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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day...and a Winner!

Happy Leap Day, one and all! It's an extra day to get work done, enjoy our blessings, and celebrate this once-every-four years event. (And if you're so inclined, ladies, it's also a traditional day to ask someone to marry you.)

Tomorrow is the official release day of The Cowboy's Bride Collection in stores, but today I have a winner to announce!

Connie S. won the For a Song Prize Package! Congratulations!

Thanks to one and all who celebrated with me. There will be more ways to win...hop over to my website for more info on dates and places!

Monday, February 22, 2016

For A Song ~ The Cowboy's Bride Prize Pack!

Yee-haw! It's time for a GIVEAWAY!

The Cowboy's Bride Collection releases March 1. To celebrate, I'm offering a prize pack on my website!

Prizes include: Paperback copy of The Cowboy's Bride; a cute birdie notebook; and a dishtowel that reminded me of my novella, For a Song, featuring a vintage birdcage and pretty birds.

Why the birds? Birds--or rather, a cowboy's order of two songbirds for his daughter--sets the whole story in motion.

Hop over to my website by clicking here or on the button to the right of the post. Use the Rafflecopter entry form and be sure to check out the rules and details!

Thanks for helping me celebrate!

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's Almost Here...The Cowboy's Bride Collection!

I'm so excited!

My novella, For a Song, is included in Barbour's The Cowboy's Bride Collection, and it's about to release!

Do you love cowboy stories? Here's the back cover copy:

Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop? Find out in this exciting collection of nine historical romances.

I really enjoyed researching and writing For a Song. Here's the blurb:

Two songbirds, red and yellow—a straightforward order for an upstanding widowed rancher’s lonely daughter. But when a sister-act of saloon singers (a redhead and a blonde) arrives on the stagecoach expecting him to give them a job, his daughter changes her tune and starts singing not for a pet, but a pretty ginger-haired Mama.

Come back next week when my giveaway prize package starts!

Another chance to win? Visit me on Heroes, Heroines and History March 3 where I'll be giving away a copy.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Smock Wedding

Love is in the air! Valentine’s Day is approaching! Let’s talk weddings.
Congratulations to the happy pair! XOXO

Not regular ol' weddings, though. Smock weddings.

Say you’re a widow or indebted young lady in 18th century England or America. You’d like to get married to Mr. Ye Olde Hunky Swain, and he wants to marry you. You observe all the traditions, of course: there will be a ceremony with a clergyman, a cake, flowers, and the bride will be kissed.

But you won't wear a new dress, or even your best dress. You won’t be wearing a dress AT ALL.

Hard to believe these actually happened—in churches too—but brides were married naked, or at most, barefoot and donned in one’s chemise (smock) or even draped in a sheet.
This lady wears a corset over her chemise
The chemise (or smock or shift) was the first garment a Georgian-era female would don. It was white and thin and went under a corset, which went under the gown. I wore a chemise under my Regency gown to the ACFW genre dinner (thanks to my seamstress Debra E. Marvin), and I can attest to its comfort. It’s like a nightgown or a muumuu—modest by today's standards--but I would not want to wear it in public. It’s on the sheer side, and it’s most definitely underwear. Thus I won't be sharing a photo of me in one.
Simplicity 4052 Regency Chemise and Chemisette Pattern 6-12
A 20th C. pattern for a nice, modest 18th C. chemise

So chemises covered one's (ahem) parts, but it was not by any definition a public garment, and it definitely revealed one's lumpier bits. (They didn't have bras and panties back then.) Which makes it both sad and astonishing that women wore them to be married. Why would they do such a thing?

Widows whose husbands died with debts were not considered desirable partners, since they came with financial obligations that their new grooms were responsible for paying. Some wealthy fellas could take on the debt without issue, but most guys couldn’t marry an indebted bride and have wedding cake and still eat it, too. So apparently, brides in these circumstances went to the church (or, in some American cases, stood outside for an audience), stripped down, to nothing or her underwear, and swapped vows with her groom.

The idea was if a bride was naked or clothed in undergarments, she was symbolically stating that she brought nothing to her marriage, not even debts, and her new husband was not liable for any of her late husband's financial obligations. Back then, women could own nothing, so even if she wore a garment she stitched herself, it was legally the property of her deceased husband. Bringing that clothing into the new marriage apparently put the new husband on the hook for the previous hubby’s debts.

Sounds horrid, and more than a little humiliating. But some women saw no other option. I imagine these weddings were hardly romantic, loving affairs. Rather, they were public testaments to a woman’s financial ruin and desperation.
As if Regency gowns weren't revealing enough!
(And yes, this sketch was indeed a parody.)
Smock weddings were not so common that they didn’t get press when they occured. English newspapers reported on them (bless the brides’ hearts), such as the case of Mrs. Judith Redding, who in 1775 married Mr. Richard Elcock in a Winchester church wearing her shift, after stripping down in a pew. The smock wedding of Mr. Nathaniel Eller to the Widow Herbert a few years earlier was also reported in Lancashire.

Early America saw more than a few of these, too. The most famous is Hannah Ward, who married Major Moses Joy while completely naked. She stood in a closet with a hole cut in the door through which she could stick out her hand and take his. At least nobody saw her particular parts.

I suppose we should be grateful that the times have changed. Women can own property, and marriage is viewed (I hope) as a lifetime commitment of love and support, rather than a financial transaction.

Happy Valentine's Day to all, no matter what we're wearing.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Brown Betty

I love my Brown Betty teapot! Brown Betties are known the world over as excellent for tea-brewing, thanks to their rounded shape (which allows tea leaves to swirl, creating a more even infusion) and their make-up of red clay (which retains heat well). They've been a staple in English homes since Victorian times, and as an icon to British people, they haven't changed since.
Brown Betties are a great price, too! This one is $23.99 on ebay.
Alas, mine isn't an authentic Brown Betty. While it's serviceable, cute, and a pretty shade of maroonish-red--rather than the typical brown--it's a knockoff...I had no idea until recently, when I learned the history of the Brown Betty.
My faux "Brown Betty" looks a bit like this one on Amazon. Not real, but it still makes a nice cuppa.
England's Midlands have been called "the Potteries" since the Middle Ages, since the resources used to make pottery occur in abundance here. Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Spode are some famous Staffordshire companies.

Tea drinking became popular in England before 1800, to the point where poorer folks purchased used tea leaves and/or tea leaves mixed with other, less savory, ingredients (including animal dung). While the upper class served tea in bone china, regular people used clay tea pots.

Most of the time, these pots were intended to be used for a while before they inevitably broke, and then could be replaced. But what became known as a Brown Betty teapot proved durable and superior at brewing tea, and many became heirlooms.

There is no single Brown Betty teapot; it's not a brand. Rather, a Brown Betty is a type of teapot, but they all bear certain things in common.

  • The teapots must be crafted in Staffordshire, England, from the red clay discovered there in 1695.
  • They are round in shape, although very early teapots from Staffordshire red clay looked more like coffee pots.
  • The teapots are glazed with manganese, or Rockingham glaze. They are a soft lavender color until the second firing, when they turn their famous shade of brown (a little like Hershey's chocolate syrup).
Although it looks black int he picture, this pot on Amazon is labeled as being crafted by Cauldon, and is therefore authentic.
A few companies still make Brown Betties, Adderley Ceramics Ltd. and Cauldon Ceramic Ltd.

Is your teapot a Brown Betty? Whether it's Adderley, Cauldon, or from another manufacturer, it's easy to tell. Flip it over. On the bottom, there should be an unglazed ring of tell-tale red clay, and it should say "Made in England".

Same Adderley pot from the top of the post, on ebay

One more word on caring for your Brown Betty: don't put it in the microwave or on a hot stove. And to clean, just rinse well. That's one benefit of the classic brown glaze: it won't show tea stains!