Friday, January 5, 2018

The Lacemaker

Every once is a while, you find a book that draws you into the time, place, and characters in such a way that you are completely consumed by the book until you are finished, then after you lay the book down for the last time your thoughts and feelings continue to linger with it for days after.  This is what I experienced while reading Laura Frantz's new novel The Lacemaker.  Words can not describe how much I love this book.  The plot is compelling, the characters are memorable and the research and accuracy that went into the story by the author really shines through.  Too often have I tossed away an historical fiction novel in absolute disgust because the author had not done his or her homework.  The Lacemaker made me feel as if I was walking the streets of 18th-century Williamsburg, VA with them.

The novel opens with Lady Elisabeth Lawson preparing to marry Miles Roth, a gentleman of breeding, quality and money.  That Elisabeth is not in love with her intended is of little consequence as the daughter of the lieutenant governor of the Virginia colony has had little experience with love.  While Elisabeth prepares for her wedding and socializes with the family of the royal governor all is not well in the Virginia colony.  The thirteen colonies are on the brink of revolution and Virginia's royal governor has done nothing to put out the fire brewing in his colony.  In the midst of brewing tension, Elisabeth meets Noble Rynallt, a distant cousin of her fiance and a powerful leader in the Patriot movement.  With the house of cards of British rule crashing down around her, Elisabeth turns to Noble for assistance.  The Revolution for Elisabeth becomes deeply personal as she takes the spirit of the times to heart and breaks away from her tyrannical father in the process finding her voice and the home and love that she never had.

The Lacemaker is a lush historical romance.  The novel is a Christian romance, so the characters frequently pray and talk about their personal relationship with God.  Which is accurate for the time period as evidenced by reading primary sources.  Also as the two main characters fall in love there is a lot of internal dialogue about their feelings for the other and if the other character feels the same.  The romance is clean, with hand holding and some kissing.  When the characters finally consummate their relationship during their honeymoon the action is not described.

Laura Frantz must be commended for doing an amazing job with this novel.  Not only does she write a compelling story but she has clearly thoroughly researched 18th-century Virginia history and culture.  Anyone familiar with Colonial Williamsburg and the people and places of colonial Virginia will recognize many of the minor characters and locations.  It was fun for me to go through the book
catching all the historical characters, businesses and plantations featured in The Lacemaker.  Laura Frantz really wears her research lightly and employs her skill much as Elisabeth Lawson weaved her lace in light, frothy folds dazzlingly the beholder.

To learn more about Laura Frantz and The Lacemaker visit her website.
The Lacemaker is available in print and Kindle on Amazon.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Titles

2017 was a busy year for me, as I published two books and was featured in a new anthology of true ghost stories.

In December I published my biography of Mary Ball Washington.  I am very proud of this book and it was the result of three years of research.  The book is available currently at the Mary Washington House in Fredericksburg, VA and on Amazon.

In October I published a forgotten classic on American manners during the Civil War era.  With a new introduction and editorial notes Manners during the Civil War was adapted from American Etiquette, or the Customs Adopted by Polite Society throughout the United States.   Manners during the Civil War is available on Amazon.

My final published piece was a true story of a ghostly encounter I had at the Spotslyvania County Confederate Cemetery featured in Encounters With the Paranormal: Volume 3: Personal Tales of the Supernatural edited by author Mike Ricksecker.  The book was published in October and proceeds goes towards preserving the Mineral Springs Hotel in Alton, IL.  The book is also available on Amazon and at Haunted Road Media.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mary Washington

For Mother's Day, Washington Post writer Gregory S. Schneider wrote an article about Mary Washington.  I was interviewed and had the pleasure of giving Mr. Schneider a tour of the Mary Washington House in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  I invite everyone to come to the Mary Washington House to learn about the life of this remarkable woman--and your view of her might just be challenged.  The mother who made George Washington--and made him miserable

(Gregory Schneider/The Washington Post)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Encounters with the Paranormal: Volume 2

While on Mike Ricksecker's and Vanessa Hogle's show The Edge of the Rabbit Hole, I mentioned that I contributed a story in Mike's anthology Encounters with the Paranormal: Volume 2: Personal Tales of the Supernatural.  The book is a collection of true stories of encounters with the paranormal.  I contributed a story about my favorite ghostly encounter at the Whaley House.

The best part about participating in this book is that a portion of the proceeds of this book will be directly donated to the restoration and preservation of the historic Goldenrod Showboat.

Encounters with the Paranormal: Volume 2 is currently available on Amazon

To learn more about Mike Ricksecker's Haunted Road Media please here   

Spiritualism In The Lincoln White House | Michelle Hamilton | Edge Of Th...

Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest on Mike Ricksecker's and Vanessa Hogle's YouTube show The Edge of the Rabbit Hole where I discussed my book "I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House.  It was a great hour and I enjoyed my time on the show.

"I Would Still Be Drowned in Tears": Spiritualism in Abraham Lincoln's White House is available on Amazon

"My Heart is in the Cause": The Civil War Diaries of Private James A. Meyers, 45th PA Volunteers is available on Amazon

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Fredericksburg Ghost Story

Sometimes while researching I come across something completely unexpected.  While preparing for a lecture about Civil War women diarist in Fredericksburg I came across this amazing story that I would like to share.

General John Minor was a solider in Revolutionary War and a general in the War of 1812.  Minor entered politics and was an associate of James Monroe.  A respected member of Fredericksburg, Minor had a large family and a large plantation called Hazel Hill.  In June of 1816, Minor was in Richmond, Virginia attending the General Assembly when the following events occurred.  This story was recorded by Minor's granddaughter Mary Isabella Blackford (1841-1928):

"My mother never did tell me this ghost story at all.  I never heard it till after I was grown...My grandmother had kept it a dead secret forty years.  The servants had strict orders not to mention it in Fredericksburg or anywhere.  In those days servants had to mind.  As far as I know, they never did tell it.

"General Minor was at that time a member of the General Assembly that was meeting in Richmond.  My grandmother was not expecting him at all.  She was sitting in her dining room at Hazel Hill about 6 o'clock that evening...with her sons, their tutor and my mother, when suddenly the door opened and the butler, an elderly colored man, came in and said, 'Mistress, did you know Master had come?'  She rose from the table quite excited and said, 'No, Ben, I was not expecting General Minor.  Where is he?'

"Then they all followed Ben out in the hall and saw [the General] at the lower end and just about to go upstairs.  He turned a moment and looked at them and then went on up.  He was in full evening dress.  They could see his hand on the banister as he went up, and the ruffles at his wrist.  Some went upstairs and searched every room but he was no where to be found.  The family were all excited and distressed, not knowing what to think.

"At that very moment General Minor was at the Governor's Mansion attending a state dinner.  Several hours later a man on horseback, his horse covered with foam, dashed into he yard with a letter to Grandma telling the sad news of the General's sudden death at the dinner party." (Source: Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: The Story of a Virginia Lady Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford 1802-1896 Who Taught Her Sons to Hate Slavery and to Love the Union by L. Minor Blackford (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954) pg. 8-9).

Sadly, Hazel Hill no longer stands, but there is a historical marker detailing the history of the property and Minor's accomplishments.  For more information on Hazel Hill here.

General John Minor's remains were returned to Fredericksburg and buried in the Fredericksburg Masonic Cemetery.  Visit his Find a Grave page here.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Printed Fashions at Colonial Williamsburg

Last week a new exhibition at the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg opened for the public.  "Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home" examines the printed textiles that flooded the market from the late 17th century to early 19th century.  Spurred on by new technologies and trade with India and Asia, British manufacturers found a wealth of inspiration for printed fabrics--and an eager public who quickly snapped up the fabric to decorate their homes and display their wealth through vibrant clothing.

The curators at Colonial Willamsburg gathered 75 examples of the best of 18th-19th century printed fabric.  Many of the pieces have never been on display before.  The selected pieces are simply breathtaking.  The pieces dazzle the eye, and quickly banish any thoughts of Colonial era fashions and homes as dark, bland, or unfashionable.  The colonists were just as fashion conscience as their English counterparts and quickly adapted the latest trends and fashions into their homes and wardrobes.

Below are just a few of the highlights on display:

Caraco Jacket, with quilted petticoat c. 1775-1785.  I love how the fichu is tucked into the front of the caraco.  The fichu, wig, and jewelry are reproductions.

Back view of the caraco jacket with the fichu draped over the shoulder.

Banyan c. 1770-1810.  During this period, men were not afraid to wear bold colors and flowered fabrics.  Banyan's were worn at home in private when a gentlemen took their waistcoats off for comfort.  The cap kept the gentlemen's head warm when the wig was not being worn.

Gown and apron c. 1780-1790.  This is a very fashionable gown and highlights the fashionable silhouette of the 1780s.  My favorite part about this dress is that at the front of the bodice an extra strip of fabric was added across the top for modesty.  I also liked how the apron is tucked under the V at the front of the waist.

Gown c. 1785.  This was my favorite gown in the exhibition.  I love, love, love every part of this outfit.  The wig, fichu, flowers, petticoat, and jewelry are reproduction.

Side view of the gown.

Gentleman's shaving or dressing apron c. 1750-1775.  Worn while being dressed and shaved, the apron prevented the powder that dusted the wigs from getting on a gentleman's clothing.

Gown c. 1800-1810.  This is a beautiful example of the Empire style fashions.  The fabric dates from c. 1790 suggesting that the dress was remodeled after the 1790s to reflect the changing fashions.

A close up view of the lovely sleeve trim.

Gown with removable sleeves c. 1805.  This dress has removable sleeves which transformed a day dress into an elegant evening dress.  I love the ruffles on the bodice for modesty.

Gown bodice and skirt panel c. 1790.  Another example of a dress remade to reflect changes in fashion.  The skirt panel had been connected to the bodice, but was removed at a later date.

Reproduction gown in the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum gift shop.  This fabric was reproduced by Colonial Williamsburg, but has been retired.  You think they would have waited till after the exhibit!

Fabric fragment c. 1775-1800.  Colonial Williamsburg has reproduced this fabric and can be purchased here.

Two stomachers c.1720-1740.  This is the back of the stomachers and would would not have been meant to be seen.

Doll in a wrapping gown c. 1770-1775.  Dolls in the 18th century showcased the latest fashions and this doll came with a complete wardrobe of fashionable gowns and underpinnings.

Apron c. 1770-1775.  A unique example of a bib apron from the 18th-century.  I need to add on of these to my wardrobe!

Child's gown or frock c. 1790.  Guests to Colonial Williamsburg will recognize this gown and fabric as the inspiration for the outfit sold in the gift shops of CW.

Back view of a jacket c. 1775-1785.  The stomacher to this jacket has been lost.

Kerchiefs c. 1795-1825.  Printed kerchiefs added a dash of color to everyday wear.

Jacket c. 1780.  Another example of fabric being reused to reflect changing fashions.  The jacket dates to the late 1770s to early 1780s, but the fabric dates to an earlier period.

Jacket c. 1795-1815.  Changing fashions are reflected in this jacket for everyday wear.

Hat c. 1780-1820.  Cotton chintz used to line the inside of this fashionable straw hat.

I highly recommend a trip to Colonial Williamsburg to view "Printed Fashions."  Pictures do not do justice to the beautiful fabric and fashions on display.  The exhibit is scheduled to run for two years, so there is plenty of time.

For more information visit the official page here