Make an outfit fit for a Duke?

content?id=GJEAEAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&source=gbs api - Make an outfit fit for a Duke? One Night with a Duke
12 Dukes of Christmas
Erica Ridley
Fiction, Historical Romance
Erica Ridley
October 9, 2020
four star - Make an outfit fit for a Duke?

From a New York Times bestselling author: Sparks fly in this definitely-not-falling-in-love workplace romance between a handsome drifter chasing adventure, and a small-town jeweler who would never leave her home behind… Dashing Scot Jonathan MacLean never returns to the same town twice. The happy-go-lucky philanthropist seeks constant adventure… and is desperate to outrun his past. When a blizzard traps him in a tiny mountaintop village, he meets a woman who tempts him with dreams he'd long since abandoned: Home. Community. Love. But other people’s livelihoods depend on him leaving for good as soon as the snow melts. No-nonsense jeweler Angelica Parker has spent her life fighting for recognition. She's Black, she's a woman, and she will prove her creations are the equal to any artisan in England. With the project of a lifetime on the line, there's no room for error—or distractions. Especially not the handsome charmer whose unquenchable cheer and melting kisses have become more precious than jewels... The 12 Dukes of Christmas is a series of heartwarming Regency romps nestled in a picturesque snow-covered village. Twelve delightful romances… and plenty of delicious dukes!

So here we are again in Christmas village – and we meet the partner – the wordsmith – and financier (part) of our wonderful tailor. The Clawhammer coat, breeches and waistcoat of the gentleman who wants to look like a Duke but only has a working man’s salary.

Jonathan is peripatetic. He sees his job as to promote the various endeavours he has financed from ormulu weaving to tailoring to many other crafts and activities, small and large. And of course, he takes a small percentage of the income in return for lending the start-up funding. It turns out that he is illegitimate and has a trust fund from his father – but his own income is more than sufficient – except for this new concept of the ready-made outfit for men. He is also a great story-teller about his adventures.

He accidentally meets a jeweller. She has her own issues as although she learnt her trade from her father, he didn’t think women should run their own businesses, and then it turns out she is also part African, descended from a freed slave.

There have been Black people living in the UK since Roman times at the very least, and it is thought that we had a Black queen – Queen Charlotte born 1761. By the late 1700s there were around 15,000 Black people known to live in the UK – many were servants and domestic workers, but some were also tradesmen. The abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833 meant that there was no further immigration to boost numbers. Most lived in large ports and centres of population. Unfortunately, race was not commonly recorded in Parish Registers or Censuses, so it is difficult to be accurate about numbers or occupations.

What we do know is that lockets with small portraits and locks of hair were commonly worn and that many were intricately jewelled and decorated.

image 8 - Make an outfit fit for a Duke?

This is a delightful series of short novels with a mention of a Duke at some point in the storyline, and all set amongst characters we have met in previous stories about this imaginary village.

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Women and business don’t mix?

content?id= ynMDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&source=gbs api - Women and business don't mix? Would I Lie to the Duke
The Rakes
Eva Leigh
HarperCollins UK
August 25, 2020

Jessica McGale’s family business desperately needs investors and she’s determined to succeed at any cost. But she knows London’s elite will never look twice at a humble farm girl like herself. Posing as “Lady Whitfield,” however, places her in the orbit of wealthy, powerful people—most notably the Duke of Rotherby. His influence and support could save her company, but Jess never expected the effect he’d have on her.

Society thinks Noel is a notorious, carefree duke who dabbles in investments, but there’s a side to him that only his closest friends see. When he crosses paths with Lady Whitfield at a business bazaar, his world tilts on its axis. She’s brilliant and compelling, and brings him to his knees like no woman has before. Trust is difficult for Noel, but Jess makes him believe anything is possible. . .

As time ticks down on her Cinderella scheme, the thought of achieving her goal at Noel’s expense breaks Jess’s heart. He doesn’t just want her now, he wants her forever. But will her secret end their future before it begins?

Answer: Yes, about some things at least. and can get away with it.

So the time of Beau Brummell has just past but his influence lingers – especially his encouragement to bathe every day. Not everyone agrees, but enough do, to make soap for those bathing a profitable concern. If you can manufacture in sufficient quantity and quality as well as economically enough to make a profit. During the 19th century soap manufacture was a very fragmented activity. Many old plans of towns all over the country provide evidence of small local soap works, and some housewives in rural areas would still make their own soap in the home.

Interesting that the author has ‘thrown in’ people of colour owning businesses and being entrepreneurs not just servants. And women knowing enough to run businesses and invest sensibly too. I’m sure there were more them there is commonly acknowledged too.

I liked the story line and writing style, even though I thought there could have been social and political background to round out the commercial discussions.

English Heritage tells us about black workers in the 18th century the following:

Waged and enslaved servants formed the largest group of black workers. A black servant, often a young page or handmaid, was a status symbol, adorning the houses of the well-to-do. Their experiences and legal statuses varied enormously. Some, like John Rippon, lived comfortably. Others were displayed as walking, talking objets d’art, wearing silver and brass collars on which was engraved the name and address of whoever had bought their lives.

A small number rose from servitude (often with the help of their former masters) to enjoy independent lives. Prominent among this class were the Westminster shopkeeper, lettrist and composer Ignatius Sancho, the coal merchant and property owner Cesar Picton in Kingston-upon-Thames and the Nottingham-based George Africanus, who ran a servants’ register in the city.

Estimates are that in the late 18th century at least 10,000  black workers or servants lived in London, with a further 5,000 + throughout the country. In terms of the  most common businesses owned were Public houses owned by black men which could be found across the country, and here is Pablo Fanque, who was born  as William Darby in Norwich, and who rose to become the proprietor of one of Britain’s most successful Victorian circuses. There were also several well known musicians and many served in the army and navy – not always voluntarily.

 The main difficulty being that black people were frequently not identified as such in the registers and documented history of the time, race and colour was not considered important to record except when the person was special in some way

I liked the story about Egypt, antiquities and fakes! I wonder how many items in people’s special collection are good fakes? More than they care to admit I’m sure. This was the time when the rich made collections of the strange and wonderful from plants to china to mummies to… and is the reason we find Roman leaded sarcophagi being used as plant troughs in many Ducal gardens now. And Italianate looking buildings and ‘ruins’ dotting their gardens –  and a systematic looting of ancient monuments was undertaken by the young men undertaking their Grand Tours post the Wars.

Wikipedia says “Egyptomania was the renewed interest of Europeans in ancient Egypt during the nineteenth century as a result of Napoleon‘s Egyptian Campaign (1798–1801) and, in particular, as a result of the extensive scientific study of ancient Egyptian remains and culture inspired by this campaign. In addition to its aesthetic impact on literature, art, and architecture,”

Now as for John Soan’s house – it is real – a Museum now and I have visited. Really a strange place with collections of all sorts. Interesting but not so easy to visit (when I went) as a disabled person – too many stairs…Egypt was all the rage after the Napoleanic Wars and the great victories of Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, and Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria. And as for Cleopatra’s Needle this was donated to London in 1819 (slightly out of timeline for this book) in commemoration of the battles. I liked the writing style and the use of the ‘real’ English language without being too prissy as so many novels about this era are. They are inclined to pretend that everyone spoke in such proper style without using any cuss words. Which we all know would not have been the real case… .

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content?id=4lbuDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&source=gbs api - Marquesa? The Persistent Marquess
Susan Payne
The Wild Rose Press Inc
July 6, 2020
two star - Marquesa?

One Marquess. One debutante. One waltz. And Miss Daisy Vincent's first season will never be the same. A less than stellar beginning to her first ball took a sudden and irrevocable change of direction once the handsome and popular Marquess of Ashton took notice of her. Ashton, prone not to interfere with the ton, certainly made a hash of things when he did. Trying to aid a naïve debutante has brought him into the limelight as every busy-body began betting on who his marchioness would be. And the one who most interested him wasn't even on the list.

So we have a young and innocent girl who is compromised – we’ve read this story before – and has to marry someone she loves from afar. He doesn’t love her, initially, but then falls for her gentle ways etc etc.

Her parents have a love match – and unexpectedly find themselves expecting another child having been childless since our young heroine’s birth and this has meant that she has gone to stay with her grandmother – who of course, wants her to marry well, but they are not in the right circle by birth.

The story felt stilted and the characters seemed 2 dimensional.  Whilst there was some length to the story, I didn’t feel the need to keep reading.

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Pinkertons rule

dixie - Pinkertons rule An Agent for Dixie
The Pinkerton Matchmaker series
by Linda Carroll-Bradd
Historical Fiction | Romance
Backlit PR
Pub Date 8 May 2020
four star - Pinkertons rule

Foreign diplomacy is the Zivon family business but Alexei resists the polite constraints, not lasting a year in law school. The four successful years working as a Pinkerton agent prove he was meant to follow a different path. Now, he’s faced with the biggest challenge of his career—training a female agent who has no practical skills. Alexei figures he can convince her to just observe as he solves the case, because nothing will interfere with his success rate.
Since childhood, Dixie LaFontaine lived in her older sister’s shadow but applying to become a Pinkerton Agent is her first major decision. Being matched with confident Alexei is intimidating, especially when the assigned case involves them pretending to be brother and sister at a health spa where jewelry has gone missing. Dixie has no qualms about pretending to be a French heiress needing care for her arthritis. Soon, she falls victim to Alexei’s charm and realizes that hiding her feelings might be as hard as ferreting out the thief among the spa’s clientele.
Will Dixie focus on learning the skills of an agent, or will she concentrate on turning her marriage of convenience into a lasting love?

I rather liked this historical novel about the beginnings of the Pinkerton Agency. Dixie of course, was again our innocent heroine,  but with a twist, she could speak fluently a lot of languages, which meant that she had skills that would be useful as a private eye.

I had never realized that of course, in this era, you couldn’t partner a single woman and a single man together because of scandal, and thus marriages of convenience would have to take place.

I did think her announcement at the spa of why she had a male fawning on her was risqué, and am not sure how that would have been taken, but it was a fun idea. I was unaware that paraffin wax for arthritis was a known treatment then. But spas certainly were.

I liked this story.

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Run where?

content?id=SxfIDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&img=1&zoom=1&edge=curl&source=gbs api - Run where? A Reckless Runaway
The Shelley Sisters Book 2
Jess Michaels
The Passionate Pen
February 4, 2020
three star - Run where?

The second in the bestselling series by USA Today Bestselling Author Jess Michaels Anne Shelley has always been known as the “wild” one of the infamous Shelley triplets and never has that been truer than when she ran away from her engagement with a scandalous man. She expects to be taken to Gretna Green for a hasty marriage, but instead she is dumped off on a remote island in Scotland with his grouchy cousin, Rook Maitland. She isn’t supposed to like him, but as their time together stretches out she can’t help but develop more than a passing interest in her temporary guardian. Rook knows his cousin’s game and he has serious doubts he’ll ever return for the fetching Anne, fool that he is. After all, the woman is fascinating and the more time they spend together, she proves to be irresistible. When she asks him to help her get back to her family, time alone on the road will lead to passions that can no longer be denied. But Rook’s cousin has an ulterior motive for everything he’s done. And the danger that will be brought down on their heads could destroy the love they’re beginning to develop and end their future before it has time to begin. Length: Novel Length Heat Level: Steamy fun is had by all. This can be read as a standalone novel, but is part of the Shelley Sisters series.

I was not certain with this story as the ‘heroine’ seemed extremely naïve. More so than normal for the age.

Now as for multiple births – well there is the story of the Russian woman who between 1725 and 1765 Mrs Vassilyev popped out 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets, over 27 separate labours. The grand total: 69 children.

But, bearing in mind the dubious claim that she managed to survive all these births let alone produce so many multiple pregnancies, we know that in the UK in 2012, for instance, the chances of birthing twins stood at just 1.5% of pregnancies; triplets, a vanishingly small three ten-thousandths of a percent. And every multiple birth, even today, tends to end early with smaller babies – hence the need for incubators which of course were not available in the 18th century. The data that has been compiled from parish registers in the 1600-1900s, which are not completely accurate of course, tend to show that 25% of all live twin births result in at least one twin dying. And that there was a high percentage of stillbirths. And then maternal mortality of course.

So living triplets were indeed extremely rare in his time period.

The storyline was, apart from this one anomaly, fairly standard in following the trope. The ‘hero’ was a reformed villain – in this case rather more than just a gambler or a rake with money, but a real thief and the heroine was ‘silly’ in her ideas of what life was like outside of her pampered existence.

I did look into clams on the beach, as I was fairly sure that clams had shells and were round. I did however, discover that there were razor shelled clams which are long and slim, but again they have shells, I just wondered if the beach scene on the island meant that rather than tubular items she was pulling up the razor clams from in the sand by their long rooting ‘foot’, but they don’t leave air holes in the sand. The only tubular item with air holes are the worms that are used for fishing bait! Not human food at all. So this is an example of something happening in a story which leaves the reader confused. I do wish that authors were a little more careful with things that can be fact checked.

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