Please join the Fillies in a big YEEHAW for Karen’s 5 Spur review of A Tailor-Made Bride from Love Western Romances
Do you ever watch those makeover shows? Perhaps a talk show host takes an audience member backstage and sics her personal stylist on her. Over the course of an hour the woman gets her hair cut, dyed, and styled; has her make-up redone by a specialist; and trades in her ho-hum duds for a chic new outfit that flatters her in all the right places. She emerges at the end of the episode to oohs and aahs and wild applause.
Or maybe you’ve seen the transformations on shows like The Biggest Loser where people spend months with personal trainers and dieticians and drastically recreate themselves into models of healthy living. They lose hundreds of pounds and metamorphose from couch potatoes into marathon runners.
I have to admit to watching these shows from time-to-time. There is something about them that inspires me. Maybe it’s the fantasy of a having a fairy godmother hiding in my closet, ready to pop out with her magic wand whenever I have a bad hair day. Or perhaps it’s the desire to rediscover that fit person inside me that I somehow lost track of after three babies and the onset of middle age. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I thought it would be fun to incorporate some of that inspiration into my stories. But how? I write historicals. Did women of the 19th century have any understanding of physical fitness?
As it turns out, they did.
In my research for A Tailor-Made Bride, I discovered that a social reformation movement regarding physical fitness for women and children swept our nation back in the mid-1800s.
After the Industrial Revolution, many people left farms and ranches to find employment in nearby cities. Because they were no longer working the fields, their lives became increasingly sedentary. This led to a great decline in women’s health, especially among the middle and upper classes. Reformers like Catharine Beecher (sister to the famous abolitionist and author, Harriet Beecher Stowe) spoke out on the need for regular exercise among women and children. She published a book in 1856 entitled Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families where she describes an exercise system that could be utilized in schools or at home.
Perhaps the most influential reformer of this era, however, was a man named Dioclesian Lewis. In the 1860s he developed a system of light gymnastics for women and children and went on to found a school specifically to instruct physical education teachers, most of whom were women. He lectured extensively and wrote several books on the subject of fitness, the most notable being The New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children, published in 1862. It is this book that my heroine, Hannah Richards, follows so diligently.
During the course of the story, Hannah employs many of the devices Professor Lewis advocated, such as small wooden dumbbells, Indian clubs, and exercise rings.
The guiding principle was to use small weights with many repetitions. In this way women and children could participate in the same manner as the men. Professor Lewis even recounts a story of how several of his young male students scoffed at the two-pound dumbbells, claiming they needed more weight to make the exercises challenging. However, after they completed the regimen with three-pound weights, they unanimously returned to the lighter ones. Hannah issues a similar challenge to Jericho Tucker at his initial mockery of her routine. After trying it for himself, the livery owner, like the young men at Professor Lewis’s academy, changed his tune.
Hannah uses her knowledge of calisthenics as well as her skill with a needle to affect a 19th century makeover for Jericho’s sister, Cordelia. But these outer changes can’t compete with the inward transformation taking place within Hannah and Jericho, themselves.
What inspires you the most about makeover stories? Have you ever experienced one yourself? Ever made a change in your own life after witnessing the effects of a similar change in someone else’s?
Karen is giving away to a copy of A Tailor-Made Bride, so pop in and join the discussion. Here’s a little taste of the book – so you know what you’ll be getting.
A Tailor-Made Bride
When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!
Jericho “J.T.” Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He’s all too familiar with her kind—shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.
Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?
When Hannah decides to help Jericho’s sister catch a beau–leading to consequences neither could have foreseen–will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?