Let the Games Begin with Sharon Lathan

Since I’m getting ready to travel to the NJ Romance Writers Conference today, I invited a buddy who does not quite so terrible things to Jane Austen, Sharon Lathan, to help out on today’s blog. If you’re in the NJ area, come and buy books at the Literacy Bookfair on Saturday, October 23.

Sharon is the author of the bestselling Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, and My Dearest Mr. Darcy. In addition to her writing, she works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. For more information, please visit her website. Sharon also shares the spotlight at Austen Authors and Casablanca Authors. In the Arms of Mr. Darcy is her latest book, available now.

If only everyone could be as happy as they are…
Darcy and Elizabeth are as much in love as ever—even more so as their relationship matures. Their passion inspires everyone around them, and as winter turns to spring, romance blossoms around them.
Confirmed bachelor Richard Fitzwilliam sets his sights on a seemingly unattainable, beautiful widow; Georgiana Darcy learns to flirt outrageously; the very flighty Kitty Bennet develops her first crush, and Caroline Bingley meets her match.
But the path of true love never does run smooth, and Elizabeth and Darcy are kept busy navigating their friends and loved ones through the inevitable separations, misunderstandings, misgivings, and lovers’ quarrels to reach their own happily ever afters…

As I am writing my saga I am constantly asking myself this question: “What did people do _____?” I love nothing more than delving into what the day-to-day might have been like for people of the upper classes during the Regency. In my latest novel, In The Arms of Mr. Darcy, I asked the above question like this: “What did people do in the winter for entertainment?” Since the initial chapters cover Christmas and a large group of Darcy friends and family descending upon Pemberley for several weeks of Derbyshire winter in 1818, it was a valid question. As I learned of the possibilities it was necessary for Pemberley to have many rooms dedicated to entertaining including one I dubbed The Court. If you were part of the holiday party, here is the fun you would have enjoyed,

Inside amusements were plentiful. Parlor games, cards, musical concerts, darts, dominoes, backgammon, chess, and billiards are only some of the quieter pursuits possible. Tennis was strictly an indoor game until the lawn sport was invented in 1873. Primarily the sport of nobility and the gentry, tennis underwent numerous modifications since its initial creation in the twelfth century but one constant was that courts were constructed inside. The games now known as Squash and Racquets were 18th century creations, begun in debtors’ prisons as a pastime for the inmates who did not have nets so would hit the balls against the solid stonewalls. This is also the genesis for handball since a racquet was not always available.

Badminton owes its name and rules to the Duke of Beaufort and Badminton House where it was popularized in 1870. However, for many centuries before similar games involving racquets and feather-stuffed corks were played as far away as India and in ancient Greece. In England it was a very popular street game for children called “battledore and shuttlecock” with the rule a simple one of keeping the shuttlecock aloft for as long as possible.

Shuffleboard – or shoveboard, shovelboard, shovillaborde – originated in England in the mind-1500s. It began as a game for royalty played with coins shoved across a polished tabletop, but peasants and common folk rapidly took it up in pubs across England. It became so popular with the masses that people stopped going to work, causing it to be banned! Henry VIII was an avid player of the game, an interesting fact since it was he who banned the game when it came to his attention that soldiers were playing shuffleboard rather than completing their training. Not surprisingly his ban was ineffective.

Ninepins (early bowling), hopscotch, quoits pin, miniature putting greens, and floor versions of shuffleboard are other potential games to play within a nice wooden floored room.

Depending on that Derbyshire weather, one could certainly brave the out-of-doors. The oldest pair of ice skates known to exist dates to 3000 BC and was made of sharpened bone with leather straps to tie to the shoes. The materials used varied over the centuries, but the style was essentially the same until 1848 when steel clamps were invented. Who first decided it was a terrific idea to slide over frozen ice is unknown, but obviously the concept was a popular one wherever water froze. The Dutch are credited with taking the sport to the next level with tournaments and carnivals hosted by the reigning monarchs as early as 1610.

Ice-skating related sports like curling and hockey existed although the rules and equipment have evolved since. The philosophy was naturally applied to sleds, the idea primarily to make smooth bottomed toboggans capable of bearing greater weight with more stability. Yes, it was a practical transportation device for peoples living in snowy places, but the delight in traveling very fast down an icy slope is as old as time.

So I think you can see that the inhabitants of Pemberley were never bored! And I didn’t even mention the Christmas fun and constant food! How about it then? Want to visit Pemberley for the holidays? If you do then I have two books for you! In the Arms of Mr. Darcy and A Darcy Christmas – both available now – cover Regency holiday traditions and wintertime fun.

Tell me about your favorite winter entertainments.

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12 years ago

I love nothing more than a really good book, something warm to drink, and a coverlet to spend cold days, other than perhaps a lap full of beads to do something creative. Either way, it is indoors all the same.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Welcome to the Riskies, Sharon!

What a great post. You gave us lots of information. I wonder what today’s more “upper” class handball players would think if they realized that the game started with prisoners!

12 years ago

Hi. I understand bathing was fashionable in Regency times and I like to take the waters after a day spent indoors writing. I head to the local health club where there’s an outdoor pool open all year round. Then I take tea (cappuccino actually!) and read the papers. Not that different to 200 years ago, probably.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

What a lovely informative post. And I will definitely snap up those books for a nice Sunday afternoon read when it is rainy and cold here in the South.

My winter activities tend to center around reading, writing, a good hot cup (0r three) of Earl Gray and if I am really feeling ambitious, some needlework.

I also always have a jigsaw puzzle set up on a little table in my sewing room. It takes me forever to finish them as I only work them a few minutes here and there, but it really is a great stress reliever!

12 years ago

I’ve read all Sharon’s books and love the attention to detail of the Regency Era & life in Derbyshire, Pemberley & all of beautiful England.

Sharon, you transfix me to a time of simplicity, romance & beauty, that I so have come to feel like, just for a while, I am transported in time to a happy place & part of the wonderful Darcy’s lives.

Tho’ I adore your books, at times I feel a bit of sadness when I have to end one of your books, for I feel I’m saying goodbye to dear friends…….

Sharon Lathan
12 years ago

Good morning everyone! A late rise and shine for me on this Thursday, but oh how nice to sleep in! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Hi Karana! Nice to “see” you here! Yes, I am more the stay curled up with a book kind of gal when it is cold. Heck, any time that sounds like the best form or fun!

Thanks Diane! It is my pleasure to be here and I really appreciate Janet inviting me. LOL on the handball comment! Indeed, that would probably not be a fact they would want to know!

Greetings Phillipa. Bathing was very fashionable, both the getting-clean bathing and “taking the waters.” I have written that major entertainment into my stories. In fact, In The Arms of Mr. Darcy has a chapter where the Darcys visit Matlock Bath and enjoy the hot mineral springs.

I hope you like them, Louisa! My novels are perfect for a lazy, pleasant read. Earl Grey is my favorite tea and if not sipping my husband’s fresh espresso lattes I am drinking some Earl Grey. “Jigsaw” puzzles did exist in the Regency, although obviously not called jigsaw puzzles since the jigsaw had not been invented. I wrote one into an earlier book as a form of entertainment although in truth interlocking puzzles were primarily an educational device rather than created for pleasure. I employed the old “creative license” technique!

Sharon Lathan
12 years ago

Celeste, That is the highest praise an author can hear! Not that I am happy you are sad, but it is pleasing to know how deeply you enjoy reading my novels and spending time with my characters. Thank you for that. 🙂

Karyn Gerrard
12 years ago

I am not an outdoors person, even less so in winter. So anything like cozying up with a good movie or book with a cup of hot chocolate is all I can handle!
All the best for your release!

Micole Black
12 years ago

Wow Sharon, very interesting! My favorite winter entertainment is reading, watching movies, and well the WII. 😉 Boy have we evolved! Congratulations on your latest releases, still looking for them and looking forward to reading them.



12 years ago

Oh, I did forget the original question, Sharon. Here in Florida it doesn’t get cold too often! But when it does, on ocassion, I find I love to cook comfort foods or go for a nice walk.

When I lived in New York, quite a few yrs. back, I loved to be outdoors playing in the snow! Haven’t seen that in too long. But nothing is more enjoyable than spending time with good friends and family, good conversation & game playing of any kind!

Sharon Lathan
12 years ago

Seems we have lots of stay inside gals checking in today! LOL! I can totally relate.

Hi Micole! Great to see you. I miss you 🙁

I grew up where it snowed, Celeste. As a kid it was fabulous. Sledding, building snowmen, eating snow ice cream. Loved it! Then I got a bit older and realized I hated being cold! Now I refuse to go anywhere near snow if I can help it. LOL!

Diane Gibson
Diane Gibson
12 years ago

Hi Sharon,
Since I live in central Florida now, we can pretty much be outside year-round! However growing up, my favorite thing to do on a winter day was to go for a long ride on a horse. The horses were in their winter coats and the air was so still and crisp! Sigh… 🙂

12 years ago

Great post Sharon, all such fascinating info. I am always amazed by the amount of research you put into your novels and these passages. I have learnt so much about the period through all your hard work!! Thankyou
Haha I have to agree with most people here a great book and a nice cup of tea is perfect for the cold months!
TSBO devotee

Karen H in NC
12 years ago

When I was a kid (born & raised in MI), it was ice skating and sledding both followed by a big cup of hot chocolate while our mittens dried on the radiator!

Today in NC, it doesn’t snow that much or that often and I’m too old to go out and play in it anyway so it’s snuggled up on the couch with a hot cup of Earl Grey and a good book!

Your talk of games in the Regency reminded me of the on-going croquet games and rivalry in JQ’s Bridgerton books!

12 years ago

My fav winter entertainments are catching up on reading. Baking cookies, having my house smell like ‘m is great. And I love to go ice skating. I’m not very good but I love doing it and I just wear two thick pairs of pants as a cushion, in case I should land on my bottom.

Sharon Lathan
12 years ago

Sorry I missed your comment yesterday, Diane. It is nice to see you and I appreciate you stopping by.

Vee my friend!!! You know how I love the research and putting in teeny details! LOL! Probably rather boring to most people so I do have to temper myself. 🙂 Thanks for coming by.

It is funny how we seem to be far more impervious to the elements when we are young, isn’t it? I hardly ever remember getting cold when I was a kid. Now I am freezing if the thermometer dips below 70! Pathetic.

Sharon Lathan
12 years ago

Karen, I included croquet in my second novel, discovering later that the game was not really known by that name until closer to the Victorian Era. It probably existed in some form during the Regency, but was not quite the craze as it would become. Luckily the grey area allowed me to employ creative license!

Good for you Kirsten! I never did learn how to ice skate. The two or three times I braved donning skates were a disaster. I think my bum is still frozen! Never again for this girlie.

12 years ago

Outdoors – snowmen. Indoors, reading. I have simple tastes!

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