, when my characters use them to their advantage.

But to you, I will drop my fan. (Translation: we will be friends. Although that totally isn't what it sounds like to me.)

Folding fan:  http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O78760/folding-fan-and-unknown/
Cockade fan:  http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O70089/fan-unknown/
Brise fan: fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk
Princess Augusta's fan:  www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection
Regency lady:  http://regency-clothing.blogspot.com/2012/05/regency-era-fashion-plates-april-1812.html
The Political Lady:  http://www.zazzle.com/the_political_lady_by_james_tissot_poster-228780734008503372

This post originally appeared on www.inkwellinspirations.com, 11-19-12

Monday, February 4, 2013

Choices of the Heart

Choices of the Heart by Laurie Alice Eakes is an engaging inspirational read.

Esther Cherrett was trained by her mother to be a midwife, and was quite successful at it…until a scandal damaged both her career and her relationship with God. By taking a position as a teacher in the rugged mountains of western Virginia, Esther is sure she’ll outrun her past. Instead, she finds herself in the unwanted position of being courted by two men on opposite sides of a family feud, Zach and Griff. She still yearns for peace, but she can’t run away this time. She has to stay and grapple with forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.

The third book in The Midwives series, Choices of the Heart was my favorite. Something about the struggles in the book spoke to me, both internal (Esther struggles with her faith, her past and her gifts) and external (the feuding families have years of pride and misunderstanding blocking the way of peace). It isn’t necessary to have read the first two books in the Midwives’ series before reading this one, but the ending wraps up the series nicely and is quite sweet. 

Readers of inspirational romance are sure to enjoy this richly-written treat.

I received a copy of Choices of the Heart from the publisher, Revell, but was not required to write a positive review.