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Author Archives: Janet Mullany

Dear Risky friends,

I’ve been on this blog since its very beginnings, way back in 2005 (I think) when Megan Frampton and I met up at a conference and decided that since we were both about to publish books that had sex in them (Fact: there was no sex in the Regency then unless it involved turgid members and hymens made of kryptonite) we needed a filth platform. And so the Riskies came into existence.

And now I’m going! Sure, I’ll always like the Regency period, particularly the servants and the clothes and the music. Not so much the Dukes and that’s why I’m no longer attempting to crack the Romance code. It’s been fun, and thank you to all of you who’ve visited, commented, bought our books, and entered our contests.

For old times’ sake, here are a few of my greatest hits in no particular order:

A funny. The Regencyland Hotline.

England’s first same-sex marriage in 1834. The documentary about Anne Lister is probably no longer available online but it’s worth hunting down. It’s narrated by Sue Perkins, one of the former hosts of the Great British Bake Off *(don’t know about the show’s crisis? Read all about it! and Mary left too).

All about Capability Brown, landscaper extraordinaire.

Rewriting the classics as Regency Romances.

A truly risky writer–George Eliot. Also why Daniel Deronda is like Thanksgiving turkey, because for a long time I blogged on Thursdays and had to come up with a turkey-related post.

Truly risky books–thoughts on Our Mutual Friend and Mansfield Park.

Here’s a post from a few years ago, edited and recycled. It’s peach season and I’ve been eating lots of them. Yum.

Peaches have been around for a long, long time, from China to Europe via the Silk Road, to America in the seventeenth century and into commercial production here in the nineteenth century. There were peaches at Pemberley:

The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table. Pride and Prejudice

Jumping backward a few centuries–people like me should take note that King John of England died in 1216, some say from overindulging in peaches at a banquet nine days before. Here’s a recipe from 1597 for Peach Marmalade.

To make drie Marmelet of Peches.
Take your Peaches and pare them and cut them from the stones, and mince them very finely and steepe them in rosewater, then straine them with rosewater through a course cloth or Strainer into your Pan that you will seethe it in, you must have to every pound of peches halfe a pound of suger finely beaten, and put it into your pan that you do boile it in, you must reserve out a good quantity to mould your cakes or prints withall, of that Suger, then set your pan on the fire, and stir it til it be thick or stiffe that your stick wil stand upright in it of it self, then take it up and lay it in a platter or charger in prety lumps as big as you wil have the mould or printes, and when it is colde print it on a faire boord with suger, and print them on a mould or what know or fashion you will, & bake in an earthen pot or pan upon the embers or in a feate cover, and keep them continually by the fire to keep them dry. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, (1597); Thomas Dawson. From


Indian Blood Cling Peaches growing at Monticello

I couldn’t find a whole lot about peach recipes in England in the Regency period. There’s a possibility that quinces were more popular than peaches, according to (great pics here!). A lot of the historic recipes I did find were of the use them up quick variety and/or preserve them and if you’ve ever visited a pick your own orchard you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In America, were much more popular. Thomas Jefferson embraced peach cultivation with enthusiasm, growing thirty-eight varieties at Monticello, compared to only two varieties at Washington’s Mount Vernon. Jefferson made mobby, an alcoholic drink from peaches, claiming that “20 bushels of peaches will make 75 galls. of mobby, i.e. 5/12 of its bulk” (The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello. Peter J. Hatch).

I’m fascinated by the wealth of varieties of peaches. Peaches are peaches, right? Unless they’re white peaches or doughnut peaches, which do have distinctive flavors. William Cobbett commented, “It is curious enough that people in general think little of the sort in the case of peaches though they are so choice in the case of apples. A peach is a peach, it seems, though I know no apples between which there is more difference than there is between different sorts of peaches.” (Quoted in Hatch, above).

Here are a couple of recipes from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, first published in 1825:

Peaches in Brandy. Get yellow soft peaches, perfectly free from defect and newly gathered, but not too ripe; place them in a pot, and cover them with cold weak lye; turn over those that float frequently, that the lye may act equally on them; at the end of an hour take them out, wipe them carefully with a soft cloth to get off the down and skin, and lay them in cold water; make a syrup as for the apricots, and proceed in the same manner, only scald the peaches more.

Peach Marmalade. Take the ripest soft peaches, (the yellow ones make the prettiest marmalade,) pare them, and take out the stones; put them in the pan with one pound of dry light coloured brown sugar to, two of peaches: when they are juicy, they do not require water: with a silver or wooden spoon, chop them with the sugar; continue to do this, and let them boil gently till they are a transparent pulp, that will be a jelly when cold. Puffs made of this marmalade are very delicious.

And here’s a Peach Pudding recipe from later in the century, adapted from Recipes Tried and True, compiled by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Ohio, 1894.

peaches, cooked and sweetened
pint sweet milk
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
a little salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour

Fill a pudding dish with peaches, cooked and sweetened; pour over them a batter made of one pint of sweet milk, four eggs, one cup of sugar, one tablespoon of butter, a little salt, one teaspoon of baking powder, and two cups of flour. Place in oven, and bake until a rich brown. Serve with cream.

The title of this post, by the way is from Andrew Marvell. I do love the phrase “stumbling on melons”, and if I’d discovered these lines sooner I might have blogged about melons:

The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass

What are your favorite peach recipes? Do share! I’m off downstairs where a bowl of fresh peaches awaits…

A retreat. Sylvan peace and lots of writing.

Sort of. That’s what I was doing last week, at a writers’ retreat in NC (and I have to say it, but the south is weird. Just weird. Sorry, y’all. But that’s not what this post is about).

woodsThere were trees. Lots of trees. Mountains. Fresh air. And at 3000′ you don’t need AC. It was incredibly quiet, too. I consider that I live in a quiet place although there is a constant hum of traffic, and on the weekends a lot of screechy power tools as neighbors beautify their surroundings. We even have more birds here. The dawn chorus up in the mountains was fairly restrained.

sunsetLovely sunsets and spectacular storms. This pic captures both.

Also lots of wildlife. We were told not to hike the trails alone because there had been bear sightings, although I’m not sure if anyone had told the bears not to come onto the tarmac. We didn’t see any. I saw deer and wild turkeys that did not stand still long enough for me to take their pics, altho this sleeping beauty, a lunar mothmoth, allowed itself to be photographed. It was quite big. There is nothing to indicate scale here except that it is on a window sill. Now if that was a piano keyboard in the background it would be a truly monster moth.

The other wildlife was the writers, a friendly bunch who liked to party. I’d post the pic of the pirate party but inexplicably it’s upside down. Just imagine.

This wasn’t a romance writers event and so there were no editors or agents and it was a time for people to write, critique, and talk about writing. There were also readings, again generally a non-romance thing. I had some notoriety as someone who wrote filthy stuff and considered reading a spanking scene aloud until I realized that to do so I would have to use three different dialogue voices, and decided against it.

So was it worth it? Definitely, yes. Do you really need to get away into a different environment with minimal internet and (mostly) no phone to  crank up your writing? I’m undecided. If I wanted to lock myself up and write write write this wasn’t the place to do so, since there were classes to attend or audit. (I chickened out midway through the week and drove to the nearest Burger King to read my emails.) But it was a good place to take a breath and plan what to do, and where my writing should go next.

Have you been on a retreat? Did you find it useful?

Posted in Writing | Tagged | 5 Replies

sotterleyI went on a field trip yesterday with a bunch of museum/history geeks to Sotterley Plantation, in Hollywood. (No, not that Hollywood. The one in Maryland.) It’s on the Patuxent River and is the only tidewater plantation open to the public, and is over four hundred years old.

Did I mention how old it is? I did. The land was first colonized by James Bowles in 1699, who built a modest two room a few redyears after, which forms the core of the house. It’s possible to date it so accurately because dendochronology has determined that the cypress posts used in construction date to 1703. This extremely red room, apparently a highly popular color in the period, is the oldest part of the house. There’s a dark rectangle to the right of the notice on the door which is actually a hole cut in the woodwork to reveal the original cypress post.

chinesestaircaseNaturally subsequent owners began to make expansions and improvements, and suddenly,  later in the century, Chinoiserie became all the rage. Hence this extraordinary staircase in the expansion of the house undertaken by George Plater III (lots of Georges in this family). He also became a governor of the State of Maryland, and, eew, I cannot get this out of my head: he married a 13 year old who had their first baby when she was 14, and who became, according to the Sotterly website, “a political and social asset to her husband.” Gawd.

yellowA pretty yellow parlor was added in this period and the shell alcoves in the room are original (built with help from Mt. Vernon’s slaves).

Note the picture over the mantelpiece. This is an amazing bit of Colonial Revival kitsch. Colonial Revival was a big hit in the second half of the nineteenth century. There was a sudden burst of interest in the noble patriots of the revolution, gentlemen and landowners (and that meant slave owners. Mr. Bowles bought over 200 slaves when he arrived in 1799, and so it continued). Given Maryland’s geographical location, the division during the Civil War, and the reluctance of the state to free its slaves, the colonial period seemed a lot safer. The Colonial Revival movement presented an imaginary version of the good old days, in terms not only of interior design and decoration, but also in interpreting uncomfortable history. So a late 19th century artist was moved to paint this (pardon my assymetry):


Wow. Is it Tara? Is it … well goodness only knows, but the artist had apparently never visited this house in Suffolk, Sotterley Hall, which it’s meant to depict:


The Platers believed they were descended from a Thomas Playter who owned Sotterley Hall in the fifteenth century (they weren’t), hence the name of the plantation.

And here’s a pic of a view from the gardens of the house, looking out over the Patuxent:


Are you planning to visit any historical sites, or have you been to any recently? Plans for the summer?

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