Articles By Brenda Webb

About Brenda Webb

Before my obsession with all things Jane Austen, I worked as an administrative assistant to the president of a CPA firm. No longer working in that industry, thankfully, I enjoy spending time with my family and indulging my love of storytelling. Born on a farm in Cullman, Alabama, I proudly admit to being a country girl, and after years of living in the city, I have finally achieved my dream of moving back to the country. My husband and I now reside on a three acre mini-farm, sporting chickens and numerous rescued dogs and cats. Always a voracious reader, I rediscovered Jane Austen books after watching the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie. Searching for everything relating to Miss Austen, I eventually stumbled into the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. After reading many of other people’s stories, I decided to try my hand at writing a tale that kept coming to mind and began posting that story on online. By November of 2010, I started my own forum,, and many readers followed me to this site. Several of my friends insisted that I publish, and in April 2011, Fitzwilliam Darcy an Honourable Man became available on It was followed by Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love in December 2012, and I am currently posting my next book, Darcy and Elizabeth, A Most Unlikely Couple on the forum. It will be published this summer. Anyone is welcome to join the forum and read my new stories before they are published, as well as stories by an array of talented JAFF writers. Just register at

The Dreaded Freak Carriage Accident

Shared from Austen Authors post!

One of the things I love about writing Regency stories is thinking of ways to dispose of characters, especially characters we all love to hate. A lot of acronyms have sprung up on Jane Austen Fan Fiction forums over the years, and one such acronym is FCA. On occasion a new reader will ask what FCA stands for and this post provides the answer. Freak carriage (or coach) accidents are used often in JAFF tales, and I thought it would be fun to look into one of our favorite plot devises.

As we investigate numerous reasons why these accidents may have happened, I couldn’t help but add my own thoughts in bold. Please indulge me.



Drivers were often careless, furious, intoxicated or even ignorant.

Careless driving often resulted because a driver was not paying attention and turned corners too fast, driving up banks or into ditches, or crashing into other vehicles or obstacles. Not too much different from today, what with women wearing the latest skimpy fashions!

Driving while angry or furious was not a frequent cause of accidents, mainly, I suppose, because the coachmen/drivers wished to keep their jobs. There were no penalties for it. It was suggested, however, that if the guilty driver gave a false address, they should be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. So road rage was not a big problem in the Regency era.

Thomas Rowlandson -The Runaway Coach

Driving while intoxicated was deterred by having stiff penalties inflicted upon the employers of known drunkards and then ensuring that full penalties were meted out to the guilty parties. DUIs started with carriages? Unbelievable.

Ignorant driving relates to those who did not know the best way to hold the reins. Tips for doing so included never driving with the reins too slack. In the article I found, there was an explanation of how to loop the reins so that they pulled on the hand, not the fingers. Supposedly, holding the rein in this way levelled the pull on the horse’s mouth. However, I could not make heads or tails (pun intended) of the instructions. Should you be scheduled to drive a team of horses in the near future, you can follow the link listed at the end of this post for more detailed instructions.

Bad road conditions.

The main obstacles in towns were the blocking of streets for the loading and unloading of goods or for performing work on them. As for vehicles outside the town limits, mail coachesCarriage Accident and others had to keep an eye out for dangerous items in the roads. Some of the things regularly encountered by coaches were plows, tree branches and doors and gates, gates being the most common item found in roadways. Sound like the morning rush-hour traffic report to you, too?

As someone of that era said, “It was never clear if these obstacles were placed there to facilitate robbery, or out of sheer wantonness . . . [as the] instances of such acts of wickedness were frequent.”

In addition, cart and wagon owners often used large stones to block a wheel while they loaded or unloaded their carts or wagons. If left in the road, these loose stones were particularly dangerous to horses traveling downhill, and it was a situation easily prevented by a little thoughtfulness. So many road problems could be prevented by a little of that.

Collisions with Other Vehicles.

These occurred primarily because of runaway horses, although it was claimed that a good driver could avoid them. The rule of the road was keep to the left side and to pass vehicles going in the same direction on the right. The advantage to the rule was that everyone knew what to expect, and a driver could use his whip without accidentally lashing pedestrians. Hmm. I wonder if he might not lash someone when he went to the right to pass.

Georgian Carriage AccidentAnother way to avoid collisions mentioned in my research was for a less experienced driver to collide with something that would stun the horse and force it to stop rather than hit another carriage. Can you imagine the poor creature crashing into a tree? Methinks it might stun not only the horse, but the occupants!

Horses presented a myriad of problems.

Relying on horses for transportation presented many problems included bolting, shying or rearing when a horse became frightened or was in pain. A good driver was aware of his horses’ conditions and noted the prick of their ears, so they could be ready to stop before an accident happened. For horses which pulled carriages, jibbing was more common than rearing. Jibbing was stopping and refusing to go, a habit hard to eradicate. Drivers were advised if their horse was a jibber, they should not attempt to have it pull a four-wheeled carriage, except as one of a pair. Moreover, it was suggested that jibbers pull gigs rather than other kinds of carriages. I love horses and prefer to blame all their eccentrics on the inexperience of their handlers.

On occasion a horse might have stomach staggers which made him giddy, stagger sideways, and fall by sinking to the ground on its hind legs first. It was frequently caused by over feeding a horse on dry oats and hay and was remedied by feeding the horse steamed corn or a bran mash. There were also several other reasons for this malady, including excessive driving, a badly fitting collar pressed against the horse’s windpipe, or a tight bearing rein. Poor animal!

 Runaway Horse

Other Causes of Carriage Accidents: Harness and Carriage Issues, Passengers.

Harness issues were too numerous to mention but included breaking bands, straps and bolts. The main advice given to avoid harness accidents was for drivers to double check their harnesses for any defects before driving. Carriage issues involved going too fast downhill or having the carriage lose ground and run backwards when going uphill. Had to smile at that one, for I imagined Lady Catherine in the coach!

As for passengers, women were advised to leave their hands free, even while being helped in or out of a carriage by a gentleman and to watch that their long skirts did not catch onAscending and Descending a Carriage-M-1189 the steps. That puts a damper on all the scenes where Darcy helps Lizzie in or out of a carriage and they look longingly at each other, doesn’t it!

Riders were advised never to jump out of a carriage in motion, which was a risky proposition. You think? However, if a horse bolted and the person needed out, he was advised to jump in the same direction as the horses were going. I cannot see that ending well, either.

When riding in carriages, passengers were advised to be careful to secure themselves so as not to slide off the seat if there is any sudden movement. Sitting in Mr. Darcy’s lap would be my safety suggestion. If not the safest position, at least it would be the most enjoyable.

One important side note about carriages: The choice seat in a carriage was the one on the right hand side facing the animals; this was usually reserved for women or the elderly. Refer to my note above regarding Darcy’s lap.

Now that we have gone over the many causes of FCA, please tell me your thoughts. Do we writers rely on them too often? Or are they to be expected given the times? I have to admit that I love them as a plot point no matter how many times I read them.

Information for this post came from:


Have you had your biscuit today?

Shared from Austen Authors website

One of the first things you learn about writing stories based in the United Kingdom is that what Americans call a certain item is not necessarily what the British call it. To name all the differences would take too long. Besides, if you are a Jane Austen fan, you probably know most of them already. However, lately I learned something new about British biscuits (cookies to us in the States) and thought I would share it with you. First, here is the Oxford Dictionary’s explanation of the difference between a cookie and a biscuit, from the British and American perspective:

 Biscuit:  In the UK, your biscuit might be topped with chocolate or have currants in it. You might dip it in your cup of tea, or have one as a snack after lunch. If you were in the US, you might put bacon and eggs on it or smother it in gravy and have it for breakfast. Or you might put a piece of chicken on it and have it for dinner.

How did these two very different meanings come to be? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word biscuit comes originally from the Latin biscotum (panem), which means bread “twice baked,” which would explain the hard, crunchy quality of a British biscuit. An American biscuit is similar to what the Brits would call a scone (and an American scone is something else entirely). It’s unclear how these two different foods came to have the same word, and we can only speculate about the influence of the French language in the southern United States.

Cookie: The word cookie opens up a whole other can of worms. In the UK, a cookie is a soft, squishy, moist biscuit, for lack of a better word. British cookies tend to be bigger and more substantial than a British biscuit. In the US, a cookie covers both what the British would call a biscuit and a cookie. The word comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning “little cake,” and could have been popularized in the US through the early Dutch colonization, though we don’t know for sure.

So, a British biscuit is an American cookie and an American cookie is a British cookie and an American biscuit is a British scone and an American scone is something else entirely. Simple!


Napoleon 4ANow that you have mastered all of that, allow me to continue. While watching the made for television movieDeath Comes To Pemberley, I noticed that when Mrs. Reynolds was showing Mrs. Darcy what food was to be served at the ball, she mentioned “Prince of Wales” biscuits. I thought nothing of it, for who has not heard of foods named after kings, queens and even celebrities. Anyone care for a slice of Napoleon?

However, a friend shared a link to a lovely blog, Food History Jottings, which opened up a whole new side of biscuit-making for me. That is the practice of using stamps to mark the biscuits for celebrating historic events and/or the monarchy. I knew about cookie cutters, but I had no idea there were stamps. These little tools stamped biscuits with printed motifs by hand before mechanised processes took over during the course of the nineteenth century

Below is a picture of Prince of Wales Biscuits and the recipe.

Prince of Wales Biscuit


Prince of Wale’s Biscuit

1 lb butter and 3lb 8ozs of flour. To be mixed the same as hollow biscuits; and to be stamped with the prince’s feather; they must be pricked with a fork; and baked in rather a slower oven. From Joseph Bell, A Treatise of Confectionery (Newcastle upon Tyne: 1817).

This fine stucco of the Prince of Wales Feathers adorns the space Prince of Wales Feathers above the back entrance to the prince’s kitchen wing at Brighton Pavilion. This emblem was the motif printed on the Prince of Wales biscuits.



York Biscuits were invented to commemorate the marriage of the Duke to Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia in 1790 and continued to be made well into the twentieth century. A picture of a boxwood York stamp is included below.








 Duchess of York’s Biscuits

1 lb butter, 8 oz. of sugar, 3 lb of flour. Rub the butter into the flour; then add the sugar, and mix it up into a stiff paste with milk; rolle the paste out about a quarter of an inch thick, they must be cut square and stamped with a proper stamp of the happy union and baked in a good oven. From Joseph Bell, A Treatise of Confectionery (Newcastle upon Tyne: 1817).

Lastly, here is a biscuit stamp with a strong connection to George III, father to all three brothers – the Prince Regent,RarebiscuitdockerfromNapoleonicwars the Duke of York and the Duke of Clarence. It is carved with a royal crown and engraved with the words Royal Volunteers Biscuit. The use of the long s, rather like an f, dates this print prior to 1810. Volunteer militias were raised throughout Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, and perhaps these biscuits were enjoyed in the officers’ mess with a glass of wine.

The pictures below depict the biscuit making process. First, the dough is rolled out and cut into strips using the rolling pin as a ruler. The other illustrates how the biscuit prints or stamps were used.



In addition to stamps, every kitchen drawer in the Regency period also housed a docker, which was a device for punching tiny holes into the biscuits to stop them from bubbling up. Many of the biscuit prints, like those discussed above, also incorporated their own little docking nails to combine the two steps.

b0a5ccbc-aa56-4edb-bbbe-67f9254e83d5_zpswleh6bwbThe biscuit in the centre has not been docked correctly and has blown up into a bubble. It will, therefore, easily flake and fragment, making it no good for keeping (but great for eating right away!).






This is just the kind of information I love to discover in my research. If you have time, be sure to check out the Food History Jottings blog at the link below. It may inspire you to do some biscuit/cookie baking of your own.


Now, I leave you with a picture from this blog showing a large selection of biscuits and a giveaway. In the foreground are millefruit biscuits, sweetmeat biscuits, filbert biscuits and rolled wafers. The round biscuits on the plate in the middle printed with the feathers emblem are Prince of Wales biscuits. In the background can be seen some spice biscuits and more rolled wafers.


Have I made you hungry? I hope so, for I am giving away two Kindle E-booksThe Little Book of Scones by Liam D'Arcy of THE LITTLE BOOK OF SCONES from Grace Hall and Liam D’Arcy. I chose this book instead of a book on biscuits, simply because I like the author’s name! Just comment before midnight Saturday to be in the drawing to win a copy.











Most of the information for this post is from:


Breaking Bad in Regency England

Shared from Austen Authors:

Now that I have your attention, I confess that I have never watched the television program Breaking Bad. However, the hype about the show was so successful that even non-television viewers like me have heard of it.

As I was doing research for a Regency story, I found some information about broken bones I thought I would share. I think we all know that a bad break to a bone in the Regency era was a very serious thing. In fact, one of the sources of this article called their post: Setting a Broken Bone – 19th Century Medical Treatment was not for Sissies 17_skeletonbecause setting broken bones was a painful procedure in a time before anesthesia.

A simple fracture of the arm might be relatively easy to put right. Muscles contracted in reaction to the injury and had to be stretched before the bone was set. Thus, the bone of a 18_ortho_pic_zpsyvky3s6sforearm could be set without too much exertion on the part of the surgeon or bone setter. Once set and placed in a sling, the arm bone required only time and rest to heal.


Larger limbs were not as simple to set. With a broken leg, the size and strength of the leg muscles far exceeded that of the arm, and the exertion to set the bone in place would have required at least two persons. A fracture in the lower leg would have been easier to remedy than a fracture of the thigh, which has the largest muscles. Thigh muscles experience a greater degree of contraction and shortening, and several assistants would have been needed to properly place those bones in their natural position. If, after all the pulling and resetting, both limbs were the same length again, the procedure was considered to be a success.

As early as the 16th century, there were apprentice barber-surgeons who learned their trade by necessity. Yet, not all bone setters were apprenticed to a medical person. If no surgeon or physician lived nearby, the local blacksmith might set bones in humans as well as animals for a fee. The apprentices were often forced into the army to treat soldiers. However, if a soldier’s bones were shattered from canon or gun fire and risked infection, the surgeon might chose to amputate before the tissue developed gangrene.

Bow Frame Amputation Saw 1601-1700
Bow Frame Amputation Saw 1601-1700

Over the centuries, scientific inventions sped up a surgeon’s or bone setter’s ability to help patients. As early as the 15th century, the printing press churned out medical manuals in which procedures were standardized and knowledge disseminated over the world. In the late 17th century, traction was being used to repair a broken bone, and in 1718, French surgeon, Jean Louis Petit, invented the tourniquet to control bleeding, a medical technique that was especially helpful during amputations.

Some bone setters were celebrated for their skill. In the early 18th century a Mrs. Mapp was legendary for her abilities. The daughter of another famous bone setter, Polly Peachum, the wife of the Duke of Bolton, Mapp was known as Crazy Sally. Nevertheless, her curesearned her upward of 100 guineas per year. Below is a quote from an article in Boston Medical and Surgeon Journal regarding Mrs. Mapp.

Her bandages were neat, and her skill in reducing dislocations and in setting fractures was said to be wonderful. If it was known that she was going to the theatre, that was sufficient to fill the house. Her own estimate of herself is shown by an interesting incident. When passing through Kent street, she was taken for one of the King’s German mistresses, who was unpopular. A mob gathered and used threatening language. Mrs. Mapp thereupon put her head out of the window and cried, ‘Damn your bloods, don’t you know me? I am Mrs. Mapp, the bone setter,’ and drove away amid the applause of the multitude.”

Sarah Mapp - Bone Setter
Sarah Mapp – Bone Setter


Not everyone was a fan however. In the same publication was this insult: “Mr. Percival Pott, the celebrated surgeon, who was her contemporary, spoke of her claims as the most extravagant assertions of an ignorant illiberal drunken female savage.”  

I will add that had Ms. Mapp appeared at my door, she would likely have been sent packing. Bless her heart. It is good thing she had an occupation because she wasn’t going to catch anyone’s eye with her beauty! And, though she was married at one time, it was said that her husband thrashed her before running off with her money.

I wanted to end by including this picture entitled The Comforts of Bath by Rowlandson. Though it was meant to make us smile, there were a great many people during Jane Austen’s time that suffered because of the lack of medical care and knowledge. As far as our health is concerned, we are truly blessed to live today.


Beaches and Bathing Machines!

Beaches and Bathing Machines!

For much of my life, the arrival of June meant family vacations at the beaches of Alabama or Florida. Even now, when the calendar rolls over to the first of that month, I feel as though I can finally unwind and relax. A holdover, I am certain, from all the years spent waiting for the school year to end so we could take a well-needed break from our daily lives.

I cannot help but consider how a trip to the beach today compares to one in the early 1800’s. I confess that I cringe when I watch the scenes in Persuasion where the women are walking along the seashore and the bottoms of their gowns get wet. Washing clothes in that period was not an easy task, made more difficult because of the length of their gowns. Furthermore, I cannot fathom how stifling the heat must have been in the summer months when one was wearing all those clothes. Heat stroke, anyone?

Still, had a woman wished to ‘take to the water’ in order to cool themselves, they would likely have used an invention known as the bathing machine. The purpose of this invention was to keep women and their bodies out of sight, while the men were allowed to frolic freely, if on a separate section of the beach.

Mermaids at Brighton by William Heath 1829
Mermaids at Brighton by William Heath 1829

The bathing machines in use in  Margate, Kent were described in 1805 as “four-wheeled carriages, covered with canvas, and having at one end of them an umbrella of the same materials which is let down to the surface of the water, so that the bather descending from the machine by a few steps is concealed from the public view, whereby the most refined female is enabled to enjoy the advantages of the sea with the strictest delicacy.”

Bognor, UK West Beach
Bognor, UK West Beach

Bathing machines began popping up around the 1750s as four-wheeled carts with two doors on either side that were normally rolled out to sea by a horse. Swimwear hadn’t yet been invented and most people still swam naked. Later, when early forms of swimwear were introduced, society declared that a proper woman should not be seen on the beach in her bathing suit. The bathing machine allowed bathers to change out of their clothes and into their bathing suits without being seen or having to cross the beach in improper clothing. The machine would simply be rolled out to sea and hauled back in when the beachgoer raised a small flag attached to the roof.


Once deep enough in the surf, the bather would exit the cart using the door facing the water. For inexperienced swimmers, some beach resorts offered the service of a “dipper,” a strong person of the same sex, who would escort the bather out to sea in the cart, essentially push them into the water and yank them out when they were done. As long you as you didn’t drown, this was considered a successful day at the beach.

At their most popular, bathing machines lined the beaches of Britain and other parts of the British Empire, as well as France, Germany, the United States and Mexico. Below is a panoramic view of a beach in France.


The following excerpt from The Traveller’s Miscellany and Magazine of Entertainment written in 1847 recalls the details of a luxury bathing machine. Along with the excerpt, I have included a picture of Queen Victoria’s bathing machine. I can just imagine the interior may well have rivaled the description given in the magazine.

“The interior is all done in snow-white enamel paint, and one-half of the floor is pierced with many holes, to allow of free drainage from wet flannels. The other half of the little room is covered with a pretty green Japanese rug.  

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine
Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine

In one corner is a big-mouthed green silk bag lined with rubber. Into this the wet bathing-togs are tossed out of the way. There are large bevel-edged mirrors let into either side of the room, and below one juts out a toilet shelf, on which is every appliance. There are pegs for towels and the bathrobe, and fixed in one corner is a little square seat that when turned up reveals a locker where clean towels, soap, perfumery, etc. are stowed. Ruffles of white muslin trimmed with lace and narrow green ribbons decorate every available space.”

The bathing machines remained in active use on English beaches until the 1890s, when they began to be parked on the beach and used as stationary changing rooms. When legal segregation of bathing areas in Britain ended in 1901 and it finally became acceptable for both genders to bathe together, it was the beginning of the end of the bathing machine. Most of them had disappeared in the United Kingdom by 1914, and by the 1920s, they were almost entirely extinct, except for those used by the elderly.

Brighton Walks
Brighton Walks


Still, even in this era of bikinis and topless beaches, some of the bathing machines are still in service, having been divested of their wheels to become changing cabins. The adorably photogenic and colorful little beach houses, pictured above, are the direct successors of the Georgian bathing machine and a little-known reminder of seaside history. Who knew?

Now, my question to you is this: Had you lived in that era, do you think you would have dared to take advantage of a bathing machine? Better still, would you have dared to appear in one of those bathing costumes?

The information in this post is from and

Fire – A Regency Necessity + A giveaway!

I have enjoyed writing Regency stories for several years, and the more I write, the more I realize how much more there is to know about that era. But, if I have learned anything along the way, it is this: For a tale is to be believable, the details must also be believable.

With each new story, I find another aspect of the Regency period that I need to investigate. I’m not speaking of the protocols of courtship or station that I tend to flaunt in my ‘what if’ tales, but about everyday matters my characters would have faced—such as how to build a fire, treat a cold or how much time it took to travel from point A to point B.

Today I would like to pass along a little bit of what I learned about fire. By the fourteenth century, the Steet seller of matches for tinder boxes 1821“match” was known in Europe, but it was much more similar to what we think of as a wick or a fuse. It was a chemically treated cord which burned slowly but continuously, and could be used to ignite the touch-hole of a cannon or a campfire.

Fire was not truly portable until the end of the reign of George IV, and the inexpensive matches we take for granted today did not come along until the reign of Queen Victoria. But, if matches were not readily available during the Regency, how was fire managed at that time? That would commonly be by means of a tinderbox. This was a metal box, most often made of tin, with a lid that fit tightly on the box, like a modern-day canister. Often the lid would have a box with candleplace for a candle so that you could use it as a holder if you wished.

A tight fit was necessary to keep the tinder in the box dry. The tinder was kept in the very bottom, under a metal disk of the same diameter as the box. Often the disc had a small handle for ease of use. This disk was the damper and was used to extinguish the tinder once its sparks had served their purpose. Resting atop the damper would be the steel striker and the flint nodule which would be stuck against each another to create sparks. Above those implements would be stored the matches, which were sticks made of deal (wood from Scots pines) dipped in sulphur or spunks (a kind of wood or fungus that smolders when ignited). These matches were nothing like the friction matches yet to be invented but were simply implements of fire transfer.

The most favored tinder material during the Regency was scorched linen, which was made by putting cloth into an almost airtight tin with a small hole in it, and cooking it in campfire coals until the smoking slowed and the cloth was properly charred. These cloths ignited with the smallest spark and were used with a flint and steel. When away from home, small pocket tinder boxes were often carried, sometimes set with a burning glass (a lens) in the lid to light the tinder directly from the sun’s rays. The poorer people working in the fields would obtain a light by simply striking a flint on the back of a knife onto a piece of touch-paper that they carried in their pockets.

How were these items used together to make fire? First, everything was removed from the tinderbox except the tinder. The steel was held over the tinder and the flint was struck against it. The steel showered sparks, and eventually a spark would ignite, at which point the fire would be drawing tinderencouraged by a few soft, steady breaths. Once the tinder was burning steadily, a match was applied to it. The match would ignite and be applied to a candle for light, or to a taper or paper spill to be used to light a fire laid on the hearth. As soon as the match had been ignited, the damper was put back into the tinderbox to snuff out the tinder so that it could be used again.

In most households, the kitchen fire was kept burning around the clock. At night, it was banked and covered with a metal hood pierced with many small holes, called the curfew, a corruption of the French couvre-feu, meaning “fire cover.” Each morning someone would remove the cover and use bellows to blow fresh life into the imagesA2Q9886Msmoldering embers and then add fuel to renew the fire. As it was not always convenient to dash to the kitchen hearth for a light, many homes kept a tinderbox on each mantelpiece. A thoroughly utilitarian domestic appliance, a tinderbox might be kept out of sight in an elegant town home or an opulent country mansion, except for those made of brass or silver. Still, it was a common feature of modest houses and cottages.

Now that you know the effort required to start a fire, it’s quite understandable why the invention of the friction match was so incredibly important. Imagine rising on a cold, dark, winter morning to find that your kitchen fire had died during the night and having to fumble in the dark to find the tinderbox, grasp the cold flint and steel, and then struggle to strike enough sparks to ignite the tinder.

Whew! It makes me tired just to think about it. Aren’t you glad that we have modern heating (and air conditioning)? At least, should the electricity go off, we can strike a match and light a candle.

By the way, I had to include this picture of a silver tinderbox. I could see Mr. Darcy having one with his initials on it!

Antique silver box 2

Information in this post came from Wikipedia and The Regency Redingote site.


Since Mother’s Day has just passed, I would like to give away two copies of my books. Your choice of a paperback or kindle e-book of Fitzwilliam Darcy – An Honourable Man, Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love or Darcy And Elizabeth – A Most Unlikely Couple! Just put a note in your comment that you would like to be included in the drawing. Giveaway closes midnight Friday (CST)

Winter and I are not friends!

Reposted from Austen Authors!

Posted on March 19, 2015 by Brenda J Webb • 10 Comments

wearing pattens to protect her shoes smallerBeing born and raised in the southern United States, I have never been a fan of cold weather. While I don’t care for really hot weather either, if I had to choose between sweating to death or being turned into a popsicle, I would definitely choose the former.

I have many dear friends who live in the frozen tundra of the northern states and they seem to cope really well. Still, every year when winter begins to extend its icy grip with blizzards, frozen lakes and truckloads of snow, I cannot help but wonder why they don’t move to a milder climate. Logically, I suppose work and family keep them rooted to their particular hometown and,  if everyone moved south, who would be left to shovel the snow?

Understandably, many yanks migrate south when the temperature drops. After all, everyone deserves to thaw out at least once during the winter. The snowbirds, as they are called in the south, suddenly appear like blackbirds in a corn field and disappear just as swiftly in April or May. My theory is that while they enjoy the milder winters, they really can’t handle the heat.imagesWX0FZD9E

As a writer, I have become very cognizant of the weather in my stories. If the scene involves turmoil for my characters, I may have a storm raging simultaneously. If our lovers are engaged in a tender moment, the heavens are likely to be cloudless. Weather is used as a common plot device in JAFF books, mainly because it is so easy to have Darcy and Elizabeth stranded by either rain or snow, which forces them to communicate. I wrote just such a scene at the beginning of my book, Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love, where our dear couple is stranded alone overnight because of a flood.

Though I took into account the hardships of living in the early 1800s when I began writing novels, I was not aware that England received so much snow and ice in the winter. Then I came across several articles about the Frost Fairs, which were held on the River Thames. I found them fascinating. Between 1309 and 1814 the lower section of the river froze solid at least 23 times in the London area. By the seventeenth century, however, Londoners were venturing out onto the ice of the frozen river to enjoy impromptu events which came to be known as Frost Fairs.

According to my research, the last Frost Fair was held on February 1, 1814 and lasted four days. It even featured an elephant being led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge. An oil on canvas painting (below) of the fair from 1684 depicts coaches, sledges and sedan-chairs on the ice as a game of ninepins is played.

1684 oil on canvas painting called A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple StairsMoreover, it was said that there were up to ten printing presses in operation making cards and popular sheet-music of the time. A printer named George Davis published a 124-page book, Frostiana: or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State, and the entire book was type-set and printed in Davis’s stall. Unlicensed gambling, drinking and dancing were likely the greatest draws at the fairs, there were stalls selling food, drink, souvenirs and personalized keepsakes for just a few pennies. Featured in the Museum of London’s A souvenir tankard from the frost fair of 1683set of memorabilia are a souvenir tankard from the frost fair of 1683 and a souvenir silver spoon from the frost fair of 1683 to 1684.


The inscription on the spoon says: ‘This was bought at the faire kept upon the Midle of ye Thames against ye Temple in the great frost on souvenir silver spoon from the frost fair of 1683 to 1684the 29 of January 1683/4.’

After 1814, the climate grew milder. Old London Bridge was demolished in 1831 and replaced with a new bridge with wider arches, which allowed the tide to flow more freely. Once the new bridge opened, the Thames never froze over in the London area again, despite temperatures dropping to -20C at times in the notoriously cold winter of 1895.

You may be asking yourself why I went from talking about the weather in the United States to frozen rivers in Regency England. The answer is simple. Since I began writing Jane Austen inspired tales, I look at everything in the context of what people in that era would have seen or done. It’s an obsession that I fear I shall never overcome (not that I should ever want to).

I hope that by now the worst of the winter is over, and March is going out like a lamb. I am eager to see lilies push up through the soil once more. My lawn is huge and has no top soil. The hard clay makes it impossible to grow flowers unless they are in pots or beds. Though my little lily plot is new and not well established, when it springs back to life, I am reminded of Genesis 8:22:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

lillies 300X.jpg

With all the cares of this life, I find comfort in knowing that everything continues just as God planned. It gives me a sense of peace. How about you

A Taste of Ireland

As Posted on the Forum in the Ballroom!

DarcyandLizzy forum picture - Copy

Welcome to A Taste of Ireland! In this blog post you will find recipes, funny sayings, songs, limericks and yes, stories! We invite you to share in a little holiday fun by adding on some of your favorite St. Patrick’s Day traditions and Recipes. Why not try your hand at a limerick or two. Don’t be shy! The more the merrier! ~ Carmalee, Little Nell, Gabbycat, Mgtiffy, and Jen Red

Irish Proverb: All living things must be fed.

Irish Soda Bread ~ From Eleanor Clancy



170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour
170g/6oz plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
290ml/½ pint buttermilk (I use low fat milk and cream of Tartar and it tastes fine)

Preparation method
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Colcannon ~ From Carmalee Mitchell

A very dear friend and neighbor of ours spent some years in Ireland and he serves this dish he had there. I love it and it is now on the menu for our St Patrick’s day meal.. it is probably the only remotely Irish food on the menu LOL. ~ Carma

2 1/2 pounds potatoes peeled and cubed
4 slices bacon
1/2 head small head of cabbage chopped (I just use the bagged coleslaw cabbage with out the dressing)
1 large onion chopped
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter melted

Place potatoes in a sauce pan with enough water to cover. (I add a teaspoon of salt) bring to a boil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. ( stir often to keep them from sticking to the bottom and burning)

Place the bacon in a large deep skillet, this is important. Cook over medium high heat until evenly browned, drain, reserve the bacon grease. Reduce heat to medium, crumble and set the bacon aside. In the reserved grease sauté the onions and cabbage until soft and translucent. ( a lid helps the veggies cook faster, stir often)

Drain the cooked potatoes and mash with the milk and add salt and pepper if needed and desired. ( I also add in melted butter and sour cream, to taste, just because I like my mashed potatoes with it but that’s just me) fold in the cooked bacon, onions and cabbage and put into a large mixing bowl. make a deep hole in the center and fill the hole with the 1/4 cup melted butter. Serve immediately.

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish mainly consisting of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. The song “Colcannon,” also called “The Skillet Pot,” is a traditional Irish song that has been recorded by many folk artists. Here are a couple of verses from the song. ~ Jen Red

With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?”

The chorus:

“Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I’m to cry.
Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.”


An Irish Favorite ~ From Eleanor Clancy


Good for a Laugh? ~ Little Nell

St. Paddy’s Irish Beef Dinner Recipe ~ From Jennifer Redlarczyk Taste of Home

An American variation on Shepherd’s Pie, this hearty dish brings together saucy beef and mashed potatoes, parsnips and other vegetables. Irish20beef20dinner_zpsya5qulkb

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 25 min. Cook: 35 min.YIELD:4 servings
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
2 small parsnips
3/4 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
2 medium carrots, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken or beef broth
1/2 cup frozen peas
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon butter

1. Peel potatoes and parsnips and cut into large pieces; place in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the cabbage, carrots, thyme and Worcestershire sauce.
3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, tomato paste and broth until smooth. Gradually stir into meat mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the peas, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
4. Drain potatoes and parsnips; mash with milk, butter and the remaining salt and pepper. Serve with meat mixture. Yield: 4 servings.

Nutritional Facts
1 cup meat mixture with 3/4 cup potato mixture equals 369 calories, 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 62 mg cholesterol, 849 mg sodium, 46 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 24 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 2 starch, 2 vegetable.

Traditionally, Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage pie is a meat pie with a crust of mashed potato. In early cookery books, the dish was a means of using leftover roasted meat of any kind, and the pie dish was lined with mashed potato as well as having a mashed potato crust on top. The term “shepherd’s pie” did not appear until 1877 and is synonymous with “cottage pie”, regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton.

Granny’s old-fashioned steamed puddings
Apple Dumpling aka Apple Hat ~ From Eleanor Clancy

Here’s a new twist for one of granny’s old-fashioned pudding recipes. This is a delicious steamed pudding with syrupy apples toppling out of sweet dough. It makes a delicious dessert that will be popular with everyone and is not quite as unhealthy as you might imagine. It could even maybe help get Apple20Dumpling2_zpstigeykg9children to eat some fruit. Preparation in Granny’s day required a pudding bowl, muslin cloth, and two and a half hours of steaming time but the recipe adapts nicely for the microwave making it easy to recreate in minutes today. You can ad lib if you wish by adding raisins or blackberries to the apples and maybe adding some cinnamon or cloves, or perhaps a bit of lemon juice or orange juice to the apples. I like the pudding best when simply prepared with nothing more than the apples and some brown sugar. Cooking time will depend on your microwave so the timings below are just an indication. You’ll need to experiment to find what works best in your microwave. ~ Little Nell

Cooking apples in a traditional pudding bowl – Serves 4
Ingredients for Apple Dumpling

4 cooking apples
4 oz suet or lard
8 oz self raising flour
2/3 tablespoons of cold water
2 oz brown sugar (or more depending on your taste)
You also need a pudding bowl (a deep bowl works best), some cling film and the microwave.

Lightly grease your pudding bowl to avoid sticking.
Cube the lard/suet to make it easier to work into the flour. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl. Rub in the lard to make a dough adding a little cold water if required to soften the dough. The dough should be soft but not wet. Gather the dough into a ball and prepare for rolling by placing a sheet of cling film on your bread board. Put the dough ball on the sheet of cling film then put another sheet of cling film on top. This will let you roll out the dough without requiring additional flour and without getting your rolling pin dirty! Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1 centimeter.

Line your pudding bowl with the dough keeping back enough to make a lid for your pudding. Peel and slice the apples. Fill the bowl about half way with apples then add about half the brown sugar. Put the remaining sliced apples in the bowl and add the rest of the sugar.

Cover with the remaining dough making sure that the sides are well sealed.

Cover loosely with cling film pierced a couple of times. Pop in the microwave. Cooking time will vary depending on the power of your microwave but cook on high for 6-8 minutes. Check that the dough is cooked through before serving.

Turn the pudding out carefully on to a serving plate – this will allow excess syrup to run to the base of the pudding.

Serve with custard, ice cream, or natural greek yoghurt.

When we came home after mass and the parade, weak with the hunger the smell in the house from the pudding steaming for hours and the bacon and cabbage would make your mouth water. We could hardly wait for it to be served. Enjoy! ~ Little Nell

The Poet’s Corner

From the pen of Gabbycat ~ Peggy Kathleen

There once was a family from Meryton.
Five daughters had they, but no sons.
Two were real ladies,
Two were spoiled babies,
And the fifth one was fond of her sermon

Are you ready for another? ~ Peggy Kathleen

There once was a man they called Darce
Who behaved quite like an arse.
He proposed to Miss Lizzy,
She replied, in a tizzy,
Marry you? I’d much rather barf!

I’ll try one more. ~ Peggy Kathleen

There was a writer named Brenda
Whose website was on her agenda,
With stories galore
And books in a store,
It’s almost too much to remember!

For better or worse, the muse has not left. Quality is not guaranteed! ~ Peggy Kathleen 1*141

Sir William L. hosted a ball
At the Meryton Assembly Hall.
They danced the cotillion,
After the quadrille, then
Joined in the waltz, one and all

From the Pen of Mgtiffy ~ Maureen Grinter

Lizzy O’Bennet from Belfast
Had the ability to run very fast
She would lift up her skirt
To keep it from the dirt
With the wind in her hair
She was as fast as a hare.

She ran like the wind
While Mrs O’Bennet tried to hind
But her poor Mamma
With nerves all a flutter
Could only look on as she began to stutter

But one day a man called Darcy
Whom everyone thought very classy
From the corner of his eye
Did dear Lizzy he spy
With Long legs that made him faster
Lizzy soon knew who was Master

Who Threw The Overhalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?
This humorous song was originally published in 1898 and was popularized by Edward M. Favor’s original 1901 recording.

Oh the Murphy’s gave a party just about a week ago
Everything was plentiful, the Murphy’s they’re not slow
They treated us like gentlemen, we tried to act the same
But only for what happened, well it was an awful shame

When Mrs. Murphy dished the chowder out
She fainted on the spot
She found a pair of overalls
In the bottom of the pot
Tim Nolan he got rippin’ mad
His eyes were bulgin’ out
He jumped up on the pi-A-No
And loudly he did shout

Oh, who threw the overalls in Mrs Murphy’s chowder
Nobody spoke, so he shouted all the louder
It’s an Irish trick that’s true
I can lick the mick that threw
The overalls in Mrs Murphy’s chowder

So we dragged the pants from out the soup and laid them on the floor
Each man swore upon his breast he’d ne’er seen them before
They were plastered up with mortar and were worn out at the knee
They’d had their many ups and downs as we could plainly see

When Mrs Murphy she came to she began to cry and pout
She’d had them in the wash that day and forgot to take them out
Tim Nolan he excused himself for what he’d said that night
So we put music to the words and sang with all our might

Oh, who threw the overalls in Mrs Murphy’s chowder
Nobody spoke so we shouted all the louder
It’s an Irish trick that’s true
I can lick the mick that threw
The overalls in Mrs Murphy’s chowder

Flashes of Inspiration!

Charlie McBingley and the Dancing Shoes
by Jennifer Redlarczyk



“Charlie McBingley,” touted William, his arms crossed and his brow furrowed. “Jus what kind of blarney are you givin’ me this afternoon? We are in the middle of a barren field an I dare say there is no sight of yer famous little cobbler, King O’Brian.”

“Shh… Charlie whispered. “Ken ye not hear it?”

“Here what?”

“Why, the tappin’ of his little hammer as he makes his shoes. Come on this way an bring the flask.”

William grabbed the flask of his father’s best Irish whiskey from the saddle of his horse. It was the last of an old brew that he and his father made long before their troubles had begun.

“I canno’ believe ye talked me into followin’ ye here jus for an old pair of shoes,” he grumbled.

“They are not jus old pair of shoes, me friend. They are magical! With those shoes, I intend to win the Irish Jig tonight an with it the hand of me darlin’, sweet Janie O’Bennet.”

Shaking his head, William said, “Ye know, Charlie, magic from the little people is nothing but a curse. Jus look at what it did to me father. Until two years ago, he was happy. We were happy. Ever since he found that Pot ‘o Gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s brought nothin’ but trouble fer us.

“Sure we live in a fine manor house with great lands an all. But nobody comes to call unless they want somethin’. Me mother cries day and night from the loneliness, an me father hardly ever leaves his treasure room for fear he’ll be robbed. Now what kind of life is that? The gold is a curse, I tell ye.

“If it were me, I would give it back to the wee folk and regret nothing. An if the sister of yer sweet Janie, the lovely Lizzy Margaret, would but give me the time o’ day, I would be askin’ her fer a courtship with the promise of marriage. Ah, it would pleasure to be done with those silly girls who are always fawnin’ over me with the hope of gainin’ me family’s fortune. I tell ye, I canno hardly be meself anymore. Why, even Lizzy Margaret says that all I do is frown and was wonderin’ if I even remembered how to smile. I tell ye, Charlie, it is a weary life, an I advise ye to tread lightly with his Lordship.”

William continued to follow his friend who paid little heed to his words of caution. Crossing the field and continuing on into a green meadow, the two young men came upon a shady grove of trees by the water’s edge. Sure enough, there under the great willow tree sat King O’Brian, dressed in emerald green from head to toe, smoking his cob pipe and singing to the top of his lungs as he worked away on a pair of shoes.

Spying the young men, the little fellow stopped his work and waved. “Charlie, me boy, come closer an introduce me to the friend ye spoke so highly of.”

“Yes, yer Lordship. King O’Brian, sir, this here is William O’Darcy. As I told ye, it is he who is in possession of the finest whiskey in all of Meryton!” William made a curt bow to the little man who greedily eyed the flask in his hand.

“O’Darcy ye say?” His Lordship puckered his face, squinting at William with hatred in his eyes. “I knew ye looked familiar. It was yer father who tricked me out of one of me pots ‘o gold an I have never forgot it.”

William scowled in return, making no answer. He passed the flask off to Charlie who then loosened the cork, tempting his Lordship with a whiff of the fine spirits. Though still irritated by William’s presence, King O’Brian could not help but rub his hands together with glee when he smelled the delicious aroma.

“Let us get on with it then. I haven’t got all day! There, in the hollow of the tree, are the shoes. Now give me the flask!”

“Yes, yer Lordship” Charlie started to hold out his hand but quickly pulled it back. “Um… Would ye care if I tried out the shoes first to make sure they work proper?”

Taking offense, King O’Brian jumped off of his little work stool, stomped his foot on the ground, and began swearing in Gaelic. “I will have ye know, young man, that I will not be trifled with. The magic in those shoes is powerful but will only last for three hours once ye put them on. Do we have a trade or do we not?” He spat.

Charlie was stunned by the King’s anger and stammered, “Y… yes yer Lordship. We do.” He quickly handed over the flask and watched as King O’Brian took a generous swig.

With a wry smile he said, “It ‘ill do. Now if ye don’t mind, I find that I am tired of yer lot. The two of ye, be gone from this place an never come back!” With that, the little man snapped his fingers and disappeared.

Picking up the shoes, Charlie scratched his head and looked sheepishly at his friend who had not changed his expression.

“Charlie McBingley, why do I get the feelin’ that these shoes are gonna bring ye nothin’ but trouble?”

“William… ye are too… well… ye jus are, that’s all. Ye wait an see. With these shoes, I’m gonna sweep sweet Janie off of her feet, and you’ll be wishin’ that ye had used them fer yerself to win the hand of Lizzy Margaret. Every year that rascal Georgie Wicklow has won the jig contest, but this year it ‘ill be me!” He boasted.

“We shall see.”

The Danceirish20shoes_zpsfe7wtlxx

In the early evening, both William and Charlie confidently entered the pub where the dance was to be held. Having practiced his smile in front of the glass upon returning home, William was hopeful that Lizzy Margaret would notice his improved look and be charmed enough to dance the opening reel with him.

Charlie, on the other hand, walked about with an unusual spring in his step and could not help but leap into midair every now and then, clicking his heels together. Drawing attention to his newly acquired abilities, he found himself surrounded by several young girls who were eager to dance. Though he dearly loved his sweet Janie O’Bennet, with so many pretty faces before him, he could hardly refuse their attention. Once the music started playing, Charlie’s feet began taking on dance steps and would not stop, not even to rest in-between sets.

With all of the girls clamouring for his attention, poor sweet Janie O’Bennet had found herself unable to dance a single dance with her dear Charlie. Finding Lizzy Margaret and William who were engaged in a lively conversation, she desperately interrupted, “Excuse me, do either of ye know what has got into Charlie? I have never seen him behave so oddly nor dance so well.”

William cleared his throat and quietly offered, “He went to see King O’Brian today an bartered fer some magic dancin’ shoes, as he was hopin’ to win yer favour, Miss Janie.”

“Oh no, what has the dear man gone and done? With all the jumpin’ and twirlin’ he’s been doin’, I fear fer his life. Ken you not see that his face is nearly red as the hair on his head? Is there nothin’ we can do to stop him?” Sweet Janie was in tears.

Lizzy Margaret embraced her sister while giving William a sour look. “Mr. O’Darcy,” she chided. “Why do I get the feelin’ that ye have had some part in this folly?”

William could not deny it, as he had given Charlie the flask. “It is true, Lizzy Margaret, I was there, but he would not heed what I had to say. Charlie is keen on winnin’ the Irish Jig over Georgie Wicklow tonight. I see the contest is about to begin, but accordin’ to me timepiece, those shoes have more than an hour of dancin’ left in them. I’ll try to think of somethin’.” He forced a crooked smile, seeking her approval.

“See that ye do, William.” She smiled back with encouragement, not able to resist that little smile. “Charlie needs yer help, and we are both countin’ on ye.”

Five young men had lined up for the dancing contest. It did not take long for the first three to be eliminated with Wicklow and Charlie out-dancing them all. As the music increased in speed, so did the feet of the two men. Before long, William could hardly tell who was who while they continued to jump and twirl.

Could it be that Wicklow had also visited King O’Brian? He wondered. With the men beginning to turn a pale shade of green and their eyes glazing over as if in a trance, William knew that he needed to think of something fast. Neither man seemed to be aware of what was happening. It was if they had both been taken over by the magic — or rather the curse — of the dancing shoes.

William quietly left the girls and hurried behind the bar and into the kitchen. The first thing he spied was a bucket of water sitting off to the side. If the floor was slippery, the men might lose their footing long enough for him to remove their shoes.

“No, a little water will not stop those shoes,” he determined aloud. “I need somethin’ that will make the floor sticky.” There, sitting on the sideboard was large pot of Mrs. McReynold’s famous chowder. “Yes, that will have to do.”

A minute later, the deed was done. With the chowder splashing all over the floor, the young girls screamed and the crowd stepped back. While the music had stopped, Charlie and Wicklow’s feet had not. Nearly losing their balance with every step, the men finally collided, passing out as they fell to the floor. William first rushed to Charlie, pulling the shoes from his twitching feet. Then he then did the same for Wicklow. The two men were carried outside for some fresh air where they were each revived with a splash of cold water.

“What happened?” Charlie and Wicklow both asked in unison. William held up the two pairs of shoes causing the men to cringe, realizing that they had been found out by all.

With the knowledge of the magic shoes, the contest had been declared a fraud and the town’s folk who first laughed at the mishap, now jeered in disgust. Not wanting to face any more trouble for the evening, Georgie Wicklow managed to sneak off, leaving Charlie McBingley to the scowls of his three friends while the rest of the crowd returned inside. In Charlie’s favor, his friends were more concerned about his wellbeing, if anything. He was relieved when Jannie and Lizzy Margaret were overcome with giggles, followed by a hearty laugh from William.

“Well, Charlie, have ye anythin’ to say fer yerself?” William finally asked in earnest.

“Me friend, I know I should have listened. I’ve been a very foolish man. Truly, I should not have been lookin’ fer the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow or in this case, the dancin’ shoes.” He chuckled. “Janie, darlin’, I’m sorry and beg yer forgiveness. All I ever wanted was fer ye to be me girl, an’ nothin’ more.”

“Aww, Charlie,” said Janie before she grabbed his hands and kissed him on the cheek. “Ye never had to impress me. I was always yers to begin with.”

With that the four friends, two couples arm in arm, slowly walked away from the pub, strolling down the lane and into the moonlight. What had ended in an evening of mishap and embarrassment had now turned into a night of happiness, love, and hope for the future.

The End

Oh Deary, O’Darcy
by Maureen Grinter

As St Patrick’s Day drew close Fitzwilliam O’Darcy convinced his friend Bingley Fitzcharles to flee Hertfordshire and the bewitching O’Bennet sisters, as he couldn’t trust himself not to drop to his knees and beg the impertinent Miss Elizabeth O’Bennet to marry him.

Unbeknown to the haughty Mr O’Darcy who the day after returning to London had immediately left for Pemberley, his friend Fitzcharles returned to Hertfordshire. Within days of his return Fitzcharles had beseeched the beautiful Jane O’Bennet to become his wife, causing much joy in the O’Bennet household.

Bingley Fitzcharles knew he could not hide his engagement from his friend and hesitantly and very carefully wrote him a short note advising of his engagement.
It can only be imagined what O’Darcys’ reaction was on receiving his friends’ news. After all his scheming and planning to remove himself from Elizabeth O’Bennet’s bewitching eyes he would now be thrown into her company anyway. Ever thankful he had insisted to his cousin the Colonel that his young sister Annageorgie should stay at the Colonels parents’ estate, O’Darcy grabbed a bottle of Brandy and retiring to his bedchamber drowned his sorrows.

Waking to a terrible pounding in his head O’Darcy groaned and pulled the blankets over his eyes to block out the blazing light. Letting out another groan he yelled at his valet, “McDuff close those damned curtains and go away.” With no reply forthcoming O’Darcy slowly lowered the blankets and on opening one eye was completely taken back on seeing a wizened little old man kneeling near his head shining a lantern into his eyes. Quickly closing his eye, he slowly opened it again, and on seeing the strange little fellow still there said. “You are not McDuff.”

In a strange and low voice, but clearly an Irish accent the odd little fellow replied. “For sure…my boy… I certainly am not McDuff. The names…O’Deary.” Rising from his knees and looking O’Darcy in the eye, he bowed and continued. “Shamus O’Deary at yer service.”

Closing his eye once more O’Darcy blinked a few times then opening both eyes groaned out. “I see you are still here. I must be having a nightmare.”
“I can assure yer me young laddie, I’m most definitely not a nightmare. But I could have some fun with yer if I was.”

“If I am not having a nightmare who and what are you?”

“Like I said, me name is Shamus O’Deary and what I am is the King of the Leprechauns.”

O’Darcy shook his head but quickly stopped when the hammers started pounding again, and replied. “Do not take me for a fool, there are no such things as Leprechauns. I drank too much and am having a nightmare; you are not really here. If I ignore you, when I wake up you will be gone.” With that O’Darcy closed his eyes once again and willed his nightmare to end.

O’Deary laughed as he tapped on O’Darcy’s forehead singing. “Wake up me laddie, Wake up me laddie, tis no dream you be havin. Wake up me laddie…”

After five minutes of this continual tapping of his head O’Darcy opened his eyes and once again seeing the odd little man was still there, said. “Leave me alone, can you not see I am suffering.”

“Me laddie, you be suffering from your own hand. You were the one who got yerself completely Bolloxed.”

Rubbing his thumping head, then running a hand through his already messed up curly hair whispered. “I tried to forget her.”

“Ah ha, a woman, I shouldna be surprised. Lasses can send a man to drink. How about ya tell me yer troubles?”

For what seemed like an hour O’Darcy opened his heart up to the odd little fellow called O’Deary from his nightmare, although he still believed he was dreaming.

Sometime later O’Deary who was now sitting on the pillow beside O’Darcy looked at this forlorn and lonely man and said. “Me laddie ya know what you should be doing, life is too short to anyone or anything but what is in yer own heart. How many of those supposedly first circle people are truly happy, I can tell ya very few of them. My advice to ya is follow your heart and do what will make you happy.”

“But what of my family who expect me to marry to improve family fortunes. My aunt insists that she and my mother had wanted my cousin and I to marry. And what about my sister will it lessen her chance at a good marriage?”

“Listen to yerself me boy you worry about what others want and say far too much, listen to yer own heart and you will know what to do. Think of yer happiness and this will then flow through to yer sister. She has suffered enough for so young a lassie and like yerself it is time you both had some happiness.”

On hearing his sisters name O’Darcy sat up quickly almost knocking the little man off the bed. “What do you know of my sister?”

“Settle down laddie. Ya would be amazed at what I know. Now listen to me, this is what you will do for your happiness, and your sisters. As soon as you can get yerself back to that young lady and change her mind about ya.”

“I think that will be almost impossible because by now I’m sure she would hate me as she will know it was me who convinced Fitzcharles to leave her sister.”

Hitting O’Darcy on the head with his walking cane O’Deary shook his head and shouted, as loud as the little fellow could. “Boy! Have ya not heard what I’ve been saying? Get back to that lassie and convince her, I know ya can do it me boy.”

O’Darcy let out a loud “Ouch!” and said. “You didn’t have to hit me.”

“If ya weren’t so thick headed I wouldna have to. And if ya don’t take me advise I will plague you every night until you do. Now give me ya word you will go and try to win ya lassie.”

O’Darcy wondering how a dream could actually hurt, rubbed his head and decided that even if this was all just a bad dream it could do no harm in at least trying, and if it worked it could only help his young sister too. Looking at his little friend he said. “All right you win I will do what you ask.”

“Now that is what I like me laddie. Everyone usually agrees with me in the end. I suggest you get some sleep because you will need to be up early on the morrow to get things in order so ya can leave as soon as possible. I will leave ya now but remember this I am watching.”

* * * * * *

O’Darcy woke some hours later confused as to whether he had actually had a nightmare or if O’Deary was actually there on his bed. His valet on hearing his master stir was immediately in the room and opening the curtains. O’Darcy sat up and looking at his valet said. “McDuff can you organise a bath I have a lot to do as we will be leaving as soon as possible for Hertfordshire. McDuff surprised that his young master would be returning to Hertfordshire then noticed the slight lump on his masters’ head. “Sir, did you bang your head on something you have quite a lump there?”

O’Darcy raised his hand to his head and on feeling the lump blinked his eyes a few times and unable to give an honest answer to how he got the lump replied. “I’m not sure how I got it, but it doesn’t matter its not that bad. I have quite a lot to do before we can leave but hope to be away within a few days.”

Three days later the O’Darcy carriage was on its way and if the man in the carriage looked back he would have seen O’Deary sitting as still as a statue on the corner of Pemberley with a huge grin on his face.

O’Darcy did everything he could to win the heart of Elizabeth O’Bennet and in the process won the hearts of her family and many in Meryton. The wedding of Fitzwilliam O’Darcy and Elizabeth O’Bennet was all that Mrs O’Bennet wished for.

Of course there was one who wasn’t happy but then Miss Caroline Fitzcharles who coveted Mr O’Darcy for herself would not have been happy with whoever was his wife. She could not understand what he saw in this unpretentious country Miss.

Two Years Later

It was a week after the birth of his son and heir that O’Darcy once again woke to a tap, tap, tap on his head. Still not knowing if he was dreaming or not after checking that his wife was sleeping, wasn’t surprised to see his old friend O’Deary.

O’Deary had a big smile on his face and looking at the sleeping Elizabeth said. “Well me boy I am so glad you took me advice I would have been exhausted coming to ya each night until ya did what was right. And just look what you have won, a beautiful wife and son. Not everyone I visit take my advice, but I am so glad you did. You will not see me again unless there is some disaster. I forecast a long and happy life for you and yer family, and that includes your sister and cousin.

The End

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Valentine’s Day—Bah Humbug!


Since we have just celebrated the holiday, allow me to explain why Valentine’s Day has lost some of its appeal for me. In spite of the fact that I dearly love chocolate, Russell Stover being my preference, 275X230I am at the age that I can no longer pretend that calories and sugar don’t count if consumed on a holiday. My doctor has been telling me that for years—though, just between you and me, I believe she’s opposed to anything that makes me happy, like not exercising.

Since I can’t indulge in my favorite heart-shaped box of chocolates,  the other customary gifts usually chosen by our significant others are flowers, perfume and jewelry. My allergies preclude having cut flowers in the house, so that eliminates the roses I adore, along with perfume or anything scented, such as candles. As for jewelry, I rarely wear the pieces I already have, choosing instead to wear only my wedding ring and earrings. Earrings are something that my son knows I will wear, so he’s been giving me those for years and I have a great collection. This leaves very little for my husband to choose from on gift giving occasions.

Still, being a dutiful husband, every year he covers his bases on holidays, especially Valentine’s Day, by asking me if there’s anything in particular that I would like. And every year my reply is the same: “Just get me a card, and write something mushy in it.” Making certain to remember to take me out to dinner to celebrate, my plea for no gifts actually worked until last year.

Walking into the house with his hand behind his back and a silly grin on his face, I instantly knew he was up to something. He presented me with a card, which I opened and read right away. The verse was lovely, but not as lovely as the note that he had written below it. Then, beaming as though he had just purchased a Lamborghini, he handed me what was behind his back—something he was certain would make me smile. It was a stuffed dog!

350X261.When I was young, my siblings and I longed for a pet. Our parents, however, were not in favor of getting us one, most likely because they knew they’d ultimately be left to care for it. Consequently, every Christmas I asked for a stuffed animal and, in my vivid imagination, those toys took the place of the pets I was not allowed to have. Needless to say, I have since made up for the lack of pets during my childhood.

Even so, I never outgrew my love of stuffed animals and years later when Beanie Babies became so popular, collecting them was all the excuse I needed to fill a large barrister bookcase. A similar one holds another collection of life-size cats made by the same company and other assorted animals. My Valentine dog joined the menagerie.

As an author of Austen inspired fiction, I have often thought that if the celebration of Valentine’s Day was as influenced by advertising during the Regency era as it is today, it would be amusing to write. I can imagine writing a scene where Darcy must create a card for Elizabeth, complete with original poetry, or rush to a confectionery shop to buy chocolates, all because he forgot it was Valentine’s Day. Bingley might see the huge heart-shaped box of candy that Darcy bought for Elizabeth and rush out to purchase an even larger one for Jane. It’s such fun to imagine the competition between the men in an effort to impress their ladies. I bet even Wickham could come up with a fitting Valentine present if the acquisition of a young lady’s fortune hung in the balance.

As it is, I’ve written only one story that references the holiday and that’s a modern short story hidden somewhere on my computer. I did, however, write a conversation in my latest novel, Darcy and Elizabeth – A Most Unlikely Couple, that I think would be fitting for Valentine’s Day.

~~~~* * *~~~~~* * *~~~~~

Oh, Will,” was all she managed to say before their lips met.

 William ended the kiss, whispering, “I need to retrieve something from my bedroom. Do not move.”

 “I do not think I shall be going anywhere, the way I am dressed,” Elizabeth teased, holding the sheet back.

 By then William was donning his robe and glanced to her display. Sucking in his breath, he said, “If you keep that up, I shall never leave this room again.”

 Despite what he said, he did hurry from the room and in only seconds returned with a mysterious smile on his face and a hand hidden behind his back.

 Elizabeth smiled mischievously. “Just what are you hiding, Mr. Darcy?”

 “Close your eyes and you will learn soon enough.” She did as asked and felt the bed settle as he sat back down on it. “Now you may open them.”

 Elizabeth sat speechless, blinking steadily at an exquisite, gold wedding band. It was wide enough that words had been engraved on it and a diamond had been sunk into the space between each word.

 He chuckled. “Have you nothing to say?”

 “I . . . it is so beautiful that words fail me.”

 “Read the inscription.”

 As she read the words aloud, her eyes filled with tears and her voice choked. “First . . . Last . . . Only . . . Always.”

 “I wanted my feelings toward you inscribed on your ring for the entire world to see. You are my one and only love, now and forever.”

 ~~~~* * *~~~~~* * *~~~~~

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Since this post was written before Valentine’s Day, I have no way of knowing what I’ll get from my Mr. Darcy this year—perhaps just a card with a personal note. If so, I’ll cherish it, for whether it’s a sentimental card or a silly stuffed animal, nothing can take the place of someone expressing how much you mean to them.

I hope that someone in your life thought of the perfect way to make you smile.



P.S.  Darcy and Elizabeth – A Most Unlikely Couple was published in November and I hope to make you smile by giving away two copies, your choice of kindle e-book or paperback. Just leave a comment on this same blog on Austen Authors site and tell me that you want to be included in the drawing. Giveaway closes midnight Saturday (CST).

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