Inspiration for Christmas Meet Cute in #NotesofLoveandWar #WWII #HistFic #Historical #Fiction #ReadIndie

This time of year has me thinking more about my parents than usual. Of course, this year has made many of us nostalgic for happier times in the past. Or longing for happier times next year. Or both! One big reason for why they come to mind around Christmas is because they were married the day after at Mom’s church in Maryland. Dad moved from Miami, Florida, to marry his sweetheart, which is similar to what Charlie does in Notes of Love and War. That is one of the inspirations from my parents’ love story that found its way into my historical fiction.

Another inspiration for my story is how my parents met in real life. Dad was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, during World War Two. Mom lived with her parents outside of Baltimore. The pastor of her church encouraged the parishioners to invite single soldiers to their home for Christmas dinner. I believe my mother’s friend’s family invited several soldiers and her friend invited Mom to attend to fill out the table with an equal number of men and women. So Mom went and she met my dad. They became pen pals, nothing more, because Mom was seeing another guy who intended to be a lawyer. It was a large group Christmas dinner party, of some kind. I never got a lot of details out of either of them as to what all happened. In Notes of Love and War, I have Charlie attend a full-blown Christmas party at Audrey’s co-workers’ home. Here’s a short snippet to give you a feel for how I imagined them meeting for the first time. Audrey is trying to fend off the unwanted attentions of another man while a certain handsome soldier is making his way toward her…

Audrey glanced at her egg nog and suppressed a sigh. She did enjoy the holiday creation. But the sacrifice would be worthwhile. She met the man’s gaze and opened her mouth to say she had to leave the party, when he suddenly lifted one hand and waved at someone behind her, upending her cup onto the floor with a crash. She jumped back a few steps, egg nog oozing among the fractured glass across the hardwood floor.

“Rather clumsy of you, miss.” He frowned at her but made no move to help. “Here I thought you were a lady. My mistake.” He tapped two fingers to his brow and then walked away, slowly shaking his head.

“That was quite rude.” Gloria huffed at his disrespect and then turned to Audrey. “Keep others from walking in it and I’ll run and find a towel to clean this mess up. Be right back.”

Flustered and embarrassed, Audrey guarded the area as best she could. The rude man had created the incident and left her facing the others as if it were all her fault. Annoyance bubbled inside as she tried to hide her discomfiture with a smile. One she feared didn’t quite meet the need. If only the floor would open and swallow her, then she wouldn’t feel spotlighted. Especially as the handsome soldier brushed past the last couple of partygoers separating him from where she waited for Gloria’s return.

When he stopped, he offered his hand to her. “Major Charles Powers, ma’am. But my friends all call me Charlie.”

“Audrey Harper.” She clasped his hand to shake once, startled by the unexpected sizzle arcing up her arm, and then released his fingers. “Watch your step, Charlie.”

”Did the fellow at least apologize for spilling your drink?”

Audrey made a moue. “Blamed me for his clumsiness. I suppose he’s had a bad day.”

Charlie studied her and then glanced at the man in question. “You’re far too kind in his regard. I dare say he doesn’t deserve your sympathy.”

Gloria arrived with a flowered towel over her arm and a dust pan and small whisk broom in her hands. “Hold this for a minute, will you?” She offered her arm holding the towel to Audrey and then squatted to sweep the glass shards into the dust pan.

Audrey gazed at him over Gloria’s back and shrugged. “Consider it a holiday gift to him. Tis the season, right?”

Like I said, I don’t really know what occurred at the dinner party where my parents met or how they reacted to each other. Knowing my dad, though, he probably thought her very fine and wanted to keep in touch any way possible. They wrote to each other for a while until she became engaged to the other man. Then Dad stopped the correspondence, and Mom apparently got rid of Dad’s letters since she was going to marry someone else. She mentioned in a later letter that she hadn’t kept all of his, at least. But Dad had kept Mom’s! Only “something” the lawyer’s mother had done broke up the engagement. Again, I have no clues as to what that might have been, but it was fuel for my imagination!

After some time passed, Dad wrote to Mom again to see how she was doing. She told him about the broken engagement and their correspondence blossomed again. If it wasn’t for the wealth of correspondence between them, I wouldn’t know as much about them today as I do. I’ve had many long conversations with both of them, but they were in their early 40s when I was born. By the time we’d be talking about their courtship and such they were in their 60s. Their view of their youth and their early years together most likely morphed with age and different perspectives.

I used my parents’ concerns and activities and in some cases lingo to give Notes of Love and War authenticity even though the story is purely fiction. I found myself pondering what choices and decisions she would have been faced with when expecting to move from Baltimore to Miami after they married. That’s what I explored while writing Audrey’s story, knowing the final outcome for my own mother. It really was an interesting way to try to get to know my parents better, trying to be on the inside of their relationship however imperfectly. I hope you enjoy the story! If you’d like to sample before you buy, you can read the first 3 chapters here.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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Inoculation and Disease in the 18th Century #research #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel

Before I get to today’s topic, I’d like to share that I’ll be interviewed on StarStyle Radio about Becoming Lady Washington. I understand the interviewer, Cynthia Brian, does an excellent job with interesting questions, too. Am I nervous? A bit, since this airs on the Voice of America with over a million listeners… Here’s what you need to know if you’d like to listen:

Tune into the radio program StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are! with host Cynthia Brian on Wednesday, November 18, 2020 from 4-5pm PST (6-7 CST). You can listen from your computer by going to http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2206/be-the-star-you-are

If you miss the live show, you can find it archived at that site with photos and descriptions at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

It’s only a few days from now and I’m excited to find out what she’ll ask. I hope you’ll tune in and let me know what you think. Now, on to today’s topic.

During this difficult time in world health, I have found myself frequently comparing our situation to that of people in the 18th century when so many devastating and deadly diseases abounded. Back then we didn’t know or understand how bacteria or viruses spread. We knew that when people who were sick spent time around others, the others were likely to be infected as well. But how exactly?

I’ve read about people setting up smudge pots in the streets to try to ward off yellow fever in Philadelphia. Shooting rifles in the air, too. Or wearing a pouch filled with herbs and mustard and other things. Anything to try to protect themselves. Given the number of people who died during the outbreak there in 1793, they were not successful. But they seriously didn’t know how to fight it. Here’s a short snippet from Becoming Lady Washington where Martha Washington is pondering the dire epidemic in the city:


By August, the city officials changed their story, admitting an epidemic ravaged the populace. Apparently, the refugees from the slave uprising in the West Indies brought more than rum and sugar on the ships sailing up the Delaware. They’d brought yellow fever, too. More than ever, I worried about George. He’d been under such strain during the last several months, would he be able to fight off the disease should he contract it?

The fever and its horrid effects—vomiting blood, bleeding from ears, nose and eyes, as well as delirium and jaundice—spread to our part of town. The number of deaths each day multiplied. The stench of tar burning in barrels placed around the city choked me, but they were necessary to ward off the disease. Likewise, men shot guns into the air to scare off the spread of the sickness. Lists of possible ways to ward off the fever were printed in the paper. I loathed hearing the rumble of a wagon, accompanied by the gravedigger calling “bring out your dead” in a booming, sorrowful tone. More than ever, I wanted to go home, away from the crowded living conditions that surely contributed to the raging epidemic.


Inoculation became available earlier in the 18th century for some diseases. Smallpox, for example. This process requires a person to be injected with a small amount of the live disease in order to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight it, thus providing a defense against it. Martha Washington’s brother Jacky died from smallpox when he was a teenager because Virginia didn’t allow people to receive the treatment. Here’s a short excerpt showing her brother’s losing battle:


Summer heat surrounded me as I hovered over my brother. The pungent odor of the medicine fought the smell of disease, combining to make me cough and my stomach to churn. Tucking the quilt into place over Jacky, I prayed for a miracle. I’d never seen any one so sick before, so weakened by a virulent attack of the dreaded smallpox.

“Don’t go…” Jacky’s scratchy voice emerged from dry lips.

His bloodshot eyes implored me to stay, but Mother had insisted I let him rest. Besides, I hated seeing his body covered in the raised flat blisters of pus. Hated seeing him feverish and aching. The pain he must be in, to writhe and moan for days. He’d complained of his back hurting, his head aching, of bone-deep fatigue. Mother had some experience with treating the often deadly disease, so I would follow her lead. And pray.

“I’ll be back soon.” I gathered the soiled linens off the chair where I’d placed them earlier. “You rest, like Mother advised, and you’ll pull through.”

He closed his eyes and rolled his head side to side. “I pray you’re right, but at the moment I have serious doubts.”

I clutched the bedclothes to my chest. Memories of riding together and playing pranks on our kinsfolk floated through my mind. If only the new smallpox inoculation didn’t kill as often as it saved, mayhap my brother wouldn’t be so sick. The Virginia assembly had banned the use of the inoculation, believing it spread the disease. Something certainly spread it, because it seemed to be everywhere. Fortunately, not every person who contracted smallpox died. If a person only had a mild case they’d be immune to it from then on, though they were marked for life by pox scars.

“You mustn’t think that way. You’ll be up and about before you know it.”

“You’re right.” He opened his eyes and stared at me for several moments. “I’m so very tired. I think I will take a nap.” He struggled onto his side and closed his eyes again.

I fought the panic rising in my chest, pushing into my throat. My young, strong, full of life brother couldn’t die. Even in repose, Jacky’s face held lines of tension, pain, and fatigue. I couldn’t do anything more at the moment. Helpless but not hopeless, all I could do was try to ease his pain, lower his fever, and help him sip water from a cup. I had no magic or miracle to heal him. Tears sprang to my eyes as I slipped out the door and pulled it closed.


Today we have vaccines to inoculate people against a variety of diseases. A vaccine uses an innocuous form of the disease, either a dead or weakened form of the disease targeted, rather than the full strength. A vaccinated person still gets the benefit of the immune system activating to build a defense to the disease but without the risk of having the live disease threatening their system.

I realize there are people who do not believe in vaccines. I know that Martha Washington longed for a way to prevent her loved ones from contracting any of the dreaded diseases prevalent during her lifetime: malaria, yellow fever, smallpox, etc. Indeed, when her son, also named Jacky in honor of her deceased brother, desired to go to Baltimore, Maryland to have the smallpox inoculation, she wanted him to be protected but didn’t want him to risk his life. Here’s a snippet from the book:


I skimmed the careful script on the linen pages trembling in my fingers. Jacky desired to travel to Baltimore in order to subject himself to the smallpox inoculation. The procedure was legal there, unlike in Virginia. If only he could have it done closer to home, then I wouldn’t mind to quite the same extent.

I thought of my brother, Jacky, and the horrible death he’d suffered because he didn’t have the opportunity to be administered the inoculation. But what if my son received the inoculation and died? The procedure involved inserting a pustule of the disease from an infected person into a cut in the arm. He dared risk his life to avoid contracting the dreadful disease. How could I agree when he may well be the only heir if Patsy succumbed to the epilepsy? Could a mother survive her son’s death, when the mother had given her permission for the potentially lethal procedure? Then again, how could I deny my son’s request when the results could prove beneficial to people in general? His act served an altruistic purpose, a desirable trait in a young man.

I sighed and picked up a pen. A few minutes later I sprinkled sand over the newly inked words granting permission to fix them in place on the page. As well as in my heart. I couldn’t deny my son anything.

Then later when she faced the choice of being inoculated herself, she had to consider the options available:

George nodded and the corners of his mouth twitched before resuming a solemn expression. “I must beg you to favor a request.”

I raised a brow and sipped my drink, intrigued. “I will certainly consider doing everything possible to please you. Pray continue.”

“The incidence of smallpox within the ranks of the army greatly concerns me. With you in camp and going out among the troops you may contract the disease. I want you here with me, as I know is also your desire. So it is a dilemma. Thus I ask you to consider going to Philadelphia to be inoculated.” He lifted his glass and held it aloft, torn between sipping and waiting for my response.

My brother’s death from the terrible sickness lingered in my memory. Would Jacky have lived if he’d received the medicine? My son had the inoculation and he had survived the introduction of what was a small amount of the virus. Apparently with no ill effects. Would I, though?

George sipped, ever patient as I pondered my answer. I should say something to let him know I was thinking about his surprising request. “Do you believe it is safe?”

He nodded again. “The doctors assure me they are refining the methods for achieving success to make the inoculants immune to the disease. After I had smallpox in Barbados when I was there with Augustine, I’ve not contracted it though I’ve been around people who have had it. With good fortune the resulting pustules will be few and your illness mild, leaving you immune to the affliction.”

“Surely I was exposed to it when my brother had it.” So maybe I was already somewhat immune to it. Having another small dose would ensure my health against the disease and I’d be permitted to stay with George. A compelling reason for agreeing. “Very well, my love. For you I will comply with your request.”


Now, I do realize this is my interpretation of how she felt about things in her life, based on her letters to family and friends and to my understanding of her relationships. Martha witnessed many family members suffer and die from diseases during her life. I can only imagine how thankful she’d be to have a way to prevent her loved ones from dying.

My husband and I volunteered for the Pfizer vaccine trial that is currently underway in hopes we can help bring about a vaccine for everyone as soon as possible. The more people who do get vaccinated once it’s available, the sooner we can end the pandemic and move on with our lives.

Wishing you all health and happiness as we enter the holiday season. Please stay safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Martha would want you to.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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Inflation and Scarcity in 18th-century Charleston, South Carolina #research #American #history #ReadIndie #AMorePerfectUnion

There is a scene in Elizabeth’s Hope (A More Perfect Union prequel novella) where Elizabeth and Emily go to the market to buy something for dinner. I want to talk today about some of the background for the following scene:


They strode into the cluster of makeshift tables holding the various foods and wares offered for sale. Chatter vied with the cries of the gulls and babies, the hawking of vegetables and meats as well as candles and baskets. The aromas of hot roasted peanuts and cool bayberry filled the crisp fall air. A gentleman sauntered along the sandy street leading his water spaniel, a good-size dog with curly caramel colored hair, his pink tongue lolling. A lady browsed the offerings, her pet monkey dressed in a tiny British uniform perched on her shoulder. A typical day in some ways, but with the ominous shadow of the enemy blanketing the discourse and exchanges. Wandering along, she stopped in front of the eager fish monger.

“How fresh are the oysters?” She indicated the bowl filled with the gray-shelled mollusks.

“Caught this morning.” He lifted the shallow bowl to angle the contents for best viewing. “How many do you want?”

She eyed him with one brow lifted. “How much are you asking?”

He quoted a price that had her lifting both brows. She haggled with him until the eagerness in his eyes dimmed. After a few more offers from either side, they settled on a price for two dozen. As he wrapped her purchase, she sighed. They needed to eat, but where would she find the money to buy new shoes for herself let alone for her sister? Until she could do so, her faithful maid Jasmine must continue to wear the worn out ones she’d been putting up with for months. Elizabeth’s heart hurt at not being able to maintain the standards they had always aimed to achieve. How they dressed and presented themselves bespoke their class without words, a station in life her father had labored to achieve.

Until the war ended, the soaring costs and scarcity of everything would surely continue to get worse. Right along with the deprivations and deceptions necessary to survive as best they could. She let her gaze drift around the market square, noting the British soldiers standing in clusters, watching the people like hungry birds of prey. Beady eyes following their every move. Waiting for any careless patriots to reveal themselves so they could pounce and exact their vengeance for placing them in such a precarious position.


Before the American Revolution, Charles Town (now spelled Charleston), South Carolina, was a bustling and important sea port. Ships arrived every day from distant ports in the West Indies and Caribbean and others carrying exotic fruits and spices among many other delicacies. The pre-war bounty can be better appreciated from the following excerpt I came across during my initial research for this series:

“From her plantation or in her Charleston home, Harriott would not have lacked for good food and drinks. At Hampton she had gardens, poultry, and livestock together with game and seafood from nearby fields and rivers. In Charleston there were certainly a kitchen garden, a poultry yard, very likely a cow or two, the daily market, and a wealth of imported delicacies from the West Indies and Europe…Milk and cheese were generally lacking except to the well-to-do. The pork and barnyard fowls, fed on corn and rice, were rated good, but the beef, veal and mutton were but ‘middling’ or inferior because…the cattle and sheep were not fattened but rather slaughtered direct from the thin pastures. From nearby fields and waters…there was a plentiful supply of venison, wild turkeys, geese, ducks, and other wild fowl. Terrapin were found in all ponds, and at times ships arrived from the West Indies with huge sea turtles. Fish were often scarce and expensive, but oysters, crabs, and shrimp could be bought cheaply. Vegetables were available and were preserved for winter months. Travelers noticed that the ‘long’ (sweet) potatoes were a great favorite and there were also white potatoes, pumpkins, various peas and beans, squashes, cucumbers, radishes, turnips, carrots, and parsnips among other vegetables. Rice was the colony’s great staple and it was served with meats and shellfish and used to make breads, biscuits, flour, puddings, and cakes. Corn served all classes to make Journey cakes and the great and small hominy. Wheat was grown by some of the Germans in the interior, but better grades were imported from Pennsylvania and New York. Lowcountry dwellers grew and enjoyed a profusion of fruits: oranges, peaches, citrons, pomegranates, lemons, pears, apples, figs, melons, nectarines, and apricots, as well as a variety of berries…Wealthy planters and merchants were not limited to locally produced foods. From northern colonies came apples, white potatoes, and wheat…as well as butter, cheeses, cabbages, onions, and corned beef. The West Indies, the Spanish and Portuguese islands, and Europe sent cheeses, salad oils, almonds, chocolate, olives, pimentos, raisins, sugar, limes, lemons, currants, spices, anchovies and salt. Boats arrived in Charles Town frequently from the West Indies with many kinds of tropical fruits. As for beverages, only the slaves, the poorest whites, and hard-pressed frontiersmen drank water. The average South Carolinian more likely drank a mixture of rum and water, spruce beer, or cider, and in the frontier areas peach brandy and…whiskey…”
A Colonial Plantation Cookbook: The Receipt Book of Harriott Pinckney Horry 1770, edited with an Introduction by Richard J. Hooker [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia SC] 1984 (p. 14-17)

But during the British occupation of Charles Town, things got very bad indeed:

“Soaring prices and the scarcity of food plagued citizens of the lowcountry. Paper bills issued by the Continental Congress and the State of South Carolina to finance the war effort and largely unbacked by gold or silver soon caused rampant inflation. An item selling for a shilling in Charles Town in 1777 might cost 61 shillings by 1780. A member of the wealthy and powerful Manigault family at Charles Town agonized in March, 1777: ‘We have been greatly Distressed for want of many Necessarys of Life.’ A few months later a military officer trying to secure supplies at Charles Town wrote his superior: ‘We have had quite a lot of trouble to obtain [provisions] because of the cost. Everything is a thousand percent more expensive since the War.’ As prices of meat and grain soared, one resident of Charles Town complained in early 1778 that ‘worm eaten corn is now sold which, at other times, would be judged only fit for beasts.’”

Patriots, Pistols, and Petticoats: “Poor Sinful Charles Town” during the American Revolution, by Walter J. Fraser, Jr. [University of South Carolina Press: Columbia, SC] 1976 Second Edition (p. 100)

I’ve tried to convey the dismay my characters felt when forced to pay high prices for what they considered staple foods as a result of the war-time situation they were living through without belaboring the point for too long. Keeping Elizabeth’s reaction to her reality in line with how I believe she’d handle the predicament. It’s an interesting line to walk when writing about the historical context of the story. I want to give the reader the sense of the times without making it into a history lesson. Not everybody enjoys reading history books, after all. So what do you think? Did I succeed? Should I have added more of the actual history to the scene?

I’m pleased to share that Elizabeth’s Hope is now available in audiobook format! My first audiobook, but the rest of the series will be following along shortly. Are you an audiobook fan? Or do you prefer another format? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Introducing the lives, loves, and dangerous times of the men and women in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series! This prequel novella takes place when Charles Town, South Carolina, is about to face the British enemy during the American Revolution.

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

Joining the revolutionary army was the honorable thing to do—but Jedediah Thomson hadn’t realized how long he’d be away from the lovely, spirited Miss Elizabeth Sullivan. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city, making it dangerous to get to her.

Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; and most of all for Jedediah, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away.

And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

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Touring the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon #Charleston #research #American #history #ReadIndie #AMorePerfectUnion

Last week I talked about the Heyward-Washington House which I toured on my first visit to Charleston. Today I’d like to talk about the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon which I specifically returned to Charleston to tour because I had questions I couldn’t answer with online resources. It was a very good thing I insisted on going back, too!

Image of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (Library of Congress)

In Emily’s Vow, the first novel in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series, I drafted a scene where she is taken prisoner by a loyalist major and kept in the Provost Dungeon. I’d looked at the virtual tour provided by the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon site, but I couldn’t determine how the prisoners were held in the dungeon. How did you get into the dungeon? What did the inside of the dungeon look like in the late 18th century? Were the prisoners shackled? Chained to the wall? Were there cells? How many prisoners would have been kept there? So many questions without answers!

Hubby and I made a quick overnight stop in Charleston on our way to Myrtle Beach so I could hopefully find answers to several questions related to Emily’s story. Our tour was led by a former history teacher and he really knew a lot about the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Thankfully, he knew about how the building had evolved over the couple of centuries of its existence, which answered all my questions, too.

You may be wondering what those questions may have been, so I’ll share three of them with you to give you an idea of what I learned and how it changed the story—from setting to action.

In the original draft (pre-publication), I had written, “Biting her tongue to keep from saying something she would regret, Emily endured the pushing and pulling into the Old Exchange, through the outer office, and down the dark stairs to the basement jail.” However, what I learned is that there wasn’t an outer office. You entered the dungeon through doors facing the street which were several steps down from the street. That’s not the case today because of the buildup of the road surface. So when you visit today, you actually go up the steps to the Exchange and then down some stairs at the back of the building that have been added for that purpose.

When you get downstairs into the dungeon, it’s pretty dark and cool. I had written in my scene that “She stumbled on the uneven wooden floor and the ropes around her wrists bit deeper. At least she had not fallen onto the hard surface.” First, the floor is actually brick and even, not uneven wood. The tour guide told me that only three women prisoners were ever held in the dungeon and then only for a couple of hours to “terrorize” them into revealing where there patriot husband/father/etc. was so they could imprison them instead. So I had to only keep Emily in the dungeon for a short period and then have her moved to a different place and detained in order to stick to the historical facts.

Finally, I had imagined there were cells, so had written, “Silently the man left, glancing over his shoulder before the heavy door closed behind him.” But the basement wasn’t divided at all. Instead it was one large room with posted guards. The prisoners were given straw to lay on and of course since it’s located near the harbor there were rats and mice and who knows what else sharing the dungeon with them.

Because of this learning experience, I try to visit the historical sites and tour them whenever possible. Especially when the site is a setting in one of my stories. Online resources can be limited in providing the evolution of the property so that I can depict it accurately and authentically to the best of my ability. See what you think in this short excerpt from Emily’s Vow:


Biting her tongue to refrain from speaking her mind, Emily endured the pushing and pulling down the steps into the Provost. Once used as the Harbor Master’s office and for storing the goods being shipped in and out of town, now only pirates and those who defied the king resided within the odoriferous walls. At one time the building had enjoyed the respect of the town. Now it reeked of the pungent odors of urine, spoilage, and decay. She gagged at the overpowering smells assailing her senses.

“Welcome to your home away from home.” John paused in the large communal prison.

Dim light leaked through the small windows situated near the ceiling. Several other prisoners stared at them from where they sat on the cold red brick floor or lay on beds made from piles of straw, but kept their distance. The scrabble of claws in the deeper regions of the space skittered chills down her back. John peered at her for a moment, a slow smile creasing his face. His leer frightened her and she shivered.

She stumbled when the soldier pushed her forward, the ropes biting deeper. He tugged at the knot and the rope slipped off her wrists. She rubbed the red skin on each wrist to ease the pain.

“You are dismissed,” John said to the soldier, keeping his gaze on Emily. Green eyes cold as a dead fish appraised her while he waited for the other man to heed his order.

Silently the man left, glancing over his shoulder before walking away.

Emily swallowed but maintained eye contact with John. He had a heart once, a deep compassion for animals and people. But, he had hurt her in the market, likely because of the sudden embarrassment when Tommy pulled his wig askew. She raised her chin, portraying a confidence she barely felt.

“First, I must search you for any contraband you might be hiding.” His eyes glittered in the dim light. He pushed his sleeves up as he walked toward her. “This won’t hurt. You may even enjoy it. Like old times.”


And in fact, in the new edition of Emily’s Vow that will publish next month, I’ve added a couple of new scenes at the second “prison” where she’s held against her will. I’ll talk more about Emily’s Vow next week. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Elizabeth’s Hope, now is your chance to begin the series. More about Elizabeth’s Hope is below.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Introducing the lives, loves, and dangerous times of the men and women in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series! This prequel novella takes place when Charles Town, South Carolina, is about to face the British enemy during the American Revolution.

CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

Joining the revolutionary army was the honorable thing to do—but Jedediah Thomson hadn’t realized how long he’d be away from the lovely, spirited Miss Elizabeth Sullivan. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city, making it dangerous to get to her.

Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; and most of all for Jedediah, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away.

And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

Books2Read      Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple  

The Arabbers’ Role in Baltimore’s History #inspiration #arabbers #NotesofLove&War #Baltimore #WWII #historical #fiction @Baltimore_City #ReadIndie

I’ve shared previously about the excellent history book I used as research for writing Notes of Love and War. Within the pages of Home Front Baltimore was mention of the arabbers (pronounced ay-rabbers) in Baltimore. These merchants were new to me, but apparently not to my brother who still lives in Maryland. So I did some more research to learn more about them, and let me tell there is much of interest surrounding these unique men.

All they need to bring merchandise, produce, meat/fish, home furnishings, or any other portable item to the people of the city was a horse, a colorfully decorated wagon, and sturdy shoes. From what I read, arabbers were in many major cities along the eastern seaboard of America beginning in the 1800s. They were very important for residents who couldn’t travel to a store or who may have been ill. After all, the store came to them, along with a cheery conversation with the men and perhaps a friendly pat for the horse. The horses are usually bedecked in plumes or feathers, with jangling harness. The men developed their own individual “look” for their wagons and created a catchy attention-grabbing jingle that would help the customers know who was approaching their front door. The residents know and trust these salesmen, too.

Here’s a short snippet where the arabbers are mentioned in Notes of Love and War:

“Audrey half-jogged down the crowded sidewalk, weaving past people bustling along wrapped head to toe, scarves and gloves barriers against the cold. The melodic chant of an arabber drifted over the murmur of conversation around her. A patient horse in jingling harness pulled the man’s colorful wagon, piled with heads of broccoli and cauliflower as well as lemons and grapefruit. She smiled at the black man leading the horse by its bridle, a jaunty plume between the animal’s ears. Rae, in her silver muskrat fur coat and black beret, waited at the corner for Audrey, tapping one pump-clad foot.”

There are still arabbers in Baltimore today. Not nearly as many as leading up to World War II and throughout the middle of the 1900s. A quick search as I was preparing to write this blog also revealed how important a role they are playing during this pandemic. They are distributing not only food to those who can’t go to the store for one reason or another, but also information on how to prevent transmission of the virus.

There was a photographic exhibit last year, too, that attracted many visitors. And you can view a photo gallery at the Facebook page for the Arabber Preservation Society. These men and their horses have provided a vital service to many for generations, and I’m glad I included them in the city description within my novel to help preserve their history and bring awareness of their service to my readers.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Check out the free sample (3 chapters) at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/2A18n3Gj  

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Let’s Go on a 1940s Summer Picnic #inspiration #NotesofLove&War #Baltimore #WWII #historical #fiction @Baltimore_City #ReadIndie

In my latest release, Notes of Love and War, there is a picnic scene. There’s a really good reason for why, too! I honestly love to go on picnics, a love fostered by my parents when I was a child. Since this story was originally inspired by my parents’ correspondence, it seemed fitting to include a picnic scene. As my husband and I raised our children, we would occasionally take them to a park and have a picnic. Sometimes we’d take the hibachi grill and grill burgers and hot dogs, or bratwurst, or even chicken at times.

Now that the kids are grown and on their own, we’ve been known to do more impromptu picnic fare. For example, we packed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and drinks during this pandemic and drove down to a picnic table by a lake to eat. We didn’t stop anywhere on the way; didn’t interact with anyone closer to us than about 50 feet (other than a precocious goose); and then drove straight back home. But it was great to get out of the house and behind the steering wheel again!

In order to depict the accoutrements of the fictional picnic, I needed some visual aids. I found a 1940s picnic basket with plates, cups, utensils along with what the picnic menus might include. Some of those menus were quite fancy, in my opinion. I was rather surprised to find that they would have had a vacuum box to keep items hot or cold, the precursor to a cooler like we use today.

So what’s for lunch at Notes of Love and War’s picnic? Here’s a snippet:


Audrey picked her way across the uneven ground. Frisk seemed chastened by her firm grip on the leash and walked sedately at her side. Victor’s rigid back hinted at his opinion of Audrey and her dog. Retrieving the basket, she lugged it to the shaded table. She tied Frisk’s leash to the table leg, then started putting their lunch out on the covered table.

“Is Frisk okay?” Rae handed Audrey a plastic plate from the woven picnic basket opened on the table.

“He’s fine.” She lifted the lid on the other vacuum box. “What’s he grilling?”

Rae leaned closer to inspect the contents of the cold container. “Looks like chicken legs.”

“We’ve got baked beans, too. Along with the fruit and cookies, we’ve quite a spread.” Audrey reached down to pet Frisk where he sat observing the proceedings. “I’m impressed.”

Rae put out a plate on the table for Victor, arranging utensils on either side. She glanced at the man in question with a grin. “He’s amazing.”

“Hmm.” Audrey kept her mouth closed and her hands busy. Better to keep a wait-and-see attitude until she knew him better.

Victor carried the covered plate of chicken to the grill, fragrant smoke drifting on the light breeze. He situated the meat on the rack over the flickering flames and then brought the plate back to the table. His movements were precise and efficient, no wasted effort. He paused to wipe his hands on a towel as he watched the girls putting the finishing touches on the table.

Audrey placed her palms on her hips and surveyed the layout. “Are we missing anything?”

Rae scanned the table and then nodded, satisfied. “I think we’re ready when you are, Vic.”


Audrey really would rather be anywhere but chaperoning her younger sister, but she also will do anything she must to protect Rae. She’s a protective older sister.

Do you enjoy going on picnics? What kinds of foods do you take to enjoy?

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Check out the free sample (3 chapters) at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/2A18n3Gj  

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Meet the real Audrey Harper, Music Critic #inspiration #Baltimore #WWII #historical #fiction @Baltimore_City #ReadIndie

Before I get to today’s post, I’d like to invite you to a Summer Picnic to celebrate the upcoming release of Notes of Love and War on July 28, 2020. It’ll be a virtual picnic on Zoom on Sunday afternoon, July 26 at 3:00 pm CDT, so you can set up your own snack or meal to enjoy. Prior to the picnic, I’ll send out to those who either RSVP below or Like the Facebook event an excerpt, photos, and recipes. I’ll read an excerpt from the book, and we’ll chat. You can ask me questions about the excerpt or any of my other books, if you’d like.

FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/271180240782200/ 

RSVP: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/l0m5d2

I hope you’ll come help me celebrate this story that was inspired first by my parents’ correspondence courtship during and after WWII. They loved each for 41 years before my mother died of breast cancer in 1989. Come on, you know you want something fun to look forward to, right? See you there!

Now onto the inspiration for my main character. When I chose to write a story set in Baltimore, Maryland, I wanted my heroine, Audrey Harper, to be a musician of some kind. So one of the first things I did was find references to music in Maryland and to female musicians. While reading Musical Maryland: A History of Song and Performance from the Colonial Period to the Age of Radio and looking for inspiration, I read the following with relation to the musicians and music scene during WWII:

“Both music critics for the Sun, Robert Cochran and Weldon Wallace, were sent off as war correspondents. Flora Murray, a former Peabody student and Goucher College graduate assigned to cover women’s clubs, fashion, and the society columns for the Sunday Sun, took over for both men, signing her articles ‘FM.’”

Perfect! Using Flora Murray as a role model for my character seemed like a perfect fit. I did not do any research into Ms. Murray but used my imagination and my own musical background to craft the character of Audrey Harper. I echoed the college education to a point, too. Here’s a snippet from Notes of Love and War where she learns of the opportunity to become the music critic:

“Okay. I have another bit of news to share with you.” Gloria straightened to saunter to the window. “I’ve just heard that John Walker’s number was called.”

The music critic for the Daily had made quite a name for himself with his insights and connections. Audrey had read his pieces and while they were informative they lacked originality and narrative finesse.

“Who’s taking his place?” Audrey swiveled her chair to face Gloria directly.

“Maybe you?” Gloria turned her back to the window and crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re qualified.”

Audrey considered the slim possibility. Mr. Banks didn’t seem impressed by her music appreciation background. Then again that was when she was applying for the society column job. Maybe… “Do you really think he’d consider me?”

“The worst he can say is no.”

Qualifying for the role as music critic would be easy with her background, her own musical ability and experience entertaining the soldiers at the USO. Which also gave her the right connections to access the movers and shakers of the music scene in the city. Plus she spoke their language and appreciated the music styles and musicians themselves. Facing Mr. Banks still frayed her nerves. But, if nothing else, she’d learned she must ask for what she wanted if she hoped to receive it.

“You’re right.” Audrey pushed slowly to her feet and smoothed her woolen skirt with damp palms. “Wish me luck.”

I really love finding actual historical tidbits that can inform my fiction in a way to make it authentic, too. Knowing a woman filled the positions of two men while they were serving their country makes for some great storytelling fodder even if I don’t use it exactly as in real life.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Now available for preorder! Notes of Love and War will release on July 28, 2020, in honor of my dad’s 100th birthday!

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Check out the free sample (3 chapters) at https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/2A18n3Gj  

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple

Getting to know Laurie Alice Eakes #author #contemporary #romance #suspense #fiction #amreading #books

A good romantic suspense is a fast and entertaining read, and I think my guest today can offer up some stories that fit that bill. Please welcome Laurie Alice Eakes! Let’s get to know a little about her and then we’ll dive right into the interview.

Laurie Alice Eakes thinks maybe she got her storytelling from her great-grandfather, who used to tell her sister and her stories of Beansy and Peasy. Or maybe she was always an early riser and lying still telling herself stories was the best way to stay out of trouble.

Whatever the root, the only career she ever truly wanted was to be an author. Knowing that was impractical, she received a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, taught English, managed a medical office, and worked in the human resources department of a soulless corporation. A month before she was laid off from this job and before her husband began law school, she sold her first book. Family Guardian won the National Readers Choice Award, and was the beginning of many sales and honors for her books, including as a finalist for the Rita Award, with her first contemporary women’s fiction novel, The Mountain Midwife.

Alice now writes full time from her home in Chicagoland, where she lives with her husband, two well-behaved dogs, and four mostly well-behaved cats. Her husband fears they are the crazy cat people of the neighborhood, but Alice doesn’t care if they are.

Website * Twitter

Betty: When did you become a writer?

Alice: I have written stories since I was able to write, so don’t know when to give it a date. I sold my first book in 2005. I sold my most recent books as of last Friday. I signed a contract with Harlequin for three more romantic suspense books. Due to some personal things going on, I haven’t gotten a new contract for a while.

Betty: How long did you work on your writing skills before you became published?

Alice: This is difficult to answer. Either three years or three decades. I started writing while teaching school, decided I didn’t know what I was doing, and went looking for other writers. Many stops and restarts followed as life priorities took over.

Betty: What authors or stories do you feel influenced your writing style?

Alice: This makes me a nerd, and I will start with Charles Dickens. He taught me how to end chapters with a cliffhanger. So did Friday afternoons on the soap operas I wasn’t supposed to watch. Other than that, though deigning to say I write like them is being kind of prideful on my part, Laura Kinsale, Jo Beverley, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart…

Betty: What prompted you to start writing?

My own brain prompted me to start. A few teachers along the way encouraged me to keep it up and keep trying.

Betty: What type of writing did you start with?

Alice: I started with short stories and poetry, much of which got published in school literary magazines. Then I moved on to creative nonfiction that got published in anthologies, and some articles for magazines. I wrote my first novel sometime in the 90s, but kept rewriting it instead of doing much with it.

Betty: What do you most enjoy writing?

Alice: As to genre? Suspense. Whether writing historical, contemporary romance, or women’s fiction, I want some kind of suspense. As far as part of the story, I love to write the meeting between the hero and heroine. Something about that moment is magical. Or maybe it’s the first kiss. Talk about special in a romance!

Betty: How did you learn to write? A mentor, classes, conferences, craft books, or something else?

Alice: All of the above. Mostly I learned from books and in grad school, where my mentors were people like Barbara J. Miller and Victoria Thompson. They taught me how to take an idea and turn it into a novel.

Betty: What do you wish you knew before you started writing/publishing?

Alice: How to manage my career and that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. I can’t really say more in a public forum so as not to bruise a few toes I’d be stepping on. I adore my current agent.

Betty: What other authors inspired you (either directly or through their writing) to try your hand at writing?

Alice: Kimberley Cates and Jessica Douglass (writing names) encouraged me a great deal. Others followed. Those two are the most special, esp. Linda/Jessica, who told me to finish something.

Betty: What inspired you to write the book you’re sharing with us today?

Alice: I like playing the “What If” game. I look at a situation and think “What if that car that was carjacked held someone really, really important?” We have a problem with carjackings where in Chicagoland the car is taken and used to commit a crime, then abandoned. I kept hearing the stories on the news and…. Voila!

A kidnapper with deadly intentions

…and a US marshal who must come to the rescue

The carjacking that ended with Kristen Lang running for her life—and her federal judge mother kidnapped—was a nightmare. The ransom, however, is worse: Kristen in exchange for her mother. Deputy US Marshal Nick Sandoval will do almost anything to safely recover the judge—except trade Kristen. But can he shield the woman he’s falling for and bring her mother home?

Excerpt:

Carjacking was all too common. People stole cars to commit a crime, but they didn’t usually hurt the vehicle owners. They left them beside the road. It was unpleasant but not life threatening if they didn’t fight back.

But these men were taking her and her mother, not the car. They had deliberately wrecked her.

She yanked one arm free and struck out for the man’s face. Missed. She kicked one kitten heel into the man’s shin. Connected. He grunted, then picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Tires, a barely dented bumper on the SUV, wet pavement, Mom’s designer heels spun past in a nauseating blur. In another moment, she was going to be sick.

The man tossed her in to the back of the SUV. Her head hit the side. Stars exploded before her eyes. Dazed, she lay still for a fatal moment—a moment in which her mother landed beside her.

“Tie her up,” one man commanded.

He leaned into the back of the SUV and grabbed Mom’s hands.

Kristen surged up and bashed her head into his face at the same time Mom shoved both stilettos into his middle. He staggered back, fell against his companion, sending him reeling, but still held Mom’s hands.

“Kristen, run!” her mom cried.

Kristen ran, kicking off her pumps and speeding along the shoulder of the Eisenhower. Above the roar of traffic, she heard the slam of the SUV’s hatch—with her mother behind its tinted windows.

Buy links: Amazon * Harlequin

I think I’m hooked! What about you?

Thanks for sharing Laurie Alice! Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit http://www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

What A Gown Says: Martha Washington’s Wedding Attire #BecomingLadyWashington #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amreading #books #ReadIndie

British author L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between gives us a popular quote: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” In many ways that is true. On the other hand, there are similarities in those differences. The language of clothing is one of those areas where you can see similar desires and expectations between the 18th century and what we do today. For example, what we wear depends on what we’re going to do (workout at the gym, go to the office, graduate from college, etc.), how much we want to conform to society’s expectations of appropriate attire and modesty, and how much we can afford to spend on our apparel to meet that expectation. The same was true in the past.

I’d like for you to consider Martha Washington’s wedding attire as one example, but first let me share some insights into what clothing says about the wearer.

In the 18th century, how you dressed spoke volumes about your status in the community and society. The fashionableness of the style, the quality and hue of the fabric, as well as the wearer’s movements and stance combined to tell others the person’s status, whether high or low or somewhere in between. Keeping up with fashion trends then, as now, meant following the European fashion magazines which were sent to the colonies regularly. Indeed, it’s recorded that Thomas Jefferson sent Parisian fashion magazines to his daughter when he was visiting France.

The style could also indicate, though not always, where the person was from, either by American colony or another country. Clothing suggested the gender and occupation, how rich or poor, and what kind and amount of activity they engaged in. And much like today, what a person wears can also reveal their attitude toward the society they live in. Consider how differently a person would dress if she were a scullery maid versus a personal maid to a planter’s wife versus the planter’s wife, for instance. The same would be true of a field hand versus a dancing tutor versus a lawyer in town.

Image of Martha Washington as a young woman showing the lace, ruffles, bows, and hair decor.
Young Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Courtesy Library of Congress.

At the time of Martha and George Washington’s marriage on January 6, 1759, women of a higher status preferred silks brocaded with colorful flowers on a white background. (Brocade is an intricate design on fabric, often raised.) Martha was no exception in preferring silk, especially on her wedding day. Who wouldn’t want the gentle swish and sway of silk, right? Another aspect of choosing her gown is that she would have wanted something she could wear again for other special occasions. They didn’t buy a gown to wear once and put away as a keepsake then. Nor would she have considered a white gown; that fashion came later, in the 19th century.

According to the Mount Vernon historians, Martha’s gown was made of yellow silk damask (meaning reversible) with a petticoat of cream silk highlighted with interwoven silver threads with (perhaps Dresden) lace trim. Her dainty high-heeled shoes were made of purple satin with silver ornamentation. The historians interpret the message of her outfit as, “The combination of expensive, imported yellow and purple silks with silver and gold decorations would have produced a regal appearance that conveyed her elevated social and economic standing.” You can see a photo of the dress and shoes at the above link. I’ve been to the museum where the outfit is on display and it is far lovelier in person than in the photo. But I do agree with their interpretation.

Here’s a short snippet from the book where Martha is preparing for her marriage ceremony, waiting for her sister to come and style her hair:


Where was Nancy? Soon I must go downstairs. I checked the lay of my deep yellow brocade overdress, arranging the silver lace trim at the edge of the bodice until satisfied with its appearance. A white silk petticoat with silver woven into the fabric peeked through the split skirt of the overdress. I stepped into purple satin heels, smiling with pleasure at the silver trimmings. I didn’t often have reason to don such finery, but marrying one of the most distinguished and respected men in the colony certainly justified my choice. Fortunately, the outfit had arrived from London in time to tailor the dress to fit my small figure. Why couldn’t the London factors send clothing meeting the measurements sent instead of sending garments either too big or, worse, too small?

A light rap sounded at the door to my bedroom. I turned as it swung open and Nancy beamed at me. “You’re beautiful, Patsy.”

“I’m glad you’ve arrived. Come, dress my hair for me.”

“I’m sorry for being so late. Now we must hurry. It’s almost time for the ceremony. Everyone is so happy for you.” Nancy pranced into the room and then stopped suddenly to perform a quick pirouette. “What do you think of my gown?”

I inspected the rich green dress with rhinestones sewn across the bodice, a cream silk petticoat visible through the sheer material brushing the tips of her gold satin shoes. “It’s quite lovely. But then you always dress divinely.”


The cover of my historical fiction story of Martha’s life, Becoming Lady Washington, includes an artist’s interpretation of George and Martha’s wedding, an image housed in the Library of Congress. It is not accurate, though, in portraying her attire. In 1759, there were no photographs (obviously) and no sketch artist or portraitist hired to create an image, at least not one that has been found to date. I imagine the man who created the image based it on other similar weddings he’d attended. I particularly enjoy the group of women to the right, apparently oohing and ahhing over the proceedings!

The wedding attire of George and Martha Washington is typical finery of the 18th century but is not accurate since the dress she's wearing in the image is not the same one in the museum.
Artist concept of the marriage ceremony of George and Martha Washington. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Another portrait in the LOC comes from the C.M. Bell collection, dated between 1873 and 1916, and shows how fashionably dressed Martha was as a young woman. Please note that Martha died in 1802. The LOC dated this image based on the fact that it is contained in Bell’s collection and those were the years he was a photographer. I think he likely took a photo of an earlier oil portrait. You can see in the picture the fine fabric and bows and lace, her posture and hair style all speak to her status. Women wearing such attire would not be working in the kitchen, but have the wealth necessary to support a more leisurely life style.

So while the styles and fabrics we wear today have changed, the way we interpret another’s position in society hasn’t changed all that much. We still tend to believe the clothes make the man/woman, that we “dress for success,” or to reveal our rebellion toward societal expectations by wearing clothing others deem in appropriate. I think that attribute of people will likely never change.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

My Dearest: Letters of Martha and George Washington #BecomingLadyWashington #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amreading #books #ReadIndie

I want to talk today about the three letters known to exist that were written between George and Martha Washington.

That number may surprise you, as back in their time letters were the only means of conveying information and news. No telegrams, or faxes, or cell phones, that’s for sure! So why only three? When I first started researching Martha Washington’s life and times, I was dismayed to learn that there are only three because she burned all the rest shortly before she died. Here’s why, taken from the opening scene in Becoming Lady Washington:


Our love nestled in my hands. Pen and ink applied to linen pages were the only tangible evidence remaining of the love I shared with my husband. He called to me, softly, urgently. I sensed him more than heard his voice, but he summoned me nonetheless. Alone in my chamber, I knew the time drew near for me to answer his command, but delayed doing so until I’d done what I’d come upstairs to my bedchamber to do. I owed him that and so much more.

Voices along with the parakeets’ incessant chatter floated up from the portico below, the reassuring sounds drifting up and into my room. Another more subtle voice in my mind urged me to follow George’s private secretary’s circumspect example for far different reasons than to protect that awful Jefferson. I’d left everyone below to escape to my private space, using my ailment as an excuse to rest. I didn’t tell any one my true intention because I’m sure they’d try to stop me.

I gripped one of the many packets of letters stacked on my bedside table, each tied with a red satin ribbon faded to dusty rose. The papers were creased and stained from their travels from one state to another, from the multitude of hands which passed on the letters, and from the repeated reading of their contents. Words of love. Of private jokes between a man and his wife. Words of anger and dismay, of fear and courage, all kept mostly secure from the eyes of strangers. Safe from being abused and published in the paper, their meaning twisted and contorted to suit nefarious aims by my husband’s enemies. Men like that blasted betrayer, Thomas Jefferson. I shall never forgive him for intentionally working to defame my precious life mate. The wounds from Jefferson’s actions never healed. How could Tobias Lear have wanted to protect that man’s reputation? Nonetheless, I’d defend George’s reputation until the day I died. Maybe longer.

I looked around my bedchamber. Not the one I had shared for so many years with my love. No, that one I’d closed up tight upon his death three long years ago before moving into this third floor chamber. I smiled at the sight of the four-post bed with its pink roses dominating against a cheery yellow backing. They brought a bit of my garden inside to keep me company, now that I no longer had the interest or strength to work among the flowers. My gaze rested on the dark wood dresser, a looking glass framed above it. The fire snapped and crackled, its flames dancing merrily along the logs. The sound of the greedy flames reminded me of my mission.

Pulling a chair away from the writing desk, I positioned it close to the fire with one hand, clutching the treasured missives against my chest. Sitting, I tugged on the ribbon, freeing the folded pages to tumble into my lap. I leaned forward, and began feeding the letters into the fire. Watched the ancient pages burn and curl as they blackened into ash. As each letter shriveled and disappeared, my mind drifted back over my life. A life of love, grief, and peril. Starting with the precocious decision that set the rest into motion.


Now, although she burned all of the private correspondence in her possession, others retained their letters so we do have a collection of letters written to and from Martha. Joseph E. Fields gathered them into a book, “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington which is invaluable as a source for understanding what her concerns and worries and joys consisted of.

I am going to share the three letters, or parts of them, to give you a glimpse into their relationship and what I tried to convey in my depiction of their love for each other. The spelling and punctuation used within “Worthy Partner” are retained as I have to believe that is how it was in the actual letters.

The only letter written by Martha to George, however, is short and sweet. It’s dated March 30, 1767. George had gone to Williamsburg to attend the House of Burgesses and then on to the Dismal Swamp area before returning to Mount Vernon:

My Dearest

It as with very great pleasure I see in your letter that you got safely down. We are all very well at this time but it still is rainney and wett. I am sorry you will not be at home soon as I expected you. I had reather my sister woud not come up so soon as May woud be much plasenter time than April. We wrote you last post as I have nothing new to tell you I must conclude myself

Your most Affectionate
Martha Washington

I wonder if George may have been a bit disappointed in this short note while he was away. Talking about the weather and to request that her sister hold off visiting for another month. In contrast, Martha’s other letters included in the book were sometimes long indeed.

No letters from George to Martha exist until one dated June 18, 1775 from Philadelphia. George is explaining why he will not be coming home to Mount Vernon for the foreseeable future:

My Dearest

I am now set down to write you on a subject which fills me with inexpressible concern – and this concern is greatly aggravated and increased, when I reflect upon the uneasiness I know it will give you – It has been determined in Congress that the whole Army raised for the defence of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the command of it. You may believe me my dear Patcy, when I assure you, in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the Family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my Capacity and that I should enjoy more real happiness and felicity in one month with you, at home, than I have the most distant prospect of reaping abroad, if my stay were to be Seven times Seven years. But, as it has been a kind of destiny that has thrown me upon this Service, I shall hope that my undertaking of it, is designed to answer some good purpose – You might, and I suppose did perceive, from the Tenor of my letters, that I was apprehensive I could not avoid this appointment, as I did not even pretend to intimate when I should return – that was the case – it was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment without exposing my Character to such censures as would have reflected dishonor upon myself, and given pain to my friends – this, I am sure could not, and ought not be pleasing to you, & must have lessend me considerably in my own esteem. I shall rely therefore, confidently, on that Providence which has heretofore preservd, & been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall – I shall feel no pain from the Toil, or the danger of the Campaign – My unhappiness will flow, from the uneasiness I know you will feel at being left alone – I beg of you to summon your whole fortitude Resolution, and pass your time as agreeably as possible – nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen. …

I shall add nothing more at present as I have several Letters to write, but to desire you will remember me to Milly & all Friends, and to assure you that I am with the most unfeigned regard,

My dear
Patcy Yr Affecte
Go: Washington

I left out two paragraphs in George’s letter. His is a much longer one than hers because he had important news to share and he wanted to console her as much as possible over the upcoming separation.

Enclosed in this letter was his will because as he says, “As Life is always uncertain, and common prudence dictates” he wanted to ease her mind and any future aggravation of not stated his wishes should the worst happen. I can only image the mixture of relief and terror that swept through upon receiving a will from her beloved husband. Relief because she’d seen the outcome of having a husband who possessed a fortune die without a will, and probably hoped to never have to go through such an overwhelming situation again. Terror stemming from the fear she’d need to use the will, that her husband wouldn’t come home alive but in a box. If he came home at all.

Five days after that letter, George wrote again to Martha from Philadelphia…

My dearest,

As I am within a few minutes of leaving this City, I could not think of departing from it without dropping you a line, especially as I do not know whether it may be in my power to write you again till I get to the Camp at Boston – I go fully trusting in that Providence, which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, & in full confidence of a happy Meeting with you sometime in the Fall – I have no time to add more, as I am surrounded with Company to take leave of me – I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change. My best love to Jack & Nelly and regard for the rest of the Family concludes me with the utmost truth & sincerity,

Yr entire
Go: Washington

In fact, he didn’t step foot on Mount Vernon until late in 1781 before the battle at Yorktown.

I so wish I had had more of their correspondence to refer to in order to better understand their relationship, their feelings for each other and the separation they endured. On the other hand, I can totally understand her need to protect her beloved husband’s reputation in a time when personal letters were being printed in the newspapers, or quote out of context. Even from these few samples, though, it’s obvious that they loved each other very, very much.

Happy reading!

Betty

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Cover of Becoming Lady Washington showing the marriage of Martha and George Washington

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband…no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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