Just for fun, I thought I’d share what books are on my desk today.
I’m working on a new story set in 1890 in Baker City, Oregon. Those of you who follow me on Facebook may have read a few little excerpts from the book this week.
Thane Jordan is a rancher from Baker City. He finds himself in England (I won’t give away any spoilers!) and keeps trading insults and tangling wits with the lovely Lady Jemma Bryan.
Since I really do try to get my facts straight and because I enjoy it more than I probably should, I really get into the research when I’m working on a historical romance.
These brochures highlight some of the history of Baker City. Like Pendleton, they had an active Chinese community. There’s a little cemetery near the edge of the freeway where visitors can get a little info about them.
This book has everything from descriptions of every day household ideas to slang terms popular back in the day. Some interesting phrases include “off the reel,” “mudsill,” and “I swan.”
Although this is a “facsimile edition,” it looks just like the original on the inside, including the original recipes and advertisements. Although this is a few years ahead of the story, it makes a good point of reference when I’m thinking about the types of food available and eaten back then.
As you can probably guess by all the sticky-note markers, I use this book a lot. The 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co Catalogue is the holy grail of everyday items available to people during that period in history. I’ve found so many fascinating items (like baby teething rings and bust cream) that I had no idea were around then. Catalog shoppers could order everything from crackers and nails to fine china and surreys. And guns. CC has thoroughly examined the firearm pages multiple times.
I could spend hours and hours drooling over the fashions in this book. The clothes were so elegant and stylish and feminine then. And uncomfortable – the bustles and corsets would have killed me (or at least left me wishing they would). At any rate, it helps me get the details of the clothing correct. Fashions changed considerably from year to year and to be fashionable, one had to stay on top of the ever evolving look of women.
This is a “Surprise Dress” from 1889. I loved it so much, I incorporated it into the story. You can see the dress buttoned for a proper walking outfit then unbuttoned with the sides hooked up for a luncheon or greeting guests at home. How innovative and clever is that?
My parents let me borrow this book the last time we were at their house. No one seems to know where it came from, but it is loaded with fabulous historic photos.
There were even several pages from Baker City, showing off places like the saddle and harness shop and the hardware store.
Needless to say, I’m having quite a “high time of it” writing Thane and Jemma’s story.
Here’s a few little snippets from what I’ve written so far:
Wrapping the towel around his waist, he cracked open the door and didn’t see Jemma in the parlor.
Hurrying the few steps to the bedroom, he rushed inside and closed the door. Taking a moment to steady his spinning head, he turned at the sound of a gasp and saw Jemma leaning over the bed as she put a fresh pillowcase on his pillow, gaping at his nearly naked form.
“Whatever are you doing?” she asked, staring at him, unable to take her eyes away or turn her back to the fine masculine form hovering in front of the door, wearing nothing but a towel about his waist. Muscles she had no idea existed bunched as he crossed his arms in front of him and took a sidelong step toward the dresser.
Reaching for his drawer, he opened it and pulled out a wad of white cotton. “Getting dressed. Unless you plan to help with that, too, I suggest you turn your back or leave the room. Although I’m more than willing to let you stay.” Giving her a devilish smile, he pretended to loosen the towel around his waist.
“Mercy!” Jemma tossed down the pillow in her hand and made a hasty exit out the door before slamming it behind her.
“I assure you, Mr. Jordan, I am not a swooner. I’ve never fainted in my life and I most certainly don’t plan to begin at this most unfortunate instance.” Jemma found it impossible to look in the man’s face and instead glanced at the plain cotton shirt he wore. No suit jacket, no vest, just a shirt any working class man might own. Unsettled by the crude interloper, she turned and tripped over the dog when he pushed against her legs.
Thane grabbed her arms to keep her from falling and she hurriedly pushed herself away from him.
“What is that thing? It looks like a lab climbed under the fence with a poodle.” Thane studied the large curly-haired black dog with interest. The animal neither growled nor acted friendly, staring at him cool disinterest…
“Good heavens!” Jemma rose to her feet as tremors of anger rushed through her. Oh, how she wanted to slap the smirk from the American’s face. “I am well aware of the children, Mr. Jordan, as well as their needs, their likes, their dreams, and wishes. I’m the one who nurses them through illnesses, kisses scraped knees, wipes away their tears, and listens to their prayers. How dare you insinuate I think those two precious babies are mere possessions?”
Turning on her heel, Jemma started to storm from the room but found herself pulled to an abrupt halt as Thane grabbed her arm and held her steady.
“I didn’t mean it that way, you mule-headed woman. Henry, for whatever misguided or crazy reason, wanted the kids to be with me.” Thane couldn’t ignore Jemma’s trembling limbs or the fury sparking from her eyes…