No Shortage of Advice for Minding Your Ps and Qs


Love and Laughter in the old west…


Sage advice from Margaret’s new book A Suitor for Jenny

  • Charm and composure must prevail at all times. If a gunfight erupts, exit the scene with grace and serenity.

  • If you don’t know whether or not to kiss a handsome man, give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Never engage in boisterous laughter. If you must show mirth, a polite smile or titter will suffice.

  • Never criticize your beau. If it wasn’t for his faults he’d probably be courting someone else.

  • An inappropriate suitor should be quickly and thoroughly banished before he wins the heart of his intended.

  • A woman more knowledgeable than a man is obliged to hold her tongue and feign ignorance in all matters except, of course, childbirth.

  • Never show affection in public. Love may be blind but the townspeople are not.

  • Once your vows are exchanged devote yourself to domestication—his.

  • Eschew secrets, for they are normally discovered at the worst possible time. If confronted, weep and deny everything.



Ah, advice. Where would be without it?  I don’t know when the first self-help books were written but I have a collection from the 1800s jam packed with handy hints, some good, some bad, some bizarre, but all of which provided inspiration for my story.  

As you might imagine, some of these early books have to do with domestic matters.  One book on my shelf is Beeton’s Book of Household Management written in 1861.  This hefty 1100 page tome gives how-to information for just about everything a good housewife needed to know, from pickling tongue to rearing children and protecting one’s assets following a divorce. 

An amazing number of books had to do with minding your Ps and Qs.  It would seem that learning good manners was a national past time. Don’t: A Manual of Mistakes of Improprieties More or Less Prevalent in Conduct and Speech published in 1880 was one of a series of books on etiquette.

In case you are wondering what some of those improprieties might have been, here’s advice from the book which is probably just as relevant today as it was in the 1800s: “Don’t play the accordion, the violin or the piano or any musical instrument to excess.  Your neighbors have nerves, and need at times a little relief from inflictions of the kind.  If you could manage not to play an instrument at all, unless you are an accomplished performer, so much the better.”

Certainly no woman in the early 19th century would have been caught dead without a copy of Etiquette for Ladies: With Hints on the Preservation, Improvement, and Display of Female Beauty. The book includes a not-to-be-missed recipe for a paste of boiled eggs, rose water and alum to be applied “to skin too loosely attached to the muscles.”

Perhaps most surprising of all were the number of self-help etiquette books written by and for men.  Can you imagine today’s males reading an etiquette book? Practical Hints from a Father to his Daughter, The Complete Bachelor and The American Gentleman were all written at the beginning of the 19th century. I don’t know if the following book was written for men or women but you probably won’t see The Guide to Social Intercourse in your local Barnes & Noble any time soon. 

What you will find is my new book, A Suitor For Jenny, due in bookstores at the end of this month.  My heroine Jenny Higgins firmly believes that women who fall in love at first sight often wish they’d taken a second look. For this reason she diligently follows the rules set forth in The Compleat and Authoritative Manual for Attracting and Procuring a Husband.

After their parents died, Jenny felt responsible for seeing that her two younger sisters were well-taken care of. Tipped off by an article naming Rocky Creek as having the highest number of eligible bachelors per capita, Jenny rolls into this Texas town with a clear objective: find suitable husbands for her sisters and then start fresh somewhere far, far away.

Included in Jenny’s manual is the handy, dandy PHAT (Prospective Husband Aptitude Test), which she diligently administers to all eligible men.  Needless to say, the hero Marshal Rhett Armstrong fails the test, which only proves to Jenny that the advice in the manual is sound.  Jenny is absolutely certain that The Compleat and Authoritative Manual for Attracting and Procuring a Husband is the key to finding perfect beaus, and it will take one handsome marshal and two rebellious sisters to convince her otherwise.

How about you!  Any favorite how-to books on your shelves?  What was the best advice you were ever given? The worse?


 A Suitor for Jenny (A Rocky Creek Romance)


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24 thoughts on “No Shortage of Advice for Minding Your Ps and Qs”

  1. What a delightful post, Margaret! And I can’t wait for this book. You’re so talented!

    ON my shelf: I guess it’s a how-to book–Goal, Motivation and Conflict, one of the best there is.

    Advice? Hmmmm, don’t take it too often because I seriously don’t like being told what to do LOL but probably the best I ever got came from my mom on my wedding day. She said, “This man is your fmaily now. Don’t think you can come running home to daddy and me when you have a fight.” Also, say “I love you” as often as you can.


  2. Hi Tanya,

    Thank you! Your mom gave you sound advice.

    The advice I got every time I left the house was “Make sure you’re wearing clean underwear.You might be in an accident.”

    Words to live by.


  3. I have an old cookbook that explains how to preserve food and gives medical and household tips. There are recipes for how to make hominy, kraut, can meat, make soap, cough medicine, furniture polish, etc.
    Like most old cookbooks it doesn’t translate to the twenty-first century very well. I wouldn’t have a clue where to find some of ingredients and there are a few little details lacking like measurements, times and temperatures. Guess they thought most ladies had enough common sense to figure it out!
    I’m reading A Lady Like Sarah now. Love it. A Suitor for Jenny sounds like so much fun. Can’t wait to read it too.

  4. oh my goodness-your new book sounds very entertaining!
    i will have to add it to my “to buy” list
    your post just cracked me up
    i love-
    “Never criticize your beau. If it wasn’t for his faults he’d probably be courting someone else.”

    best advice
    um, the golden rule holds up pretty well
    i have so many little tips and quotes and such that i enjoy that i can’t even think of a one right now 🙂

    maybe they will come to me later

    thanks for the fun post!
    what a creative idea for a book!

    ps–it’s amazing that all those books were written way back then…they seem ahead of their time
    life was not so different as i think

  5. Loved the advice. My how times have changed in some ways and not in others.
    I love the old books. The are such an insight into the time period in which they were written. The first book I got I found in the attic of an old house I was helping a friend clean out. This was back in high school, a loooong time ago. It is CHILDHOOD: ITS CARE AND CULTURE printed in 1887. Interesting reading. It started an interest in old books and I have found some interesting ones since. Some of the others I have are:


    IN CASE OF ACCIDENT by Dr. D, A. Sargent 1884 first aid book.

    THE EUROPEAN IN INDIA & MEDICAL GUIDE by Edmund C. P. Hull and R. S. Mair, M.D 1878 – a fascinating guide printed in England for those moving to India for diplomatic or business reasons. Really interesting. Gives the costs of renting different accommodations, how to hire servants, shopping, etc.

    THE POWER OF SELF-SUGGESTION by Samuel McComb – 1911 –
    a little book repeating a lecture he gave on “helping some to know the power of a larger life.”

    “a book of quaintly humorous philosophy, which will greatly interest the reader who likes to hear both sides of the question.” Life lessons done in point counter point form.

    I had one other I couldn’t find. It is a book on proper behavior for young ladies put out by some school or church group. The pictures of the staff in the front are enough to frighten one into good behavior. While looking for these books, I looked more closely at some of my other books. I found one printed on 1833 on slavery. Will be looking into that one soon.

    Thanks for a fun post, as usual.

  6. “Never criticize your beau. If it weren’t for his faults, he’d probably be courting someone else.” Delightful! I had a good chuckle over this post. I don’t think I’d be very sere with a gunfight erupting around me.

    I think the best advice my parents ever gave me was that the closer you are to someone, the more important it is to treat them with courtesy and respect. Guess they knew early that I had a quick temper.

  7. Patricia,
    Oh, Wow! I want some of your books, especially WEDLOCK. I’m on the hunt for it. OPTIMISTIC TOM AND PESSIMISTIC BILL sounds like a blast.

    Thank you for sharing.

    P.S. If you ever want to unload your library you know where you can find me.

  8. Margaret, those early books on etiquette are so funny. They worked hard to have a solution for everything. I have one that was published in 1900, but I’d dearly love to find an earlier one. They’re full of jewels.

    One piece of advice that comes to mind is that you’ve committed an absolute sin if you wear white after Labor Day. I never understood the reasoning behind it. Very funny.

    Congratulations on the new release! I have it on my list to buy as soon as it comes out. I loved A LADY LIKE SARAH. It was one of the best books I’ve read recently.

  9. Hi Linda,

    I remember the white after Labor Day rule very well.(Wasn’t there also a rule against wearing white before Memorial Day?)

    During my rebellious teens I wore white sandals at a family get-together. The way the family carried on you would have thought I shaved my head and showed up with head to toe tattoos!

  10. Hi, Margaret! “A Suitor For Jenny” sounds as though it will warm the heart and tickle the funny bone : ) I always thought that Granny Clampett offered good advice: Feed your man well, and dab a little vanilla extract behind your ears for extra good measure ; )

  11. Hi Margaret! What a fun post! I like my husband’s advice about marriage: “Give as much as you think you should, and then give some more.” My mom’s life-long advice was: “Look for the good and accept the rest.” I’ll be looking for your new book as soon as it’s out!

  12. Hi Virginia,

    Granny Clampett had some good advice. For some reason her “Don’t spit from a moving vehicle; wait till it stops” advice sticks in my brain.

    Thank you you for stopping by and have a great day!

  13. Hi Victoria,

    You’re married to a wise man–and your mom ain’t bad, either. Phylis Diller also had some good advice for married folks: Don’t go to bed angry, stay up and fight. Sounds like good advice to me.

    Have a beautiful day.

  14. Hi Margaret,
    A Suitor for Jenny sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to read it. My mom was always one for giving advice, and I think I inherited that from her. LOL To be honest, I can’t remember the best piece of advice I ever got–probably because I got so much of it. LOL

  15. This book sounds great. I love all Love Inspired books. I’m hooked! Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for giving away a copy.

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