Category Archives: Clean Reads

The Westbound Surge

I’ll be writing in another multi-author project next year which will be set in the 1880s. This is very “modern” for me and the research has been fascinating. Up until now, all my books have been either set in Regency era England (1805) or the American Midwest from 1855-1865. With the 1880s comes more technology, more developed towns and cities in the West, as well as opening up the possibility of setting some stories in Canada (where I’m from).

The rapid development of technology spurred the population growth of North America as well as the westward movement of people. The ability to more easily communicate made the expansion of business also possible. And “rapid” transportation meant you could travel all across the continent in less than ten days. In fact, in 1876, the Transcontinental Express from New York to San Francisco made the trip in 83 relaxing, comfortable hours. Imagine! Three and a half days! That really shrank the world for people of that time. Of course, the poor, penniless, mail order bride couldn’t afford that ticket, but even she could reach her new life in a week or less, depending on her destination.

The consolidation and reorganization of the railroads in the late 19th century lead to rapid industrial growth in many areas including the opening of hundreds of millions of acres of very good farm land ready for mechanization, lower costs for food and all goods, and a huge national sales market. Of course, all this growth and prosperity didn’t benefit everyone. While the average annual wage for an industrial worker rose by 48% between 1860 and 1890 (from $380 to $564), there was still abject poverty and inequality leading to contentious social issues. And the ability to travel broadened people’s knowledge and perspective, making them more involved in these various struggles and triumphs.

Railroads were the major growth industry, with the factory system, mining, and finance increasing in importance. Immigration from Europe, and the eastern states, led to the rapid growth of the West, based on farming, ranching, and mining. The rapid economic growth in America also fueled this influx of millions of European immigrants, especially due to the wage increases making the opportunities seem so very attractive to these new comers.

I’m thrilled with the research I’ve been able to do and am overwhelmed with story ideas for this exciting time period in history.

Stay tuned for more book news. In the meantime, have you read my other westerns?

Eating Out in 1850s America

proxy 3 w m andrewsIn my latest Sweet, Historical, Western Romance (A Bride for Alastair), my characters are returning to Boston after an extended stay in Missouri. They, of course, hadn’t left any food supplies in the house, except a few dried goods like tea, as they weren’t sure how long they’d baway. In those days, although the arrival of the rails had greatly sped up travel times, it still took at least a week to make the trip one way. But that doesn’t change the fact that you gotta eat.

Interestingly, the word restaurant, from a French word, only applied to eating establishments serving French cuisine. Most famous in the East is Delmonico’s in New York which opened  in the 1830s. But aptly named “eating houses” also existed, besides saloons, as well as street vendors. The further West one travelled, the more people had to rely on eating “out” as fewer people had homes. By the time one got as far as San Francisco, nearly everyone ate in restaurants most of the time as so many were living in tents or hovels. This led to cooks coming from all over the world and created a diverse eating experience. The first three Chinese restaurants in the United States were opened in San Francisco in the 1850s.

Hotels served food, of course, to their patrons. In order to protect respectable woman from unwanted advances, a separate dining space in large hotels called a ladies’ ordinary was set aside for families or ladies travelling alone. At this time, women were not permitted to dine alone or unaccompanied by a male escort in restaurants and the public rooms of luxury, urban hotels. A ladies’ ordinary provided a socially acceptable venue where respectable women could dine alone or with other women.

I find this hard to believe as I don’t like them, but in the mid 19th century, one of the most common dishes ordered at any eating establishment was oysters. From my research, it seems like all across the country they were very popular. I can’t imagine them being very good in the middle of the country, but I suppose near the coasts they would be fresh enough.

Ice Cream ParlorOne thing I found fascinating, because “respectable” women didn’t usually eat in restaurants, a solution had to be found as the nation prospered – wealthy women could work up an appetite while out shopping. Thus the ice cream saloon came about. These decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk. The first ones served little more than ice cream, pastries, and oysters, but as women became more comfortable with eating out, these establishments expanded into opulent, full-service restaurants with sophisticated menus. Although ice cream saloons or parlors had an air of dainty domesticity, they also developed more sultry reputations. At the time, they were one of the few places where both men and women could go unchaperoned. As a result, they became popular destinations for dates and other illicit rendezvous.

The research I had done for my book centered around Boston, so I’ve found researching this article absolutely fascinating. I think some of these tidbits are going to have to turn up in future books <grin>.

Debutante Bride – Guest Blog Interview

I recently visited the blog of a fellow author, talking about my most recent Regency release. Here’s what we talked about:

  • What was the inspiration for The Debutante Bride?

This story explo Deb Bride Ebook Coverres the roller-coaster of emotions that could ensue if an arranged marriage starts off on the wrong foot. I’m always fascinated by the possibilities when a couple is forced together by circumstances. It wasn’t so uncommon throughout history. But what if there are too many factors tearing them apart? In this story, I wanted to explore how love could conquer the external and internal pressures society and we ourselves put upon relationships, but in the complicated context of the Regency era.

  • Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be when you were a child?

I did go through a phase as a child when I wanted to be a writer but I thought it was too fantastical of an idea. Then I wanted to be a vet until I realized how allergic I am to cats. Then I didn’t really know what I wanted to do except that I knew I wanted to work in an office in a brand new building in my home town – it was so big and shiny. I took a couple side trips as an executive assistant and an insurance broker before returning to my first love – the written word.

  • When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

After I wrote my first book 🙂 I wrote my first book more as fulfilling a dare from my husband. I never really considered that it could be a serious pursuit. Then I fell in love with writing and the rest is history.

  • What part of the writing process do you dread?

Editing is my least favorite. By the time I’ve gone through the manuscript 35 times I’m ready to throw it across the room. But the discovery of first draft writing is the joy that keeps me returning story after story.

  • What are you currently reading?

A non-fiction book on marketing. There’s always something more to learn.

  • What kind of music, if any, do you listen to when you write?

I don’t listen to music while I’m writing. I think it would be distracting. I find music to be very inspiring. But I don’t want to run after new ideas while I’m working on my current WIP.

  • Do you have a favorite time of day to write? What about a favorite place?

Whenever the words are flowing is my favorite time of day 🙂 But I’m a morning person so first thing in the morning is usually my most productive time. I have my computer set up in one room, so that’s where most of my writing takes place. But I carry a notebook with me wherever I go so that I can jot down any notes that come to me when I’m not in front of my computer.

  • How long does it take you to write a book?

It really varies for me from book to book, depending on what else is happening with LIFE while I’m writing. So anywhere from two months to two years has been my experience. I have written the first draft of a full-length book in as short of time as two weeks. But then there are the edits…

What do you think? Have you read The Debutante Bride? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Proxy Bride books

I realize I have been remiss in listing all of the books in the first round of this series. There are ten of us writing in the series. Mine, A Bride for Carter, was book six. There are four more to follow and we’re planning for at least one more round. Check out these great reads )

A Bride for Jeremiah by Christine Sterling

A Bride for Clay by Marianne Spitzer

A Bride for Nathan by Barbara Goss

A Bride for Abel by Cyndi Raye

A Bride for Finn by Linda Ellen

A Bride for Carter by Wendy May Andrews [mine 😉 ]

A Bride for Charles by H. L. Roberts

A Bride for Sterling by Parker J. Cole – coming soon

A Bride for Henry by P. Creeden – coming soon

A Bride for Braylon by George McVey – coming soon