9 Equestrian Paintings from the Victorian Era

“Horses and Buggy” circa 1876, by Henry Collins Bispham (American, 1841–1882). / Source: www.the-athenaeum.org

“Horses and Buggy” circa 1876, by Henry Collins Bispham (American, 1841–1882). / Source: www.the-athenaeum.org

This month I am celebrating a very special occasion.

One year ago, this month, my second novella The Best Man in Brookside released in The California Gold Rush Romance Collection! *unleashes a million balloons*

On this book birthday, I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to those who helped the collection hit the ECPA Bestseller List and to those dear readers who embraced my California-Gold-Rush-story-that-takes-place-in-England. THANK YOU EVER SO! :-)

Since my novella revolves around a carousel and a horse-whisperer, let’s celebrate Brookside’s birthday with 9 Equestrian Paintings from the Victorian Era!

“An accomplished horsewoman rides with elegance, and a good grace, united to a noble boldness, beautiful yet modest.”
~ Excerpt from
“Park Riding: with some remarks on the Art of Horsemanship” by J. Rimell Dunbar, circa 1859.

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The Kentucky Derby: A Two Minute Race through Victorian History

Engraving of 1883 Kentucky Derby winning horse, Leonatus. / Source: Churchill Downs, Inc. & Kinetic Corporation.

Engraving of 1883 Kentucky Derby winning horse, Leonatus. / Source: Churchill Downs, Inc.

I’m a hat lady residing in the south, so obviously the Kentucky Derby is a rather grand affair at my house. Every first Saturday of May, my family arranges an intimate Kentucky Derby Tea around the living room television. Donning pearls and plumed fascinators, we sip Darjeeling and savor scones during the pre-race coverage. The parade of millinery masterpieces evokes oohs and aahs from our lips. And the tales of underdog racehorses and devoted trainers makes us dream of red roses, Triple Crown wins, and the fruition of our own “impossible” endeavors.

Kentucky Derby Inspired Hat. / Source: www.stylemepretty.com Cambria Grace Photography

Kentucky Derby Inspired Hat. / Source: www.stylemepretty.com Cambria Grace Photography

This Derby Day Tea has become a treasured tradition in my family. Just as the “most exciting two minutes in sports” has become a tradition of the old Kentucky home . . . one that can be traced back to the Victorian Era.

To the Starting Gate . . .

The Kentucky Derby was created by a Victorian gentleman with an illustrious name and a familial tie to American history books. This gent was one Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr.—the grandson of William Clark, of the explorer duo Lewis and Clark. Continue reading

Mackinac Island: A Victorian Oasis

Mackinac IslandAt the end of August, I had the pleasure of visiting the Victorian Era. No, not by means of time machine. I simply took a ferry across Lake Huron to Mackinac Island, near Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Mackinac Island gained renown in the late Victorian Era as a summer vacation resort for the wealthy. (Apparently having servants at your beck and call to perform all menial labor and change your fashionable ensembles multiple times a day was most exhausting.)

Thanks to an island-wide ban on automobiles, very little has changed on Mackinac. (The dangerous and raucous machines frightened the horses, you see. Rather impractical.)

This resulted in Mackinac Island turning into a time capsule. Horse and carriage is still the dominant form of transportation. Victorian architecture remains intact on store fronts and homes, preserved with reverence rather than modernized. And cell reception is…sparse. While time on Mackinac may not actually move backward, it certainly slows to a rhythm unfamiliar to us 21st century dwellers. Yet it’s a peaceful pace that is utterly refreshing. I highly recommend it as a MUST vacation spot for every amateur historian and 21st Century Victorian!

Since we can’t venture there today, let’s enjoy a brief cyber-tour of Mackinac Island: A Victorian Oasis!

Mackinac Island

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6 Delightfully Delicious Teas

Tea MemeHello, my name is Angela, and I am a tea-oholic. 

On second thought, that term is rather extreme as it implies addiction. I shall try another. I am a tea drinker? Tea enthusiast? Tea snob? All of the above? Let’s just go with tea connoisseur as it sounds fancy and official and marvelously superfluous.

Rewind. Press play.

Hello, my name is Angela, and I am a tea connoisseur. I’ve enjoyed tea parties from a young age, starting with Disney Princess tea sets and later transitioning to Fine Bone China. This is all thanks to my elegant mother—the original 21st Century Victorian Lady—who instilled a love of tea in our family. Each May we put on an annual Kentucky Derby Tea, and the rest of the year, we manage to transform pretty much any occasion into tea time.

Now that you better understand my endearing obsession with a good cuppa, please allow me to gush about some of the best blends I’ve discovered over the years.

6 Delightfully Delicious Teas!

1. Irish Breakfast / Harney & Sons Fine Teas 

Black Tea / Served with or without Milk and Sugar

Irish Breakfast is my perfect top o’the mornin’ cuppa. 100% Assam it’s suitable for drinking alongside any breakfast dish, sweet or savory. Have one cup or three, as the lucky clover grows, to set your day off with a sprightly jig! *cue the Riverdance soundtrack*

Shop for Irish Breakfast.

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A Roundabout History of the Victorian Carousel

Antique CarouselMy fascination with carousels began when I was a little girl. Growing up in Florida, there was a carousel at the mall where my parents would take me to ride a very special horse. A white carousel horse named Abigail. I have faint, precious memories of riding Abigail, round and around, to a magical combination of music and lights while my daddy’s hand rested at my back holding me safely in place upon a colorfully painted saddle.

I suppose this lingering memory is to thank for subconsciously inspiring my latest novella, The Best Man in Brookside. In this Victorian era tale, my characters Donovan and Sophia are thrown together on an English village’s fair committee and tasked to revive an old, very special, carousel into a steam-driven marvel.

This concept of a steam-powered carousel was incredibly fun for me to research because I am both a history geek and a whimsical Steampunk at heart. Since there were so many interesting facts that failed to make the cut of my tiny novella, I’d like to share some of my harvested knowledge with you now in A Roundabout History of the Victorian Carousel!

Antique Carousel

The First Carousels: Early carousels were rather small and unimpressive contraptions—simple platforms built with mounted wooden horses turned about by a man or a real horse pulling a rope. Despite their simple construction, the popularity of carousels increased with the passing years and by the mid-19th century, the carousel was a staple at fairs delighting children across England. Continue reading

EVENT: California Gold Rush Collection Release Party

A brief jaunt away from my regular blogging schedule to issue a special invitation!

California FB Event-Small Size

I will be making an appearance at the Facebook Release Party to chat about my Victorian novella, THE BEST MAN IN BROOKSIDE. I’m so excited to share Donovan and Sophia’s story with you! Hope to see you there!

1-Brookside Town Meme

Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Love of Horses

Horse InspirationKeeping up with the British Royal Family is rather a hobby of mine. I follow them on Facebook, read biographies and history books, and watch every PBS special I can find about their thoroughly interesting family tree.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated quite the mental store of important and random trivia facts. For example: Did you know that Queen Elizabeth loves horses? Furthermore, did you know that her horses are trained using the art of horse whispering?

Indeed, in the 1980’s the Queen was one of the first to employ renowned American “horse whisperer” Monty Roberts, famous for his gentle Join-Up method for training racehorses. In fact, it was at the Queen’s suggestion that Roberts penned a book about his unique ideas, The Man Who Listens to Horses, which went on to sell over five million copies worldwide.

In addition to employing horse whisperers, Queen Elizabeth herself is also quite skilled in the art. Back in 1981, while riding her favorite mare Burmese in the Trooping of the Colour–a ceremony that marks the reigning monarch’s official birthday–someone fired six blank shots at the Queen, spooking poor Burmese who then attempted to bolt. Despite sitting side-saddle, the Queen was able to calm Burmese, regaining control of her mount in a few strides of canter. A most impressive feat!

Below are 16 photographs documenting Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Love of Horses!

Little Elizabeth, age four, astride her first Shetland pony. Image Source: The Royal Collection via Telegraph.co.uk.

Little Elizabeth, age four, astride her first Shetland pony. Image Source: The Royal Collection via Telegraph.co.uk.

Queen Elizabeth had her first riding lesson at age three and was given her first horse, a Shetland pony named Peggy, by her grandfather King George V on her fourth birthday. Isn’t she just darling?! Continue reading

8 Must Have Items for Letter Writing

By now, most of you know that I’m a devoted letter writer. I love how writing a letter momentarily disconnects us from the dizzying speed of social media and allows us to rediscover our five senses. Remind ourselves of the tangible world beyond glowing screens and the people who live there.

Today I hope to inspire you to take up this restorative art form. To get you started, here are my 8 Must Have Items for Letter Writing! (Be sure to read to the very end for some exciting news!)

Lovely Blue Stationary

1. Lovely Stationary

Stationary, like fashion, can display one’s personality. Take advantage of this by choosing stationary that reflects your unique style. This makes it more fun for you while writing the letter and more precious to the one who receives it in their mailbox. When someone can recognize you in the personal elements of a card—before even reading the words—that transforms stationary from mere paper into something worth treasuring. My favorite brand is Punch Studio, which I pick up at TJMaxx or Marshall’s. I adore this line’s Victorian inspired style and intricate details, like designs that flow into the envelope’s interior. Continue reading