When courting a woman don’t ask advice of a bachelor.
-Cowboy Charm School
I’m excited that my next book Cowboy Charm School will be published September 4th (but can be ordered now.) I played with the idea for four or five years before I actually got around to writing the book. Book ideas generally come to me in scenes. I’ll suddenly visualize someone atop a runaway stagecoach or scrambling over a roof and then have to figure out who, what, and why.
The scene that popped into my head for Cowboy Charm School was a wedding scene with a handsome stranger running down the church aisle yelling, “Stop the Wedding!”
It took me awhile to figure out that the man was Texas Ranger Brett Tucker, who thinks he’s saving the bride, Kate Denver, from marrying an outlaw. He’s mistaken, of course, but the groom jealously jumps to all the wrong conclusions and the couple breaks-up.
Brett feels terrible for what’s he’s done and is determined to set things right. Since the hapless groom hasn’t a clue as to how to win Kate back, it’s up to Brett to give him a few pointers–and that’s when the real trouble begins.
For a chance to win a copy of the book, tell us the best or worse advice anyone ever gave you. (Contest guidelines apply.)
EHarmony… FarmersOnly … Zoosk… Match… Today, there seems to be a niche for every type of person out there to find their perfect match through the internet.
In this modern day of internet meet-ups, I have several friends and acquaintances who have met online and then gone on to marry and live their happily-ever after. Often these online dating sights have the new participant answer a list of questions to pinpoint their own character and what type of person would make a suitable match.
It is this idea of an interview that I used for The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.
In the Oak Grove Series, the Betterment Committee has been established to bring women to the town in order to “grow” the town. Doc Graham missed out on the first trainload of five women that arrived in 1879. Now the second arrival of women has him all set to make a match. He needs a wife — or — actually a nurse to help in his office.
Doc Graham, although smart in other matters, is quite clueless when it comes to matters of the heart. He has made a list of desirable qualities that he expects in a woman and is in the process of interviewing each new arrival, blind to the fact that he has already met his perfect match in a young woman who lives across the river.
A few months ago, I shared an excerpt of his date with Katie O’Rourke. Below is an excerpt of another woman — Penelope Pratt. (I had a lot of fun with these interviews!)
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Pratt didn’t say a word as they walked past a dog and a few children playing in the school yard. The silence between them grew awkward. He hadn’t expected this. Weren’t most women prone to talking?
“Please. I urge you to speak freely. The one month that the Betterment Committee allows you to decide on a husband and a man to decide on a bride makes it crucial that we find out if we are compatible. That cannot happen unless we talk.”
She came to a swift stop and pressed her lips together in a thin line. “That is a blunt way to put this highly uncomfortable situation.”
He hadn’t thought so. He’d simply been honest. “I tend to be direct.”
He took the moment to assess her appearance. Green eyes, just like his, his height, and a long, slightly curved nose. Egads! She could be his sister!
“Now what?” she asked, stiffening. “You look as though you swallowed your tobacco.”
“I don’t chew.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I find the habit disgusting. Then what did that look mean?”
“I was noticing our…similarities.”
“Oh, that.” She raised her chin. “I noticed them immediately.”
“Then should this move into a state of matrimony and should we have children—”
Her eyes widened.
“—their looks would be a foregone conclusion.” It was an interesting possibility.
She frowned. “Perhaps as you suggest, it is best to be frank and let you know my thoughts on the matter of propagating. Your education may even allow you to comprehend what I am about to say better than the other men I have encountered here.”
He wasn’t sure what to make of that.
“I want to marry. Truly I do. I have no close family. I want a companion with whom to share my life.” She took a deep breath and blew it out as if to steady herself. “However, I am not interested in the part of a marriage that happens behind the bedroom door.”
If he had been walking, he would have stumbled.
“You are shocked.”
“No…no…” Yes, yes he was!
“Come now. I can see it on your face.”
He swallowed—an attempt to absorb her statement politely and give himself time to gather his thoughts. “I have never heard a woman speak so plainly about such things.”
“I will remind you that you asked me to speak freely.”
He huffed out a breath. Could it be that he’d come across a woman who not only looked like him but who spoke and acted like him? “Perhaps I shall choose my words more carefully.”
She bestowed a slight smile.
“Are you ready to continue with our stroll? We’ve only walked through half the town.”
“As long as we understand each other.”
They continued on their way.
It was disconcerting that Miss Pratt could be as blunt as he. Would such a trait be smart to have as a nurse?
“You’ve said the same thing to other bachelors?” he asked. He didn’t want the entire town to be aware of any arrangements they might have that were of a private nature.
“No. The men I have met have all been much more forward than you. Each one found a way to take my arm or assist me in some way that required touching. When they did that I immediately checked them off my list. I’ve spoken to no one else about marriage except you.”
She kept a list? Another disconcerting thought. Their similarities were growing. “That is encouraging. But—am I so unlike them?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to be all that different from the others.
She arched her thin brow. “As I said—you are most direct. The others were still mentioning the weather while your conversation has already jumped beyond that to marriage. You are a gentleman. Your Eastern breeding is apparent in the way you speak and carry yourself. I would hope that means you keep this conversation we are having just between us.”
She hadn’t answered his question. Mayor Melbourne was a gentleman too, as well as Sheriff Baniff. And he could name several others who deserved that title. All were very different from each other, but he thought of them all as gentlemen.
“While we are on the subject, are there any other expectations you have of marriage?”
She shook her head. “No. I do find it interesting that you haven’t taken me back to the hotel.
You must still be considering me as a possibility, which is a pleasant surprise in light of what I just said.”
More likely, it was because he was still in shock. He’d taken it as a bygone conclusion that if he married, he would have children. He wanted several. That was one of the benefits of wedded bliss. That, and the fact that he had vowed to be a better father than his own.
The distance from the boardwalk down to the road in front of Miller’s Cabinetry Shop was particularly high. Considering what she had just said, he refrained from taking her elbow to assist her. He did offer his arm, but she didn’t take it. He nodded toward the livery and began walking in that direction.
“I had expected children at some point,” he admitted. “I will have to give your condition some consideration. I also desire a companion in marriage, but equal to that, or perhaps more so, I desire a nurse in my work.” He glanced sideways at her. His announcement hadn’t shaken her nearly as much as hers had him.
“Go on,” she said.
“I would like someone who will work beside me and help me run my office. This would entail having fresh bandages cut up, washed and rolled at all times. Watching over the patients that are in my office if I am called away on an emergency. Helping to make up medication, salves and tonics. All this would be in addition to cooking and cleaning and the general duties that wives do for their husbands.”
She drew her brows together. “And what would you be doing while I did all this?”
He thought that was obvious. “Seeing to my patients.”
“And in your free time?”
“I’ll use my free time to keep abreast of the changes in the medical field. Reading, writing articles and taking an annual trip to Denver to meet with my colleagues.”
“During which time, I would be required to remain here and keep the office in a state of tidiness?”
“I haven’t thought that far into it, but that is the general idea. I suppose some years my wife might accompany me to see the sights of the city.”
They walked silently past the livery to the railroad station where she stopped once more.
“You have given me a lot to think about.”
“As have you.” More than you know!
“I have no doubt that I could perform the duties you have mentioned.”
“In return, you would have a roof over your head and a respected standing in the community and a lifelong companion.” But he’d never considered that there wouldn’t be touching, caressing, or even a kiss now and then. His first words to her about what their children would look like sounded foolish now. Yet, perhaps, if he was honest with himself, it made sense. He certainly didn’t know how to be a father. His had never been around much. The only hugs he’d received from his mother had been stiff and awkward. He had never seen his parents so much as hold hands. The marriage that Miss Pratt and he had just described to each other sounded a lot like his own parents’ marriage.
The entire thing sounded like a business proposition. His initial excitement at the thought of abiding harmoniously had been squashed with pragmatism.
Well, isn’t that what he had originally intended? Josephine had made it clear he was not suitable marriage material. She’d called him cold. Nose in a book. Cared more for his patients than he did for her. He had hoped to move beyond that defining moment when she’d called off the courtship. He’d hoped for more warmth in a lifelong companion.
“I’ll walk you back,” he said, disheartened. “I think we both have a lot to consider.”
* * * * * * * * * *
The Prairie Doctor’s Bride
Copyright by Harlequin Books & Kathryn Albright
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
I hope you enjoyed this look into “dating” in Oak Grove. Poor Doctor Graham. He has a lot to learn about love, but when he does open his eyes and experience it for the first time, it is a wondrous thing to behold.
What about you? If you had the opportunity, would you ever consider
meeting a possible future spouse via the internet?
Comment for a chance to win a copy of the Prairie Doctor’s Bride!
(See our Giveaway Guidelines above.)
Emma! Congrats and thanks for blogging with us! Simply send me the email address you’d like to have your Kindle or Nook ebook of Bachelor for Hire delivered to: firstname.lastname@example.org or let me know if you’d prefer a print book from last year’s backlist.
Why do so many women named Kathleen become romance authors? They’re everywhere.
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Kathleen Kane, Kathleen O’Brien, Kathleen Baldwin, Kathleen Eagle, Kathleen Kellow, Kathleen Maxwell, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Kathleen Ball, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Kathleen Winsor… They’re all somewhat celebrated, and some are still writing today.
Then there’s that other Kathleen—the one who finds humor in the most inappropriate places at the worst possible times. The Kathleen whose wardrobe consists primarily of egg on her face and the taste of shoe leather on her tongue. The Kathleen who encourages fictional characters to cuss and steal and murder and commit all manner of other dastardly deeds because they can get away with it and she can’t.
The troublemaking one. The one who reveres sarcasm as high art. The one who should be rich and famous by now if for no other reason than name association.
My current hideout. Forget you saw it.
To tell you the truth, I find it more satisfying to be poor and infamous—which is a good thing, since I’m a pro at both pursuits.
Here are a few more truths:
1) I’m the eldest of four siblings: two girls and two boys. (Yes, four middle-aged hooligans with similar DNA remain at large. Be afraid.) Three of us are overachievers: My sister is a retired judge, the eldest of the boys is literally a rocket scientist, and the baby of the family is a computer systems engineer. And then there’s me.
2) My sister, brothers, and I played cowboys and Indians a lot when we were kids. I was always the outlaw. Why no one saw that as a warning remains a mystery.
3) I retired from the U.S. Air Force at the ripe old age of 22. No, I was not mustered out on a Section 8, although that would’ve surprised no one.
4) I still have my wisdom teeth, my appendix, and my tonsils. My mind, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen in years.
The Hole in the Web Gang, clockwise from top left: Dog, age 12; Underdog, 7; Little Ol’ Biddy, 15; Mr. Ed, 4.
5) As a journalist, I’ve worked the scene of a major airline disaster, covered political scandals, written columns about poltergeist-infested commodes and human kindness, won awards…and found myself staring at the wrong end of a gun—twice. Thankfully, I’ve yet to be ventilated. (A more astute individual might have realized it’s unwise to antagonize crazy people.)
6) My author bio says I come from “a long line of ranchers, preachers, and teachers on one side and horse thieves and moonshiners on the other.” I did not make any of that up. Some of my relatives still ranch, preach, and teach. The horse thieves and moonshiners found other lines of work.
7) My paternal grandmother’s mother was American Indian. Grandma never knew what tribe; consequently, neither do I. In the late 1800s, Kentucky hillbillies considered marrying an Indian shameful, so no one talked about great-grandma’s heritage. My grandmother never met her mother’s relatives. (My dad, who as a child helped his father run moonshine, was the first in his family’s history to earn a college degree. He referred to himself as a “hillwilliam.”)
8) My short story “Peaches” was based on my maternal grandparents’ courtship. Granny, a young widow who taught in a one-room Texas schoolhouse and had her hands full with three rowdy boys, took a peach pie to a church social. The man who was to become my grandfather, a bachelor rancher in his 50s, won the accidentally over-seasoned pie at auction. He nearly choked to death on the first bite. His response? “I s’pose I ought to marry that little woman ‘fore she kills somebody.”
9) My house celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Compared to some of the other homes on Galveston Island, it’s a youg’un. The Capt. H.H. Hadley House (yes, it has a name) was completed in August 1915…two weeks before a deadly Category 4 hurricane struck. More than three dozen big blows later, it’s still standing.
10)Four Chihuahuas ranging in age from four to fifteen live in this house. Whatever they’ve told you about the intractability of their servant, don’t believe them. If they didn’t want to be deviled by a spoiled-rotten delinquent, they shouldn’t have rescued me.
There. Now you know all of my deep, dark secrets. Before you decide to pursue blackmail, read “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
To compensate for the loss of financial opportunity, I’ll give away a copy of The Dumont Brand, which contains the first two stories in a series about a Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons in its closets than there are in a graveyard. “The Trouble with Honey,” a new story in the series, will be published this summer.
To enter the drawing, leave a comment revealing something about you. Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun! Your life can’t be any more embarrassing than mine. 😉
Within the next week we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and my birthday (that is a national holiday, isn’t it?). So in my post today I thought I’d find a way to give a nod to all three.
And what better way to do that than to talk about the love stories of two American presidents and then to hand out a birthday present by throwing in a giveaway at the end?
So here goes.
First Ladies have always played important roles for their husbands and American politics at large. They are personal confidants, philanthropists, and even trusted political advisors, and many become celebrated career women independent of their presidential husbands. One almost forgets that beyond the politics and the public image, the President and the First Lady are husband and wife: two people in love, bound by matrimony.
It doesn’t get much more heart-wrenching than the tragic love story between Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife Rachel, who technically never was a First Lady. Rachel was mid-divorce when they met and fell in love. Her first husband was cruel and manipulative, and dragged his feet on finalizing their divorce. Before it was official, she and Andrew eloped and started a life together, and Rachel’s family and community readily accepted her new husband. Her first husband, however, used this against her, and had her charged with adultery. To fight this in court, Rachel would have had to further delay the divorce. She accepted the black mark on her reputation in the name of love. The divorce was finalized, and Rachel and Andrew remarried for good.
By all accounts, they adored each other, and as Andrew’s political career progressed, she kept him humble and soothed his anxieties. They were in their sixties by the time he ran for president, and had lived many blissful years together as decent, respectable people, still as in love as they were in their youth.
The tragedy is that during Andrew’s presidential campaign, his enemies dug up the court documents on Rachel’s first marriage and the adultery charge, and she was viciously attacked by the press. Both of them- already elderly for the times and in poor health- took this very hard, and when Andrew won, there was no vindication for Rachel. The stress of the campaign had worn on her, and mere days before her beloved husband left for Washington to take office, she died of an apparent heart attack.
But I won’t leave you with that sad tale. John and Abigail Adams had a famous romance for an entirely different and very literary reason: their courtship and fifty year marriage is beautifully documented in the thousand-plus detailed letters they wrote to each other. John’s political career often kept them apart for long stretches of time, and their relationship was built and strengthened and maintained through their letters.
Abigail Adams is remembered as a highly intelligent, compassionate, and influential First Lady, and her husband John considered her an intellectual equal in all areas of life. She was his wife, the manager of his home and family, and his closest political advisor. Though she didn’t have a formal education, she was a voracious reader. Growing up around the finest libraries in her home state of Massachusetts, she read and read, on all subjects, and had an impressively broad knowledge base.
On their first meeting, John was not especially impressed. However, a romance soon blossomed. In one early, flirtatious correspondence, John addresses her, “Miss Adorable.” As the relationship progressed, their letters reflected a deep love and a powerful mental connection. They even wrote, in their letters, how much they enjoyed exchanging their thoughts in writing, how much peace it brought them when they could not be together. John and Abigail’s letters paint a vivid picture of two people in love: they quarrel, they wax poetic, they discuss political issues, and they ponder their lives. After John lost the election of 1800, the letters stopped. After nearly forty years of letter correspondence, they finally settled down for good in Massachusetts, together, with no more need for letters.
Just think, these rich stories come from only two of the past presidents of this country. How many other amazing love stories are hidden behind the politics and formality?
Here’s wishing you an early Happy Valentine’s Day, and on an unlikely related note, an early happy Presidents’ Day, too!
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And now for the giveaway.
Anyone who leaves a comment today, giving your thoughts on the stories above, or sharing your own romantic love story, will be entered in a drawing where the winner gets his or her choice of any book from my backlist. (click here to view a complete list of my books)
Don’t forget to leave a comment today! I’m giving away one of my backlist books because…it’s about a Bride, and it’s Wedding Week here in Wildflower Junction! PLEASE check the comments later tonight for my “winner” as I don’t want to intrude on tomorrow’s filly…
The picture below is me and my posse in July 1974 at my bridal shower. (I’m seated on the right.) This womanly gathering owes its roots to a Dutch maiden three hundred years ago whose wealthy papa pooh-poohed her marital choice of a lowly miller. He refused her a dowry, so her friends and neighbors “showered” her with enough household goods to start life with her true love.
In the 1890’s, gifts for the bride were actually placed into a Japanese parasol which was later opened over her head. Hopefully there wasn’t a cast iron frying pan or meat cleaver knife in there.
The honored roll of Bridesmaid got its start during the bride-stealing days of the Anglo-Saxons. A gaggle of lovelies usually dressed identical to the bride even to their veils to confuse marauders and act as decoys. Later, the flock of bridesmaids was believed to ward off evil spirits who might curse the happy couple.
In those good old days of bride-stealing and kidnapping, the groom of course had to surround himself with pals ready to assist in abducting his woman. Sometimes the “groomsmen” snatched brides of their own from the herd of bridesmaids. Romantic? Can’t decide if there’s a historical romance plot in there somewhere. Or if it’s just downright inappropriate behavior no matter what century you’re in…
Anyway, here are some helpful proverbs for any superstitious brides out there.
If you find a spider on your wedding gown, you’ll come into money.
If you see a flock of birds, your marriage will be blessed with fertility.
If it snows on your wedding day, you’ll be wealthy.
If the sun is out, you’ll be happy.
If you marry as the hands of the clock move up (after the half hour), you’ll have good fortune.
If you drop the ring during the ceremony, it’s best to start the whole thing over.
If you look in the mirror before walking down the aisle, you’ll leave a part of yourself behind.
If you cry on your wedding day, especially before the kiss, you’ll prevent tears during the marriage.
Above is an heirloom photo of my grandparents. The one below is my niece. As for Hubs and me…we’re still going strong after 41 years even though it did not snow on our wedding day. The sun shined bright, though, so that adage works.While we’re never been wealthy, we’ve never been in want. And of course I looked in the mirror. If any part of me got left behind, I haven’t missed it!
So…what’s the best bridal shower gift you ever got or gave? I’ll draw one name from the commenters for a copy of MARRYING MINDA, my tale of a mail-order-bride who heads West and marries…the wrong man. (U.S. Residents only for print; others e-copy)
“Did you ever wonder why we use the word engagement to describe both a promise of marriage and a war battle?”-Undercover Bride
My June release Undercover Bride is a mail order bride story with a twist. Maggie Michaels is a Pinkerton detective working undercover to nab the Whistle-Stop Bandit. To do this she is posing as his mail order bride. The clock is ticking; if she doesn’t find the proof she needs to put him in jail, she could end up as his wife!
My heroine has a good reason for doing what she’s doing, but what about the thousands of other women during the 1800s who left family and friends to travel west and into the arms of strangers?
Shortage of Men
The original mail order bride business grew out of necessity. The lack of marriageable women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War. The war created thousands of widows and a shortage of men.
As a result, marriage brokers and “Heart and Hand” catalogues popped up all around the country. Ads averaged five to fifteen cents and letters were exchanged along with photographs. It took ten days for a letter to travel by Pony Express and often the wax seals would melt in the desert heat, causing letters to be thrown away before reaching their destinations.
According to an article in the Toledo Blade a lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalogue company asking for brides (the latest such letter received was from a lonely Marine during the Vietnam War).
Marriage was thought to be the only path to female respectability. Anyone not conforming to society’s expectations was often subjected to public scorn. Women who had reached the “age” of spinsterhood with no promising prospects were more likely to take a chance on answering a mail order bride ad than younger women.
Not Always Love at First Sight
For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail order bride were so enamored with each other they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.
Not every bride was so lucky. In her book Hearts West, Christ Enss tells the story of mail order bride Eleanor Berry. En route to her wedding her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. Shortly after saying “I do,” and while signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her. The marriage lasted less than an hour.
Men: Do Not Be Deceived
Women weren’t the only ones who could be duped. Ads popped up warning men not to be seduced by artificial bosoms, bolstered hips, padded limbs, cosmetic paints and false hair.
Despite occasional pitfalls, historians say that most matches were successful. That’s because the ads were generally honest, painfully so in some cases. If a woman was fat and ugly she often said so. If not, photographs didn’t lie (at least not before Photoshop came along).
There may have been another reason for so much married bliss. A groom often signed a paper in front of three upstanding citizens promising not to abuse or mistreat his bride. She in turn promised not to nag or try to change him.
No one seems to know how many mail order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey who, by the turn of the century, had married off 5000 Harvey girls.
Okay, since it’s almost June and I’ve got brides on my mind how about sharing a wedding memory, either your own or someone else’s? It can be funny, sweet, nightmarish or just plain special. Fair warning: anything you say could be used in a book! If all else fails just stop by and say hello and I’ll put your name in the old Stetson.
Wild West Guns and Grins or How the West Was Fun
Another Pinkerton Lady Detective is on the case. This time the female operative masquerades as a mail-order bride. Pretty funny overall plot to begin with, so expect some fun reading while the detective team attempts to unmask a pair of train robbers and murderers. That’s how Margaret Brownley writes. Western mystery with humor rolling throughout, like tumbleweeds on Main Street.
One of the challenges of writing historical fiction is getting the words right. How did they say goodbye in the 1700s? Or greet each other after the Civil War? And when did the guard on a train engine change from horse catcher to cow catcher?
These are just a couple of the treasures that can be found in my favorite research books I Hear America Talking and Listening to America Talk by Stuart Berg Flexner. The books not only give a fascinating peek into the past, but keep me from using a word before its time.
And You Thought You Knew
Word meanings have changed through the years, sometimes dramatically. The word cowboy is a good example. Today, it might conjure up an image of a romantic hero, but it was originally a disparaging term for colonial settlers who let their cows roam rather than plow the land. Wait. It gets worse. During the Revolutionary War cowboy was a term for loyalist guerrillas who used cowbells to ambush patriotic farmers.
Fooling Around Victorian Style
I write romance so I’m especially interested in courting terms. Oddly enough—terms changed every decade starting with the 17th century when couples billed and cooed. I find this interesting since TV and other media wasn’t around to influence language.
Skipping forward to the 1860s the word lollygag meant to kiss and caress. (Ten years later the word meant to waste time.) During the 1870s couples were said to be lovey dovey, but by the end of the decade couples walked out together. By 1890 couples favored sitting in the parlor to walking. That’s because they were too busy making goo-goo eyes to watch where they were going.
I recently had a heroine fall on her patootie. That word has only been around since the 1920s and originally meant girl. So I knew I couldn’t use it. Oddly enough the backside seems to be the body part with the most synonyms. Much to my surprise I discovered that the word fanny has been around since the 1860s, though no one knows for sure who Fanny was and why her name was used in such an odd way. Back porch was used in the 1880s and the modern sounding butt appeared in writing as early as 1859.
With all this talk about rear ends, it’s surprising that Victorians considered the word legs crude. If they admitted to owning such things they always referred to them as limbs or stems. As for bosoms, they hardly seemed to exist much before World War II, at least in print.
I’m careful not to use objectionable language, but there are times that “oh, darn” just doesn’t cut it. My characters tend to be a passionate lot. Fortunately for me, so were the Victorians as their many euphemisms for swear words attests. George, ginger, Godfrey, golly, gosh, gracious and gravy it are just a few of the ways annoyance or anger was expressed in polite society.
There was also gee willikens and gee wiz and of course doggone. Surprisingly the term blankety blank has been around since the 1880s.
As for when to call a spade a shovel, we can all relax. Both words have been around since 900 A.D.
Thinking back to my childhood I realize some terms I grew up with no longer exist. A couch in our house was called a davenport back then–don’t ask me why. My husband still insists upon calling the ‘fridge an icebox. What about you? Any words or phrases in your past that are no longer relevant?
This past week I wrote a scene in which my cowboy hero was forced to sit in a formal parlor. It was during the 19th century age of clutter which meant the front room was filled to capacity with ornate furniture, needlepoint cushions, framed photographs, musical instruments, and enough froufrou to create a dusting nightmare. The poor man in my story couldn’t move without knocking over a beaded fringed lamp or a delicate music box. Worse, he had to trust his six foot two bulk to a spindly chair since no “sincere” furniture existed.
Parlors Were Never Designed for Comfort
A proper parlor had one purpose and one purpose alone; to showcase a woman’s gentility to all who entered.
In his book Domesticated Americans Russell Lynes describes the parlor as a chamber of horrors for children. “It (the parlor) set husband against wife, daughter against father and swain against maiden.” It also took a lump out of the family budget.
A Hostess Must Avoid Any Allusion to the Age, Personal Defects or Ill-manners of Guests
No one really knew how to act in a parlor and this unleashed a steady stream of articles and books on the subject. Not only were people counseled on how to enter a parlor without “Jiggling their bodies” but how to leave it. Phrases, such as”What-d-ye call it,” “Thingummy,” “What’s his name,” or any such substitutes for a proper name or place were to be avoided at all costs.
The Ladies Indispensable Assistant explained the rules of exiting in great detail. “Don’t stand hammering and fumbling, and saying ‘Well I guess I must be going.’ When you are ready go at once.”
Parlor rules existed for every possible situation, even courting. Never was a man to sit with his “arms akimbo” or strike an awkward pose. Nor was he to enter a parlor without the lady’s invitation.
God Made Weather to Give Us Something to Talk About
Visitors were cautioned against talking about religion, politics, disease, dress or, heaven forbid, one’s self. Cookbook and etiquette writer Miss Leslie wrote that inquiring about a hostess’s children was to be done “with discretion.” Saying that a son “was the very image of his father,” could be offensive if the father was not a handsome man. Even then the visitor could be treading on ice if “the mother was vain and wished the children to look like her.”
Several things happened to make the parlor with its endless rules fall out of favor. Women were admitted to college and soon after entered the work force. No longer was a woman judged by her parlor but rather by her contributions to society.
The westward movement should also receive credit for putting sanity into the home. Though some pioneer women tried to carry the tradition westward, many soon learned the folly of such ways—much to their husbands’ gratitude.
Not all parlors died a quiet death. Some lingered into the twentieth century. As a child, I remember our next door neighbor’s parlor—and yes, that’s what she called it. Everything in it including the lampshades was covered in plastic which made a crinkling sound if you wiggled. Did any of you spend time in such a room?
Working Undercover is no Job for a Lady!
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A kiss can be a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point. That’s basic spelling that every woman should know.~Mistinguet
You might wonder why I have kisses on my mind today. The answer is simple and it has something to do with my new release Four Weddings and a Kiss.
There are four novellas in the collection, written by Mary Connealy, Robin Lee Hatcher, Debra Clopton and me. But it’s the fifth story in the book which explains the kiss in the title.
A young minister bemoans having to break up with the woman he loves. She’s simply not suited to be a preacher’s wife. I mean we’re talking a woman who (gasp) plays rounders and sides with the church next door. That’s not all she does; she has also has the nerve to laugh in church!
I’ll let you find out how that particular story ends by reading the book, but to get you in the right mood here are some fun facts about—what else?—kissing!
Did you know that kissing prevents wrinkles? It’s true. Kissing uses twenty-nine face muscles and all that exercise helps keep your skin firm and smooth.
Kissing for one minute burns 26 calories. Hitting the lips for an hour sounds like a whole lot more fun than hitting the gym.
The average woman kisses eighty men before she marries (Harrumph. Now they tell me. I’m how many men short?).
On average, a person spends two weeks of their lives kissing. (I know I’ve spent at least the amount time writing about kissing. Hey, it’s harder than you think.)
Men who kiss their wives before going to work live on the average five years longer than men who leave slamming doors.
Is kissing learned or instinctual? No one really knows for sure.
The film with the most kisses was Don Juan (1926). John Barrymore and Mary Astor shared 127 kisses. Don’t believe me? Count them.
Kissing is good for the teeth. All that extra saliva. . . So if you want to save on dental bills, you now know what to do.
Kissing releases the same neurotransmitters in the brain as bungee jumping and parachuting. I’ll have to take their word for this because I’m a great believer in keeping my feet grounded.
We all know that Xs at the end of a written letter represents kisses. But did you also know that signing a telegram with the numbers 88 was how our ancestors showed love and kisses?
Tell us about your first kiss or a favorite movie kiss and you could win a copy of Four Weddings and a You-Know-What! And don’t forget to enter the drawing below. We’re giving away a mini iPad. Just click the picture below.