Friday, September 8, 2017

Bath, Time Traveling to Rome or Georgian England

by Donna Hatch

When Rome occupied England, the quaint English town now known as Bath was a hub for social, religious, heath, and recreational activities. The sick–those who could afford it–flocked to the healing mineral waters of a warm natural springs. They sought cures, or at least relief, from all manner of health complaints such as palsy, arthritis, gout, skin diseases including leprosy, and many chronic and terminal illnesses.  It seems that both genders bathed together, some clothed, some not. I’ll leave it up to your imagination to decide whether they stayed focused on getting relief from their ailments.

The engineering that went into creating the spa two thousand years ago is truly mind boggling. There are many rooms and a complex system of pumps and pipes that carry the water from the main spring to other parts of the elaborate Roman structure.

I might have been tempted to bathe in a shallow tub of the mineral water if I’d been allowed, but I would never have gone into that enormous pool of murky green water that occasionally bubbled unless I was desperate. It was also kinda creepy not being able to see the bottom. Still, I had to admire the workmanship that went into the design and construction of the building, and the fact that such an ancient structure remains. It is truly a testament to those who lived and worked here so long ago. In the midst of that venerable structure, I imagined people long gone visiting the spa. In the waters, some frolicked for pleasure, and others simply immersed themselves hoping for a miracle. All of them walked or were carried across the rocks that still bear the wear marks of thousands of feet.

Today, the original bath is open for tours but not for bathing so as to preserve its structure. Visitors are admonished not to even touch the water. Modern bath houses provide visitors the opportunity to bathe in the warm mineral waters that many agree has healing properties. Unfortunately, England was in the throes of one of the worst heat waves on record during my visit, so a warm bath lacked its usual appeal.

After the Romans pulled out of England, they abandoned this unique area to the ancient Saxons and Normans. Later, Christian churches arrived.

During the Georgian Era, Bath became a fashionable resort town. People came here to “take the waters,” a Georgian term meaning bathe in the warm mineral pools.

“Taking the waters” also meant to drink water from the Pump Room, which became a gathering place to socialize and flirt, as well as drink the water they believed had additional healing properties if ingested. Inside the Pump Room is a lovely, antique pump that squirts out water in a continuous fountain to allow those with the desire to sample its offering. The Pump Room I visited was a new version built in 1777 to replace an older one originally constructed in 1706. Apparently, the excavation process of this new Pump Room led to the discovery of the Roman Temple.

In case you are wondering, I did not drink the water when I was there. Remembering its green, murky origins a few feet below, not to mention its smell of Sulphur and its reputation for tasting awful, was enough to discourage my sense of adventure. I suppose if any of my characters ever drink the water, I will have to get more detailed second-hand accounts of its taste.

But let us return Georgian society in Bath. With the arrival of the wealthy, some of whom only stayed for the summer, and others who made Bath their permanent home, beautiful homes and neighborhoods cropped up, including The Circus, a circular-shaped neighborhood of beautiful townhomes, and Royal Crescent, an even more upscale set of luxury mansion-style townhomes in the shape of a crescent as its name suggests. I toured one of these townhomes, Number One Royal Crescent, which is a glimpse into life as a wealthy, Georgian gentleman.

                                         The Royal Crescent

Jane Austen lived in Bath for several years with her family. While many claim that Jane disliked living in Bath, a large portion of two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, took place in Bath which she portrays as an exciting and lovely place.

Bath Abbey

Beyond enchanting, Bath has a timelessness about it. Walking the streets, I easily imagined myself a character in a Jane Austen novel. Strolling along the river, having afternoon tea in the Pump Room, prowling the streets,  and exploring the Roman Baths creates a sense of having time traveled. With each step I took, I could almost see images of those who’d trod those cobbled paths before me including kings and queens, lords and ladies, and poets and authors including our beloved Jane Austen.

My interest in Bath began long before I visited this fascinating city. Five years ago I wrote my Regency Romance novel, A Perfect Secret, which has a few chapters that take place in Bath. Now I may have to write another book that takes place in this ancient and unique town just to relive my adventures there.

The Avon running under Pulteney Bridge

 

Sources:

My research for this post comes from personal experience as I toured Bath. However, you might enjoy these other sites for more information:

Taking Cure in Bath


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Friday, September 1, 2017

The Lakes District and Slate Rock

Like the millions who visited before, the Lakes District instilled in me a sense of wonder and awe. The beauty of the area is balanced by a yesteryear charm, including unspoiled vistas, the multitude of lakes, also called “meres,” and “waters,” delightful names such as Windermere, Ambleside, and Loweswater, and the preservation of history. The Lakes District even has a stone circles called Castlerigg which predates Stonehenge.

There is something magical about the Lakes District. The colors are more vivid, the light more pure, the landscape more natural and more passionate than any I’ve ever visited. I could point my camera in any  direction with zero to no set up and capture a print-worthy image. Even the photos of me in the area turned out well, and that’s saying something!

Once of the many fascinating aspects of the area was the use of slate stones to build fences, barns, bridges, businesses, and pretty much any type of structure. When the early settlers found farming difficult due to the multitude of stones in their fields, they removed the offending elements, and like any enterprising settler, put these rocks to good use in constructing all their buildings. Slate rock was readily available, study, and durable—perfect for building material.

Today, the skill used to build these stone structures is in danger of becoming a lost art. They use a technique called dry stone. Builders literally use dry stones with no mortar or cement to glue them together. Like a master puzzle solver, the specialist meticulously chooses each rock for its shape and size, and fits them together to create a strong structure that holds up to animals, weather, and even time itself.

A technique called stone cladding places a thinner layer of stone to the outside of buildings. Unlike shingles, siding or stucco, stones never need painting and seldom need repairs or replacing. Some of the buildings are covered with a white material called pebble dash, and many have a combination of slate and pebble dash.

Slate rock structures are just one of the many unique and memorable reasons I fell in love with the Lakes District of England.

I suspect a not-so-distant-in-the-future book I write will take place in this enchanting area of England. Have you visited the Lakes District? 

 


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

London Townhouse, the Mews

London Mews, June 2017

As any proper Regency lady or gentleman would tell you, the quintessential London home of the upper classes was the townhouse. Each home, attached at both sides to its neighbors, were as unique as its owners. Built in central London, these exclusive dwellings provided easy access to many beautiful city parks, as well as being within walking distance of shopping and all the iconic Regency areas such as Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Gunther’s Tea House, and the famous Almack’s assembly rooms.

As London grew and townhouses sprang up to house the rich and beautiful, the need for stables also grew because the only way to get around in London was by foot or by horse (either horseback or carriage). The plentiful cabs were good enough for the working class, but the elite preferred using their private conveyance. The rich who could afford horses needed a place to keep their animals, tack, carriages, as well as drivers, grooms, and stable workers. But space was limited.  

Mews houses with garage doors where once horses and carriages dwelled

The solution was simple; build stables behind each townhouse with a road that leads to it. In London, these stables were known as mews. The mews were (and still are) tucked behind grand mansion-style townhouses in London’s most exclusive neighborhoods.

Mews cobbled lane

A mews had many advantages. It kept the horses and staff nearby when the lord or lady of the house needed them, although it took considerable time to hitch the team to the carriage. Having the mews around back kept the sounds and smells of the animals away from the house’s residents and guests. The cobbled lane kept the area clean and provided good drainage of waste. 

Opposite the mews and cobbled lane is another row of stables behind another row of townhouses facing the next street. Often one end of this is yet another mews, or sometimes a pub, so it makes a sort of courtyard. Reportedly, many London mews had a tunnel under the garden connecting with the ground floor or basement of the house. This would have provided an easy way for servants to access the stable without disturbing their employers.

Entrance to a London mews

From what I have been able to determine, the term mews mews means both the London stables and the lane that leads to them. This cobbled back street, a narrow lane not much bigger than a bike lane, leads to the stables. Most of these lanes are named after the street nearby with the word mews tacked on. For example, Colville Road has the nearby Colville Mews. 

The only stables that are called mews are those in London attached to the back of a London townhouse. Anywhere else, and associated with any other type of dwelling, the term stables is used. 

Anciently, the mews is where the royals housed their falcons. Falcons, like most birds, moult or mew (from the French verb ‘muer’), which became the name of the place where they lived and therefore did this moulting or mewing. The word mews, oddly, is singular. Anyway, later they moved the falcons out and moved in the horses. The name mews stuck, despite the change in resident animals.

Horse names are still found on some doors that lead to today’s mews houses

Horses lived on the ground floor of the mews. Many of the doors had the names of the horses who lived there. Some still do. A larger area provided room for the carriages and tack. The first floor (up one level) provided rustic accommodations for the driver and ostlers (groom or stablemen a.k.a. stable lads). Above this floor, many London homes had other floors where their house servants’ quarters were located. Some London townhouses also had gardens, but since I didn’t see any set up this way, I’m not certain exactly how they were laid out.

Lovely London mews homes

Today, most mews houses are beautifully restored homes which open onto a safe, quiet, cobbled lane with virtually no traffic. It has become a coveted, and therefore expensive, place to live partly because they have what are now garages, which are difficult to come by in London. And mews houses and neighborhoods really are so lovely now that one can hardly believe their humble beginnings. I found a lot more photos on this blog called A Lady in London showing today’s exclusive London mews home and a few other photos here on Mother Lindas blog

Sources:

Most of my sources are my years of study, as well as what I observed and learned during my trip to London. However, I also refereed to this sources: http://www.lurotbrand.co.uk/mews-gems/what-is-a-mews

 

 

 


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Americans vs Brits Book Giveaway

Win up to 14 American vs British eBooks!

You are invited to join this multi-author event and settle the question of which you love more–American romances or British romances. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. My Regency Romance, The Stranger She Married, is included in this grand event. You might win as many as ALL the books in this promotion.

Enter the giveaway here: http://AuthorsXP.com/giveaway

(2) Grand Prize “Gift Baskets” of ALL eBooks!
(13+) Winners of Individual eBooks (randomly selected titles)

Read more about these authors and books below!

http://AuthorsXP.com/giveaway

Hurry! Giveaway ends August 21, 2017. Winners will be announced August 22, 2017.


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Friday, August 11, 2017

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle June 2017

Windsor Castle is a worldwide icon for England. Built in the eleventh century, it has been in continuous use as a royal residence since William the Conqueror–the only structure that fits that description. To date, thirty nine royal generations have called this home. In recent times, Windsor Castle became more of a weekend retreat for the royal family, although formal events also occur here.

      Donna Hatch in front of Windsor Castle

William the Conqueror founded the castle and is credited for its original design, however, Edward III, Charles II and George IV all left their marks creating new sections and improving the exterior. Today it is as sumptuous as any stately home and befitting a royal family. As a visitor, I was not allowed to photograph the interior, unfortunately, so all my pictures are of the exterior.

The castle was originally meant as a fortress from which to defend from enemies but quickly became a place for the royal family to live and to entertain state guests. Though its first carnation, began in 1070 and completed in 1086, had outer walls built out of timber, Henry II had it re-walled with stone. Many monarchs left their mark in this impressive castle, however, it was King George IV’s vision who remade it into the lavish palace it is today. Never one to hesitate to spend staggering amounts of money on his own pleasures, King George IV (formerly the Prince Regent for which is named the Regency Era) created an almost fairy-tale-like quality that is today’s Windsor Castle.  Queen Victoria spent much time here, using Windsor Castle as her country retreat as well as a place to entertain state and foreign visitors, much as it is used today. During her reign, it also became a favored location for family gatherings, weddings, and celebrations.

Another major player in today’s castle d├ęcor was the fire of 1992.  It is ironic that the castle survived World War II bombings when so much of London was destroyed, only for such devastation to come from a fire. During a major rewiring project–at which time someone inspired soul had the wisdom to have most of the art and furnishings removed–a fire began in Queen Victoria’s Private chapel in the northeast corner of the castle. Investigators believe a curtain blew too closely to a spotlight, which caused an ignition over the altar. The fire spread with astonishing speed.

                        A Romeo and Juliet worthy window

While the world watched with breathless horror, 200 firefighters battled the blaze for 15 hours. In the typical indomitable spirit which defines the British, they began restoration immediately. During my visit, a kind tour guide standing inside Queen Victoria’s chapel showed me photos of the castle before, during, and after the fire and explained the tragic events that transpired there. I drank it all in, equally horrified and fascinated. Heart-rending video, as well as photos of just after the fire, and of how it looks now after the restoration can be viewed here. I wish I could have gotten copies of the before and after photos that I saw, but for some reason those were not available for the asking.

Today, most of the restored areas are even more beautiful than before the fire. St. George’s hall, a breathtaking medieval hall honoring knights, looks even better now than it did before the fire, with much lighter wood details on the ceiling than its twelfth century version. The workmanship was identical to medieval techniques, which satisfied the history nerd in me. According to the Official Souvenir Guide, “the castle is now in better condition than at any time for the last 200 years.”

I lingered in delight over the queen’s doll house filled with miniatures. I also basked in the beauty of the Queen’s drawing room where so many of my heroines from my novels would have taken their bows to the queen. The state rooms also invite one to linger and bask in the beauty and history, not only of the castle, but of the people whose heritage is so rich with tradition and honor.

                       Windsor Castle Moat Gardens

The gardens are lovely! Built in what was originally intended to be the moat but never served in that capacity, the gardens are a lovely refuge where I would loved to have lingered.

Fun crown detail on top of all the light posts

Now that I’ve seen it, I want to write at least one scene in a future book that takes place in Windsor Castle. Perhaps my hero or heroine are invited to Windsor Castle for some state function. Or perhaps for a secret mission. Hmmm. The possibilities are endless.

But for now, my hero and heroine have their hands full in my upcoming release,  Courting the Country Miss, coming soon. I’m very excited because this features characters from one of my previous books called Courting the Countess.

Here is the back cover blurb for my newest Regency Romance, Courting the Country Miss:

Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle. Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.

Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.

Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?

Courting the Country Miss is available now from Amazon or directly from my publisher as well as other retail book stores.

Sources:

Most of this information came from the walking tour of London I took during my Regency Tour with Number One London Tours, plus my own observation during my visit. However, another source for further reading is Gaelen Foley’s excellent blog about Regency  Country House & Townhouse.


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Friday, August 4, 2017

New Release

Happy Release Day!

Today is the first day my newest sweet Regency Romance novel, Courting the Country Miss, is available to readers. To celebrate, we’re having a launch party today, Friday, August 4, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time. I’m giving away lots of fun stuff. Or, if you just want to order your copy, you may do so from Amazon, my publisher The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble, and other retail bookstores.

Though it is technically a sequel for Courting the Countess, it also reads just fine as a stand-alone novel.

Here is the back cover blurb for Courting the Country Miss, Courting Series, Book 2

Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle.  Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.

Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.

Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?

Here is an excerpt from Courting the Country Miss:

Tristan searched for Leticia among the dancers. Her eyes sparkled and her cheeks flushed, painting a lovely picture.

“Pretty thing, isn’t she?” Rowley said.

“Perhaps you each should ask her for a set,” Tristan suggested in a nonchalant tone to no one in particular.

Wynn straightened further, Rowley looked thoughtful, and Seton appeared to be bracing himself for battle, gulping and tugging at the hem of his waistcoat.

Wynn glanced back at the others, his gaze resting longest on Tristan. “Deuce take it, lads, I cannot approach her without an introduction.”

“You could ask the hostess,” Tristan suggested.

Wynn looked around. “I don’t see her.”

Tristan growled under his breath. He’d rather introduce Leticia to a bug than to Wynn.

Wynn pinned Tristan with a look. “If you’d be so kind.”

Tristan sighed. “Very well.”

Flanked by Wynn, Tristan ambled toward the dance floor as the music ended. A laughing Leticia and her partner—a true dandy in a bright yellow and blue brocade waistcoat with a green tailcoat—left the floor. Her partner left Leticia with her mother, bowed, then pinched some snuff as he wound through the crowd.

“You’ve developed a liking for peacocks, I see,” Tristan teased Leticia.

Leticia gave his arm a playful swat. “Mr. Pottinger is a fine dancer and a pleasant conversationalist.”

Green. Her eyes were green—the exact shade of a new leaf in spring, moments after it opens. How could he have missed such an intriguing shade of green all these years?

“Uh huh.” Tristan raised his brows as if he didn’t believe a word of her assessment of the dandy. Which he didn’t. Before Leticia got tempted to do something unladylike such as crack her fan over his head, Tristan turned to Wynn. “Please allow me to introduce you to Mr. John Wynn. He’s here with his family, including a rather spirited sister, I understand.” He hoped Wynn heard the warning in his voice.

Wynn flashed a debonair smile, but at the last second, his gaze flitted toward Tristan as if he feared Tristan might reveal a secret.

After a last look of challenge, Tristan said, “Mr. Wynn, meet one of my oldest and dearest friends, Miss Wentworth.”

“A delight to make your acquaintance, Miss Wentworth.” Wynn bowed low.

Leticia smiled as if she’d found a missing puzzle piece. “Wynn? Oh, yes, I met your sister. Spirited, indeed.”

Wynn wasted no time. “Miss Wentworth, if I may be so bold, will you do me the honor of standing up with me?” He gestured toward the dance floor where dancers lined up for the next set.

“I’d be delighted.” As she placed her hand on Wynn’s proffered arm, she glanced at Tristan as if to say, ‘I know you’ve put him up to this.’

Tristan would take the earliest opportunity to ensure she knew he did not put Wynn up to it and that the scoundrel failed to meet the criteria for a suitable husband, by Leticia’s own list. And his own.

Perhaps this matchmaking business would be a greater challenge than he first supposed.

Courting the Country Miss is available now from Amazon, my publisher The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble, and other retail bookstores.


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Friday, July 21, 2017

London Townhouses, the Servants Entrance

If you’ve studied history or read historical novels, you probably have a good idea of a few of the differences between the rich and the poor. By the Regency, there was a growing middle class, but they were new and small. Many of these fairly well to do members were working class who had made money in trade of some kind such as factories, banks, or shipping. But the vast majority of England’s population still fit into either the rich or poor category. Of course, there were layers within those categories, but it came down to working class versus ladies and gentlemen of leisure. And nothing draws that distinct line more sharply than does the door through which one was admitted when entering a London townhouse.

Family and guests entered through the front door. But the working class, including servants and deliverymen, entered through the servants entrance.

When I was in London this summer, I was surprised to discover that these two doors were only a few linear feet apart, but yet they were worlds apart. The front door might be at the street level, or it might be raised by a few steps, depending on the contours of the land on which it was built. Many front doors of London townhouses have columns or pilasters which are flat pillars, a boot scraper where gentleman could scrape mud and other undesirables from their boots before entering, and ornate trim such as a fan light over the door, and perhaps even friezes. Most front doors boasted bright colors such as red or blue or rich green. On either side of the door one often saw potted plants, flowers or topiaries. On either side of this lovely entrance ran a wrought iron fence.

The servants entrance however, is accessed through a gate in the wrought iron fence. Today, these wrought iron fences are mostly black or gray, a tradition that started in the Victorian Era. However, during the Regency, these fences could be any color, shades of blues and greens seemed most popular. The gate in the fence which lead to the servants entrance below was locked at night. To get to the servants’ entrance one must go through the gate, down a step and sometimes winding flight of stairs, across a small area open to the sky, and then through the kitchen door which was often almost directly below the front door.

If a servant or deliveryman had the audacity to knock on the front door, the butler would instantly direct them to go to the servants entrance. Can you imagine carrying boxes or parcels down such a steep flight of steps? And yet, most people seemed to think nothing of the reminders of one’s social station, including separate entrances.

Today, many of these townhouses are broken up into separate apartments, or flats, but the reminders of by gone eras remain prevalent in London’s townhouses.

Fortunately, my heroes and heroines of my Regency romance novels are usually members of the upper classes and so enter through the front door, as they do in my newest release, Courting the Country Miss, coming August 4, 2017, and available for pre-order now.

Here is the back cover blurb for Courting the Country Miss

Cynical and broken-hearted, Leticia banishes dreams of marriage. When her childhood friend, Tristan, wagers he can find her the perfect husband, she hopes the challenge will coax him to forgo his devil-may-care lifestyle. Meanwhile, Leticia throws herself into forming her charity school but meets opposition—even from the people she’s helping.

Guilt-ridden that his past mistakes robbed Leticia of true love, Tristan vows to set it right, but match-making has its pitfalls for a repentant scoundrel. When he finds two ‘perfect’ gentlemen to court her, he discovers his own deep feelings for the lady.

Though Tristan seems to reform, Leticia doesn’t dare risk heartbreak with a notorious rake. When opposition for the school takes a deadly turn, can Tristan protect her from a madman bent on destroying their dreams and their lives?

Pre-order Courting the Country Miss now from Amazon, and have it auto-delivered to your Kindle on August 4, 2017

Sources:

Most of this information came from the walking tour of London I took during my Regency Tour with Number One London Tours, plus my own observation during my visit. However, another source for further reading is Gaelen Foley’s excellent blog about Regency  Country House & Townhouse.


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