Before I started writing An Agent for Dixie, book #73 in the popular Pinkerton Matchmaker series, I had a rather contemporary view of health spas and resorts. Of course, I had read about the waters at Bath in Somerset, England, from various regency titles over the years. But those books don’t go into much detail about what people actually did while they were there. I always assumed Bath was more like a popular destination where people went to be seen or to make connections.
Public baths were popular in Roman times and were often not located at a natural hot spring. Under the level of the pool, water was heated in boilers with wood fires. The location usually had three rooms with pools of different temperatures. A bather could use each in his choice of order or soak in only one. The warm pool was called the tepidarium. The caldarium contained hot water, and here slaves would rub perfumed oil over their masters and then scrape off oil and loose skin with a knife. The cold bath, where bathers swam, was called a frigidarium.
Over the years, public baths went in and out of fashion, related to fears of catching certain diseases, as well as times when they were seen as places where political dissidents met. In the 16th century, ancient medical texts were recovered in Italy containing information about balneology, the science of the therapeutic use of baths. Chemical composition of the water was analyzed to determine which natural spring might help which ailment. More and more, “taking the waters,” or balneotherapy, became a doctor’s directive for the patients who could afford to take time away from their daily live for “the cure.” Another reason was that doctors didn’t have other remedies, before the invention or development of modern medicines, to recommend for certain maladies. Better to prescribe something than to admit their lack of knowledge.
In the 1800s, especially in mountain locations, health resorts sprang up throughout Europe and the United States (more so in the 2nd half of the century) where thermal pools had been discovered. Some people experienced an improvement in their health by drinking the mineral waters (usually from cold springs). Others were told by doctors that the hot mineral waters helped conditions like gout, arthritis, muscle strains, skin conditions, rheumatism, and lumbago. Often, mud treatments, massage, or restricted diets became part of the regime.
Owners of the natural pools hoped people would come to the location and linger, so hotels and/or boarding houses were constructed near the thermal pools. In the grander hotels, entertainment and activities were offered for the times the guests would not be partaking of the waters. The amenities ran the gamut from nature walks to game of croquet and shuffleboard to concerts and balls, depending on the clientele. Because of the variety of offerings, some enthusiasts made a circuit of visiting several locations during the summer months.
Health resorts that appealed to the citizen possessing modest means offered camping spots or minimal shelter
and advertised the benefits of sleeping outdoors. Some churches conducted their revivals at certain resorts, and annual traditions were born. Armed with this research, I had great fun in inventing a resort town with a spa in the grand fashion of an Italian bathhouse.
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? You can check the book out on Amazon.
Have you ever been to a health spa or read about them. I’m giving away an e-copy of An Agent for Liana, book #63 in the “Pinkerton Matchmaker” series.
Loner Dale Claybourne is not afraid to face down thieves, swindlers and even murderers. But he quells at having to train a female agent. Gregarious Liana LaFontaine yearns for a taste of the adventurous life of being an agent. Impulsive by nature, Liana jumps into situations she doesn’t have the experience to handle. Dale fights his growing admiration for this French beauty while keeping close to guard her safety. At odds over almost everything, the pair has to solve the mystery of who is stealing from a Virginia City saloon—a task made even harder because of the wild attraction that shouldn’t be present in a marriage of convenience.