Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management

For my fifth book for the Harlequin Love Inspired line, my intrepid heroine procures a copy of a household management book originally published in England. The inspiration for my heroine’s book is Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management – which is still available today. Mrs. Beeton was only twenty-one years old when she began a series of installments for The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. Her installments were later combined into a book.

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While not well known in America, Mrs. Beeton is an iconic figure  in England. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mentioned Mrs. Beeton in one his novels. Downton Abbey has used the book for reference. The actual book has only 23 pages or so dedicated to household management. The other 900 pages feature recipes–all of which Mrs. Beeton tested. Many of which she disliked!

Mrs. Beeton

Mrs. Beeton’s life was as fascinating as her book. She bore four sons, only two of whom lived into adulthood. Her husband was a publisher, and gave his wife her start. She died of a fever after the birth of her fourth son at the age of 28. There is speculation that her husband had given her syphilis, leading to the deaths of their first two infants. Though editors never denied her young age, they were perfectly content to let the public believe Mrs. Beeton was beloved mob-capped grandmotherly type.

Before the book was published, recipes were written in conversational tone, which meant the ingredient list was peppered throughout the directions. Mrs. Beeton separated out the ingredients, a practice that is still used in cookbooks today. Almost all of the recipes were taken from previous publications, which touched off a controversy- even though Mrs. Beeton never claimed the recipes were original.

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Mrs. Beeton’s husband never received the success his wife had achieved. He sold off the rights to her book to avoid bankruptcy, and died twelve years after his wife. The iconic phrase, “First, catch your hare” has been attributed to the book, though the phrase had been around long before.

The book I’ve created for my heroine is inspired by Mrs. Beeton’s book, and I plan to feature the ‘author’ as the heroine in a subsequent book. (Think, “Christmas in Connecticut.”) This week I’m writing the scene where my lovely heroine must…you guessed it….must first catch her hare!

Nominated for an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, The Cattleman Meets His Match:

Comment for a chance to win a copy!

The Cattleman Meets His Match

Cowboy John Elder needs a replacement crew of cattle hands to drive his longhorns to Kansas—he just never figured they’d be wearing petticoats. Traveling with Moira O’Mara and the orphan girls in her care is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Yet despite Moira’s declaration of independence, the feisty beauty evokes John’s every masculine instinct to protect, defend…marry?

Moira is grateful for John’s help when he rescues her—and she can’t deny that his calm, in-control manner proves comforting. But she is determined not to let anything get in the way of her plans to search for her long-lost brother at journey’s end. However, can John show her a new future—one perfect for them to share?



Coming in February!!

Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him, until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop’s intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm.

The Engagement BargainRaised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn’t think much of marriage, and she certainly doesn’t plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb’s blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real.

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28 thoughts on “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management”

  1. Mrs. Beeton did die very young. I have heard of the book & did imagine a more mature woman.

    What a wonderful inspiration.

  2. I have never heard of Mrs. Beeton’s book but it sounds quite interesting. I’ll have to see if our library carries a copy.

    I would love to be entered into your giveaway. Thank you for the chance.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  3. Sherri,

    I can’t wait to meet your two independent, intelligent heroines, Moira and Anna! Sounds like they will turn John and Caleb’s worlds upside down.

    I’m curious how Moira became in charge of a group of orphans.

    I’m also curious how Caleb and Anna meet and what situation forced her into Caleb’s arms for protection.

    I do like the marriage of convenience theme which these two stories showcase.

    I’ve never heard of Mrs Beeton. I love that she put the ingredients first in the recipes. It makes it so much easier to know what to buy before you start a recipe.

    Best wishes! for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  4. Hi Sherri, I have a first edition facsimile of the book in my library and have used the medical part for research. The legal part’s pretty interesting, too. She claims to have gotten two male experts to write those chapters. For someone who died so early she certainly was an accomplished woman. Thank you for sharing her story.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

  5. I had not heard of Mrs. Beeton but she sounds like a very strong & interesting lady. I would enjoy reading The Cattleman Meets His Match.

  6. Both books sound great. I had read about Mrs. Beeton’s book in another book and thought it sounded very practical. Didn’t know she was the first one to put the ingredients first. Thanks Mrs. Beeton or I would never be able to follow a recipe. I thought she was older too, never considered she was so young. Please enter me in the giveaway.

  7. I am unfamiliar with Mrs. Beeton… thanks for sharing! Congrats on the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award nomination!

  8. I did not know anything about this lady, and your post was very interesting! I’d love to win your books! sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

    • Here’s a great quote from Mrs. Beeton:

      In concluding these remarks on the duties of the housekeeper, we will briefly refer to the very great responsibility which attaches to her position. Like “Caesar’s wife,” she should be “above suspicion,” and her honesty and sobriety unquestionable; for there are many temptations to which she is exposed.

      Don’t let your sobriety fall into question!

    • It’s a little dry, but some of the posts are a hoot:

      It is another conviction of “Society” that the race of good servants has died out, least in England, although they do order these things better in France; that there is neither honesty, conscientiousness, nor the careful and industrious habits which distinguished the servants of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers; that domestics no longer know their place; that the introduction of cheap silks and cottons, and, still more recently, those ambiguous “materials” and tweeds, have removed the landmarks between the mistress and her maid, between the master and his man.

      Those tweeds!

  9. Since I read Regencies, I have heard of Mrs. Beeton’s book frequently. I have not read her book, but I have several old books, one in particular that was published in the 1860’s and similar to Mrs. Beeton’s. It is a guide for keeping house, raising children, and being a wife. It makes for some interesting reading. To say our attitudes have changed would be an understatement. There aren’t too many of us content to be the obedient wife wanting only hear what her husband wishes and serve him. A woman’s role was to serve her family. What little time left was to serve the church or community. I think we have a better balance in our lives today.

    THE CATTLEMAN MEETS HIS MATCH sounds like a good story. Ranchers needed to find help where they could get it. Women could and did prove themselves more than capable time and again.

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