The Everyday from the Past: Money Order

August 30, 2011

Money Order from 1962

I stumbled across this when I was cleaning out an old lock box to use.  I LOVE that because my Grandmother didn’t throw anything away this still survived!  I mean who holds on to a money order receipt from 1962!?!?!


Book Review: Hearts in Flight

August 22, 2011

I won a copy of this inspirational historical romance when the author, Patty Smith Hall, did an interview on Kaye Dacus’s blog, which you can read here.  I was intriuged, of course, by the World War II setting, but also because it features a hero and heroine who are both pilots.  Not that I’m airplane-crazy or anything, but most of the love stories set during wars involve a soldier who go off to fight and leave the heroine to “keep the homefires burning” while she worries herself sick.  In fact, I, um, kind of wrote one of those stories myself.  But a story of love that grows between two pilots?  That’s a different take on wartime romance, and the book proved a very enjoyable read.

Maggie Daniels has been flying most of her life for her father’s crop-dusting business, but when war breaks out and her male relatives go off to fight, she joins the WASP, the women’s branch of the Army Air Corps (as the Air Force was called in those days).  The female pilots don’t fly in combat, but rather take over training, repairs, and other state-side duties so men can go overseas.  Maggie loves flying, but her family and community express mixed feelings about her choosing a career over marriage and children, something she struggles with throughout the book.

Wesley Hicks has seen his share of air combat by the time he’s assigned to lead Maggie’s squadron near her hometown in Georgia.  Though he’s leary of her at first, Wesley soon realizes Maggie’s skill and determination…and her beauty and kindness.  Wesley fears for Maggie’s safety at an almost irrational level as he falls more and more in love with her, especially as he’s haunted by memories of another lost pilot for which he blames himself.  Through all of this inner turmoil, both characters explore what is really at stake in trusting God, loving each other, and holding true to principles of gender equality.

I felt a strong connection to both of these characters and to many of the supporting ones as well.  They dealt with real issues of the time, especially the changing roles of women during wartime.  Maggie’s “war job” is a natural extension of the passion and skills she already had prior to the war, and it’s a job she knows is dangerous.  How far should men go to “protect” women in such positions?  Can women knowingly take the same risks as men, for their country and for themselves?  These are questions this novel grapples with, and they resonate with what I’ve learned of this time in history.  And what good WWII story doesn’t have a scene of the hero and heroine dancing at a USO club?  I very much enjoyed the one found in this book.

(Oh, and I’m sorry, but I’m keeping my copy, which was inscribed to me.  Our next contest will be in September.)

Winner of Magic Below Stairs

August 19, 2011

Congratulations to Magenta Griffith, the winner of a signed copy of Caroline Stevermer’s Magic Below Stairs! Please send your snail mail address to damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com so I can send it to you. Thanks.


Creating History, Making Memories

August 17, 2011

The piles of scrapbook! I think at this point I have about 12+ scrapbooks starting from 1999.

I’ve always loved photographs. I remember spending hours going through the shoe boxes full of pictures my parents kept in their closet as a kid. I have been through all of the boxes many times and yet I still go back and go through them every so often. I love the memories those pictures hold.

I’ve always been somewhat of a “saver.” I’d save random items that reminded me of a day or an event in my life. I started my first journal in high school and much of that journal is filled with movie stubs, newspaper clippings and other random items. In college I made my first photo album. I still go back and look through it and remember that trip, Because I documented it all, small things I would have eventually forgotten about come back to me every time I look through the album.

I love these old photos of my parents. Most were taken before I ever came into the picture!

I'd never actually PLANNED this but it just so happen that I had a picture from my first day of college and one from my last.

I actually "borrowed" some of those pictures from my parent's shoebox! I had to put some of them in an album!

That first album wasn’t the best, but as time went on, my scrapbooking skills improved. And now, all my trips are documented. About two years ago I also started what I call my “Memory Book” after I discovered the treasures in my grandmother’s house. It’s less work than the albums and more haphazard. I stick in there anything I want to save. Anything I want to be passed on to future generations. It’s a collection of articles, ticket stubs, subway passes, receipts, and so much more. Some of the items, like the occasional delivery confirmation stub, are things we get and throw away not thinking twice about saving them. I want to save those everyday things so maybe one day 100 years from now someone will look at it and marvel at it just I did with the 1920s money order I found in my grandmother’s house. I want to document the little things (bills, post cards, business cards…). It might not be a big deal, but they tell my story, and one day my memories will be history and I’m leaving a piece of me behind for future generations.

My Memory Book: Random items, with some handwritten notes here and there to let whoever sees this years from now have a glimps of who I was.

This is one of my favorite things I saved from hig school. My tv movie ads.

Maybe one day someone will get a kick out of this card from 2000 🙂

Little by little I’m creating my own piece of history.  Tell me, what do you do?  What do you want to one day leave behind?  What memories/history do you hope to make?

Contest: Magic Below Stairs

August 13, 2011

Oops! A busy Friday and I forgot to post the contest. Oh well, here it is!

To be entered in a random drawing for a signed copy of Caroline Stevermer’s Magic Below Stairs, simply post a comment. Tell us what you’re currently reading and what you like or dislike about it so far.

The winner will be announced next week.  Good luck!

Author Interview: Caroline Stevermer

August 10, 2011

Caroline Stevermer

Please join me in welcoming Caroline Stevermer to Damsels in Regress. Ms. Stevermer is the author of several fantasies including A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, and co-author with Patricia C. Wrede of the Sorcery and Cecelia series.  Welcome, Caroline!

Thank you so much for asking me to participate in Damsels in Regress. What a terrific resource you have!

1. How did Frederick’s story come about?

When Patricia C. Wrede and I finished The Mislaid Magician, our editor, Kathy Dawson, then at Harcourt Brace, suggested that I might like to try my hand at a middle-grade novel set in the same world. I jumped at the opportunity.

In one of my earliest books, The Serpent’s Egg, the heroes are aided and abetted by a grouchy yet competent servant named Frederick. I’d begun to wonder where Frederick came from originally. The Frederick in Magic Below Stairs is a completely different character, but that’s where the story began, wondering about that earlier Frederick.

2. Tell us about the creation of Billy Bly.

Who wouldn’t want a brownie to help with housework once in a while?

In The Personnel of Fairyland, K. M. Briggs mentions Billy Blind, a hobgoblin or brownie from the ballads of the border between England and Scotland. Billy Blind is the inspiration behind Billy Bly. Of Billy Blind, Briggs says his “chief function seems to be to give good advice.” Billy Bly gives Frederick pretty good advice too.

3. You have a lot of details about the daily operation of a lord’s house.  What kind of research did you do?

The single most useful reference was The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams, originally published in 1825. The authors were in service themselves. The book goes into all kinds of detail about what kind of duties each sort of servant performed. It even talks about wages—circa 1825, of course. Currency conversion is required.

From MRS HURST DANCING. Here ladies are putting up wallpaper!

I tend to learn visually, so it helped to find references that let me imagine how the house looked inside. I visited the period rooms at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a favorite haunt, to look at furniture and tea sets. As for books, I found The English Country House in Perspective by Gervase Jackson-Stops really helpful. Also Mrs Hurst Dancing (and other scenes from Regency Life 1812-1813) with the authentic regency watercolors of Diana Sperling and accompanying text by Gordon Mingay. I also studied Women’s Worlds (The Art and Life of Mary Ellen Best 1809-1891) by Caroline Davidson.

4. You’ve revisited characters from your other work in Magic Below Stairs.  Do you plan to write any more stories that do the same?

I certainly hope so! I have nothing formally planned at this time, but I love the characters and the setting.

5. What are some of your favorite historical fantasy novels?

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

The alternate history aspects eluded me when I originally read them—I was in grade school—I’d never heard of Hanoverians—but I’ve always loved Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea, along with the other Dido Twite books.

Not fantasy, but vividly historical, Rosemary Sutcliff’s books give me what I love in historical fiction, a sense of a worldview authentically different from our own. In particular, Simon, in which for once the hero of a novel set in the English Civil War is a Roundhead and not a Cavalier.

Most recently, Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis, which I enjoyed so much I read it in a single sitting. I’m looking forward to more from her.

6. Some great recommendations! What were your favorite books when you were a teenager?

The Lord of the Rings, predictably enough. Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books.

Because Ballantine Books brought out the works of E.R.R. Eddison in a paperback edition very similar to The Lord of the Rings, I tried Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros. The first sixty pages or so were very rough sledding, I admit, but ultimately I fell in love with the language, the bad guys, and most of all, the vainest and laziest fantasy hero I’d ever encountered, Lord Brandoch Daha. I still have a soft spot for him. How could I resist a character, who when his cousin the king comes to tell him about a prophetic dream he’s just had, does this:

Brandoch Daha snuggled him under the bedclothes and said, “Let me be and let me sleep yet two hours. Then will I rise and bathe and array myself and eat my morning meal, and thereafter will I take rede with thee and tell thee somewhat for thine advantage. I have not slept in a goose-feather bed and sheets of lawn these many weeks. If thou plague me now, by God, I will incontinently take horse over the Stile to Krothering, and let thee and thine affairs go to the devil.”

And then his cousin the king just laughs at him and goes away and lets him sleep. Heady stuff, when you’re 13 and living on a dairy farm, let me tell you.

7. I can imagine. What are you working on now?

I’m polishing the rough draft of a YA novel set in a different regency London from the Kate and Cecy books, but it has magic. (Wish me luck.)

Thanks so much for the good questions and for letting me natter on answering them.

You’re so welcome. And thank you for joining us on the Damsels. Good luck on your new novel!

For more information on Caroline and her work, check out her website:

Be sure to visit us on Friday when I’ll post a contest to win an autographed copy of Magic Below Stairs.

Book Review: Magic Below Stairs

August 8, 2011
Magic Below Stairs
Caroline Stevermer
Historical Fantasy
Ages 9-12
208 pages

Young Frederick Lincoln lives in an orphanage where older boys bully him and the director hates him. His only friend is Vardle the cook, who teaches him how to clean fish, sharpen knives, and tie knots. He also teaches him his letters.

Frederick is the type of boy who works hard to master the skills he’s learned. And unknown to him, he’s been befriended by a brownie named Billy Bly, who helps Frederick accomplish tasks and watches out for him. So when a man arrives to hire a footboy from whomever best fits a set of livery, life changes for Frederick. The clothes fit him as though they’ve been made for him. Off he goes to the home of Lord Schofield, a wizard rumored to grind men’s bones to make his bread. Instead Frederick finds good food, a warm bed, and satisfying work. And Billy Bly follows him from the orphanage.

Since brownies tend to cause trouble wherever they go, Lord Schofield isn’t happy that one has attached himself to Frederick. The wizard magically banishes Billy, leaving Frederick sad and lonely. But his work soon occupies him, and even earns him a new position­—assistant valet to Lord Schofield. All because Frederick has an uncanny ability to tie a cravat that others can’t duplicate.

The end of the social season rolls around, and the household transfers to the country estate where Frederick learns much about wizards and magic. Because it seems the curse on the house that took eleven wizards to drive out has returned—at least a remnant of it—posing a threat to Lord Schofield. It takes help from Billy Bly and Frederick’s well-developed skills to defeat the remnant once and for all.

Frederick is an endearing eleven-year-old with charming innocence. He has to rely on Bess, a young maid, to teach him how things work in a grand estate, but it’s his own resourcefulness that helps him succeed. Magic Below Stairs is an enjoyable read with a fun character to cheer for. And, yes, Lord Schofield is Thomas from Sorcery and Cecelia fame, the first novel in the historical fantasy series by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede. (And one of my favorites!)

Please join us on Wednesday for our interview with author Caroline Stevermer.