Saturday, August 30, 2014

Eighteenth Century Women’s Fashion: A Heroine’s Journey -- Kathy Fischer-Brown

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us.”-- Virginia Woolf

 Linen shift
Linen shift
As a child at the beginning of Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter, the heroine, Anne lives a poor existence with her mother in rural England. Her clothes are simple, made from linen and/or wool that was spun and woven at home or by the local weaver. Throughout the trilogy, her clothes change as her lot in life changes, reflecting her station in life and her views on the world and how she chooses to act.
In the 18th century, a woman’s clothes, regardless of her status, consisted of over-the-knee stockings knit from linen or wool, and held up by garters. Her basic undergarment was the linen shift, which also served as a nightgown. Stays, stiffened with whalebone or wood, provided support. Pockets were worn suspended around the waist with ribbons or cord under her petticoats, which had slits in the side for access. Skirts were worn in a varying number of layers. Some skirts were sewn or pinned to the bodice, while others were worn interchangeably with bodices or jackets. Bodices were fastened by pinning, sewing or lacing. (Women did not wear buttons until a later period, with some exceptions.) As a practical
Embroidered pocket
necessity, women also wore caps made of linen. Even the youngest children of the period dressed like miniature adults, with little girls squeezed into stays, or "jumps," and smaller versions of the clothing her mother would have worn.

While Anne lives with her father, Lord Esterleigh, in London and at his country estate, she wears clothes and dresses her hair in a matter befitting the daughter of a marquess in the late 1760s. Fashion of the English upper class was influenced heavily by what was worn at court. Fabrics included silks, brocades, cotton, velvet, linen, and wool. In this upper crust of society, cloth was often imported and the garment was cut and sewn by dressmakers (not ready-made, hanging on a rack in a shop).

Book Two of the trilogy, Courting the Devil, takes place in
Upper class women
upstate New York under threat of impending war as the northern British army makes its advance from Canada toward Albany. Here, Anne lives a hard life as an indentured servant. As it was in early childhood, her clothing is homemade of linen, wool, or a combination of the two called linsey-woolsey. Cotton fabric was rare in the north. 

For reasons of simple economics, her skirts, like those of many poor women of the era, are worn shorter than their wealthy counterparts. Her shift is made of unbleached linen, much coarser that the same garment she wore as a member of the English aristocracy. Outer skirts, or petticoats, and jackets (with or without sleeves) are dyed with colors found in local plants, berries and tree bark. In winter, she layers her skirts for warmth. Anne wears a linen mob cap that keeps her hair as clean as possible, especially when the weather makes it impossible to bathe. A cap is also vital in helping to keep her hair from catching fire, a common cause of serious injury or death among women of the period.

Used by permission of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, Massachusetts
Wedding gown
Early in the third book, The Partisan’s Wife, Anne and Peter are married at the American encampment during a lull between the two battles we now refer to as Saratoga. White wedding gowns didn’t come into fashion until a much later date. During the colonial and Revolutionary Era, the gown a woman was married in would have been a practical, functional outfit, something she would wear a lot more than once. Anne’s wedding dress is blue (with white stripes), quite old, and made of fine linen. She carries a bouquet of late blooming asters and wood marigolds that would have been found in the area. To round out her bridal attire, she wears a fichu (a neck kerchief worn around the shoulders and tucked into the bodice) of an almost gossamer muslin and a borrowed cap with ribbons embroidered with forget-me-nots.

Cover art by Michelle Lee
Later in the story, while Anne and Peter are in New York, Peter commissions for her two new gowns and purchases the red hooded cloak seen on the cover of the book.


I wish to thank the good people at the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield, Massachusetts for permission to use some of the photos in this article.Other photographs are courtesy of the Jas. Townsend & Son catalog.

Friday, August 29, 2014


I recently reviewed a book by an indie author who was a gifted natural story-teller. Her book centered upon a true, long-ago tragedy in a small, tight-knit backwoods town.  Unfortunately, I found the story difficult to follow, because of frequent POV shifts, sometimes as often as every few paragraphs.
There was usually a double drop between these shifts, but she also had a habit of changing voice. Sometimes the new POV was first person, sometimes third. Occasionally, I found myself stumbling from first person to third person subjective, followed by bursts of the venerable 18th Century third person omnipresent. Many of her narrators were unreliable, and there were many, many characters, almost an entire town. Few were well fleshed out. However, each one, Rashomon-like, had a unique piece of information about the pivotal event.

As compelling as the story was, I’d have to say "thumbs down." Her tale was interesting and important—and probably remains inflammatory, even years later. People probably still remember where they were on the terrible day when a labor dispute went terribly wrong and police waded into strikers and killed someone.


POV shifts are tricky business, even in the hands of more more skillful writers. If I’d been her editor, I know our discussions would have been difficult, because she clearly had problems making a choice about who the main characters were. Although it might have created other difficulties in telling the story, the loss of focus that resulted from all that switching around made my job as a reader far more difficult than any author has a right to ask.  


My diagnosis? The story hadn’t jelled when she began to write. In her rush to get the inspiration down, to cover all the bases, she created a huge maze of information and very nearly couldn’t unravel it herself. A novel, (which is, after all, an artificial creation and not reality) needs a core character(s) and a core point of view, a place for a reader to stand among whatever whirligigs of narrative and event the author can contrive. 


So, if you are thinking of finally writing “that book,” definitely work out who/what/where/when before you get going. Laying the groundwork, pouring the foundation, you might say, is the place where a writer really ought to start.



Juliet Waldron
See all my historical novels:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I just started writing Book 6 in the CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE medieval fantasy romance series, and I am so excited about it. I do not have a title, yet, but I have a plot, and strong characters. This novel is going to take the reader on the greatest adventure of the middle ages, the First Crusade.

The heroine is Melusine's sister Palatina, an erudite with a curious mind. At the end of Book 2, Pagan Queen, she was fifteen, and for making a dreadful mistake, she ended up with a curse, condemned to guard her father's treasure in a secret cave in the Pyrenees... until a knight of her own lineage comes to claim it for a worthy cause. This is definitely a romance despite all the action. I have a yummy hero in chain mail, a shiny French Christian knight, Pierre de Belfort, and I'm already falling in love with him, so I know you ladies will love him, too.

I'm following the historical frame to the letter, since the story of the First Crusade is well known and well documented. Like in the other books, I also rely on the legends to fill the gaps and explain some of the many fantastic feats reported by the historians of the time. Like the other novels, this one will be filled with battles, adventure, intrigue, heroic feats, and deadly villains.

In this book, however, I'm turning the tables on the reader. This is a departure from the previous stories. While Melusine remained stubbornly Pagan despite the religious persecutions, Palatina is more inclined to explore the new Christian faith. For that she will incur the full wrath of the Pagan Goddess.

But I don't want to reveal too much. I should be finished writing in early 2015. That gives you time to catch up with the other books in the Curse of the Lost Isle series.

Latest release from Vijaya Schartz:
Chatelaine of Forez
Curse of the Lost Isle Book 5
Medieval Fantasy Romance
from Books We Love Limited
in kindle:

1028 AD - Afflicted by the ondine curse, Melusine seeks the soul of her lost beloved in the young Artaud of Forez, who reigns over the verdant hills south of Burgundy, on the road of pilgrims, troubadours and merchants. But this dark and brooding Pagan lord is not at all what she expected or even hoped. He knows nothing of their past love, her Fae nature, or her secret curse. Must Melusine seduce and betroth this cold stranger to satisfy the Goddess and redeem her curse?

The gold in the rivers instills greed in the powerful, and many envy the rich Lord of Forez, including his most trusted vassals... even the Bishop of Lyon. When Artaud’s attraction to Melusine makes them the target of a holy hunt, will she find redemption from the curse, or will they burn at the stake?

Each book in the series can be read individually, but if you are like me, you'll want to read them in the right order. Here it is:

Book 1 - Princess of Bretagne
Book 2 - Pagan Queen
Book 3 - Seducing Sigefroi
Book 4 - Lady of Luxembourg
Book 5 - Chatelaine of Forez

Special edition box set of the first three novels (Curse of the Lost Isle) also available for a bargain price.

"Well written and factual, the book weaves history with fantasy and magic into a story that I could not put down." 5-stars on Amazon


Vijaya Schartz

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tricia McGill--Childhood Memories

What is it about getting older? I can remember my first day at school clearly yet can’t recall what I did two days ago unless I look at my diary to check. As we get older we seem to dwell a lot in the past. I’ve never been one to live with regrets. We can’t do anything to change what has gone before.

My childhood was exceptionally happy, and I always say I am blessed for I have been surrounded by loving people as far back as I can remember. I was the youngest of ten and most of my five brothers and four sisters were adults or coming up to adulthood by the time I reached an age when I took notice of what was going on around me. My sisters taught me the alphabet and how to read before I attended school.

My two eldest sisters treated me like a doll and as they and our mother were all handy with a needle and sewing machine I was donned regularly in pretty dresses and with a white bow in my hair was carted off to have my photograph taken (which was done in a photo studio in those days). 

My book Remnants of Dreams is based on our mother’s life in that it follows the timeline of her life. She was born in 1895 and married our dad in 1914. Our dad went away to the war and our eldest brother was born not long after. Dad didn’t return until four years later, consequentially it was a while until the next child came along. But then there was mostly a one year gap in between. These children were reared during the hard times between wars. So therefore I was the luckiest as by the time I came along things were a lot brighter all round. I grew up on stories of the difficult years told to me by my eldest sister who has just passed her 91st birthday and is still of sound mind and reads more books in a week than I ever could. 
I get angry with young people who complain about their lack of the finer things in life. We never had a telephone until our eldest brother had one installed. We lived in a six storey house in North London. Our mother’s sister, husband and two girls, had two rooms and a kitchen in the middle, our brother, his wife, son and daughter lived in the top two rooms with two attic bedrooms, and we had the bottom two floors. So, when we received a telephone call (we gave out the number to our friends) someone would yell from the top of the house for us and we would then climb five flights of stairs to answer the call in their living room. No one thought this odd in the slightest. Our lives were closely entwined. Our very extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins was spread far and wide, yet we kept in constant touch even before the telephone came along. There was such a thing as writing letters and waiting on the postman to call in those days.

For all our lack of amenities my childhood was full of happiness. It’s so true that what you never have you never miss. But I believe we were luckier by far. From an early age I was allowed to wander far and wide with my friends. We would be away from home for hours, only coming home when our stomachs told us it was time to eat. We played out all day every day, rain, sunshine or snow. We walked to and from school—a thirty minute walk each way. Our world was small. We had no idea what was going on in other countries or even in other parts of England, and ignorance is bliss. We never saw television until I was in my teens; and that was also my eldest brothers’. At times there would be about 15 of us crowded around his lounge room to watch this tiny black and white 9 inch screen.

But there was the radio, and the cinema. And always that close-knit family nearby.

Remnants of Dreams can be found here:
Remnants of Dreams moves from the horrors of the 1914-1918 war to the 1990s, and paints an unforgettable picture of a changing world and of working class people in North London whose only riches are love and the knowledge that they did their best.
Alicia’s indomitable spirit sustains her and her large family through two wars, illness, death and loss. From her mother’s example Sara finds the courage to escape an intolerable situation and forge a new life in a new country.

Tricia McGill’s Books We Love page:

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