Thomas Bennet reflects on the marriage of his daughters

My latest addition to P&P 200. What might Mr. Bennet be thinking about losing two daughters at once?

Published November 14, 2012 | By Maria Grace

Thomas Bennet was not by his nature a reflective man. Reflection tended to bring on discomfort and discontent, neither of which he favored. But his house—and his life—were in disarray on the cusp of his daughters’ weddings and a little reflection could hardly make his discomfiture worse.

He picked his way around the trunks and boxes piled in the hall way. It was only a matter of time before Mrs. Bennet began demanding they be removed somewhere else lest the guests for the wedding breakfast see them. Thankfully Mr. Bingley had offered space at Netherfield for his daughters’ things.

He slipped into the study and fell into his favorite chair. All the lumps and bumps in the seat matched his own. At least some things in his life would not change. He had had this old chair for decades and resisted all Mrs. Bennet’s insistence that it be replaced.

But it seemed like everything else around him was changing and he was certain he did not like it. Change brought disorder and discomfort. Change took away…

A lump rose in his throat. He pushed up from his chair and locked the door. A visit to the brandy decanter, then he returned to his chair.

Lizzy told him Lady Catherine said a daughter was never of much consequence to a father, but the great lady was very, very wrong. He sipped his brandy and leaned his head back. Society told him he should want fine strapping sons—ah heir and a spar to inherit his estate and carry on his name. But he did not.

Oh, he had intended to father a son, to be sure, but his heart had not been in it.

Read the rest at: Thomas Bennet reflects on the marriage of his daughters | Austen Authors.

Meet Stephanie Moore, founder of Layered Pages

I had the pleasure of visiting with Stephanie Moore, founder of Layered PagesBook Review Blog. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

What got you started reading?
Pretty much everyone in my family is an avid reader. So it must be in my blood. I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. When I read a story I become emotionally attached to the characters and their plight. Reading stories is an escape for me and a vacation of sorts, from reality.

What was your first favorite book?
Tough question! I’m one of those people who love so many-even as a child-it would be hard to choose. But, if I’m only to pick one, it would have to be, “Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.”

 What got you hooked on historical fiction?
I’ve always been drawn to the past as long as I can remember. Soon after I started to read the classics, I discovered the world of Historical fiction. I wanted to know about real people, their lives, the culture and what they experienced.

How did you make the transition from reader to reviewer?
Goodreads and the book club, Ladies & Literature I co-founded, have played a big role in that. But first, let me go a little further back. When I was younger I kept a journal about the stories and poems I read. I would write my thoughts and my favorite passages. At the time we didn’t have social media where we could share our thoughts. When I posted a review on goodreads two years ago an author approached me and asked if I would review her book and ever since I’ve been reviewing and love it! Continue reading

The Extensive Musings of Mr. Collins on the Occasion of his Cousin’s Wedding

An interesting bit of musing to add to P&P 200. Who knew what went on in Mr. Collins’ mind before his cousins married?

Breakfast should have been a quiet affair, but it seemed few meals were at Lucas Lodge. Mr. Collins squeezed his temples. So much banal chatter soured his stomach and ruined his appetite.

His wife’s brothers brought reports on new arrivals at Netherfield Park while her younger sister was brimming over with talk of lace and dresses. Collins could not bring himself to care about the brides’ gowns and even less what the other ladies of their party would wear. How could Charlotte listen so patiently to all that blather? He was embarrassed that her parents failed to curb the exuberance of the young people at their table.

Thank heavens his wife did not bring such manners with her into his home. Though she patiently listened and politely smiled thought the entire disgraceful display, he was certain his wife would agree with his sentiment. She shared all his opinions, as a proper wife did. Without a doubt, young people should keep their trivial interests and conversations to themselves during meals. His children, when they came, would be taught properly.

Collins excused himself as quickly as could be, claiming a need for fresh air. Charlotte smiled and encouraged him to go, noting that he must miss the time spent he usually spent in his garden and that a walk seemed necessary to his constitution.

A blast of chill wind buffeted his face as he stepped out. Though it burned the tips of his ears, he welcomed the discomfort to distract him from his own rising agitations. He pulled his hat down more snugly and tightened his scarf.

While Hertfordshire was pleasant enough and Lucas lodge offered many comforts, it was nothing to his parsonage in Kent, the place he was currently unwelcome because of the thoughtless, headstrong actions of his dear cousin Elizabeth. His shoulders twitched at the thought.

How he despised Lady Catherine’s wrath. On his own count, he never felt it, but now that his unruly and unrepentant cousin had crossed her ladyship, he felt its full fury. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. He rubbed it though his muffler though it did little to ease his discomfort.

Lady Catherine sounded just like his mother when in high dudgeon and her temper was much like his father’s. How vexed her ladyship would be to be compared with such common folk. He chuckled, nonetheless. Certainly she would never hear that from him. Since both his parents had passed there was no chance Lady Catherine would ever notice the comparison.

Read the rest at: P&P200: The Extensive Musings of Mr. Collins on the Occasion of his Cousin’s Wedding | Austen Authors.


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Ashes, Tallow and Turpentine: Coming Clean in the Regency Era

My contribution to English Historical Fiction Authors this month and a reason I am grateful to be born in this century!

Ashes, Tallow and Turpentine: Coming Clean in the Regency Era

By Maria Grace

Keeping clothes has always been a challenge. Today, we can simply go to the store and buy a specialized product according stain that needs cleaning. In centuries past, the mistress of the house needed to be well versed on what home preparations could be used to keep her household fresh and clean. Some of their solutions are similar to what we use to today and some were positively stomach churning.


Plain lye formed the backbone of much of the everyday laundry cleaning arsenal and was fairly easy to obtain. Ashes from household fires were packed into a barrel with holes drilled in the bottom and lined with hay. Water was poured through the ashes and concentrated lye dripped from the holes.

The strength of the solution was critical for its cleaning power. If an egg did not float high enough in the solution it was too weak and would be poured through the ashes again. Lye that was too strong could burn skin and damage fabrics and would need to be diluted. Urine, for its ammonia content might also be added to a lye solution it improve its cleaning power.

Body linen, other garments whose colors did not need to be protected, sheets and household linens were soaked in a vat of lye prior to being boiled on laundry day. The process was called ‘bucking’ and attempted to restore the white or off white color to the laundry.


The generous use of soap was a modern advance in dealing with dirty laundry. At first it was used sparingly, only to treat stains. Later, it would be added to the main wash for cleaning.

Though soap could be purchased, what could be made at home often was, especially in areas away from larger urban areas. Soap could be made in several ways. A pail of lye could be added to about three pounds of melted animal fat and boiled all day. To avoid all that boiling and stirring, four pails of lye could be stirred into a barrel of 30 pounds of animal fat. Additional lye was added until it looked ‘right’ to the soap maker. The soap might be used while it was still soft or it might be set up—dried and hardened with warm weather and salt.

Household manuals often contained various specialized recipes for soap with different fats and additives touted as better for one use or another. Individual households would also have their own recipes handed down from mother to daughter.

Read the rest at: English Historical Fiction Authors: Ashes, Tallow and Turpentine: Coming Clean in the Regency Era.

A sisterly conversation | Austen Authors

What would the Bennet sisters have to say to each other before their lives change forever? My first offering to the P&P200 project


The evening turned cold quickly and they all retreated upstairs somewhat earlier than usual. Elizabeth and Jane withdrew to Jane’s room. They sat together on the bed heaped high with pillows. Elizabeth brushed Jane’s hair in the crackling firelight. Her hair was so beautiful, shining like molten gold under the brush, and always so well-behaved, submitting the plait and pins as serenely as Jane herself walked through life, not like her own unruly locks.

She ran her fingers through Jane’s hair. They did this so often, she would comb Jane’s hair and Jane hers. How many more such moments would they share? Precious few. Life as Mrs. Darcy promised so much, but this she would miss.

“Have you become contemplative again, Lizzy?” Jane turned over her shoulder and caught her eyes. “You have. I can see it in the melancholy turn of your lips.” Jane clasped Lizzy’s hands. “How can you be sad when so much joy awaits us? We have already made Mama so very happy.”

“So she has said, countless times and to countless souls.” Elizabeth laughed and slowly plaited Jane’s hair, savoring the moment.

The door behind them squeaked and they both turned. Mary and Kitty, in their dressing gowns, peeked through the doorway. They and Lydia had done than when they were small, sneaking out of their beds to join their big sisters in clandestine sisterly gatherings.

“Come in come in.” Jane beckoned them in and slid toward the head of the bed.

Elizabeth patted the counterpane beside her. Mary and Kitty rushed in and piled on the feather bed, tucking their feet up underneath them.Bed piled with pillows

“Do you remember how we used to do this after Mama would say good night?” Kitty giggled. “She would get so cross when she heard us laughing. She used to call us her ‘little titter mice’”

Jane wrapped her arms around her knees. “But she didn’t send us back to bed. I think maybe she and Aunt Philips did the same thing.” She pulled her shoulders up around her ears and laughed softly.

Mary pulled her shoulders into a funny hunch and looked up like an old woman craning her neck. Her voice turned thin and brittle. “Remember how Lizzy would read us stories and do all the voices for the characters.”

Elizabeth guffawed. “I had not thought of that in years.” That would be another thing she missed. What would Mr. Darcy think of she—

“You must promise to do that for your children—” Mary said.

“And mine,” Jane added, eyes sparkling.

“You shall have the most delightful children.” Kitty clapped her hands softly.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, not if any of Mama’s predictions were correct. “Hardly, they will be all mischief and nonsense to be sure. Jane’s, though, shall be angels, like her.”

Jane’s cheeks glowed. “Not if they resemble their father.” She looked away.

What? Jane had never mentioned—

“Indeed?” Kitty scooted closer to Jane and pressed her chin on Jane’s shoulder. “You must tell us, genteel Mr. Bingley is not as he seems? What secrets have you discovered about your betrothed?”

“Oh, Kitty, no.” Mary’s hand flew to her mouth.

Jane laughed and turned back to her sisters. “No, no, nothing so outrageous as that. But he was a most high-spirited lad, or se he tells me.”

“Nothing like your staid Mr. Darcy, I am sure.” Kitty blinked with the same feigned innocence she used on Mama so often.

Elizabeth smiled her brows lifted and she cocked her head. There were those stories Colonel Fitzwilliam had told her in Kent.

“Oh, Lizzy.” Kitty gasped.

“What have you not told us?” Mary pressed her shoulder against Elizabeth’s.

“How are his kisses Lizzy? You seemed to like them very much.” Kitty sing-songed.

Read the rest at:  A sisterly conversation | Austen Authors.

History A'la Carte 11-8-12

A little breakfast treat with some History a’la Carte on the side.

And now, a  new installment of History a’la Carte for your Thursday enjoyment. I am always amazed to find out how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Out of Whack Book Pricing on Amazon


Books (Photo credit: henry…)


Ever wonder about some of the book pricing on Amazon, in particular those books that show up with prices in the thousands of dollars? I finally found an explanation for those astonishingly expensive books and it isn’t supply and demand. From Michael Eisen‘s blog:


Amazon’s $23,698,655.93 book about flies

By Michael Eisen | April 22, 2011

A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).

I sent a screen capture to the author – who was appropriate amused and intrigued. But I doubt even he would argue the book is worth THAT much.

At first I thought it was a joke – a graduate student with too much time on their hands. But there were TWO new copies for sale, each be offered for well over a million dollars. And the two sellers seemed not only legit, but fairly big time (over 8,000 and 125,000 ratings in the last year respectively). The prices looked random – suggesting they were set by a computer. But how did they get so out of whack?

Amazingly, when I reloaded the page the next day, both priced had gone UP! Each was now nearly $2.8 million. And whereas previously the prices were $400,000 apart, they were now within $5,000 of each other. Now I was intrigued, and I started to follow the page incessantly. By the end of the day the higher priced copy had gone up again. This time to $3,536,675.57. And now a pattern was emerging.

On the day we discovered the million dollar prices, the copy offered by bordeebook was1.270589 times the price of the copy offered by profnath. And now the bordeebook copy was 1.270589 times profnath again. So clearly at least one of the sellers was setting their price algorithmically in response to changes in the other’s price. I continued to watch carefully and the full pattern emerged.

Once a day profnath set their price to be 0.9983 times bordeebook’s price. The prices would remain close for several hours, until bordeebook “noticed” profnath’s change and elevated their price to 1.270589 times profnath’s higher price. The pattern continued perfectly for the next week.

Read the rest at:  Amazon’s $23,698,655.93 book about flies.


Now you know the rest of the story!


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Birthday Cake Rice Krispy Treats Revisited


I posted a recipe for these some months ago. But this weekend, we took it over the top.  I am warning you now, these puppies are beyond addictive and you best have plenty in the house to help you eat them or you will eat the entire pan.

You need:

10 oz bag of marshmallows

3 T butter

1/4 C sprinkles

1 C yellow cake mix

6 C Rice krispy cereal

1/2 can prepared icing

More sprinkles

Mix the cereal, sprinkles and cake mix in a large bowl. Get out two identical size pans and spray with cooking spray. Melt butter and marshmallows together on stove top or oven.  Mix into cereal.  Divide into two pans, layers will be thin.  Use damp hands or wax paper to press out the layers.
Now the over the top part! When the layers have cooked, spread the icing over one pan.  Line up the second pan carefully and tip it over the second one to make a sandwich with the icing in the middle. You can leave them in the second pan or turn the whole thing out on to waxed paper.  Sprinkle the top with more sprinkles.

The icing in the middle makes these really special and just adds to the birthday feel.  Enjoy!

Get to know D.E. Meredith

D.E. Meredith joins me this morning. I hope you enjoy this intriguing interview as much as I did.

When did you first start writing?

I started writing a few years ago, almost by accident. I had just been on one of my endless runs (I live near an amazingly beautiful London park close to the River Thames), was between contracts and found myself reading copy of a diary called “The Malay Archipelago” written by  an intrepid Nineteenth Century Naturalist called Alfred Russel Wallace.

And it blew me away.

The diary describes an intrepid adventure through the jungles of Borneo  during the 1850s and is an amazing window into the mind and times of one of the world’s greatest Nineteenth Century naturalists .

Wallace was a scientific genius, overshadowed through history, by his far more famous contemporary, Charles Darwin. His diary with its ape hunts, beetle pinning and  taxidermy done on the hoof, set my imagination alight. I learnt what it meant to be a specimen collector in the 1850s, as  he travelled with his gun and his nets, into the remotest corners of the earth looking for birds, butterflies and beasts.

I started doodling initially on the back of envelope and felt there was a story here, a work of fiction.     I thought to myself,  if understanding flora and fauna was such a mind blowing experience for the Victorians (a bit like breaking the code for DNA  was for the C21st), then what about forensics?  What was happening with that, in the 1850s? And that let me to the dark world of what some readers have called “CSI meets The Victorians”  – the world of  my forensic “detectives”, Professor Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant, the doughty, Monsieur Albert  Roumande. Continue reading