Tea Party Winners: Debra E. Marvin's winner is: Kathleen, Jennifer Hudson Taylor's winner of her MacGregor Legacy series is Chris Granville and second winner is Britney Adams for the plaque and For Love or Country novel:, Angela K. Couch's winner is: , Carrie Fancett Pagels's winner per random.org is Beverly Duell-Moore for a copy of BCB and second winner for colonial goodies is: Carrie Moore Gould, Denise Weimer's winner: Janet Marie Dowell, Shannon McNear's winner is: Adriann Harris, Pegg Thomas's winner is: Susan C

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Spinning Room: Why Do You Write Colonial Fiction?

You have a passion for history. You long to live in bygone eras. Some of your favorite heroes include Abigail, Molly, Daniel, and the Georges (last names not required). You dream of garrison houses, Indian raids, privateers, patriots, meeting houses, powered wigs, cotillions, Caraco jackets, embroidered stomachers, herb gardens, baking by the hearth, and spinning wool. As you sit with your roller-gel pen or at your keyboard you imagine yourself writing with a goose feather quill pen.

But what is it exactly about 18th century America that stirs your soul?
Why do you write Colonial American fiction?

(Names: Abigail Adams, Molly Pitcher, Daniel Boone, George Washington and George Whitefield)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fiction Sampler: Promises, Promises by Amber Stockton

Amber (Miller) Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an award-winning author, speaker, online marketing specialist, and a freelance web site designer. She has sold eleven books to Barbour Publishing with more on the horizon. Her first repack, Liberty’s Promise, set during Colonial times, is a bestseller with Barbour Publishing in romance collections. Three of her novels have won annual reader’s choice awards and in 2009, she was voted #1 favorite new author for the Heartsong Presents book club.

"I am primarily a historical reader/writer, so I fully expected to like Tiff's book, but HOLY COW, I found myself flipping through those pages like a heat-seeking missile!" ~ Julie Lessman

Raelene Strattford believes God has forsaken her, but her neighbor proves just the opposite while giving her a voice in a world where women have none.

Has God forsaken Raelene? What kind of God would take a girl's family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? When Gustaf Hanssen promises Raelene's dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word, must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene's affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Christina River Valley (Delaware), 1740

Heedless of the home-stitched stockings showing at her knees, Raelene Strattford ran down the tree-lined lane, her skirts flying behind her. Strands of hair from her crown of braids came loose and flailed in the cool breeze. After being cooped inside the house for the past week, abed with a fever, it should have been refreshing, but Raelene was distracted by the lone wagon coming toward her.

It wasn't the one she expected. This one belonged to her neighbors, not her mother and father. One man drove it at a dirge-like pace as another walked alongside, both with heads down. But what made Raelene run even harder were the two workhorses tied behind it. Her family's workhorses! That could only mean. . .

A sob tore through her body.

Mama! Papa!

Her pounding heart beat her voice dead in her throat, but not the furtive prayers for this not to be what it seemed, what she feared. As she reached the wagon, her mouth as parched as the dirt beneath her feet, the driver halted the horses.

"Whoa, Braedon."

Raelene couldn't recall her neighbors' names, not with the panic racing through her mind.

"I am sorry, miss," the larger of the two said, stepping between her and the wagon. The cocky farm boy had actually had the nerve to ask her father permission to court her. What was his name?

"There is no way to break bad news," the older man interjected.

Bad news. His heavily accented words halted her steps, as if delaying facing what she feared might change things. But her mind refused to stand still. What would she find? God forbid, they couldn't be dead. They just couldn't be. She wouldn't know unless she looked. But could she bear it?

The wall of a man stepped out of her way. His large, gentle hand cupped her elbow, nudging her forward. With hesitant steps and dread filling her being, Raelene reached the solid wood gate across the back of the serviceable wagon. She looked inside.

Mama used to tease her that she had a wild imagination, but nothing Raelene could conjure in her mind compared to this. This was horribly real.

Mama and Papa lay in the back of the wagon, bloodied and battered. She covered her mouth to catch the moan rising from the center of her anguish, but it escaped. And with it, Raelene's strength. Her knees buckled, and she would have landed on the ground had it not been for two strong arms that held her upright.

"Here now! Do not fall. You are safe."

Bewildered, she looked into a pair of striking and sympathetic indigo eyes. Gustaf Hanssen. That was the name of the man who had disrupted her life last year with his suit, focusing more on her land than on her. The older man was his father, Jarel.

"If you say what you want us to do. . ." Gustaf broke off, awkward, his choppy English making it difficult to follow. He seemed to have trouble only when speaking with her, but somehow she managed to grasp his meaning.

What she wanted them to do? She wanted them to make this go away. But for all the compassion in his gaze, he couldn't do that. She had to deal with this herself.

At the sound of a moan, Raelene shifted her gaze back to the bodies on the ragged bed of hay and blankets.

They were alive! God had heard her half-formed prayers of panic and answered them.

"Mama! Papa!"

Raelene tried to climb onto the wagon bed but couldn't find footing until Gustaf gave her a boot up.
"Hurry," she told him. "We have got to get them home. . .in bed. . .where I can take care of them."

Their clothes were torn, and fresh blood seeped through the makeshift bandages over their numerous wounds. Neither of her parents answered her call or opened their eyes. They both lay still, but the slow rise and fall of their chests gave Raelene hope.

As the wagon lurched forward toward the house, Gustaf's father gave his account of what had happened.

"Accident. . .horses scared. . .runaway. . .loose bolt. . ."

The words barely penetrated. Her focus remained fixed on the labored breaths of her beloved parents. She wasn't going to lose them. The idea gripped her heart like a vise. No, she'd take care of them, nurse them back to health like they'd done for her on many occasions. And for that, she had to be strong.

Raelene spoke softly to her parents, assuring them they'd be fine, but cut off her words when the wagon stopped in front of the little three-room farmhouse. Puffs of smoke curled up from the chimney, but the usual comfort that filled her at the sight of her home deserted her.

Gustaf lifted her down from the wagon as though she were a doll. Mr. Hanssen descended from the seat to stand beside his son.

"We sent for doctor. I pray he come before—"

"Before what?" Raelene pulled away from the big hands enveloping her waist, took a step back, and shifted her gaze between the two men. Gustaf spoke first.

"Your parents, they are broken inside and out."

Cringing at the thought, Raelene held her ground. "I appreciate what you have done, sir, but if you would get them inside, we will let the doctor be the judge of that."

Neither her mother nor her father regained consciousness as Gustaf and his father carried them into the bedroom off the kitchen. Both men ducked as they stepped down into the room. At a loss for what to do, Raelene set about warming water to wash the dirt and blood away, while the men stepped outside to wait by the wagon. It helped to stay busy. Busy meant she didn't have to think about what the young man had said. And she had to keep praying.

Yet for all her prayer, words of comfort, and care, Mama and Papa remained unresponsive.

"They are here, Doctor." Mr. Hanssen's voice carried from just outside the main door.

Doctor. Raelene hadn't heard his carriage arrive. Hope surged in her chest. Everything would be all right. It had to be.

Dr. Schuylar asked Raelene to leave the room. She watched the door close behind him and stared at it. She had hated closed doors since she was little. Even the stairs by the fireplace that led up to her loft had a door that she always left open. Closed doors separated her from the people she loved.

No, she was just being foolish. Raelene raised her hand to her forehead and found it warmer than it should have been.

Lord, this is no time for my fever to return. I must be well for Mama and Papa.

A chair scraped near the stone hearth. Raelene turned to find Gustaf seated on a bench at the small, round table by the diamond-paned window. His father pressed a steaming cup of tea into her hands before mumbling something about fetching someone else. The heat from the cup seeped into her skin. Emotionless, she raised the tin cup to her lips and drank the hot liquid. The strong flavor awakened her taste buds. Warmth flowed through her body, bringing her back to some semblance of reality.

Raelene glanced about the small room, bringing the handcarved shelves in the little kitchen into focus. In slow order, she saw the whitewashed walls and the cast-iron cooking supplies hung or placed around the fireplace. Minimal personal treasures retrieved from the chests of items stored in the doctor's barn in town decorated the shelves. Papa had plans to build a larger home, and until then, he'd allowed Mama to set out a few things. Her perusal stopped when she again looked at Gustaf.

His brown doublet strained across broad shoulders and barely concealed the work-hardened muscles of his upper torso. The beige breeches disappeared into dark stockings, both covering long, lean limbs. She raised her gaze to his face. Gustaf 's chiseled jaw and wide mouth gave way to a narrow nose and deep-set blue eyes.

Those eyes!

Realization dawned on her the moment she caught Gustaf's sympathetic gaze. The memory of his strong arms holding her steady and the piercing intensity of his eyes made her skin tingle. Heat stole into Raelene's cheeks. Why did Gustaf Hanssen have to be the one to find her parents?

"We put horses away and give them food."

Raelene forced herself to focus on his words.

"Far go to bring Mor."

Some remnants of the hospitality Mama ingrained in Raelene surfaced. "Thank you, Mr.—"

"To please," he interrupted. "I am Gustaf."

But that wouldn't do. She didn't want to give him any ideas when she'd settle for nothing less than a gentleman as a beau. "Thank you, Mr. Hanssen, for bringing my parents home."

She glanced at the cup in her hands. His father had seen to her needs. She should do the same for Gustaf. Rubbing her hands on her skirts, Raelene started toward the hearth, where Mama always kept a kettle of water heating.

"Can I pour you some tea? I imagine the doctor will want some when he is through. . .and Mama loves tea." She was rambling. She couldn't help it. "She says tea is good for all occasions."

Raelene reached for the handle of the teakettle, realizing too late that she'd forgotten to use a towel. With a gasp, she let it go and jumped away as the kettle struck the stone hearth, splattering its scalding contents. The liquid sizzled on the open flame.

In an instant, Gustaf was at her side, sweeping her out of harm's way. "Here." He took her hand in his. 

"I look."

Tears that had refused to spill at the sight of her parents' injuries flooded her eyes as the young man blew on the burn. A shiver ran up Raelene's arm, and she tensed her muscles in response.

"You have medicine?" Gustaf asked between breaths.

He had a strong, rugged face, Swedish fair. The room swirled around it at a dizzying speed. Raelene's head felt like she'd been twirling with a vengeance and then stopped to look at the sky. Except this sky churned with dark clouds rushing in from all sides, blotting out the light—and nearly everything else. It made her sway.

The floor beneath her seemed to give way, and she floated above it. Jostled and shifted until her new position became comfortable, Raelene realized Gustaf carried her. The heat from the fireplace warmed her, but she shivered. Gustaf's arms tightened around her back and legs. Raelene leaned against his solid chest, seeking the comfort and strength she had lost.

She buried her head against Gustaf's neck, hot tears soaking through his coarse shirt. Not a thought was given to propriety. Raelene only knew she needed the reassurance he offered. As Gustaf pivoted around the table in the center of the room, the roof began to spin above her, and Raelene succumbed to the blackness that welcomed her.

Visit the Author Online
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Promises, Promises by Amber Stockton  is also available in the 3-in-1 collection Liberty's Promise.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Making Research Sing

Contributed by Laura Feagan Frantz

I've yet to meet a writer of historical fiction that says anything but "ahhh!" to research. They're usually quite at home in history books. My friends who write contemporary fiction usually say "ugh" to the same, one of the reasons they choose to write in their genre. Research, to them, is often dry, dusty, stale. I must admit some history, like midwifery, is far more interesting to me than say, fishmongering. And I've discovered that there are ways to make your research sing, avenues you can take to make the leap from antique facts to flesh and blood characters more appealing.

During the years I spent writing The Frontiersman's Daughter, research became more ah-inducing when I created characters who were involved in the things I loved and wanted to learn more about. Here are two of them...

Lael's Garden

I'd always had a love of herbs, flowers, and the woods and wanted my protagonist to find her calling there. The Kentucky hills and hollows became Lael's second home in the novel and she was taught their charms and secrets by Ma Horn, a healer and herbalist. To get into Lael's head and heart, I planted a large herb garden full of 18th-century things like comfrey and bee balm and lavender and chamomile. This became my own special spot and the delight of my heart. I scoured the woods for materials to build a wattle fence and spent hours crafting one just like Lael would have done. Imagine my JOY when those flowers and herbs wended their way around my lovely fence and cast me back to another time and place. I also learned to match remedies to ailments as I delved into what plagued colonials back then, then poured that knowledge into Lael.

When readers say they felt at home in Lael's woods, that the words on the page became vivid pictures, I think it's because the research became a reality via my garden, fence, and woods. If you want your research to spring to life for you, your characters, and your readers, try tending a garden, churning butter, cooking over a hearth, firing a musket, spinning, or a million other old things. Visit a historic site and pay careful attention to the reenactors. Sometimes they let you lend a hand with whatever it is they're doing. Absorb the sights, smells, and sounds therein. Look for amazing resources like the Foxfire books that give in-depth instruction as to what your characters would have done in detail. Your writing will be better for it.

Ian's Fiddle

Another love of mine is the violin. No, I can't play a note so the next best thing was creating a hero who could play in my stead. I made my Ian Justus Scottish. Such a rich fiddling history there! If you haven't read the book, Ian was a doctor and erstwhile fiddler:)

As I was writing TFD, my youngest son expressed a desire to play the violin. When he broke a string or was horribly out of tune, played a song flawlessly and almost made me cry, I instilled this in my hero. I still can't play a note but Ian can - as can my Paul. I agree with one of my favorite characters regarding fiddle music, "Surely the devil had a hand in something this seductive." Heaven did, truly!

Ramp that research up by indulging in some hands on history. You - and your readers - will be glad you did and it will enrich your life in countless ways.

Every writer is different, each story unique, including research methods. How does research work best for you? What sources do you find most compelling? Do you research prior to writing or throughout? If you're a reader instead of a writer, do you prefer historical fiction with lots of detail or just a little? When is too much detail too much - or too little too little?

CQ note from CFP: Leave a comment on Laura's research post (or the Fiction Sampler of CML) with your email address for a chance to win a copy of Courting Morrow Little by Laura.  Drawing will be on Monday morning, Memorial Day.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Traveling by Horse in 17th Century New England

Ah, there ye are dear readers. I am blessed to see you visit my Rhode Island farm. God has been very gracious to me. I built it in 1654, nigh ten years ago.

Let me set my horse’s furniture, what ye call a saddle, on this fence rail. Now I can properly introduce myself to you. My name is Nathaniel Griffith.

My good wife and I have just returned from a trip to Lynn in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, nigh a five day ride home, including a ferry ride across the bay.

What is that, ye say? Why so long? Betwixt a narrow trail and many down trees from a storm a fortnight ago, the ride took much longer than anticipated. My wife, she’s a goodly woman and a fine rider, but her stirrup stockings require a broader path than what a single horse needs.

What are stirrup stockings, ye ask? Well, they be similar to my splatterdashes…but I see I have lost you there. These are loose thigh-high leggings to keep my clothes clean. Now stirrup stockings, they be as wide as the length of a large man’s arm. Yea, I agree. They are not very attractive. However, modesty must prevail and these stirrup stockings allow my good wife to ride astride without revealing more than a modest woman should.

Now about the distance. I have good steeds. At an easy trot, they can go six miles in an hour over a clear trail and in fine weather. The day my father took ill, I rode more than sixty miles to fetch Dr. Clarke. Verily, on a journey of several days I desire not to push my animals more than five and twenty miles with a rest every two or three hours. With a carriage, as my father had when we lived in Wales, we would need to travel even slower. However, here in New England we have not the roads for such vehicles.

Now Goodman Blythe and Goodman Coddington, they traveled last summer to Boston. They had but one horse between them. Had they asked, they could have used my black gelding, but that is another story. To spare the horse, they used the ride-and-tie method.

What is that, you ask? An effective method, some say, to spare horse and man. Goodman Blythe rode the first ten miles, and then he’d tie the horse to a tree. Goodman Coddington would walk that distance and by the time he’d reach the horse, the animal would be well rested and ready to go the next distance. Coddington would ride at a trot, passing Goodman Blythe, who was on foot. They’d alternate back and forth like this until they reached Boston.

In my opinion, such a method is an inconvenient form of traveling, and Goodman Holmes agrees. Of course, Goodman Holmes feels one is better just to walk and not fuss over a horse that needs resting. Hitherto, the man owns not a horse and appears to have a fierce dislike for them. That, I believe, is the reasoning behind his opinion.

Now if you will excuse me, I must rub down my animals and turn them loose. ‘Twas a pleasure to meet you, and I wish you Godspeed until we meet again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fiction Sampler: Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Author of Courting Morrow Little, Laura Frantz credits her grandmother as being the catalyst for her fascination with Kentucky history. Frantz's ancestors followed Daniel Boone into Kentucky in the late eighteenth century and settled in Madison County, where her family still resides. She has also authored the highly acclaimed The Frontiersman's Daughter and her much anticipated The Colonel's Lady will release in August of this year. 

"The Frontiersman's Daughter marked this exceptional debut author as a name to watch; Courting Morrow Little firmly establishes her as a name synonymous with the best literary fiction in the Christian market today."
Author, Julie Lessman

Caught between the wilderness and civilization, Morrow Little must find her way to true love.

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men--ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable--vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones--and garner suspicion from her friends--by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?
This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop you as it takes you from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness of the West.

Red River, Kentucke
July 1765

Morrow paused on the river trail to wipe her brow with the hem of her linsey shift. It was a true Kentucke July, and the woods were hot as a hearth, the leaves of the elms and oaks and sycamores curling for lack of water, the dust beneath her bare feet fine as flour. Even the river seemed like bathwater, its surface still and unbroken as green glass. She’d been following her brother Jessamyn to swim, but a treasure trove of wild grapes along the river’s edge slowed her.

“Morrow, quit your dawdlin’, ” Jess yelled over his shoulder.

She stuffed the grapes into her mouth till it wouldn’t close then filled her pockets for him. His quick grin was thanks enough.

“Why, them’s big as marbles—or trade beads,” he exclaimed, filling his own cheeks. “Reckon Ma would want some to make jelly?”

“We can pick her some after we swim,” she said, shucking off her shift and hanging it from a sticker bush.

At the sight of her, Jess began to snicker. “Morrow Mary Little, you’re fat as a grape yourself. And so white you hurt my eyes.”

Truly, she was as plump as she could be. Stout, Pa called her, like most of the Little clan. Though five years old, she’d still not lost her baby fat, and only her face and feet and hands were tan. The rest of her was white as milk.

She grinned, bubbling with glee at his teasing. “You’re so skinny I can see right through you. And you’re brown as bacon.”

Only ten, he worked the fields alongside Pa like a man, tending tobacco and corn while she mostly toted her baby sister around and helped Ma spin. Joining hands now, they jumped off their favorite rock, shattering the river’s calm. Cool at last, they surfaced, smiling, glad to be free of the fields and Euphemia’s fussing.

Morrow twirled in the water. “Ain’t it fine—” she began.

But the smile had slipped off Jess’s face. He held up a hand as Pa sometimes did, forbidding further talk. Bewildered, she looked about. But her brother wasn’t looking, he was listening.

Beyond the noisy jays and flighty cardinals and whisper of wind, past the heat shimmers of midsummer and the wall of woods, came a startling sound. The humid air was threaded with shrieking and screaming.

All at once Jess began to wade to shore. Morrow followed, but he turned, his freckled face suffused with a strange heat.

“You stay put—don’t even twitch—till I come back.”

She watched the woods swallow him up as she sat in the shallow water, unable to stand up any longer on her trembling legs, unable to listen to the shrieking and screaming out there somewhere. With her hands over her ears she waited, and then when the water turned cold she started up the trail to their cabin, forgetting her dress. Naked as a jaybird, she flew into the quiet cabin clearing. The slant of the sun told her it was nearly time for supper. But where was Ma calling her to come in? Or the ring of Pa’s ax as he split wood? Or Jess reminding her to bell the cow before he turned her loose in the meadow? For once she even missed her baby sister’s wailing.

Her bare feet ate up the dry, dun-colored grass leading to the cabin porch. There on the steps, like a discarded doll, lay Euphemia. The dying sun lit her baby sister’s wide blue eyes, only Euphemia didn’t blink or cry. Had she fallen down and hurt herself? Morrow looked around. Where was Ma? Her breathing was a bit ragged now as she surveyed the toppled churn and water bucket by the cabin door. Some unseen hand seemed to tug her ever nearer, but she saw she’d have to step over Euphemia to get there, and she couldn’t do it.

Sweat trickled down her face, yet she started to shiver like it was winter, eyes on the open door. Frantic, she looked around for Ma and Jess and Pa. Digger should have been here too, alerting them with his bark, welcoming them home. As soon as she thought it, she saw his furry body beneath the rosebush to one side of the cabin, an arrow through his middle.

An Indian arrow.

With a cry she jumped over Euphemia and ran into the ransacked cabin. Ma was slumped over her spinning wheel, but Morrow couldn’t get to her past the splintered furniture and broken glass and scattered clothes and quilts. A flurry of feathers from the tick that had been Ma’s pride were dancing in the draft coming through the cabin door. They rained down around Morrow restlessly, soft as a snowfall, almost as white. Standing there, her heart hurt so fiercely she felt it would burst.


Behind her, hard hands scooped her up and tore her away from the sickening sight. Pa carried her to the barn, away from the blood and the smell of death and their torn-up things. But he couldn’t remove the gruesome memory. And he couldn’t explain why the Almighty had let it happen in the first place.


Author's Website
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For a chance to win a copy of Courting Morrow Little please visit on Friday, May 27th when Laura Frantz shares on our feature, Tools of the Trade.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brides' Cake Recipe

Bride’s Cake

1 1/2 pounds butter
1 1/2 pounds sugar
8 eggs
1 1/2 pounds flour
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 nutmegs
1 cup black molasses
1 cup coffee
1 tablespoon rose extract
2 pounds raisins
3 pounds currants
1 pound chopped almonds
1 pound citron, cut fine

Prepare the fruit and nuts, and dredge with part of the flour. Cream the butter and sugar together and add the well-beaten eggs. Mix and sift the flour and spices and add to the egg mixture. Add the fruit and liquids by degrees.

Line a large baking pan with wax paper, greasing the pan well, and then greasing the paper. Turn in the cake mixture and bake in a preheated slow oven (250ยบ) for about 3 hours. Frost with white boiled icing. Makes about 12 pounds of cake.

Boiled icing is usually a simple concoction of water and confectioner’s sugar. Thickness depends upon your proportions. You can also make the icing this way:

3 egg whites

1 cup powdered granulated sugar (not superfine)

Beat egg whites. Add sugar, beating until smooth and white. Spread icing over slightly warm cake. It will harden very slowly.

Foods From Our Founding Fathers, Helen Newbury Burke (p. 238)

Contributed by Joan M. Hochstetler:  Colonial Weddings

Friday, May 20, 2011

Elusive Answers - Striving for Online Literacy

It's three o'clock in the morning. I have six hours to finish a short story before my critique partner arrives to edit it in time for me to enter it into a contest. All is well except that I need an obscure fact to complete the authentic historical details. None of my personal reference books yield this fact, so, as a last resort, I type, Treaty of Ghent into a search engine. The nearly instant result staggers me. I not only discover the fact about that treaty I need; I discover the entire Avalon Project, which contains four centuries of treaties.

(Note: Italicized text is used for example purposes and does not indicate that you should use italics in search strings.)

That was November 8, 1999, the day I remember falling in love with the Internet.
I'd been using the Internet in a desultory way for a year by this point, but hadn't yet discovered its potential for divulging detailed information. Because I'd had such great success in using the Internet to learn specifics about the Treaty of Ghent, I believed I could easily learn anything I wanted to.

Wrong. The simplest items eluded me such as the Chicken Kiev recipe I needed, when I could not locate my own and had company coming that night, or the web site for a Scottish musician who simply bills himself as "Fish." I needed to learn about search engines and how they work in order to formulate queries that returned effective results.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wedding in Colonial America

Since Jennifer posted on the bachelor tax in this column last week, I thought it would be fun to take a look at getting married in colonial America. Many of our modern wedding traditions developed during the Victorian era and differ considerably from what was customary in the 18th century. So let’s jump in and take a look at what a colonial bride’s wedding looked like. And be sure to also check out my American Patriot Series blog for a lengthy, but highly entertaining article by Anne Morse Earle on marriage customs in New England.

We often think that young women married at an early age in colonial America, but that wasn’t true. On average women married in their late teens or early twenties. Among the lower classes in Virginia, the average age of brides was 23, with grooms averaging 26. Any free white person over the age of 21 could marry, provided they obtained a license or had banns published by their church. Those under the age of 21 could not marry without the consent of a parent or legal guardian, and anyone serving an indenture or apprenticeship had to get permission from their master or mistress. It was illegal for a white person to marry a black person, whether they were enslaved or free, and Virginia did not recognize marriages between slaves.

There were two ways to marry legally, either by obtaining a marriage license, which stated that both parties were legally old enough to marry or had their parents’ or guardians’ consent, that there were no objections to the marriage, and that both parties were legally able to wed. A marriage license cost more than having banns published, but it allowed couples to wed more quickly. If a couple had banns published, the notice of their intention to marry had to be published either verbally or in writing for three consecutive meetings of their church. If they lived in different parishes, then the banns had to be published in both parishes. This allowed any member of the community who opposed the marriage to make their objections known. If no objections arose, a document was issued that certified that the couple could marry. This was the cheaper option, but the couple had to wait longer to be married.

Now for the most important part—the wedding gown! It may surprise you to learn that in colonial times women wore a variety of different colors on their wedding day. White did not become the color of choice for brides until the Victorian era. Instead, colonial brides wore their very best gown or purchased the finest they could afford for the wedding. Since fine textiles were costly, brides didn’t wear their gown only once. After the wedding, they typically wore it for other important events as well.

Diadema Morgan (1764-1788) wore the blue wool gown shown here at her wedding to Phineas Field of Northfield in 1785. The petticoat and kerchief are modern additions.

This lovely brown brocade wedding dress (back shown here) belongs to the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Edith Viele, 1949

The most popular months for colonial weddings were late December, January, and early February, although couples married throughout the year, with the exception of Lent and the week before Christmas. By the 1770s, rituals traditionally performed in churches, including marriages, were often performed in homes. Church marriages always took place before noon. In Virginia, regardless of where the wedding was performed, the ceremony had to be conducted by a minister of the Church of England for it to be recognized.

Colonial wedding feasts were elaborate affairs that often lasted two or more days, depending on the family’s wealth and the customs of the community. The families would serve the most expensive foods in the largest quantity and the best manner they could afford. Typical foods served included fish or clam chowder, stewed oysters, roasted pig, venison, duck, potatoes, baked rye bread, Indian cornbread, and pumpkin casserole. There would be trays of nutmeats and candy. Coffee and tankards of spiced hard cider or punch made with hard cider combined with sugar, lemons, and limes were popular beverages. Unlike our modern tiered wedding cakes, the bride’s cake was a thick, rich, spiced cake made with alcohol, dried fruit, and nuts similar to what we know as a fruitcake. It often had a piece of nutmeg baked inside, and the person who received the slice with the nutmeg was supposed to be the next to marry.

Alternative Marriage Traditions

Since the Middle Ages, common law marriages were accepted in England, and immigrants brought the custom to the colonies with them. Couples who didn’t have their parents’ permission or who couldn’t marry for other reasons might choose to speak marriage vows alone or before witnesses. They joined hands and declared that they took each other to be husband and wife, and then lived together. This was called “handfasting” or “spousal.” It was not unusual for blacksmiths to officiate at a handfasting, and the anvil came to symbolize the forging of long-lasting unions.

There was a version of this kind of contract called the spousal de futuro, a marriage contract to be consummated at a later date, similar to the modern engagement. It wasn't rare for the couple to jump the gun and the girl to consequently become pregnant. In that case, they were considered to be man and wife. For the colonists, pregnancy sealed the marriage.

Here are some helpful links if you want more information.

Marriage Customs in New England - American Patriot Blog

Note:  Come by Colonial Quills on Saturday for a Bride's Cake recipe.  You might be surprised at the ingredients that went into this version of a colonial wedding cake!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lovely Romance with Wonderful Historical Details

Review by C. F. Pagels

At the Captain’s Command

Author: Louise Gouge www.louisemgouge.com

This is a colonial fiction set in Florida. Louise acknowledged at the end of the book that she planned to write this from the American perspective but later believed it was appropriate to write this from the British viewpoint. Since Florida was a British and Loyalist stronghold, this makes sense. This is the third book in the series.

The hero, Thomas Moberly, is sympathetic as a naval captain struggling with the loss of his wife and child, years earlier, and with difficult relationships with family members.  He also is trying to come to terms with his own beliefs.  Thomas is a mature character and I appreciated that Louise really fleshed him out and had him work through some life issues that needed to be resolved.

Dinah is a somewhat restrained character, however this fits with her life circumstances (under her brother-in-law’s thumb) and her background.  Dinah Templeton’s brother, whom she loves, is aligned with the American patriots’ cause, which results in conflict.

This is a historical romance produced for the mass market, so it is a somewhat shorter book than some. I found it to be a good length matched to the story line and with good pacing, even in the middle section, which is always hard to keep moving.

This was an enjoyable read.  Thank you Louise for writing At the Captain’s Command! You are “spoiling” us colonial fiction lovers!  God bless you!

Formats: I read this on my Kindle, which made it much easier for me to read.  At this point in time only paperback and Kindle or ebook versions are available.  No audiobook.

Bibliotherapy aspect: Relationships, grieving, coping with death, sibling struggles, and betrayal.  This is not a strong bibliotherapy book, which is fine, I just like to include this since I am a psychologist.  Someone who has lost a spouse at a young age may find this of some bibliotherapy use.  Overall, I see this as having more 
developmental life issues – transitions, accepting changes in sibling relationships, growing in maturity, etc. 

GIVEAWAY: Leave your email address with your comment for a chance to win a copy of this book!

See our Fiction Sampler of:
At the Captain's Command by Louise M. Gouge

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Spinning Room: The Hook to Pull Readers into Colonial Storyworld

Those first lines are so crucial.  We have only a few moments to pull our colonial readers into our storyworld. And we want them with us, don't we ladies?  As suggested by Laura Frantz, the Colonial American Christian Writers are going to share first lines from their works.

If you are a writer visiting us, won't you please share one of your opening lines?  If you are a reader, is there an opening line posted that you especially love?

Let us know!

Special giveaway today: A Colonial Williamsburg ornament! Please leave your email address with your comment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Ye Olden Days: The Bachelor Tax

As I was reading through one of my colonial resources, I was surprised to discover The Bachelor Tax! My first thought was, They actually put a tax on bachelorhood? Turns out, indeed, they did!

Life in colonial America was difficult. Families and communities depended on each other for survival. The challenge of forming new towns, farming the land, and learning basic survival skills were often more than the colonists could handle. Communities desired marriages as soon as young people were of age so they could make their own way and be less of a burden to families. The more children they produced, the more free workers they had to help on the farms and to go into trade.

Men who were unattached from the responsibility of caring for a wife and family were thought to be too easily enticed into mischief. They were less likely to be significant contributors to society and the economy. Therefore, a tax on bachelorhood was established in several colonial communities to help entice young men into marriage. In addition to the Bachelor Tax, unmarried men were treated with other inequalities to induce them to marry. Laws were created to limit their freedom.

Positive incentives were also established to encourage matrimony. For example, in Connecticut bachelors were not permitted to have their own homes. In Salem, North Carolina, single men couldn't own land or a home. They were required to live at the Single Brothers House until they married. It was the same for the women, they stayed in the Single Sisters House until they married. They were not allowed to live at home with their parents after they reached the age of fourteen. In New England married couples were rewarded with land grants.

While marriage customs varied from religion to religion, marriage laws also varied from state to state, as well as from county to county within states. Were you aware of the Bachelor Tax? Do you know if your state or city once initiated a Bachelor Tax?


Courting Customs in America by George Rice

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Spinning Room: Homespun Inspiration

The Boston Chronicle in April, 1766 wrote that women there "exhibited a fine example of industry, by spinning from sunrise until dark."  Spinning bees were held in early America to encourage the production of yarn to provide homespun fabric. In the 1760's these events became popular as a means to demonstrate opposition of the importation of heavily taxed British goods and for the mutual aid for those in their community.

It reminds me of the industrious writers we have here at Colonial Quills, spinning tales and weaving stories on the looms of our imaginations. Just as the spinners of yesteryear gathered and shared in the spinning room, I imagine this a place where we can come together and talk about the yarns we spin in our Colonial American stories. Thus, "The Spinning Room" where we will post every now and again to invite conversation on special topics.

Photo taken by Carla Gade at the Windham, ME
Historical Society museum.
Please share the source of some of your own homespun inspiration.  We'd love to hear about the hometown or state that has inspired your writing. Perhaps it's where you were raised, somewhere you have visited, or where you now live. Join us at your spinning wheel and tell us what place inspires you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Colonial Fiction Sampler: At the Captain's Command by Louise M. Gouge

Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction, calling her stories “threads of grace woven through time.” Her newest release (April 2011) is the third book in her Revolutionary War series, which follows the Moberly siblings, two English brothers and their sister who find themselves inconveniently falling in love with Americans during a time when their two countries are at war. Following the first two stories: Love Thine Enemy and The Captain's Lady this new novel, At the Captain's Command, takes readers on an exciting adventure on land and sea. 
Duty and career--Captain Thomas Moberly of His Majesty's Navy prizes them above all. So why is he tempted to relinquish both for Dinah Templeton? Though Dinah seems sweet and charming, the difference in station between an East Florida belle and the son of an earl is too marked to ignore. And all other obstacles pale with the discovery that Dinah's brother James is not what he seems.... A war is brewing on the colonies' horizon, and James has chosen his side--in opposition to the country Thomas has sworn to defend. But what of Dinah? Where does her heart truly lie--with her family, or with the man she claims to love? 

Excerpt from At the Captain's Command

May 1780

St. Augustine, East Florida Colony

The instant Dinah saw the three naval officers, she ducked into the mercantile and hid among the stacks of goods. To her relief, the men, grandly uniformed in indigo wool, gold braid and black bicorne hats, continued up St. George Street. Yet she could not help but notice the well-formed profile of the captain among them. A strong jaw. High cheekbones. Jet-black hair tied back in a queue. She wondered what color his eyes were.

What was she thinking? She quickly turned her attention to a display of awls and knives laid out on a shelf.

"How may I help you, Miss Templeton?" The rotund, middle-aged proprietor approached her, admiration gleaming in his dark eyes. "Some silk for a new gown, perhaps? My latest shipment of lace has arrived and--"

"No, thank you." Dinah lifted her basket of lavender flowers from her arm and held it like a shield as the widower moved closer. Coming in here had been a mistake.

"I do not require anything." Tension tightening in her chest, she hurried toward the door.

He reached it first, and his eyebrows arched. "I have tea from China and..."

Dinah drew herself up to her full height and lifted her chin. "Please allow me to pass, Mr. Waterston."

He mirrored her posture, although his shorter height did not reach hers, and he sniffed. "I must say, Miss Templeton, for a girl with no family, you certainly do put on airs. Would you not prefer to be mistress of your own home instead of living with Mr. and Mrs. Hussey?" His shoulders slumped, his gaze softened and his lips curved into a gentle smile. "You could do worse than marrying a responsible merchant such as myself."

A twinge of pity softened her annoyance. "As I have told you before, sir, we truly would not suit."

Even if she found the merchant's offer appealing, which she did not, his reminder of her orphaned state did nothing to recommend him, nor did his reference to her living situation. She did indeed have relatives, but they were all far away. And yes, she would like to be mistress of her own home. But in truth, not one of the many unattached men in St. Augustine suited her, in spite of her friends' attempts at matchmaking. After four years in this small city, she had no doubt God had consigned her to a state of spinsterhood.

"I wish you a good day, sir." She slid past Mr. Waterston and walked out into the street, lifting a silent prayer of thanks that the encounter had ended without unpleasantness. She encountered quite enough unpleasantness every day at home.

Coming to this city had not been her preference, but she'd had no other choice. Even before the beginning of the war that now raged in the northern colonies, she had felt twice displaced. Her parents died when she was very small, and her relatives had been unable to take her in. Then, when the dear spinster ladies who reared her died of a fever, the elders of the Nantucket Friends Meeting placed her with the Husseys, for Mrs. Hussey had also been reared by the Gardiner sisters. Once the war began to escalate, Artemis Hussey insisted upon removing to this safe haven, where no rebels could threaten to tar and feather him for his Loyalist views. Over these past four years, he had grown more and more disagreeable and usually aimed his dissatisfaction at Dinah rather than at his wife, Anne.

But as Dinah continued on her way, thoughts of Artemis vanished amid the chatter and clatter along the dusty street. When she reached the Parade, the grassy common in front of the governor's house, she approached several well-dressed ladies who were whispering behind opened fans, their admiring stares aimed across the green lawn.

Elizabeth Markham, a friend near her...

Read Colonial Quills review by C. F. Pagels

Purchase the Book

For more great Colonial American Christian Fiction please visit us each Monday for our Fiction Sampler.  Next Monday, Carrie Fancet Pagels will bring you a Review of this novel!

Colonial Quills Blog Launch!

Hear ye! Hear ye!  Welcome to the official launch of Colonial Quills, the blog dedicated to Colonial America Christian Fiction.  This blog began as a project of the Colonial American Christian Writers group. To meet the "Quillers" please visit the Contributors Page.  

So please do have some tea, make your self comfortable and enjoy the camaraderie. We are serving both readers and writers who love this fantastic era in America's history.

Please be sure to leave a comment and join our discussion as our blog hostess, Carrie, is giving away some tea party favors!

What will you find here at Colonial Quills? Well, in addition to connecting you to writers of Colonial American Inspirational Fiction, providing a running list of publications, and some research and resource links we will have regular features each week as follows, our primary days being Monday, Wednesday, & Friday.  We hope you'll visit often and get to meet some of your favorite authors and be introduced to some new ones!

Monday:  Fiction Sampler
Colonial American fiction at it's best with excerpts to whet your palette for this engaging sub-genre.
Wednesday:  In ye Olden Days

All about life in Colonial times. Find out
how they lived in 18th century America.

 Friday: Tools of the Trade

Expert advice from our Colonial Quillers
on writing and researching Colonial American fiction.

Saturday:  Colonial Recipes
A bonus day. A little something extra for hearth & home.
Tuesday & Thursday: Special Feature
Occasionally our contributors will have something extra to share.

More tea?

Did you sign up to follow  Colonial Quills yet with Google Friend connect and to receive email updates? We sure hope you will. And we'd appreciate your spreading the word by tweeting about us (hashtag #colonialquills) and sharing our posts on facebook.

Feel free to use this image on your blogs to let others know about us! In the side bar you'll also find a badge to put on your blog.

DON'T MISS our first Fiction Sampler:  At the Captain's Command by Louise Gouge including an introduction and excerpt to the third book in her series set during the years of the American Revolution.  SEE THE FOLLOWING POST.

Thank you so much for visiting us! Please leave a comment and let us know you've come by.  We'd love to hear your thoughts on Colonial America and this sub-genre of historical fiction.