Two truths and a lie

Listen to the Moon, my next book (about an impassive valet and a snarky maid who marry to get a plum job), releases in just a month and a half, on January 5th! I’m going to start giving away e-ARCs in December, but just for the Riskies…I’ll do one today. 😉

As part of my research for this book, I read The Complete Servant (1825) by Samuel and Sarah Adams, a married butler-and-housekeeper couple. It is full of housekeeping tips that are sometimes familiar, sometimes full of mysterious ingredients, and in some cases, struck me as frankly bizarre. Which doesn’t mean they don’t work! I’m a Martha Stewart Living fanatic, so I thought I’d make up a magazine, Regency Housekeeping, and share some of these tips formatted to look like magazine features…

But there’s a catch.

Two of these tips are real, pulled from The Complete Servant. The other one, I made up. One commenter who correctly guesses which tip is fake will receive an e-book of Listen to the Moon in the format of your choice! (I will choose the winner using on Wednesday evening, 11/25.)

This is on the honor system, but please, no googling!

So: first, I mocked up a few different covers. I’m going to add article titles and stuff, but I can’t decide which one I like best. Which one is your favorite?

background is a still life with fish, oil and vinegar bottles, a punch bowl and lemons
Image source: Anne Vallayer-Coster, “A still life of mackerel, glassware, a loaf of bread and lemons on a table with a white cloth,” 1787.


background is a room in buckingham palace, all gilt and white
Image source: “Buckingham House, the Saloon,” by James Stephanoff, 1818.


background is a regency banquet of some kind
Image source: “Messrs Pellatt & Green,” from the May 1809 Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics.


And now…two truths and a lie!

Image source: Jean-Étienne Liotard, "Still Life - Tea Set," c. 1781-3.
Image source: Jean-Étienne Liotard, “Still Life – Tea Set,” c. 1781-3.


1. Wash tainted meat with strong chamomile tea before cooking.
2. Soak pearls in strong tea to restore shine.
3. Slowly whisk boiling tea into a beaten egg, and substitute for cream.

(Honestly, the challenge here was coming up with something that wouldn’t work! According to Google, tea is used for freaking everything, including washing windows, polishing boots, and conditioning hair.)

Which one did I make up???

About Rose Lerner

A geek of both the history-and-English and the Star-Trek variety, Rose writes Regency romance with strong heroines and adorable heroes. Her most recent books are Listen to the Moon (book three in her Lively St. Lemeston series, about a very proper valet and a snarky maid-of-all-work who marry to get a plum job) and a novella about an architect and a gaming den hostess in Gambled Away, a gambling-themed anthology with Molly O'Keefe, Joanna Bourne, Jeannie Lin, and Isabel Cooper.
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36 Responses to Two truths and a lie

  1. India says:

    I prefer the third cover, because it’s the only one that couldn’t pass for assorted other time periods, and I’m going to go with the pearl thing. If tea does anything to pearls like what it does to the inside of my mugs, that tip’s a no-go.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      You guessed correctly! (But did not win the book, alas.) Yes, the ONLY thing I could come up with that SOMEONE doesn’t think you should do with tea is put it in contact with stuff you want to stay white.

  2. Liz says:

    Hmmmmm. I will go with…the third one! I don’t even know why. But yes, that is my final answer.

    Also I love the first cover. Those fish are so evocative…

    • Rose Lerner says:

      I love the fish too! But then, I just really love Martha Stewart Living and I think that’s the only one that could be a MSL cover. (Not that I’ve seen raw fish on there yet, usually it’s dessert, heh.)

      And no, the third tip is 100% real! According to Mr. and Mrs. Adams, “It is difficult, from the taste, to distinguish the composition from rich cream.” Hard to believe, isn’t it? Someone should try it and see!

  3. Gemma McLuckie says:

    Tea and pearls FALSE.

    My favorite cover: Fish!

    • Rose Lerner says:

      Gemma, you won the book! What kind of e-reader do you use? Once I know your preferred format I’ll email you the book!

      (The fish are my favorite too. They seem to evoke strong reactions, both positive and negative, heh.)

  4. Lisa says:

    I’m guessing that the pearl in tea is the lie.

  5. Aoife says:

    The third cover is sooooo pretty. And I’d guess it’s the second fact.

  6. HJ says:

    I would go for the second cover.

    I think soaking pearls in tea would be disastrous.

    I like the sound of your new book!!

    • Rose Lerner says:

      That second cover has kind of a Country Home magazine feel?

      I agree, I think soaking pearls in tea would…well they’d be less white afterwards, probably. Who knows, maybe they would look cool though!

  7. Susan in AZ says:

    I like the dead fish for the magazine cover. Fresh caught and ready-to-grill!

    I would not like to eat rotted meat soaked in Chamomile Tea, so I’m voting that #1 is the false household hint.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      I think the fishes have it! Mmm, now I want grilled fish.

      Alas, tip #1 is completely real! While it sounds totally bizarre, I have given it a lot of thought since posting and come to the conclusion it’s probably not actually harmful, so long as it’s being applied by a cook with decent judgment (i.e. one who knows how meat should taste/look/feel and will throw it away if it’s really too far gone–which should be obvious once you start to smell it cooking). It’s pretty normal to rinse meat that smells a little weird or has a slight slimy film, but still looks good otherwise. My first thought was that maybe chamomile was acidic like vinegar or lemon juice and that’s why it was used, and googling informed me that some people do like to use vinegar, etc. to rinse meat on the theory that it kills more bacteria than water. But according to this blog post, the real advantage of the vinegar and lemon juice isn’t that it effectively kills germs (it actually doesn’t) but that they have a very sharp, strong smell–if your meat still stinks after you’ve washed it in lemon juice, it’s definitely not good any more. So chamomile tea may be just as “useful”!

      That said, I mostly cook vegetarian at home because I am so paranoid about raw meat, lol!

  8. Sarah says:

    I’m going to guess that the first one is false! And I like all of the covers, but #2 best. Fun challenge, and congratulations in advance to the winner. I’m so looking forward to John and Sukey’s story and was crushed when I heard about it only to realize it was off NetGalley. I have already pre-ordered it on Amazon actually! So if the copy you will be sending out requires you to pay for it, then I disqualify myself. But if it is free, then I am in, and of course have already paid and am fine with that.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      Aw, thanks! Since you mention Netgalley, are you a book blogger/reviewer? If so I can send you a copy for review!

      • Sarah says:

        Oops, sorry. Just saw this. I have a NG account but really don’t do reviews or have an audience for that any more, so I will say thank you but no. I will wait until January. 🙂

        • Rose Lerner says:

          Thank you for your honesty! And #1 was a real tip, believe it or not! (See my reply to Susan in AZ, above, for my thoughts on the whole tainted meat situation.) The tea and pearls one is actually the made-up one.

  9. ML says:

    I’ll go with #2 being false. As for covers, I like the last one. It looks like a situation that a servant would cope with. And let’s face it, those fish are squicky.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      lol, one person’s squick is another person’s kink I guess! The fish cover got the most votes by 3 (although you weren’t the only one who thought it was gross, either). You are absolutely right that #2 was false! You didn’t win the book this time but keep an eye out on social media if you want to try again, I’ll be doing more of these in December and January.

  10. Naomi says:

    I’m hoping it’s the third one, mostly because I am deeply skeptical of substituting eggs for milk/cream. And I like the third cover because it looks more like actual good housekeeping. (Dead fish lying around just seems like asking for trouble.)

    • Rose Lerner says:

      I’m skeptical too! But it’s a real tip: the book insists the taste is indistinguishable. Someone ought to try it and see! (Not me, I don’t like tea OR cream because…I’m a picky eater. Sigh.)

      I have to say, those fish are controversial! They definitely won the vote, but they are also the only cover to get downvoted, heh.

  11. Claire says:

    I’m going with #2… though perhaps it’s a red herring!

    • Claire says:

      Ah, and cover 3! It looks like most likely to feature cake.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      Nope, you were right, it’s #2! You didn’t win, but if you want to give it another shot I’ll be doing a bunch more of these on social media. 🙂

      Cover #3 was actually a picture of a glasswares shop, but it does look like there’s food in the dishes, doesn’t it? I’m very curious if they served food at the shop…

  12. PegS says:

    I like the first cover. ‘Cause FISH!

    As for the lie, I have to go with #1–because I hope the Regency isn’t the Middle Ages.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      Heh, no, #1 was a real tip! It does sound disgusting, doesn’t it? I’ve given it some thought though since posting and I think it’s probably slightly less gross than it sounds…if you’re curious, see my reply to Susan in AZ, above.

  13. Mrs. N says:

    Do not soak pearls in tea, terrible plan.
    Cover 3 is lovely but I am kind of into the fish directly on the tablecloth.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      You are right! Soaking pearls in tea would probably not be good for your pearls OR your tea. You didn’t win the book, but if you want to give it another shot, keep an eye out on social media because I’ll be doing a bunch of these. 🙂

      I also find those fish inexplicably compelling. They draw me in.

  14. Sherri says:

    I like the fish cover best. They always seem to be eating or catching fish. I’m going with 3 for the false item because I just can’t see that mixture behaving or tasting like cream.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      I can’t see it working either!! AND YET it’s a totally real tip. According to the book the taste is “difficult to distinguish.” Hard to believe, but who knows? If anyone wants to experiment I’d love to hear about it!

      The fish cover is the clear winner! \o/

  15. Shannon McEwan says:

    Love the mackerels!

    I can just imagine chamomile-washed-tainted-meat and tea-and-egg-faux-cream featuring proud in a book of household hints. If anyone gets sick, who’s to say it way the meat – and stick enough sugar in the tea-egg foam, and no one will care that it’s not real cream…

    On the other hand, washing pearls in strong tea sounds like a very effective way to dissolve the pearls O_0

    So, I’m saying tip #2 is false!

    Looking forward to the new book.

    • Rose Lerner says:

      Your guess was right on target! You didn’t win the book, but I’ll be doing a bunch more of these on social media so keep an eye out. 🙂

      Are they mackerels? ::is totally ignorant about fish:: I can recognize a salmon and that’s about it.

  16. Liz Joyce says:

    I like the first cover because to me it is more immediate, dealing with something before it’s all pretty on a plate on a perfectly laid table.

    I’ll say the first tip is false because I want it to be false. Yeech

    • Rose Lerner says:

      I feel the same way! I wonder if that’s part of what I love about cooking, seeing the process before the finished product…it’s certainly part of what I loved about writing servants. Those nice houses don’t happen by magic!

      The first tip is NOT false! Sorry. :/ If you want to know my thoughts on how it might not be as gross as it sounds, look at my reply to Susan in AZ, above. But if you just never want to think about it again, I will completely understand!

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