Please welcome debut author Erica Monroe back to the drawing room! Erica has just released her first novel, A Dangerous Invitation. I was lucky enough to read it in advance and let me tell you, it’s spectacular! It’s incredibly well-researched, the love story is, well, lovely, and the adventure is page-turning. You simply must add it to your TBR pile. And now, let me turn things over to Erica!
Thank you so much to Darcy for inviting me to come back to the Duchesses! It’s always fun to be here.
When writing my debut novel A Dangerous Invitation, I did a lot of research into the rookeries that existed in 1830’s London. A rookery, derived from the word “rook” which means to steal, is a poorer area where crime and vice flourished. Because of the architectural layout of London, these pockets often occurred right in between the middle class and upper class areas of the ton. Stories of aristocrats and travelers wandering onto the wrong street and being accosted by footpads are not that far off from fact. If you didn’t know how to conduct yourself accordingly, you definitely didn’t want to end up in a rookery, for fear you’d lose more than just your purse. These areas were hotbeds of illegal activity, hosting anywhere from housebreakers (ken crackers), pickpockets (files), and ark ruffians (men who would murder and then toss the bodies of their victims into the Thames).
Of course, some people lived in the rookeries simply because they couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. You’d have six people crowded into one room in a crumbling tenement house. But to the aristocracy, who lived in stately manors and didn’t often concern themselves with the poor, these people didn’t exist. They were to be forgotten about, condemned for their origins and the crime they eventually turned to. With little other options, the children were often raised to steal from birth.
While all of this sounds wretched, there were parts of living in the rookeries that could give one hope. The simple triumph of the human soul over adversity. The bonds formed between thieves—often, they became like family to each other, as I show later in my Rookery Rogues series with the Chapman Street gang I’ve invented (though Chapman Street is indeed a real street in Ratcliffe). My heroine Kate’s best friend has associations with Chapman Street, and because of those connections, Kate is able to get a few goods received in that she wouldn’t otherwise have had.
You see, the heroine of A Dangerous Invitation is a fence for stolen goods. When her father’s shipping company went bankrupt after his death, Kate Morgan was stripped of the upper middle class life she’d had. She had no money, no living connections, and no one wanted to associate with her because of the infamy surrounding her betrothed’s arrest for murder and subsequent escape from London, and her father’s business failure. With nowhere to turn, Kate finds herself in the Ratcliffe rookery, which was located near Wapping and the London Docks. Kate spent her youth cataloguing her father’s imported inventory, and so she uses that knowledge to set herself up as a fence. She takes in goods the thieves need to resell quickly and anonymously, and she then turns over those goods for her own profit.
It’s not a particularly lucrative existence when compared with her former, but it affords Kate a certain amount of independence. After two and a half years of living in Ratcliffe, she knows the back alleys to take to afford the newly formed Metropolitan Police (debuting in 1829). She’s learned to pick locks and how to shoot with shocking accuracy. She can go into the flash houses, dens where thieves congregate, and she sits in the public house with little censor because she’s already so far removed from her middle class origins.
When Kate’s past betrothed, Daniel O’Reilly, returns to regain her heart and prove his innocence in the murder he was accused of three years prior, she thinks she must choose between her new independent life and the old one she had.
But as she learns, love isn’t about choosing—it’s about an acceptance of your identity, whether you’re a fence for stolen goods or an alcoholic struggling to remain sober.
One fatal mistake cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved, spiraling him toward drunken self-destruction. Now sober, he’ll have to prove he’s innocent of the murder he was accused of three years ago. But pistol-wielding Kate Morgan hasn’t forgiven his sins.
Torn from her privileged existence by her father’s death, Kate Morgan has carved out a new independent life in the Ratcliffe rookery as a fence for stolen goods. Daniel’s invitation to assist him jeopardizes her structured existence. Yet Kate can’t resist his touch, or the wicked desires he stirs within her.
As their renewed passions grow reckless, their investigation takes them through the darkest and most depraved areas of the City. To catch a killer, they’ll have to put secrets behind them and trust only their hearts.
Erica Monroe writes dark, suspenseful historical romance. Her debut novel, A Dangerous Invitation, Book 1 of the Rookery Rogues series, released in December 2013. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina, and the Beau Monde Regency Romance chapter. Erica can also be found blogging every other Saturday at Teatime Romance. When not writing, she is a chronic TV watcher, sci-fi junkie, lover of pit bulls, and shoe fashionista. She lives in the suburbs of North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.
One lucky commenter will win a copy of A Dangerous Invitation! The winner will be announced Sunday, December 15. If you simply can’t wait to win (and you may not be able to – this book is awesome!), you can get your copy today! (A paperback edition will be available later this month.)
You might think meeting up with a friend at Starbucks for a cup of coffee is a fairly modern idea, but it’s really a 300-year-old tradition.
In England, the first coffee house was established in Oxford back in 1651 and the atmosphere at these gathering places hasn’t changed all that much in the centuries that followed.
In his Dictionary of the English Language published in 1755, Samuel Johnson described a coffee house as “a house of entertainment where coffee is sold, and the guests are supplied with newspapers.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
These coffee houses soon became centers of artistic and intellectual life in London. However, the drink didn’t go down smoothly in the beginning.
When the hot beverage first appeared in England at around 1650, it was viewed with some mistrust, which led coffee sellers to tout the new drink’s supposed healthful qualities:
It does the orifices of the stomach good, it fortifies the heart within, helpeth digestion, quickens the spirits…is good against eyesores, coughs and colds, rhumes, consumption, head aches, dropsy, gout, scurvy, King’s evil and many others.
The steamy brew quickly came to be viewed as social beverage because the stimulant encouraged conversation.
The quality, company and cleanliness of coffee houses varied, according to César de Saussure’s Letters from London (1725-1729):
In London there are innumerable badly appointed coffee-houses, their furniture spoiled on account of the number of people who frequent them for most of the time, and above all because of the smokers, who quickly ruin the furniture, for you must understand that the English smoke a great deal. In these establishments, you can have chocolate, tea, coffee, all sorts of hot drinks, and, in some, even wine, punch and ale. But it is useless to ask for fresh drinks like orgeat, lemonade, capillaire and the like. They are hardly known in this country.
César de Saussure’s Letters also noted that not all coffee houses were for sipping java and catching up on the news, if you get my meaning…
There are coffee-houses which are the meeting places of scholars and wits; others which are frequented by beaux; others which are only frequented by Politicians and News-Mongers; and several which are Temples of Venus. It is easy to recognise these latter because they often have on their sign the arm or the hand of a woman holding a coffee pot. There are many of these houses in the region of Covent Garden, which pass for being chocolate houses, where the customers are served by beautiful, clean and well dressed nymphs, who seem very agreeable, but who are in fact very dangerous.
These establishments were the first to introduce and serve tea when it came to England from the Far East, which is why a coffee house plays a pivotal role in my latest book, Compromising Willa. The heroine, Willa, is an expert tea blender who secretly donates her special brews to a coffee house that provides employment for poor women and children.
Hartwell, the hero in Compromising Willa, contemplates buying the coffee house building to turn it into the headquarters for his own sugar import business. He is among the first to realize Willa is courting scandal by secretly engaging in commerce. I can imagine modern readers happily settled in a chair at their local coffee house enjoying a cup of joe while reading about the romantic adventures of Willa and her duke. Here’s a little primer:
Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is ruined and everyone knows it..Back in Town for the first season since her downfall, Willa plans to remain firmly on the shelf, assuming only fortune hunters will want her now. Instead she focuses on her unique tea blends, secretly supporting a coffee house which employs poor women and children. If her clandestine involvement in trade is discovered, she’ll be ruined. Again..
No one is more shocked by Willa’s lack of quality suitors than the newly minted Duke of Hartwell. Having just returned from India, the dark duke is instantly attracted to the mysterious wallflower. His pursuit is hampered by the ruthless Earl of Bellingham, who once jilted Willa and is now determined to reclaim her.
Caught between the clash of two powerful men, a furious Willa refuses to concede her independence to save her reputation. But will she compromise her heart?
Hartwell frowned. “I scarcely see how Lady Wilhelmina can belong to Bellingham if there is no betrothal.”
“There is certain talk no gentleman would ever repeat.” Heenan reached for his mother-of-pearl snuffbox. “Some say it is why the lady has kept herself away from Town for so long.”
“And this is commonly discussed in society?”
“It is not the kind of thing one hears in Mayfair’s drawing rooms,” Selwyn answered in halting tones.
“But most gentlemen about Town eventually hear the talk,” Garrick added with a lascivious smirk.
Heenan leaned over and inhaled snuff into his nose. “Not that anyone dares to cut her in public.” Leaning back in his chair with a satisfied sigh, he used a handkerchief to wipe remnants of the powdery substance from his upper lip. “Impeccable family lines and all. The family carries on as though nothing has happened. She is under the protection of her cousin, the Marquess of Camryn, who is quite influential in the Lords. No one dares risk his wrath.”
“I don’t follow.”
Garrick leaned forward. “They say the chit is compromised. Utterly and completely, if you get my meaning.” He winked at Hart. “But she still acts the frigid princess, all high and mighty. Otherwise, who wouldn’t want to toss up those skirts and give her a good hard—”
Something in his head snapped loose, blinding him to anything but the desire to crush the drunken whoreson beneath his boot heel. He bolted to his feet and shoved the table back with a loud clatter. Towering over Garrick, he grabbed the man’s cravat with one hand and drew back his fist with the other. Garrick shrank back in his chair, wide-eyed, his face pinched with fear. Action at the other gaming tables screeched to a halt. Silence descended; all eyes were riveted on Hartwell.
Selwyn jumped up and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. “Now Hartwell,” he said, partially positioning himself between the two men. “This is just a friendly misunderstanding among gentlemen.”
His neck burned. It was a lie. It had to be. “It is hardly the act of a gentleman to insult a lady’s honor in the most grievous way possible.”
Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Tempting Bella, Book 2 in my Accidental Peers series.
***A winner will be selected this Sunday, Dec. 15.***
Diana Quincy is a former television journalist who decided she’d rather make up her own stories because she can always guarantee a happy ending. As to tea or coffee, she swings both ways except when it comes to mornings, when she must jump start her day with a cup of java.
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Now, imagine the snow is falling softly outside. A fire is burning merrily in the grate. Christmas greenery drapes the mantle, and the smell of evergreen fills the air. Your hero looks deep into your eyes, takes off his nankeen riding breeches, and….
Er. Wait. Sorry. This is why no one should let me set the scene.
You are actually seated primly in your drawing room, and have received an unexpected but much welcomed visitor during calling hours, Lady Kate Noble. Now, stop daydreaming of nankeen riding breeches and ring for tea.
Lady Kate: I am most humbled to have a received an invitation to your home, your graces.
Christmas came early for me this year. And it came early for Anna Campbell and Vanessa Kelly when the estimable Shana Galen decided to leave us a present sometime around mid july. She asked if we would like to join her in an epic adventure, putting together a short story Christmas anthology, A Grosvenor Square Christmas. We all loved the idea of course, but how would we take our four stories and put them together? We talked about the holidays, what they mean to us, and how they are about the familiar. About the people, the places, the traditions we all enjoy (my Mother in particular likes forcing her children into ugly sweaters and caroling). The meaning of Christmas, for us, became Lucy Frost.
Lucy Frost is the Countess of Winterson. She hosts a Christmas Ball at her home on Grosvenor Square — she loves the holiday for its warmth and its sparkle, but also for the way it brings people together. And every year the ball magically brings one lucky couple together.
And I’ll let the estimable authors themselves tell you about their lucky couples.
Shana Galen: The Seduction of a Duchess takes place in 1803, and involves one of my most delicious heroes yet! Rowena is a widow and a grandmother; she does’t think she’s desirable any longer. But when she meets Gabriel, a younger man and former footman, she’s swept away and into his arms.
Vanessa Kelly: As both a writer and reader, I tend to go for the imperiously arrogant, dangerously attractive alpha male hero. But in One Kiss for Christmas I couldn’t resist writing the happy ending for one of my favorite characters, Nigel Dash. Nigel is a true beta hero—a total good guy who tends to put everyone else’s needs before his own. He appeared in all four books of my Stanton Family Series and, over the years, he’s generated a fair amount of email from readers who wanted to know if he would ever fall in love. Truthfully, I never really expected him to but, hey, everyone deserves a happy ending, right? (Except for our villains, of course!) So at a festive and oh-so-romantic holiday party, Nigel is going to do whatever it takes to stand up and stand out, and win the hand of the girl he’s been quietly in love with for months. Unfortunately, having to adopt the persona of Father Christmas wasn’t part of the plan—until the Countess of Winterson decides to give him a hand and make some holiday magic!
Anna Campbell: Christmas always strikes me as a very romantic time of year, especially when I consider a cold, snowy London Christmas from the beach weather of Australia! With His Christmas Cinderella, I went hyper-romantic as a result with a fairytale story about a girl whose every dream comes true at Lady Winterson’s Ball.
Kate Noble: As for me, Christmas is where we see old friends, and see just how much has changed, and what has stayed the same. In the Last First Kiss, young Susannah is in love with her next door neighbor, Sebastian Beckett, since she first laid eyes on him. But he’s never seen her as anything other than a friend. But now, he’s come back from his extended Grand Tour, and with the help of Lady Winterson and her butler Philbert, Susannah’s determined that Sebastian will see her as more than little Susie.
Lady Kate: A Grosvenor Square Christmas is our little Holiday gift to you — because it’s out now and it’s FREE. We hope you have the most wonderful of all holidays this year, curled up with a good book, a good fire, and the warmth of family and friends around you.
Duchess Jennifer: Holy crap! (I mean, er…great smokes!) Did you say FREE????
Lady Kate: *Smiles* Indeed.
Duchess Jennifer: Excuse me while I download this post haste. I have a sudden need to see if any of your heroes wear nankeen breeches.
Tell us what you’re looking forward to this holiday! One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Kate’s latest Let it Be Me. (and don’t forget to download A Grosvenor Square Christmas!)
Kate Noble is the RITA-nominated, bestselling author of historical romance, including the Blue Raven series. She lives in Los Angeles, and misses snow, but only around Christmastime.
A Grosvenor Square Christmas: FREE DOWNLOAD LINK FROM AMAZON
Today’s winner of a print copy of The Vanishing Thief is Ashlea. Congrats, Ashlea. I’ll be contacting you by email.
I discovered the best selling travel guides from the 19th century until the outbreak of World War I were designed and printed by Baedeker’s. A German company started by Karl Baedeker in 1827, it lasted as a family company until 1984, surviving two world wars, the Great Depression which struck Germany in the early 1920s, and the early deaths of several of its CEOs.
They published guides in German, English, and French. The first German language guide to London was published in 1862, the first French edition in 1866, and the first English language London and its Environs in 1878.
Hard times fell on the company with the beginning of World War I and the curtailing of touring. After the war, Germany was not a favored tourist destination, and once the Nazis took over, anything German was even more suspect. In December of 1943, the British Royal Air Force bombed Leipzig where Baedeker’s was headquartered, destroying their archives of travel guides going back over a century.
My English language London and its Environs 1900 is a joy. Do I want to know where the Russian Orthodox Church was in London at that time? I look it up in my Baedeker’s. There’s a list of the leading morning and evening newspapers, their political leanings, their price, and where they’re sold. Turn to another page, and there is a history of Whitehall, the palace that swallowed the small street of that name and later burned to the ground.
The book contains clear maps of London of that day, probably the best floor plan I’ve ever seen of Windsor Castle, and the list of paintings in Apsley House, which can “only be viewed through personal introduction to the duke.” Let’s get right on that, duchesses.
There’s enough information in its 434 small typeface pages to keep a writer of late Victorian stories in details for a very long time. I used it to find out where Georgia’s bookshop was located and where the duke lived, where the thief lived and the bus route where Georgia saw the killer. I learned about shops, the post office, and telephone exchanges at that time, as well as power stations and tea shops. I used it to decide if Georgia would walk or ride to get to Sir Broderick’s or the Earl Waxpool’s.
In short, this is a reference I can use to find out about my characters’ daily lives and make The Vanishing Thief as accurate as a work of fiction can be.
What is your favorite written source for the details of a particular time in history?
In honor of her first published novel, Kate is giving away a print copy of The Vanishing Thief, US addresses only, to one lucky commenter. Win a copy a day before it goes on sale! The Vanishing Thief will be available in print and as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million.
High stakes card games are a feature of the typical Regency hero’s everyday life, and any house party worth the name would have devoted a room to cards. But how many of us nowadays play whist? When an author mentions the game what do you picture?
My husband comes from a family of card players. The Christmas holidays were never complete until we all sat up until 4 or 5 AM playing cards—mostly something called five hundred, which on the spectrum of complicated games lies somewhere before bridge and after whist. For the uninitiated, like me when I first started dating my husband, you had to start with whist.
So I learned to play, and so did our children before graduating on to bigger and better things. When I looked up the historical rules, I was surprised to discover that our family plays much the same game as they did during Regency times.
As I’ve just implied, whist is a forerunner of contract bridge, minus the complicated conventions, bidding, and dummy. The object of whist is for you and your partner to take more tricks than your opponents. It is played in teams of facing partners with a regular 52-card deck—known during the Regency as a French pack—using all four suits. The card values run in their usual order from 2 to ace, with ace being high.
Cards in the Regency period were made from woodcuts. Unlike modern cards, their backs where a uniform white, and they didn’t have numbers on them to denote their value. You had to surmise that from the arrangement of pips on them. Unlike our cards today, kings, queens, and jacks only faced one way; that is, they had legs rather than a body with two heads on either end. You can see some examples of period cards (and if you’re independently wealthy, consider acquiring them) here.
The game evolved in the 17th century from a forerunner called Ruff, but the standard rules as followed during the Regency were set out in Edmond Hoyle’s “A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist” in 1742. Its name derives from an obsolete term meaning quiet or attentive. A true whipster needs to pay close attention to which cards have been played.
Here are a few terms you might run across during a description of a game of whist:
Suit—One of four, as determined by the symbols on the cards: spades, hearts, diamonds, or clubs. When one suit is led, the other players are obliged to play a card from that same suit as long as their hand contains cards of that suit.
Trick—The four cards played in each round, one coming from each hand. The highest card played determines who wins the trick. There are a total of 13 possible tricks in any game.
Honor—All face cards and aces may be referred to as honors.
Singleton—When a player only holds one card of a given suit. If a player holds only two cards of a suit, this is known as a doubleton.
Lead—The first card played in a trick.
Book—The first six tricks taken by a team make up the book. Any tricks taken after a team makes book result in points.
Trump—Trump is determined at the deal. If a player is unable to follow suit, he may choose to play a trump (the word is a compression of triumph) card. A trump card automatically beats any card in another suit. If a subsequent player is also out of the led suit, he may choose to trump higher to take the trick.
Slam—A grand slam occurs when one team takes all thirteen tricks. It is worth seven points. If a team takes 12 of the 13 possible tricks, this is known as a small slam. A small slam gains the winning team 6 points.
Game—The total number of points necessary to win a game is agreed upon at the outset. Players generally decide to play to seven or nine points. So if the game is to seven, a grand slam is sufficient for a team to win in one hand.
Rubber—Teams may decide to play a rubber, that is best 2 of 3 games or best 3 of 5.
The deal: Cards are shuffled and dealt to each of four players. The very last card dealt (which goes to the dealer) is revealed. The suit of this card determines trump for that hand. On each subsequent hand, the deal moves to the left. Normally two packs of cards are used to move play along. While the dealer passes out the cards, his partner shuffles the other deck so that it’s ready for the next hand.
Play: The player to the dealer’s left has the first lead. He chooses a card from his hand, and the other players follow suit clockwise around the table. As long as a player has a card of the suit led, he must follow suit. If a player has no cards left in that suit, he may choose to play a trump or he may choose to get rid of a card in a different suit. A trump card beats any card in the suit demanded. If the player does not trump, he has essentially thrown his card away, but sometimes that’s useful to get rid of low cards.
The highest card played wins the trick, the person who played that high card has the next lead, and play continues in this fashion.
Scoring: In the Regency period, tokens resembling poker chips were used to keep score. These might be made of
cheap cardboard or elaborately decorated coin-sized bits of metal. A team scores one point for each trick taken after they make book. Since there are only 13 possible tricks and the book consists of 6 tricks, only one team may score after a given hand.
A good whist player keeps track of the number of rounds played in each suit, as well as how many of the honor cards have been played during a hand. If the cards are divided evenly among the players, the first and second rounds in a given suit are generally “safe.” That is, the danger of an opponent trumping your suit is relatively low. As more rounds of a given suit are played, the danger of being trumped rises.
Naturally, luck is also involved as the cards are not always distributed evenly. While experienced players develop a sense of when to play which card, the element of luck keeps any hand from being completely predictable.
And here’s where the stakes come in. Obviously, players might wager on the outcome of a game or rubber, but I think we can safely say that Regency folk creatively wagered on any and everything. These are people who bet on the outcome of a raindrop race, after all. So they might conceivably wager that a game might be won in so many hands. Or a given suit might be drawn as trump before the deal. Or that a team might make a slam (before or after they’ve seen their hands). If you think about it, the possibilities are endless.
And just a heads up–Keep an eye on my agent’s Twitter stream next week. She’ll be giving away copies of both A Most Scandalous Proposal and A Most Devilish Rogue (which features a two-handed version of whist). @SaraMegibow
Back in the 1990’s, my romance novel addiction was fed a steady supply of Signet’s traditional regencies from my sister-in-law’s collection. All through my graduate program in Costume Design for the Theatre, I glommed stacks of books by Mary Balogh, Charlotte Louise Dolan, Joan Wolf, Elisabeth Fairchild, Nancy Butler, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley and many others.
My absolute favorites were the ones that took place during the Christmas season. And for one reason: snow!
Not the gray, sodden stuff that seemed to fall through coal-dust skies and lay in clumps on the streets of London. For me, it was all about the pristine, glistening snow that Regency authors love to blanket their country estates under. I was completely enamored of the thick, muffling effect snow had on anyone intrepid enough to push their way out of doors to see it.
But, what thrilled me most was when, during a winter house party, the guests (and the unruly, but lovable governess who was finally allowed a break from her charges) tramped over the snowy countryside to toboggan down a hill, or head off to a nearby pond for a chance at ice skating.
I’m swooning just thinking about those beloved scenes.
See, as an opportunity for young couples to hold each other tight, share body warmth, and get some good old fashioned exercise, these cold-weather pastimes were a goldmine for an enterprising young Regency miss, and were a boon to my reading fantasies.
And it is all totally true!
In fact, Queen Victoria got to know her future husband, Prince Albert, through a series of skating trips
The English (and we obsessive Anglophiles and Romance fans) have Charles II to thank for introducing ice skating to England. During a brief exile in Holland at the turn of the 16th century, he saw the Dutch people skating upon wooden skates along the canals. He introduced the sport to the British aristocracy when he returned to England, and it quickly took off, growing in popularity among both the high flyers of Society and the everyday Englishman.
Whether on frozen ponds, rivers, or meadows in the lowlands (like the Fenns), the English of both genders embraced ice skating wholeheartedly, especially once metal blades replaced those made from bone or wood, thus making it much easier to move across the ice without having to use poles to propel oneself forward.
And not having to use poles had the added benefit of allowing couples to skate arm in arm (or, even better, with an arm around each other’s waist.)
No wonder so many Romance novels have an afternoon of skating to thank for a flurry of rosy-cheeked declarations and betrothals. Any matchmaking mama worth her salt pushed her girls out of doors to frolic with the gentlemen who were keen to show off their athletic skills and, perhaps, sneak an arm around a pretty maid.
Though the sport wasn’t always the safest. If the temperatures weren’t cold enough to ensure thick ice, there was always the fear of breaking through and sending skaters into the frigid waters, not to mention falls that might result in concussion or broken bones.
All the more reason to hold on tight to each other as you enjoyed the fresh air and wintry weather.
I was watching the delightful 2004 PBS series “Regency House Party” recently and learned several new tidbits to weave into my books. Probably the most interesting, because I really hadn’t heard anything about it, was the existence of hermits on the grounds of
grand estates. These weren’t vagrants or hobos who are poaching the lord’s game or whatnot, but paid almost-retainers, who would agree to serve on the estate as the resident hermit in exchange for a place to call home and a life of (general) solitude.
I was so interested in this practice that I found a great book about it (and probably the only one in existence). The Hermit in the Garden by Gordon Campbell was published this year and it’s chock full of fascinating information about the origin of the garden hermit and secular hermitages.
Think of today’s ceramic garden gnome. It’s a decoration in your yard and, depending on its appearance, perhaps a statement of your sensibility. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, it was fashionable to have a live garden gnome, or rather an “ornamental hermit,” whom houseguests could observe. It seems the hermit’s removal from society and immersion in natural solitude was intriguing. The lengths to which these wealthy people went to divert themselves—sounds quite strange to me!
Even stranger, landowners often advertised to hire their hermit. The term was typically for seven years, during which the hermit wasn’t allowed to cut his hair or nails. At the end of their term, they might receive as much as six hundred pounds—a fortune that ensured they never had to work again. Not bad for camping out for seven years and having simple meals provided. One hermit who lived in a cave even rang for cave service.
The first secular hermitages can be traced back to Rome, to a miniature villa built on an island at Hadrian’s villa near Tivoli. There are many other examples throughout Europe, and there are still more that are religious in nature. Even America boasts at least one hermitage—the home of former President Andrew Jackson (who’s making quite an appearance in our house party this year!). It was originally a cluster of log buildings his family lived in when he first acquired the property, but became the name of his Palladian mansion, where he retired after his presidency.
I just love the look of some of these hermitages. They were part of the landscaping and live on today in the form of garden gazebos and even hidden benches tucked amidst a romantic tangle of vines and shrubs.
Thank you so much for being with us at this house party, and do stop by the hermitage and see if you can get a look at our own hermit, Putney. He prefers his solitude, but knows his job is to be friendly and captivating, whilst maintain his sense of solitary melancholy. You’ll be happy to know we encourage him to cut his nails.
And now, a bargain for you! The first three books in Darcy’s Secrets and Scandals Series are available in a boxed set that is on sale for just 99 cents until December 5. Get your copy today!
Darcy Burke wrote her first book at age 11, a happily ever after about a swan addicted to magic and the female swan who loved him, with exceedingly poor illustrations. Darcy writes hot, action-packed historical and sexy, emotional contemporary romance. Darcy’s first contemporary novella, Where the Heart Is, will be available December 1.
A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her devoted husband, their two great kids, and two Bengal cats. Visit Darcy online at http://www.darcyburke.com and sign up for her new releases newsletter, follow her on Twitter or like her Facebook.