A Jolly Good Word

Lately I’ve been researching the Aesthetic Movement, which began during the mid-Victorian era and flourished up until after the turn of the 20th century. Think of the pre-Raphaelites, Oscar Wilde, James MacNeil Whistler, William Morris, Liberty Fabrics … and of course Gilbert and Sullivan. Yes, sunflowers and lilies and Japanese fans are my obsessions right now.

What’s surprised me is how often I’ve run across the word “jolly.” The Victorians seemed to toss “jolly” into their conversations all the time. But here I’d thought that the word meant happy and fat, like good old Saint Nick. Was there more to it than I had imagined?

For example,  Lucy Turner married William S. Gilbert (he of Gilbert & Sullivan fame). Speaking about their honeymoon trip in a letter to one of her aunts, the newly wed Lucy Gilbert explained that she and Will had traveled from Boulogne to Paris, after which they were heading back: “We return to the Hotel Christol [in Boulogne] when we leave this and are to have the same room – which will be jolly.”

Jolly? That seems too bland and nice a word for a honeymoon. It makes it seem as if the two of them sat around laughing uproariously, not… doing what newlyweds generally do. Which, given the deep love and affection between Lucy and Will, I’m reasonably sure they did.

Later on, in one of the letters Gilbert wrote to Lucy when he was training with his regiment, the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders, he called her “My darling old Girl,” and mentioned: “We had a jolly dance yesterday,” adding, “You should see me dance a reel!”

Well, okay, in this case, jolly sounds about right for an evening of dance and laughter. But then consider this example:

The actor Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson (quoted in the book “The Aesthetic Movement” by Lionel Lambourne) described one of the rooms in architect E.W. Godwin’s house like this: The floor was covered in straw-coloured matting and there was a dado of the same material. Above the dado were white walls and the hangings were of cretonne with a fine Japanese pattern in a delicate grey and blue. The chairs were of wicker with cushions like the hangings and in the centre of the room was a full-sized cast of the Venus de Milo before which was a small pedestal holding a censer from which was curving round the Venus, ribbons of blue smoke…The whole effect was what students of my time would have called “awfully jolly.”

A room in soothing neutrals, with a statue of Venus de Milo and a bowl of incense, doesn’t sound like my idea of “jolly.” Sounds pretty absurd, frankly. But clearly the word in this context doesn’t mean Big Fun. So I’ve come up with a theory.

Maybe back then, “jolly” didn’t just mean nice and fun. Maybe meant something more like “super” or “cool” or “awesome.”

That would be jolly.


Christmas Pudding – part of the Christmas feast!

      2014-ChristmasPartyBlogHopWelcome to the Christmas Party Blog Hop  – a grand tour of 26 blog posts, published simultaneously on a shared theme.

I’d like to invite you to share a slice of Christmas Pudding with the characters from my sweet Christmas Regency story, Her Very Major Christmas. Then, after the end of the blog post on Christmas Puddings and the excerpt from the story, you’ll find links to the other 26 posts. Enjoy!


In Her Very Major Christmas, Rosalind is looking forward to her very first traditional English Christmas celebration, complete with all the trimmings, especially the Christmas pudding!

The Christmas pudding was made up of thirteen ingredients – representing Christ and the twelve apostles. Raisins, currants, orange and lemon peels, brown sugar, spices and suet were mixed with bread crumbs, eggs, milk and brandy to create a rich, dense batter.

xmas pudding 1

Making the Christmas pudding usually began on Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday in November. On this day, all family members gathered to take a hand in the stirring, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib and stable). The stirring had to be done clockwise, from east to west to honor the journey of the Magi, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish.

Christmas Pudding

Once every member of the family took their turn stirring the batter, tiny trinkets could be added to the mix. Silver coins (for wealth), a crown (for good luck) or a ring (for marriage) were among the charms that could be stirred into the mixture. Whoever got a serving with a charm in it was said to have that luck for the coming year.

The rich, brandy-laced pudding was then boiled or steamed, and kept in a cool dry place for several weeks. On the day it was to be served, the pudding would be steamed for a few more hours. Then the whole pudding, dark and glistening with fruit and alcohol, would be placed on a platter and set alight. When the flaming dish was ceremoniously carried to the table, the diners would meet it with a round of applause.


Although one might imagine that the day was so named because of the traditional and ceremonial stirring of the pudding, in fact the day got its name from the opening words of the main prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 for that day: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…’

Christmas in the Regency was often spread out over a much longer period than it is today. Although the Germanic custom of having a Christmas tree and opening presents on Christmas Day was not widespread during the English Regency, feasting and dancing was spread out over the entire period from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night. All sorts of parties from balls to dinners, card-parties and skating-parties were held. Extended holiday visits brought families and friends together, giving rise to courtships and weddings.


An Excerpt from Her Very Major Christmas:

HVMCThe major swept his other hand around the room. “And this is what you do? Mix up poultices and draughts?”

“Not just poultices and draughts,” Rosalind said. “I make other things—marmalades and jellies, pickles, compotes, candied peel for the fruitcake and Christmas pudding and oh, preserves of all kinds.”

He nodded, encouraging her to go on. She smiled. “This year I’ve been allowed to help with the preparation of Christmas Dinner. A real English feast! When I was growing up my mother told me all about boar’s heads and plum puddings at Christmastime. It all sounded so magnificent, much more exotic than anything Indian food had to offer.”

He smiled at that—a genuine smile that warmed his face and lifted the corners of his eyes. They were gray-blue, deep-set and serious most of the time but just now they seemed alight with amusement. “Hard to imagine that boiled puddings and roasts could be exotic. When I was in Spain the native food seemed ambrosial compared to anything I’d ever tasted before.”

“But that’s just because it was different,” she argued. “Ever since I came to England I’ve longed to experience a true English feast just as my mother described it. The Joslins are not very interested in such things, which is a pity. But this year they agreed to let me make the mince pies and the Christmas pudding with Mrs. Pennymoor’s help. My only disappointment is that none of them wished to stir the pudding and make their wishes on Stir-Up Sunday.”

Mrs. Pennymoor had helped her make the pudding on the last Sunday of Advent, as was traditional. Since the Joslins had not been interested Mrs. Pennymoor had decreed that the servants would be allowed to participate in the stirring-up ceremony. It had been an unexpected pleasure to see the scullery maid’s eyes grow round with awe when she was invited to take her turn stirring the wooden spoon and the stable boys had even been willing to endure a vigorous scrubbing in cold water in order to take part in the occasion.

“Then I shall look forward to this Christmas dinner,” the major said. He looked back down at his hand, flexing it experimentally. “I think your pepper ointment is working.”

He smiled up at her. Rosalind found herself smiling back.

And now, on with the blog hop!

The theme of the blog hop is an invitation to a Christmas celebration, and every stop on this blog hop will be a little bit different. Variety is the spice of a party!

Huge thanks to historical novelist Helen Hollick for arranging this fun event — I hope you will visit and enjoy all of the different offerings of this moveable feast.

Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings!

Thank you for joining our party
now follow on to the next enjoyable entertainment…

1. Helen Hollick : “You are Cordially Invited to a Ball” (plus a giveaway prize) –  http://tinyurl.com/nsodv78  

2. Alison Morton : “Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale”  (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/op8fz57

3. Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell – http://tinyurl.com/pb9fh3m

4. Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates – http://tinyurl.com/mwaukkx

5. Anna Belfrage :  All I want for Christmas – (plus a giveaway prize) http://tinyurl.com/okycz3o

6. Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal – http://wp.me/p3uiuG-Mn

7. Clare Flynn :  A German American Christmas – http://tinyurl.com/mmbxh3r

8. Debbie Young :  Good Christmas Housekeeping  (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/mbnlmy2

9. Derek Birks :  The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble – http://wp.me/p3hedh-3f

10. Edward James : An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest –  http://tinyurl.com/o3vowum and – http://tinyurl.com/lwvrxnx 

11. Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/leqddlq

12. J. L. Oakley :  Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/qf6mlnl

13. Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 – http://wp.me/p58yDd-az

14. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party – http://tinyurl.com/n8xk946  

15Juliet Greenwood : Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) – http://tinyurl.com/q6e9vnp

16. Lauren Johnson :  Farewell Advent, Christmas is come” – Early Tudor Festive Feasts – http://wp.me/p1aZWT-ei

17. Lucienne Boyce :  A Victory Celebration – http://tinyurl.com/ovl4sus

18. Nancy Bilyeau :  Christmas After the Priory (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/p52q7gl

19. Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 – http://tinyurl.com/qbkj6b9

20. Peter St John:  Dummy’s Birthday – http://tinyurl.com/nsqedvv

21. Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas  (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/pt2yvzs

22. Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit – http://tinyurl.com/leyh4gt

23. Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding — Part of the Christmas Feast – http://tinyurl.com/lyd4d7b

24. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement…
(plus a giveaway prize) – http://wp.me/p4lRC7-aG

25. Suzanne Adair :The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780  (plus a giveaway prize) – http://tinyurl.com/oc5496a

26. Lindsay Downs: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree  (plus a giveaway prize)  http://tinyurl.com/kvfz468

Thank you for joining us!

Her Very Major Christmas — Cold days, warm hearts!


I love food – what can I say? I was the kind of kid who really loved reading cookbooks, imagining the glorious smells of cinnamon and citrus, and looking at photographs of perfectly prepared dishes. Canning vegetables and making marmalade is a fun challenge that always leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. Baking cakes and making marvelous stews is one of my favorite ways to show love.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that this year’s Cotillion Christmas theme was the traditional holiday feast during the English Regency! Old cookbooks offer us a fascinating glimpse into the foods of the past, and I couldn’t wait to explore the dishes that might have appeared on a nobleman’s dining table in 1815.

Of course, since making delicious food is important to me, my heroine had to enjoy cooking too. Even though an upper-class lady wouldn’t be expected to slave in the kitchen, she certainly might be interested in making certain special food items like jellies, candies, and other preparations including home remedies. Back in an era when medicines, lotions, and other concoctions had to be made by hand, the lady of the house might well have learned how.

As it happens, Rosalind Joslin’s remedies help to heal the wounds suffered by her cousin-by-marriage, Major Harry Joslin. He’s a gruff and somewhat imposing veteran of Waterloo who finds her gentle, practical nature a soothing balm to his spirit.

About Her Very Major Christmas

Widowed Rosalind Joslin is an extra female in her in-laws’ household. Longing to prove she still has value, she uses her skills to make remedies and medicinal preparations for the poor. She misses the warmth and sun of India where she was raised but looks forward to her first real English Christmas with holly and the traditional feast.

Major Harry Joslin never expected his cousin’s death to thrust him into the unwanted role of nobleman. Still recovering from the emotional and physical injuries inflicted at Waterloo, he’s not ready for the demands of a new position and his family’s pressure for him to marry a debutante. His cousin’s widow is just another complication.

But it’s the season of miracles and two wounded hearts may find love blooming in the depths of a snowy Christmas day.

Find “Her Very Major Christmas” at Ellora’s Cave and Amazon!

Welcome to the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt!

February 14-17, 2014

Janice Bennett • Kate Dolan • Susana Ellis • Saralee Etter • A.S. Fenichel • Aileen Fish • Barbara Miller • Hetty St. James • Elaine Violette

We’re not your typical Ellora’s Cave authors!

We write for Cotillion, an imprint of Ellora’s Cave’s Blush line, the mainstream “other” side of Ellora’s Cave that most people don’t know about.

Yes, Virginia, Ellora’s Cave does publish mainstream romance, in addition to the erotic romance it’s famous for. Even sweet romance, such as traditional Regencies, believe or not!

It’s true!

Cotillion is the traditional Regency imprint of Ellora’s Cave’s Blush line. Cotillion stories are chock-full of romance and traditions common in the early 19th century. Their settings range from elegant London ballrooms to family estates in the country. Heroines may be wealthy society belles or impoverished gentry such as the Bennet daughters in Pride and Prejudice. Heroes may be titled or untitled, but if they are rakes, they must be ready to reform, because the only sexual behavior you’re going to see here is kissing.

If you like Jane Austen and traditional Regencies such as were popularized by Georgette Heyer, why not give our books a try? We’d love to hear what you think!

Hop around to your heart’s content, feel free to comment on the posts, hunt for answers to the authors’ scavenger hunt questions, and perhaps you’ll be one of our 10 lucky prize winners (see contest details below)…although you’re already a winner if you find a new story to read, don’t you agree?

The theme for this tour is Love in the Regency Era, and for my post, I’ve chosen to talk about “A Regency wedding dress”.


The traditional white wedding gown, worn only once and then tucked away, is a relatively recent invention.

Up until 1840, when Queen Victoria’s wedding dress made white the only color for the bride’s special gown, a young woman might get married in a dress of any color. And after her big day, she would most likely wear it again.


A white gown from 1823 which could have served both as an evening gown and a wedding dress. 

During the Regency era, a bride would wear the best dress she (or her family) could afford for the occasion of her wedding. A young woman from a wealthy family might have a special dress made, an elegant gown that she could wear to a ball or to the opera. A bride from the middle- or lower-classes would get married in her Sunday best. Accessories often included a bonnet or turban, although as the nineteenth century progressed, a veil became a more frequent choice.

Because a Regency-era bride’s dress would be worn on multiple occasions, the cherished keepsakes of the day were often the slippers she wore. Some brides would write down their impressions of the day, and then tuck her written memories into the shoes before packing them safely away.

What color dresses did Regency-era brides wear?

Dark colors, such as burgundy, brown and black were practical choices for less-wealthy women, who worried about their dresses showing dirt at the hem after repeated wearings.  During the late 1700s red was a popular choice (Jane Austen’s mother, Cassandra Leigh, married Rev. George Austen wearing a red riding habit, which she wore on many occasions in the years that followed).

Pastels and shades of white were worn by middle and upper-class brides. However, white was the color of choice for most gowns at the time, and not just for bridal wear. Upper-class women during the Regency often wore ball gowns and wedding attire made of fine muslin, so delicate as to be almost transparent.

A guest at the 1803 wedding of Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon’s 18-year-old brother) to Miss Elizabeth Patterson, a wealthy young American, complained that the bride’s dress “would fit easily into a gentleman’s pocket.”

“The dress was of muslin, richly embroidered, of extremely fine texture. Beneath it she wore but a single garment,” he said.


Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte’s gown (Picture courtesy of the Met)

When Napoleon himself married Marie-Louise of Austria in 1810, she wore a white satin dress embroidered with leaves and Napoleonic bees in silver and gold.


 Detail of painting by Francesco Giuseppe Casanova (1727-1802),  ‘Mariage de Napoléon Ier et de Marie-Louise. 2 avril 1810 ; Banquet du mariage de Napoléon et de Marie-Louise dans la salle de spectacle des Tuileries’ (The marriage banquet of Napoleon I and Marie-Louise of Austria April 2, 1810).
Now at Musée National du Château Fontainebleau.

Pastels and primrose (yellow) were also popular during the early decades of the 1800s. Jane Austen’s niece Anna married Benjamin Lefroy in 1814. Her sister Caroline reported that Anna wore “a dress of fine white muslin, and over it a soft silk shawl, white shot with primrose, with embossed white-satin flowers, and very handsome fringe, and on her head a small cap to match, trimmed with lace.”

By far the most lavish wedding dress of the Regency era was that of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only child of Princess Caroline of Brunswick, and George, Prince of Wales who later became King George IV.

Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold in 1816, dressed in a sumptuous gown of silver:


Princess Charlotte’s silver wedding gown. Image @ Museum of London

Her fine fair hair, elegantly yet simply arranged, owed more to its natural beautiful wave than to the art of the friseur; it was crowned with a most superb wreath of brilliants, forming rosebuds with their leaves.
Her dress was silver lama [lamé] on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament. Such was the bridal dress …
The jewellery of the royal bride is most superb; beside the wreath, are a diamond cestus, ear- rings, and an armlet of great value, with a superb set of pearls. The court dresses worn by the royal family and nobility on this occasion were particularly splendid; we are sorry our limits will not allow us to enter into particulars, but we cannot forbear noticing the singular taste and elegance, displayed in the superb lama dress, so beautifully wrought with silver lilies, of the Marchioness of Cholmondeley; we have never before witnessed so charming a combination of classical taste, splendour, and touching simplicity.

La Belle Assemblee (May 1816)

Possibly inspired by this creation, there is a print in Ackerman’s Repository of June 1816 that shows a wedding dress in white satin with an overdress of striped gauze and trimmed with Brussels lace.


Ackerman’s Repository, June 1816

So although many brides wore white during the Regency, it was not a color associated exclusively with weddings during that time. A bride wore her best dress – and in the highest strata of society, the “best” was spectacular.



Thank you for reading about Regency wedding dresses! Leave me a comment below, and you may win a free copy of my traditional Regency romance, A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT!  I’ll select the lucky recepient on February 17th.


Here’s my question for the scavenger hunt: WHAT COLOR WEDDING DRESS DID PRINCESS CHARLOTTE WEAR?

Click on the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page to fill in the answer, and you may continue on from there. The rules are listed below. Enjoy!


Scavenger Hunt

  1. Click on the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page.
  2. Read the blog post and the author’s short answer question at the end. Locate the answer to the question, then click on the link to the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page and type in the answer next to the author’s name. Be sure to fill in the your name and email address!
  3. You may go back to same page and read more of the author’s post (excerpt, etc.) or you may click on another author’s name on the answer sheet and repeat the process.
  4. When you are finished, check to make sure the spaces for your name and email address are filled in correctly, and submit your answer sheet to the tour coordinator . If you submit an incomplete answer sheet, you may come back later and make another submission with the remaining answers when you have more time.
  5. The Grand Prize for the Scavenger Hunt will be awarded to the participant with the most correct answers to the authors’ scavenger hunt questions.  In case of a tie, the winner will be chosen randomly.
  6. The name of the Grand Prize winner will be posted on the Cotillion Authors Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt page the following week.

“Lydia’s Christmas Charade” Debuts Today!

Hooray! Today I’m celebrating the release of my story, “Lydia’s Christmas Charade.” I hope you’ll enjoy this tale of love amid the holiday traditions of Regency England such as the Yule log, mummers’ plays, and charades.

lydiaschristmascharade_msrLydia’s Christmas Charade
by Saralee Etter

A Blush® traditional Regency romance from Ellora’s Cave.

Dutiful, practical Lydia knew that her father, a wealthy commoner, planned to announce her engagement to a nobleman at their Christmas house party. But she didn’t expect her prospective fiancé to be in love with another woman!

Anthony wasn’t usually so reckless. But something about the unknown lady’s sweet manner and pansy brown eyes made him want to share a bit of juicy gossip with her. Everybody knew Lord Danville needed to marry an heiress to save his family from financial ruin. Nobody but Anthony would mention it to the heiress herself.

To fix the mess he’s created, Anthony must woo Lydia on his noble friend’s behalf—and Lydia will have to decide between duty and desire.

This story features some characters also seen in A Limited Engagement.

Amazon         Publisher’s Website            Barnes & Noble           Kobo

Also available in print (Cotillion Christmas Traditions) on November 13, 2013

Saralee Etter on Social Media   – 
Come visit me online!

Website: www.saraleeetter.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/saralee.etter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Saraleeetter  @Saraleeetter

Goodreads: Saralee Etter

Enjoy “Festive Persuasion”

festivepersuasionFestive Persuasion
By Charlene Roberts

Blush sensuality level: This is a sweet romance (kisses only, no sexual content).

The terrible scandal overshadowing his family has left Lord Trevor devastated. Not only must he fight murder allegations alongside his father, but he must relinquish any hope of pursuing Lady Sophia for her hand in marriage.

Lady Sophia tolerates persistent visits from Lord Walter, yet she knows that her heart belongs to Lord Trevor, despite his stubborn honor to stay away.

During the Christmas season, it is revealed that Lord Trevor’s family is innocent and they are slowly re-accepted by the ton. Now it is up to Lady Sophia to show Lord Trevor—through gentle persuasion—that her feelings for him have not changed, and fight off Lord Walter, who will do anything to win her affections.

A Blush® Regency romance from Ellora’s Cave


Ellora’s CaveAmazonKoboBarnes & Noble

About the Author

Charlene Roberts lives in Toronto, Canada. Her writing career started after helping a friend type her historical novel. When she became a member of her local writing group, she pursued her love of the written word until her first sale and hasn’t looked back since.

She has worked as a Script Supervisor, Book Reviewer for Romantic Times, modelled and now works as an Administrative Assistant at a consulting company. However her love of creating stories for others to read and enjoy still remains her first and foremost passion.


Indulge in “A Christmas Caroline”

achristmascaroline_msrHer dear father’s health is failing, but Caroline is determined to brighten his spirits during this Christmastide. She knows that he would be so pleased if only she were engaged to be married…

A Christmas Caroline
by Vivien Jackson and Christa Page

A Blush® romance from Ellora’s Cave

Lady Caroline Selwyn’s world centers on her father, so when she receives dire news of his health—two days before Christmas, no less—her first thought is to weep. Her second is to make this Christmastide the best he’s ever known. To that end, she rummages in memory for festive traditions, plans charades, purchases bean cakes…and acquires an affianced husband. Oh, not a real one—what she does is convince Papa’s physician to pretend an engagement, for just a few weeks.

Doctor Samuel Avery can hardly credit his complicity in this madcap deception. Whatever was he thinking? But it does seem to improve the comfort of the earl, and his own sisters are in alt at the idea of his impending nuptials. And he has admired Caroline for so long the role of her betrothed is easy to play. In fact, the scheme seems in every way perfect. Except that it is not true.

A Christmas Caroline is available now.

About the Authors

Vivien Jackson
Christa Paige
On our own, we write paranormal and sci-fi and fantasy and hot cops. Together, it’s all about the cravats and Hessians. Polished, of course.