Rachael's Blog

What's on your 'keeper' shelf?

What books do you keep on your 'keeper' shelf? You know, those books you can't seem to put in the pile for the Friends of the Library sale--or the ones that if you give a copy to a friend, you find yourself buying another one...because you missed having it.

My keeper shelf for romance is really a small closet under the stairs lined with shelves. Since I'm short, I can curl up there on the floor, surrounded by stories I love.

This summer, I had to weed my books. It wasn't easy, but I was able to reduce my romance novels by 10 boxes--leaving only 14 boxes to move. Luckily my husband is very indulgent. He calls my collection 'research'--and it really is. When I'm stuck, it's where I go to refresh or regroup or see how someone else did it.

But going through the books made me realize which stories worked for me, and which didn't, and why. You can read about three books I love at the USAToday Happily Ever After blog. 

But what novels do you keep on your keeper shelf? And why?
 
The winter of 1818-19 was a mild one, but that didn't stop fashionable Parisians from sporting fur on outdoor excursions. Muffs and fur-lined witzchouras (a broad-collared cloak with sleeves and often a hood) kept the Parisian ladies warm. If riding in a carriage, some ladies chose satin pelisses trimmed with chinchilla. 

And what hat could one use to pull it all together? 

Some ladies chose a black beaver hat, ornamented with metal buckles; others preferred velvet hats, in a variety of colors, decorated with cockleshells. The equestrian set preferred hats of a "carmelite-colored down, lined with a jonquil-colored sarsnet."

I had to look that particular color combination up, and here's what I found. According to Charles O'Neill's 1869 Dictionary of Dyeing and Calico Printing, the color carmelite--named after the monastic order--is a 'yellowish orange mixed with brown' made by 'saddening orange or using logwood to brown it" (123). (I wonder how does one make orange happy?) According to the OED, sarsnet (or sarcenet) is a 'very fine and soft silk material made both plain and twilled." Picture this then: a hat with an orangy-brown colored down lined in pale yellow silk. 

The other favorite colors of the season are equally interesting. According to the Belle Assemblee, those are "the nakara, or field poppy, dead leaf, London smoke, and morello cherry." (What color do you think 'dead leaf' is?)

I'll talk about indoor fashion in another post. But if you want to read the original article from the January 1819 issue of the Belle Assemblee now, follow the link to Cabinet of Fashion under Fashion in the menu above for Regency Life.
 
 
In Jilting the Duke, the villain Charters hides forged bank notes in Lady Wilmot's possessions, then calls the magistrates to search her property. 

The situation was a serious one: having forged notes in one’s possession was as much of a crime as forging them. The crime was called 'uttering' forged notes, and the penalty was either execution or transportation. 

Whereas for us, 'to utter' means to speak or to put into expression, an older--and contemporaneous in the early 19thC-- meaning was 'to put goods on the market' or to 'put into circulation.' 

Between the 1790s and the 1820s, the numbers of forged bank notes rose dramatically. By 1802, the Bank hired an additional 70 clerks… just to detect forgeries. On average, thirty or more people were executed each year for forging or holding forged notes. 

There really was a Parliamentary committee charged with developing ways to make bank notes more difficult to forge, and their proposed solutions included special paper, special inks, more elaborate designs on the notes, special printing techniques—all things we are familiar with today.

If you want to know more about the bank crisis in the early 19thC, let me know.
 
Before the Married Women's Property Act, women in the UK had no legal status, if married. Any property a woman brought to a married became her husband's after the marriage ceremony.

Children were also property--and they belonged to the husband. Repeatedly we find stories of wife sent away with no ability to see their children, if it is denied by their husbands. We find Rosina Bulwer-Lytton in a real life example or in a fictional one the main character in Mary Wollstonecraft's unfinished novel, Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman

In Jilting the Duke, then, Sophia Gardiner, Lady Wilmot, is in a precarious position. If her late husband Tom had wanted to, he could have "willed" their son entirely into the care of a male guardian. And if she appears to be unfit as a guardian, one of her male relations (or the child's) could petition to have the care of her son taken from her. This is the threat Phineas--her unappealing brother--makes: to take her child--and with it her child's fortune.

But luckily Tom had other things in mind for Sophia--and her co-guardian Aidan Somerville, Lord Forster.

To read a discussion of the guardianship, check out the extract available from http://jensreadingobsession.blogspot.... 
 
In Jilting the Duke, the heroine Sophia Wilmot is a botanist and a botanical illustrator. 

Botany had become by the end of the 18thC a science appropriate for women. By 1800, books like William Mavor's The Lady and Gentleman's Botanical Pocket Book argued that 'botanizing'--rummaging about in the countryside looking at plants-- was actually good for one's health! Here's a great quote: 
"Whether we consider the effect of Botany as enlarging the sphere of knowledge, or as conducive to health and innocent amusement, it ought to rank very high in the scale of elegant acquirements (Mavor vi).

But when Sophia teaches the hero Aidan Somerville, Duke of Forster something of what she knows about plants, he turns it into a seductive moment:
"Then he had kissed her, naming all the flowers by their botanical names in a line from her lips, down her neck, and to her breasts, and back to her mouth, until her kisses, sweet against his lips, turned mad with longing. In his youth and inexperience, he'd mistaken her fervor for love."

For more on flowers, botany, and the language of flowers in 1819, check out the links here for science and medicine. Up there in the menu for Regency life.
 
One of my obsessions in writing about the Regency is in making sure I use words that could have been used then. Of course I can't look everything up, but I try to mark words that give me pause.

I find out fascinating things--both about words I can't use and the words I can.

Here's today's word(s):

In 1819, one couldn't be ambivalent--a term that came into English from very early20thC translations of Jung and Freud. 

One could however be mealy-mouthed, equivocal, or ambiguous.

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