Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Friday, October 28, 2011

American Pie

Jack O' Lantern is making his annual visit. We'll soon see him with his glowing toothy grin leering from porches and windows across America. Jack's name reveals his Celtic origins. He may have come to this country from Ireland, but he acquired his round, orange countenance right here. On the ould soil, he was carved from turnips and rutabagas.
Pumpkins are native to the Western Hemisphere. It was cultivated in Central America as early as 5500 B.C, as a staple of the Native American diet. They introduced it to European settlers who soon added it to their diet as well. The Europeans learned the versatility of the pumpkin, roasting its seeds, using it in stews, soups and breads, cutting the dried shells into strips and weaving them into mats. They used the leaves and blossoms raw or fried as vegetables. Pumpkins served medicinal purposes as a remedy for snakebite, a cure for freckles, and its seeds were considered a protection from prostate cancer.
The early European settlers made pumpkin pies by hollowing out the shell and filling it with milk, honey and spices before baking it. Whether this recipe came from Native Americans or not is unknown.
Whether you puree the remains of your Halloween pumpkin or take a can off the shelf, here's my favorite pie recipe for this season.
1 c. solid pack pumpkin
1 c. apple butter
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. undiluted evaporated milk
9 inch deep dish pie shell
 Streusel topping: Combine 3 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional).
 Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine filling ingredients in order given; pour into pie shell. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted two inches from center comes out clean. Top with streusel topping. Bake for additional 15 minutes.
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.
Note: Cover pie crust with foil pieces or cut 9 inch circle of foil; cut out center leaving 1 inch wide ring of foil, place foil halo over crust edges. 

Barbara Scott is the author of  West of Heaven, Cast a Pale Shadow, and Talk of the Town

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rasputin, The Tsarina and the fall of the Autocracy

By Emma Westport

In July 1904, the cannons of the Peter and Paul fortress fired 300 times to announce that, after four daughters, Alexandra had given birth to a son.  Russia had a Tsarevich.  The imperial couple was overjoyed but, within six short weeks, that joy turned to pain.  Something was wrong.  The slightest bump, the smallest pinch and the baby’s skin bruised.  The bruises did not heal.  The child cried with pain and neither his mother nor his doctors could offer him relief.  Alexei was a hemophiliac. 

For Alexandra, the news was devastating.  She’d already lost a brother and uncle to the disease and she knew what the future held.  Her beautiful boy had almost no chance of surviving to adulthood and, even if he did, he’d never be live or play like a normal child.  There was nothing conventional medicine could do. 

Alexandra looked elsewhere.  In 1905, friends introduced her and her husband to Rasputin.  Neither priest nor monk, the uneducated peasant had already earned a repuation as a starets or spiritual teacher.  He was also known as a healer and prophet.  Did he provide relief to the young Tsarevich?  His worst critics admit he did.  He also helped the Tsarina deal with her unbearable guilt and suffering--but that help came at a price.

Rasputin's gifts were offset by his drinking and womanizing.  Scandal was his constant companion.  As his power grew, so did his faults, his behavior becoming increasingly outrageous.  Nicholas ignored it—Alexandra denied it—but the scandal was always there.  And the stink of it threatened the autocracy.  Many believed there was more to the relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin than the sharing of spiritual comfort.   

The situation became especially ugly in 1910 and 1911 when Rasputin seduced a woman serving as nurse to the Imperial children.  The governess, on hearing the story, objected to Rasputin’s familiarity with the Grand Duchesses.  She insisted the Tsarina ban him from the girls’ bedrooms.  The Tsarina refused.  The nurse and governess were dismissed.  Rasputin was now free to come and go as he pleased and the rumors that spread through St. Petersburg now included the young Grand Duchesses.

Nicholas was ineffective in dealing with Rasputin.  Unwilling to upset his wife, he ignored police reports and the advice of friends.  He even ignored photographs.  After a night's carousing, a drunk and naked Rasputin had been photographed surrounded by a circle of nude women.  Blackmailers told Rasputin he had a choice.  Leave St. Petersburg or the pictures would be given to the Tsar.  Rasputin took the photos to Nicholas himself, saying he’d sinned and begging for forgiveness.  Nicholas forgave him.  But the behavior continued.

In 1914, the first attempt was made on Rasputin’s life.  A former prostitute, disfigured by syphilis, disguised herself as a beggar woman and followed Rasputin to his home in Siberia.  She asked him for money and, when he stopped to help her, she stabbed him, nearly killing him.  Rasputin recovered but his drinking increased.     

In 1915, Rasputin tried to seduce a woman at the famous Yar restaurant in Moscow.  When the lady refused his efforts a drunken, outraged Rasputin went berserk.  He smashed the furniture and mirrors in the private dining room, shouting all the while about his relationship with the ‘old woman,’ the Tsarina, and bragging how he did “with her what I want!”  He exposed himself and was finally dragged away by police, fighting and hollering the Tsar would protect him and threatening to get even.  The event was witnessed--and publicized--by a journalist who was present.  

Alexandra had failings but being Rasputin’s lover was not one of them.  Unfortunately, letters she’d written to Rasputin convinced people otherwise.  The Tsarina’s flowery language was deliberately misinterpreted and pornographic caricatures of the Tsarina and Rasputin began to circulate.

All this occurred at a time when Russia was experiencing defeats at the front and serious problems at home.  With Nicholas taking over command of the armies, Alexandra took a more active role in the government and her decisions were guided by Rasputin.  It was a recipe for disaster. 

In November 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, a conservative member of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, gave a speech in in which he spoke of spoke of the “filthy, depraved, corrupt peasant” the Tsarina all but worshipped.  Rasputin was seen to be at the center of the ‘Dark Forces’ destroying the country. 

In less than a month, Purishkevich joined with Prince Felix Yusopov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and a few other conspirators.  Together, they would plot the infamous and successful assassination of the starets. 

Rasputin was murdered on December 29, 1916.  His assassins hoped Rasputin's death would turn things around but it was already too late.  

For his part, Rasputin expected assassination.  He'd allegedly warned Nicholas and Alexandra that if his death came at the hands of the nobility, neither they nor their dynasty would last more than two years.  In that, he was correct.  Nicholas abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917.  He, his wife and five children were murdered in July 1918.  

The 300 year old dynasty had come to an end.  

(All dates are new style.  The quotes are from Brian Moynahan’s biography, Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned. The photo is from wikimedia.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A New Kind of Sheriff in Town

Hello there, Christina here today. I've been wanting to write this post for a while but really wanted to do it justice as it speaks of a legacy of strong women during a time when it would have been too easy for the so-called weaker sex to lie back and allow men to control their surroundings.

Have you ever dug into your family ancestry? I have. I do it all the time. I find it's a wonderful way to escape from the modern world and delve into the past. And every now and again I come across a real gem.

Allow me to introduce you to my great great great grandmother Estella Gates. She was a sheriff in Benzie County Michigan. She was, in fact, the first female sheriff in Michigan, elected in 1916 after having served as a deputy for several years under her husband, William Moore Gates.

I found one article that tells a few of her feats as sheriff.

"Oh! I didn't do so much. The people elected me sheriff. The work had to be done and I did it."
The article goes on to say how she stopped two murderers from escaping her jail cell and "jailed the most notorious of the river rats".

Another newspaper article, one from Oklahoma, claims this same woman was their first female sheriff as well. Eventually her and her husband moved to Texas before they returned to Michigan where she died of pneumonia at the age of 80.

I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but after speaking with second cousins who grew up under her tutelage, they say she was the sweetest and kindest lady they'd ever known. I can only imagine what it would have been like to spend my summers with Sheriff Gates. One has to wonder what kind of woman it took to keep the peace and what kind of man stood at her side while she did it. I've been told the pair were very much in love. Of course, I know their lives weren't always filled with roses as one of their sons, my great great grandfather, died a tragic death and caused a great mysterious scandal, but that's a blog post for another day and another time as the event continues to affect those still among the living.

Here are a few pictures from one of my cousins. As you can see, the picture of William Gates is a campaign advertisement. I think he kind of looks like Kurt Russell from Tombstone.

This is the gun Estella used during her time as sheriff. I'm sure she kept it handy after her service too. I was a little suprised at its size. I figured as well as Grandma was able to keep the peace in her once boisterous jurisdiction she would have carried something a little bigger. But then I guess a bullet is a bullet when it's well placed.

This next picture is of a nighstick, whether it belonged to her husband or to Estella nobody is real sure, but I thought you'd like to see it.

Looks like it's been well used. Maybe on a few hard skulls of all those lumberjack Estella had been known to keep under control.

By changing a few details here and there, Estella's life would make a wonderful historical romance. Just think, a female sheriff, rough and rugged lumberjacks, river rats, murderers and a hero who looks like Kurt Russell and is confident enough in his manhood to accept her chosen occupation.

Yeah, I think it's a story I'd love to read.

Do you research your ancestry? Have you ever come across really interesting tidbits?

Friday, October 21, 2011

We're Moving!

Hearts Through History has launched aq new website and the Seduced by History blog will be moving to the website.  Some blogs have already been posted there, so stop by our new site and say hi!


Anna Kathryn Lanier
Blog Moderator

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sightings of Anne Boleyn's Ghost

Ghosts and the places they haunt are interesting but not usually included in historical biographies. One exception is The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by, Alison Weir. Weir discusses some of the sightings of Anne Boleyn noting that sightings of Anne Boleyn occur on the anniversary of her beheading May 19, on Christmas Eve.

Second wife of Henry VIII, Anne failed to produce a live male heir to secure the Tudor dynasty. After Catherine of Aragon’s death, and Anne’s miscarriage of a son, Henry used allegations of Anne’s adultery to behead Anne for treason in 1536. The most probable reason for Henry’s dubious charges against Anne was the need to secure the succession of the English throne with a male heir. For that task, Henry needed another wife, and he had already selected Anne’s successor, Jane Seymour, before Anne’s treason trial.

Perhaps the trumped up charges against Anne, the fact that Henry was already courting Jane Seymour, and the brutal trauma of the beheading caused Anne’s ghost to haunt not one but seven places.

Blickling Hall in Norfolk was the probable birthplace of Anne Boleyn. Although the existing house was built in the seventeenth century, Thomas Boleyn owned the property. On May 19, Anne returns to Blickling Hall in a carriage drawn by six headless horses. She sits inside the carriages with her severed head either on her lap or by her side.

Hever Castle, built in 1272, purchased by the Boleyns and rebuilt into a Tudor residence, is Anne’s childhood home. Henry courted her under the great oak still standing today. Every Christmas Eve Anne’s ghost is seen crossing the bridge over the River Eden within the castle grounds. Sometimes her ghost is observed standing under the tree.

At Hampton Court Palace, one of her royal residences during her reign, Anne’s ghost wears a blue dress and walks slowly through the halls with an air of great sadness.

At another royal residence she inhabited, Windsor’s castle, her ghost appears at the window of Dean’s Cloister.

Anne still haunts the Tower of London in several places. Her ghost has been sighted in the White Tower, the Queen’s house where she supposedly stayed the night before her execution then again during her imprisonment. In 1817 a sentry patrolling the White Tower encountered Anne’s ghost on the staircase. The sighting caused a fatal heart attack. In 1864 while guarding the outside of the Queen’s House, another sentry stated he saw Anne’s faceless ghost wearing a Tudor dress and a French hood. When he thrust his bayonet through her, a fiery flash ran up his rifle and shocked him.

In the nineteenth century a Captain of the Guard claims to have seen Anne’s ghost in a strange spectacle recorded in “Ghostly Visitors” by Specter Stricken, London 1882. He had seen a suspicious light coming from the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula where Anne was buried. After leaning a ladder against the chapel wall and peering in one of the windows to investigate, this is what he claimed to have seen:

Slowly down the aisle move a stately procession of Knights and Ladies,

attired in ancient costumes; and in the front walked an elegant female

whose face was averted from him, but whose figure greatly resembled

the one he had seen in reputed portraits of Anne Boleyn. After having

repeatedly paced the chapel, the entire procession together with the

light disappeared.

Anne’s ghost is also said to haunt Salle Church where it is reported her bones were later buried, but no specific details emerge from the sightings.

She is haunts Maxwell Hall’s Yew Tree Walk where Henry VIII and Jane supposedly strolled while planning their wedding. Rumors have it that Henry married Jane privately at Maxwell Hall on May 19, 1536 after news of Anne’s execution reached Henry via a line of beacons.

Needless to say, Anne’s hauntings were the basis for my ghosts Lady Anne and Desdemona in Wanted Ghostbusting Bride.

For more information on Anne Boleyn’s ghosts see Alison Weir’s Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn and http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-ghost-of-anne-boleyn/4859/

Margaret Breashears


Friday, October 14, 2011

Wandering Pearl

La Peregrina is one of the most famous pearls in the world.  Found by a slave in the Spanish colony of Panama, circa mid-sixteenth century, it was delivered to King Philip II of Spain.  At that time, the jewel was the largest pearl ever discovered, pear-shaped and weighing nearly fifty-six carats.  The king gave it to his affianced wife, Mary I of England, (shown above) sometimes called "Bloody Mary."

Quite the blushing bride, isn't she?

The pearl was eventually returned to Spain upon Mary's death.  This is astonishing, given her sister-successor's penchant for fine jewelry.  You may recall Elizabeth was to later bid against the Queen Mother of France, Catherine de Medici, over the spoils left behind by Mary Queen of Scots.  Some of those spoils included rare black muscades--pearls of a deep purple color.  La Peregrina, in contrast, went back to Phlip "The Prudent" and became part of the Spanish queen consorts' collection, until she began the second leg of her eventful journey.

In 1808, Napoleon installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain after a successful invasion of the Iberian Peninsula.  Throughout his reign, the elder Bonaparte accomplished little besides orchestrating his own abdication in an effort to return to the more salubrious throne of Naples.  Finally deposed, he took with him part of the Spanish crown jewels, among them La Peregrina.  Some of the jewels he sold while living in the United States.  La Peregrina he willed to his nephew, Bonaparte III.  The Emperor's wife Eugenie was a known connoisseur of pearls but during the couple's exile in England, they were forced to sell La Peregrina to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn, direct ancestor of both Diana, Princess of Wales and her sister-in-law Sarah, Duchess of York.

While in the duke's possession, La Peregrina did not have to go far to become completely lost to the world, at least temporarily.  His wife Louisa Hamilton wore the pearl on a necklace.  It was too heavy for the setting and fell out twice.  Once in a sofa in Windsor Castle and the other at a ball in Buckingham Palace. 

Can't you just imagine His Grace's remonstrations:
"What the devil?  You've lost the blasted thing twice now."
"But my love," his wife replied with asperity, "it was you who insisted we buy it.  And all because you wanted to impress the French empress."
"Fustian," he stammered.  "The merest trumpery."
The Hamilton family eventually sold La Peregrina to Richard Burton, a movie and stage actor.  I have it on very good authority that he was, and I'm quoting, "the best looking man that had come down the pike in a long time."  $37,000 was the price the pearl fetched at Sotheby's and soon found its way, via Valentine's Day, into the possession of someone another authority has declared unequivocally to be the "most beautiful woman in the world."  The pearl was as intrepid in Elizabeth Taylor's possession as it had been in Her Grace of Abercorn's.  The actress lost it in the Burtons' suite at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.  Miraculously, it was found unharmed in her Pekinese dog's mouth.  He was chewing on it like a bone!

Here Ms. Taylor is wearing La Peregrina in the 1969 movie production, Anne of a Thousand Days.

Like history?  Fall in love with it!  Visit Angelyn's blog at www.angelynschmid.com
for forays into the Regency era and historic buildings throughout the United Kingdom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who are (were) you?

Who are (were) you?

If you’ve seen the movie Patton staring George C. Scott, you might remember the part where Patton goes out to visit the ruins of Carthage in North Africa. And he tells his companions about how the Romans destroyed Carthage, as says that he, Patton was one of the Carthaginians talking about his past lives.

This movie and a discussion of past lives came up in the instructor’s dining room between a bunch of us history teacher when I was teaching (college level). The conversation was you had to assume that you had past lives, so each of us had to identify our past lives, and since we were all history teachers we all had eras of history to which we felt closest.

So where do I feel a connection? Much to my surprise when this conversation came up, instead of saying Elizabethan England (my master’s is Tudor and Stuart England), there were other time periods.

Letting my imagination run with the idea of past lives, I came up with several past lives, as it were. I’ve marched with Alexander the Great (probably as a camp follower), stood in a line of men with a muzzle loading rifle and fired at the enemy. And since I feel very close to WWII, I decided I was a WASP who died in the war, as I was born (in this life?) after the war.

Just like when I started to write, instead of Medievals, I’m writing in the Americas. My first book, KENTUCKY GREEN, takes place in frontier territory in 1794. I feel drawn to the frontier. When I visited Yorktown Victory center many years ago, they have a recreation of a colonial/frontier farm. Walked into that log cabin, and felt at home. I could have lived there in the 1700s.

This is a really great exercise for writers, to image, or feel the past in some way. So are you writing in the era that you feel closest to? Have you visited historical sites and ‘felt’ a connection? Or maybe didn’t feel a connection much to your surprise? Our local chapter had a workshop about past lives once, and everyone had a lot of fun with the idea. I would have never thought of this as a tool to use with writing without that conversation in the teacher’s dining room.

Do you think imagining past lives might be of help with writing historical?

Sunday, October 9, 2011



Legends of any kind have always fascinated me, and while researching for my book, Widow’s Walk, I’ve become even more interested in them. Since the action in the book takes places in Northern Minnesota, including among an Ojibwe tribe, that is where I began my research. One of the more interesting, and dangerous, legends is that of The Sleeping Giant.
Looking across from Thunder Bay, you can see a formation of land called The Sleeping Giant. According to the Ojibwe legend, the Spirit of the Deep Sea, Nanna Bijou, rewarded the tribe for their loyalty. The chief learned from the Spirit about a tunnel leading to the center of rich silver mine. He warned that if the Ojibwe tribe were ever to tell the White Man of this mine he, Nanna Bijou, would be turned to stone. Thereafter, the Ojibwe became famous for their silver ornaments.
But, as often happens, others learned of this and the Sioux even tortured and killed to learn where the tribe got the silver for their beautiful ornaments.
Unwilling to accept defeat when the Ojibwe refused to divulge the secret, a Sioux warrior disguised himself as an Ojibwe, learned of the mine’s location, and took large pieces of the silver.
Unfortunately, he stopped at a white trader’s for food, and because he had no furs to trade, used a piece of silver instead. The traders filled him with firewater and then persuaded him to lead them to the “silver islet.”
But they were not to succeed. They were within sight of the “Silver Islet” when a terrible storm struck. The white men drowned and the Sioux warrior ended up drifting in a canoe – crazed.
That wasn’t all. According to Native American Legends,
“Where once was a wide opening to the bay, now lay what appeared to be a great sleeping figure of a man. The Great Spirit’s warning had come true and he had been turned to stone.
“Today, partly submerged shaft to what was once the richest silver mine in the northwest, can still be seen. White men have repeatedly attempted to pump out the water that floods in from Lake Superior, but their efforts have been in vain. Is it still under the curse of Nanna Bijou, Spirit of the Deep Sea Water? Perhaps….who can tell?”
There are other myths that abound among Native American legends and the three I’ve listed below could certainly fire an author’s imagination.
Underwater Panther (Ojibwe name variously spelled Mishibizhiw, Mishibizhii, Mishipeshu, Mishipizheu, and other ways): This is a powerful mythological creature something like a cross between a cougar and a dragon. It is a dangerous monster who lives in deep water and causes men and women to drown.
Mishiginebig (also spelled Mishiginebig, Mishi-Ginebig, Meshkenabec, Msi-Knebik, Kichikinebik, or other ways): An underwater horned serpent, common to the legends of most Algonquian tribes. Its name literally means Great Serpent, and it is laid to lurk in lakes and eat humans.
Animikii or Binesi (also spelled Animiki, Animkii, Nimkii, Bnesi, Bineshi, and other ways): Thunderbird, a giant mythological bird common to the northern and western tribes. Thunder is caused by the beating of their immense wings. Although thunderbirds are very powerful beings, they rarely bother humans, and were treated with reverence by Ojibwe people. Animikii, which means “thunderer,” is pronounced uh-nih-mih-kee, and Binesi, which means “great bird,” is pronounced bih-nay-sih.”
My WIP so far has none of these legends, though it does contain that of the witch tree. I may use one of these, but no more. However, my imagination is working on another story, maybe several, where I can write around one of these most interesting legends.
Joan K. Maze
Writing as J. K. Maze
Murder By Mistake, book 1 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, B&N, Fictionwise and Amazon.
Murder By Mistake, book 1 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available in paperback from Amazon.
Murder For Kicks, book 2 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Fictionwise and Amazon
Framed In Fear, romantic suspense set in Colorado, available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Fictionwise and Amazon
Murder By Spook, book 3 in the Mollie Fenwick Mystery Series, in progress

Friday, October 7, 2011

Saratoga Springs: Grand and Gilded

Looking for a great setting for your gilded age historical? I found one for mine when I recently visited Saratoga Springs, NY.

For much of the 19th century, Saratoga Springs was the “Queen of the Spa” resorts with the added attraction of horse racing and a first rate casino along with proximity to New York City from which it drew a large part of its monied clientele, attracting the likes of the Vanderbilts, Fisks, Goulds and Asters. For a time, it also boasted the largest hotels in the world such as the Grand Union Hotel where congressman, senators and bankers gathered, The United States Hotel where the likes of Vanderbilts, Goulds and Rockfellers held court on the piazza and Congress Hall which hosted the Asters and other old New York scions.

Saratoga Springs and its mineral waters had attracted visitors since the early 1800’s. With concerted efforts on the part of innkeepers and hotel owners, by the 1830’s Saratoga was a fashionable place to go for one’s health but also for "good society" once lectures, entertainment and hops (balls) were added to the fill the days and nights. The 1830’s also saw Saratoga purposely go after gamblers in hopes they would test their skills “at faro and chuck-a-luck in the billiard halls and bowling alleys, and a room was fixed up for roulette.” (Saratoga: Saga of an Impious Era by George Waller).

Before the Civil War, Saratoga had always attracted a lot of southern families who migrated to the cooler north during steamy summer months. Though the Civil War cast a shadow over the place during the war years, as soon as the war ended, the Southern families returned. The New York Times correspondent reported in a June 26, 1865 article that “… I have learned that several families from the South, the avant couriers of a large influx from  regions most war-scarred, have engaged rooms here, with the view of enjoying again a luxury long debarred. This points not only to peace, but fraternity. The land longs for the latter, to confirm and complete the former.  Both established, and the cup of the people’s joy is full.”

It was really after the Civil War, and after several fires which forced the rebuilding of some of the key hotels in a much grander style, that Saratoga began its opulent phase.

The scale of many of these Saratoga Springs hotels was monumental. The Grand Union was updated several times but in 1875,  it claimed a ballroom that was 85 x 60 feet with 27 foot high ceilings from which hung three large crystal chandeliers. Covering seven acres right on Broadway, the main thoroughfare, The Grand Union had over 824 rooms available, some of them cottages which rented for $125 per day. The cottages were used mainly by families but a single bedroom cottage could be a discreet place to house one’s mistress. Fodder for many stories, I’m sure.

The Grand Union

The Grand Union boasted two miles of corridors, twelve acres of carpet and an acre of marble. The Grand Union dining room was capable of handling up to 1400 guests at a sitting " with 35 cooks, 200 waiters, 12 carvers dispensing 1200 quarts of milk, 1500 pounds of beef, 80 chickens and 250 quarts of strawberries" or so the guide book of the day related. (The Grand Union Hotel by Beatrice Sweeny, City Historian Saratoga Springs, New York). Where would you find such grandeur today?

A block down Broadway, The United States Hotel was almost as large encompassing a three-acre park within its boundaries and 768 guest rooms and cottage suites and  all equipped with marble washstands and cold running water with some of the suites offering a private bath. It also had a large ballroom and spacious dining room, all superbly appointed. Congress Hall was on a slightly smaller scale but all three lined the main street with large piazza's overlooking Broadway. Seen in one long sweep the hotels made quite an architectural display.

There were enough places to stay that the middle class could find accommodations and rub shoulders with the elite during visits to the springs and, of course, at the many hops that were held. From that stand point, Saratoga was certainly a more “democratic” resort than say Newport where hotel space was limited and one needed a grand home or an invitation to one to be part of its society. Florence Vanderbilt met her husband, a Western Union clerk, amongst the glitter of Saratoga Springs.


In 1877 the Adelphi Hotel was built, squeezed in between the Grand Union and the United States. The Adelphi's piazza also overlooked the street and added to the unified architecture of these great hotels. The Adelphi only had a little more than 150 rooms but it entertained some of Saratoga's elite as well, including John Morrissey, the colorful Tammany Hall politician who helped bring racing and gambling to The Springs. He died at the Adelphi in 1878 with citizens keeping vigil outside its doors.

The Adelphi's smaller stature is what helped save it from the fate of it's bigger sister hotels. As modern conveniences such as elevators, electrical wiring, indoor plumbing, central heating, phones, etc. were required by vacationers, updating such mammoth palaces became financially prohibitive. With travel made easier, more options opened up. By the 1920's these grande dames were shadows of their former self. By the forties they were in substantial decline. The United States went up in smoke during that decade and the wrecking ball signaled the demise of the Grand Union in 1953.

The Adelphi's lobby

The Adelphi, however, managed to hang in there and in 1977 the current owners purchased it and started to restore it to it's former glory. Today, you can get a taste of the grandeur of Saratoga's Gilded Age with a stay at the Adelphi where all modern conveniences await you as you step back in time. We stayed at the Adelphi during our visit in a beautifully appointed Queen suite and savored every wonderful minute of it. 

Next month I will have more on some of the colorful visitors who called Saratoga Spring home during the summer season. So I ask you again, where could we find such grandeur today?

Anne Carrole writes about cowboys who have grit, integrity and little romance on their mind—and the women who love them. You can check out her contemporary romance, Re-ride at the Rodeo, at www.annecarrole.com. She also is co-editor of the review website, www.lovewesternromances.com

Thursday, October 6, 2011


19th Century cabin
One of the greatest things about writing is that authors are able to indulge their own fantasies. One of mine is that I would have loved living in the West during the last part of the 1800’s. Maybe! At least until the weather was severe and I had no central heat/air, no clean bathroom with running water, no antibiotics, and on and on. It’s a romantic time to consider, which is why I love writing romances set in the American West (probably much more than I would like returning to that time).

Maureen O'Hara
Another of my fantasies is that I wanted to look like the young Maureen O’Hara. More’s the pity, for I look nothing like her. But we’re talking about fantasies, right? This is why Cenora Rose O’Neill, the heroine of my 2010 western romance, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, strongly resembles Miss O’Hara in appearance. What authors can’t accomplish ourselves, we accomplish through our characters.

When the infamous 1845 Irish potato famine struck and millions in Ireland literally starved to death, there was a mass immigration of Irish into the United States. But the O’Neill family didn’t lose their land in the famine. They were turned off many years later by a spiteful landlord. Due to her lack of schooling, Cenora cannot read cursive and reads only a few words in print. Her father, Sean O’Neill, can read a newspaper (slowly), and has done all the reading for his family and their traveling companions. On the other hand, the McClintocks value education, and Dallas McClintock reads most evenings. This difference causes only one of the many conflicts that arise in the book.

Irish cottage
When forced off their plot of Irish land with only what they could carry, Cenora and her family fell in with a group of Irish Travelers. The Travelers, or tinkers, are not gypsies but are descended from medieval minstrels and poets who traveled Ireland telling myths and stories. In medieval times, the minstrels and poets were respected and learned. Many Irish families turned out of their homes drifted in with the traveling minstrels, eventually becoming the Irish Travelers--not so respected or learned. Travelers have their own language (cant), Sheldroo, which--amazingly enough--is linked by scholars to medieval language. They camped in fields at first. Later they acquired tents, then the colorful wagons that resemble gypsy wagons, such as the ones used in my novel. Like people everywhere, some Irish Travelers are good, some are bad. The same is true for those portrayed in THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE.

Irish fields
The 19th and early 20th century Traveler wagons are unbelievably compact, and are brightly painted inside and out in red, blue and green with yellow pinstripes. Seeing them in several museums brought home the skill and functionality of these wagons. That describes the two wagons acquired by the O’Neills through their ability to play instruments while Cenora sings for crowds when they pass through towns. Unfortunately, Sean O’Neill’s only abilities are playing music and the gift of gab--not much to supply a family’s needs. His sons Finn and Mac trade ponies for a bit of extra coin and the family barely gets by. On the other hand, rancher Dallas McClintock has a strong work ethic and sense of honor. You can see more trouble looming, can’t you?
 In THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, Cenora Rose O’Neill knows her father somehow arranged the trap for Dallas McClintock, but she agrees to wed the handsome stranger. She’d do anything to protect her family, and she wants to save herself from the bully Tom Williams. She believes a fine settled man like Dallas will rid himself of her soon enough, but at least she and her family will be safely away from Williams.

Texas rancher Dallas McClintock has no plans to wed for several years. Right now, he’s trying to establish himself as a successful horse breeder. Severely wounded rescuing Cenora from kidnappers, Dallas is taken to her family’s wagon to be tended. He is trapped into marrying Cenora, but he is not a man who ever goes back on his word. His wife has a silly superstition for everything, but passion-filled nights with her make up for everything—even when her wild, eccentric family nearly drives him crazy.

I hope you’ll read and enjoy THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. The gorgeous cover is one of my favorites. The buy link for THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE is www.thewildrosepress.com/caroline-clemmons-m-638.html in print and e-download, and it’s also available at Amazon and other online stores. My website is http://www.carolineclemmons.com/. Other books at The Wild Rose Press are the contemporary romance HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME, historical SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME, and paranormal time travel OUT OF THE BLUE. My backlist is now available on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle for 99 cents each, and so is my new mystery, ALMOST HOME.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Staff of Life in the Middle Ages

This is where it all started, the 1963 movie, Tom Jones. Albert Finney (Tom Jones) licks his chicken bones and Joyce Redman (Mrs Waters) looks like she's making love to an apple. It showed that playing with your food could be fun and anything edible will do! But what was a banquet really like?
The extravagant feasts and banquets of the Middle Ages are legendary. However, while menus for the wealthy were extensive, only small portions were taken. Hosts were expected to offer extensive choices.  With more extensive travel, a change in society emerged, possibly prompted by the Crusades, that led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects and elegant manners. This change extended to food preparation and presentation and resulted in fabulous food arrangements with exotic colors and flavorings. Banquets prepared during the Middle Ages were fit for a king.
Staffing and Presenting the Banquet
The kitchen squires where responsible for provisioning the kitchen. Assisted by the cooks, they chose, purchased, and paid for the goods.
The food was plated on the serving dishes and staged in the kitchen until it was time to bring to the tables in the Great Hall.
The Noble of the castle, and his distinguished guests, sat at a great table that was set on a raised platform, a dais, at one of the hall.
Buffets were tables with a series of wooden stepped shelves. The number of shelves indicated the host’s rank. The more shelves the higher the rank. The 'Stepped Buffets' were covered with rich drapes and used at banquets and feasts. The Nobles impressed their guests by using their finest gold or silver plates as service plates on the buffet.
The banquet feast consisted of three, four, five, and even six courses. At times the presentations of the main courses were made into a theatrical representation with colored jellies of swans or peacocks or pheasants with their feathers. Served as a specialty the beak and feet of these birds were gilt and placed in the middle of the table as a centerpiece.
French Medieval Banquets
The French cooking historian described a great feast given in 1455 by the Count of Anjou, third son of King Louis II of Sicily. This description demonstrates just how theatrical a presentation can be:
“On the table was placed a centre-piece, which represented a green lawn, surrounded with large peacocks' feathers and green branches, to which were tied violets and other sweet-smelling flowers.
In the middle of this lawn a fortress was placed, covered with silver.
The fortress was hollow, and formed a sort of cage, in which several live birds were shut up, their tufts and feet being gilt.
On its tower, which was gilt, three banners were placed.
The first course consisted of a civet of hare, a quarter of stag which had been a night in salt, a stuffed chicken, and a loin of veal.
The two last dishes were covered with a German sauce, with gilt sugar-plums, and pomegranate seeds.
At each end, outside the green lawn, was an enormous pie, surmounted with smaller pies, which formed a crown. The crust of the large pies were silvered all round and gilt at the top.
Each pie contained a whole roe-deer, a gosling, three capons, six chickens, ten pigeons, one young rabbit, and, no doubt to serve as seasoning or stuffing, a minced loin of veal, two pounds of fat, and twenty-six hard-boiled eggs, covered with saffron and flavoured with cloves.
For the three following courses, there was a roe-deer, a pig, a sturgeon cooked in parsley and vinegar, and covered with powdered ginger.
The feast continued with a kid goat, two goslings, twelve chickens, as many pigeons, six young rabbits, two herons, a leveret, a fat capon stuffed, four chickens covered with yolks of eggs and sprinkled with spice, a wild boar, some wafers and stars and a jelly, part white and part red represented the crests of the honored guests, cream covered with fennel seeds and preserved in sugar, a white cream, cheese in slices, and strawberries, and, lastly, plums stewed in rose-water
Besides these four courses, there was a fifth, entirely of wines then in vogue, and of preserves. These consisted of fruits and various sweet pastries.”
I researched medieval banquets when I wrote Knight of Runes.  Eating is fundamental and enjoyable. While Arik and Rebeka don’t get it on quite like Tom and Mrs. Waters there is definitely an air of the playfulness in the scene.  The trouble with watching that scene is I really get hungry. I’ll let you figure out for what!
Ruth A. Casie 
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