Mystery Musings

My thoughts are muddled and cobbled together this Monday.  As so often happens to me, I’ve ended up with more questions than answers, and they’re all sort of blending together, and I’m letting them.  I finished reading In The Market for Murder by T.E. Kinsey last night.  On the cover, there’s a lady in a long coat with a maid in a long black dress and white apron.  I’ve read so many Regency mysteries and romances lately that my mind went right to that period of history.  But I was wrong.  The first book in the series takes place in 1908, and this–the second book–is shortly after.  For whatever reason, that date caught me off guard.  Lady Hardcastle and her husband were spies, and when her husband was killed, she retired to the English countryside with her maid–who traveled with her before she made it safely home.  The maid knows martial arts, and both ladies are quite capable of taking care of themselves.  But men constantly worry about their delicate sensibilities.

For me, the time period in this book feels a lot like the social niceties of the Regencies and Lady Darby mysteries that I read.  Except in this book, Lady Hardcastle decides to buy an automobile.  And that scene, in itself, made for an amusing read.  The salesman couldn’t fathom a woman buying a car by herself, with no husband, no chauffeur, and no mechanic.

For some reason, I read that scene and it triggered thoughts about my grandmother–how many changes she saw in her lifetime.  She grew up on a farm and lived through World War I.  When the men came home from fighting, she went to barn dances by horse and buggy.  She met and married my grandfather sometime during the Roaring Twenties.  Men whistled at her legs when she wore her flapper dresses, and she cut her hair in a bob.  Grandpa became a truck driver, and they moved to Chicago.  A gangster tried to hire him to run alcohol from Canada to a bar, but Grandpa turned him down.  One of his friends took the job and was shot dead on one of his trips.  Then came the Great Depression, and they lost everything, including their home.  They had to move back to live in a small worker’s shack near her mom.  And then came World War II and both of her sons were drafted.  Thankfully, both of them returned.

All of those memories, along with the books I’ve read lately, made me think about war and wars since today’s Memorial Day.  My husband put out the flag on our front porch.  Usually, a small neighborhood parade goes down our street, so loud you can’t sleep through it even if you wanted to.  Which we don’t.  We like seeing our neighbors and former neighbors who often return to see the high school band, an old train engine changed over to celebrate veterans, and all of the other groups that participate in the parade.  We visit on the side of the street and people marching by throw candy to the kids.  We linger for a while once it’s over, and then we all retreat to our homes and whatever our plans are for the day.  But not this year.  Covid19 put a stop to the celebration.  Maybe it will return next year.  Maybe not.  Things have changed.

But we’ll always honor the men and women who served our country and lost their lives to protect us and our freedom.  And that led me to think about the nature of war.  It’s always been with us.  All you have to do is read the history books we were taught growing up.  We jump from the The French and Indian War to the Revolution to the War of 1812 and so on.  History is full of wars.  Every country fought them, all the way back to the Romans, the Egyptians, even the cavemen.  And wars changed mindsets and attitudes.  They brought back new ideas and products.  But at such a high cost.  Are we forever destined to fight them?  Maybe.  There’s always someone who wants to dominate, plunder, or subjugate.  Maybe it’s part of the human condition.

When I was young and idealistic, and wondered if we’d ever get tired of wars, I read The Devil and the Good Lord by Jean-Paul Sartre.  And it made me think that wars will always be with us, that if you’re too idealistic, you’re vulnerable.  But there will always be strong, honorable people who do the right thing, who respect one another.  And I can’t help but hope that there will always be more of them than angry, disgruntled people who are willing to trample their fellow man to get what they want.

See?  I warned you that my mind was rambling today.  And I might be able to add up clues to solve mysteries, but I can’t begin to fathom the mystery of Destiny or mankind.  I hope you had a wonderful three-day weekend, and happy Memorial Day.

 

A Short History Lesson (for me) for the Regency period

I love Regency romances and mysteries, but I don’t know enough about the history of the period to keep everything straight.  Luckily for me, my good friend M. L. Rigdon (aka Julia Donner) agreed to a Q & A to help promote her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID.

More than a Milkmaid--Mary Lou

Help me welcome her to my blog.  She’s my critique partner and close friend, and I’m also a huge fan of her writing—and not just because I’m prejudiced. I’m pretty picky about what I consider good writing. Not that anyone would know that. I simply don’t review books I don’t like or admire. And I admire her work. Her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID, is one of my favorites.

Thanks so much for asking me here today! And yes, you are biased, but for my latest venture into the Regency world, it may have to do with you providing the title. Remember? We were at a Scribes writing group and I whined about not being to come up with one. Thanks again for that!

I’ve been reading more novels than usual set in or close to the Regency period. The mystery I’m reading now makes the Prince Regent and his father, actually most of his family, look really bad. It shows the Prince as a spoiled, narcissistic hypochondriac and womanizer who’s so pampered, he couldn’t possibly rule a country. His “handlers” do it. Is this a realistic view of him? Was his father really mentally incompetent—crazy or Alzheimers—at this period?

George III reigned as one of the best monarchs until his mental condition worsened. He was admired for his devotion to his wife and family, huge contributions to charity, and his great pride in being an Englishman, even though 100% German. He was strict and pious, which unfortunately was not passed down to most of his children. His son, eventually George IV, was the opposite of his father in every way, although he did love one woman for many years. The problem was that she was unsuitable as a royal wife.

When the Regent became George IV in 1820, he burdened the country with massive debt. One estimate stated that he spent over 4 million a year on his stables. (A wealthy man spent around 5 thousand a year.) Add to that lavish parties and extravagant building projects. Since he behaved exactly the opposite of his father, George was widely unpopular and mocked.

Back to Dad, George III, the controversy regarding his illness is ongoing. In my opinion (take it as you will), the porphyria disease as the cause of his mental problems doesn’t fit. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t suffer from it, just that it’s doubtful it made him nuts. The arsenic found in the DNA from his hair also doesn’t sound like a true cause for dementia, which was intermittent. (Arsenic was an ancient remedy for many ailments, especially venereal disease, but George III was monogamous.) Bipolar fits better, especially since there are studies about neurotransmitters and George was born 2 months premature. High sex drive is often connected to bipolar and George fathered 15 kids. Hmmm…

Did the Prince go on to become a good king? Did the Hanover house lose its rule eventually? And when did Queen Victoria become queen? Close to this period?

George IV was a mess and fortunately reigned only a decade. His only legitimate heir died. The next in line of surviving brothers was William. He had no legitimate heirs, so the line moved to previously deceased Edward the Duke of Kent’s daughter, Victoria.

QE II is a descendant of the House of Hanover.

I get confused about what’s really happening in history at this time period. Is England still fighting the Napoleonic wars? When is the French revolution when French aristocracy fled to England for safety? You mention both in your books. Asterly was a spy for England against Napoleon and Cervantes’s mother fled the guillotine. Care to elaborate?

Napoleonic Wars started in 1800 in Europe. England entered the war in 1803 until 1815.

Louis XVI was executed January 1793 and Marie Antoinette 9 months later.

Reign of Terror began in the summer of 1793.

Significantly, Marquise de Lafayette returned to France and was never hassled. He was as admired there as he was, and still is, in the US.

Most of the books I’ve read in this period hint at how badly England treated Ireland and maybe Scotland, too. How bad was it? Which of your books dealt with this?

It’s mentioned in many of them but most detailed in The Dandy and the Flirt.

I’m not as familiar with Irish history, but the enclosures in Scotland were horrific, as bad as what the USA did to Native Americans.

In MORE THAN A MILKMAID, you have a wealthy father marry a greedy young bride who does everything possible to steal all of the inheritance he left to his daughters. How did inheritances for female offspring work at that time? What are entailments? How was the title and money passed on to heirs?

Primogeniture, inheritance in England of titles and properties, or entailment, cannot be sold. It follows the eldest born of the male line. Women only inherited if monies or properties, were specifically willed to them and administered through trustees or an elder male member of the family or a person of confidence.

 

In Heiress and the Spy, Elizabeth’s fortune was supposed to be administered by trustees. She directed them. In that case, I took liberties and had her late father arrange special conditions.

 

Dowry pertains to what the bride brings to the marriage. Everything she owns goes to her husband. A settlement had to do with what legal arrangements were set aside for the financial wellbeing of the wife/widow.

 

On a fashion note, the heroines in these stories wear day dresses and then dress for dinner each evening. Did they dress formally every evening?

It wasn’t unusual to change four or five times a day—clothes for the boudoir, morning dress for breakfast, carriage or walking dress, habits for riding, frocks for receiving callers. One always dressed for dinner and then there were different types of fancy dress, such as ball gowns or court dress. In the country, a woman could probably get away with changing twice a day. Men changed didn’t change quite as often but most certainly had specific attires for every event or social function.

Anything you care to tell us about this particular book?  An excerpt to tempt us?

 

I’ve gone on a bit long, as I often do when it comes to history, so will just add a blurb.

 

Lenora Asher’s happy future came to a tragic end when the lad she was contracted to marry lost his life in a fire. Grieving and rebellious, she refused to agree to her family’s plan for an alternate future. When they cast her off, she found work and refuge with an estranged aunt and settled into the struggle to survive—until one day she discovers the love she’d thought long dead was quite vibrantly alive. He returned to show her that the troubled road to happily-ever-after littered with barriers of doubt, distrust and resentment are no obstacle for a man risen from dead, one who will do whatever is needed to restore her love.

https://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Milkmaid-Friendship-Book-ebook/dp/B08426CBBF/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2XQJR2NRLJV2X&keywords=julia+donner&qid=1581613418&s=books&sprefix=Julia+donner%2Cstripbooks%2C154&sr=1-2

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

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Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

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