Life is the tiniest bit crazy at the moment. Lets face it, actually, the world is the tiniest bit crazy at the moment. When the world or my life trespasses over into “I. Have. Had. Enough. Of. This!” territory, I brew up a cup of Earl Grey or six and transport myself into the realm of impossibly possible dreams. I am certain we all have that place we go when we want to live exactly as we were meant to live if some rude imposter had not stolen our real life and replaced it with this hectic, maddening, and frankly annoying existence we are expected to make our way through until someone realizes their mistake and drops us back into the life we were born to appreciate. And if you don’t have that place and those thoughts, humor me. They say it is dangerous to challenge a madwoman’s delusions.

Today, I want to introduce you to the form my Happy Place, for lack of a better and less gooey New Age term, usually takes. Here are a few of my favorite retreats.

I love this one for the lighting alone. What’s not to love about these chandeliers?

The library at Wimpole Hall. Home to 12,000 books. Any questions?

The library at Blickling Hall. Look at all of that natural light.

Ramerscale House Library.

Those carpets! And the globes!

Harewood House’s library has a collection of over 14,000 books. This could take some time.

  It needs a comfy chair, but that ceiling!

And the Nirvana of stately home libraries – Chatsworth – within whose walls over 20,000 books reside. Sigh!

The land of impossibly possible dreams is the best place to be when the world threatens to overrun you and the barbarians are beating at the gates of your mind. My library at home does not resemble these libraries in any way save for it has shelves and books. However, with enough Earl Grey, a comfortable chair, a purring tabby and a few snoring dogs, I can transport myself to one of these heavenly spots and escape for a while. I am a writer. I spend a great deal of time living in my imagination. They know me there, right down to the way I like my tea and the jam I like on my scones.

Here’s to those havens in our imaginations. And to dreaming our way to making them a reality. And if all else fails, here’s to the places and people and things that keep us sane in a crazy world. Hathaway, are there anymore scones? I still have a few more chapters to read before bed.


by Kristine Hughes Patrone

On a recent visit to Hever Castle, I met with this formidable pair of “postilion boots” and decided that I had to find out more about the history of this footwear. Here, I share with you what I learned. First, from the Hever Castle website:

“The large leather and iron postilion’s boots date from 1690. A postilion was a man who rode one of a pair of horses that pulled a coach. It could be very dangerous if a leg became caught between the two horses, so each postilion wore one boot on that leg to protect himself from injury.

“Postilion riders usually rode the left horse of a pair and this style of travel was known as ‘posting’. Before the days of railways posting was the best method of travelling in England and on the Continent. Travellers would hire a private carriage from a postmaster. In England the postmasters were usually hotel keepers, and not employed by the Government. The carriage would travel from one posthouse to the next, where the postilions and/or horses could be replaced if necessary. Ordinarily a carriage was only taken on the main road, from one station to another. However, arrangements could be made to go off of the main road to a country house.”

Here are examples of postilion riders escorting carriages of various styles –


Above is the rear view of a pair of French postilion boots from the second half of the 18th century that I found on the website of military antiquarian Bertrand Malvaux. The description reads – “Black oiled leather with reinforced knees. Foot decorated with a cotton seam representing scrolls. One of these boots has still got its steel spur. Height: 56 cm; foot length : 32 cm.Very good condition (minor damage in the top part of boots). These surprising boots were used for postilions to protect their calves and knees from the shocks caused by the shaft of the coaches they drove. The wooden or leather sole was fixed onto the upper by pegs. It was curved so as to hold the stirrup on which it stood. These boots were called ‘the seven-league boots’. Indeed, at first, an average distance of seven leagues separated two staging posts.”

Finally, here is a bit on the distinction between postilion boots and the similar Marlborough jackboots, with further historical detail as to both, as found on Past Pleasures Ltd – Bringing History to Life:

“Here are a pair of my so-called ‘Marlborough’ jackboots, made somewhere between 1670 and 1712, according to the authority Miss June Swan of the Northampton Shoe Museum, which conserved them. (As my readers doubtless know, the midlands town was famous for its footwear. My family hail from there and for awhile owned a shoemaking factory; one of the regular customers was WG Grace for his cricket boots!).

“The massive cuffs at the knee would protect the wearer’s knees from an enemy on foot in a battle, as well as from thorns etc whilst out hunting. The high stacked leather heels not only follow the fashion of the period but also help to keep the feet firmly in the stirrups. On the underside you can see the leather pegs and hand-sewn details. The Square toes are a fashion that came about in about 1630 and died out about a hundred years later (thereafter the term ‘Old Square Toes’ was a derogatory remark).

“Unfortunately, although I have a pair of spurs of the period (not associated with the boots) I don’t have the distinctive ‘butterfly spur leathers’, the decorative shaped leather pieces worn at the instep.

“These boots are so stiff, heavy and strong they feel like they’re made of wood! They aren’t remotely supple and must’ve been hell to wear on foot –although the original owner would’ve changed into high-heeled buckled shoes as soon as he dismounted. And they would have been bespoke, so more comfortable. But heavy, and heavy-looking, as they are, they are not to be confused with ‘postilion boots’, those massive black leather boots you see in museums which were actually attached to the saddle, into which the post boy and/or postilion, riding one of the outside horses in a coach and four, would thrust his own booted legs.”


Excerpt from : Beguiled by a Baron

His brother may have failed to find an appropriate housekeeper in the last woman to hold the post, but there could be no doubting this one’s skill and knowledge. “Shall we?” Not waiting to see if she followed, he guided her from his most rare Collection Room to the one in the next hall. “In here, you’ll find all works of Western artists. From Shakespeare to his friends Herminge and Condell, you’ll find all the greatest here.”

He stole another peek at his housekeeper in time to detect the disapproving way in which she wrinkled her nose. “Only Western artists?”

Tamping down a grin, he guided her across the hallway to the adjacent room. “The finest of the Oriental literary masters is shelved in here.” Letting them inside, Vail displayed some of his finest books. “The Tale of Genji—”

“Genji Monogatari,” she whispered, touching a hand to her mouth.

“As well as Makura no Soshi,” he finished, supplying that Japanese title. He tamped down his tangible surprise at the depth of her proficiency in text. He wasn’t so snobbish that he’d be startled by a young woman’s mastery of Oriental literature, but neither was he so connected to women who had a grasp of even Western texts. His appreciation grew for the composed Mrs. Hamlet. “Shall we?”

The lady nodded eagerly. “Have you read all these titles?” she asked, as they resumed their tour.

“Many. Not most. My collections are too vast,” he said without inflection. It was a matter of fact, more than anything. “Not as impressive as Lord Dandridge’s, whose floors caved in from all the books he kept.”

A startled laugh spilled from the lady’s lips. Enchanted by the husky beauty of it, he looked over.

“You joke,” she charged, a sparkle in her eyes.

He swallowed hard. Blast if he wasn’t captivated by her wit and her bloody smile. “Indeed, not,” he forced himself to answer. Affixing a grin to his face, he leaned close to her ear. “Hardly as shocking as Lord Templeton who has a problem with rats and shoots them at all hours of the night to keep them from his texts.”

The lady widened her eyes. “Surely you jest now?”

Actually he’d didn’t. Mrs. Hamlet revealed her naiveté where his world was concerned and he far preferred her as just a woman with a deep appreciation for literature. Not wanting to disillusion her with the ugly he’d witnessed, Vail winked, earning another laugh. The sound of it did funny things to his heart’s rhythm. Unnerved, he hurried through the remainder of the tour, showing his housekeeper the seven rooms where his titles were kept. After they’d finished, the lady fell silent.

“Well?” he urged as they arrived at his office.

She gave her head a wistful shake. “It is a shame someone else will have possession of all these great works.”

And just like that, she’d brought them ’round back to her earlier disapproval. Not knowing why that should matter, just that it did, Vail rang the bell, needing for a restoration of his own logic where Mrs. Hamlet was concerned. “Mr. Lodge will show you to your rooms. You may have the day to familiarize yourself with the residence and have Mr. Lodge perform your introductions to the staff.”


This delightful excerpt from Christi Caldwell’s wonderful new historical romance hints at the hero’s knowledge of the Regency phenomenon – bibliomania. The author does an amazing job of setting a passionate love story in the middle of the world of the antique book dealer and the lengths to which Regency gentlemen went in order to acquire new volumes for their collections.

To read more about bibliomania, check out our previous post here :


And to read a poignant, witty, and moving love story set in the world of books and mania, check out Beguiled by a Baron, out today !!

A Lady with a Secret… Partially deaf, with a birthmark marring her face, Bridget Hamilton is content with her life, even if she’s been cast out of her family. But her peaceful existence—expanding her mind with her study of rare books—is threatened with an ultimatum from her evil brother—steal a valuable book or give up her son. Bridget has no choice; her son is her world.

A Lord with a Purpose… Vail Basingstoke, Baron Chilton is known throughout London as the Bastard Baron. After battling at Waterloo, he establishes himself as the foremost dealer in rare books and builds a fortune, determined to never be like the self-serving duke who sired him. He devotes his life to growing his fortune to care for his illegitimate siblings, also fathered by the duke. The chance to sell a highly coveted book for a financial windfall is his only thought.

Two Paths Collide… When Bridget masquerades as the baron’s newest housekeeper, he’s hopelessly intrigued by her quick wit and her skill with antique tomes. Wary from having his heart broken in the past, it should be easy enough to keep Bridget at arm’s length, yet desire for her dogs his steps. As they spend time in each other’s company, understanding for life grows as does love, but when Bridget’s integrity is called into question, Vail’s world is shattered—as is his heart again. Now Bridget and Vail will have to overcome the horrendous secrets and lies between them to grasp a love—and life—together.


Amazon:  http://amzn.to/2rmLp6l

iBooks: http://apple.co/2rvOEXZ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2qSnoRr

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2rBMuHL


USA TODAY Bestselling author CHRISTI CALDWELL blames Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught for luring her into the world of historical romance. While sitting in her graduate school apartment at the University of Connecticut, Christi decided to set aside her notes and pick up her laptop to try her hand at romance. She believes the most perfect heroes and heroines have imperfections, and she rather enjoys torturing them before crafting them a well deserved happily ever after!

Christi makes her home in southern Connecticut where she spends her time writing her own enchanting historical romances, chasing around her feisty seven-year-old son and caring for her twin princesses in training!



Taking the waters during the Georgian age was prescribed by physicians for everything from stomach troubles, to gout, to a nervous disposition. This cure usually involved a trip to one of England’s many spa towns, like Bath or Tonbridge Wells. It might entail a trip to the sea, to Brighton perhaps, to enjoy the efficacious benefits of the ocean breezes and the salt air. These treatments were basically harmless and, at times, quite helpful (so long as one did not mind the taste of the water at the Roman baths. Shudder!)

However, the last thing one wanted by way of medical treatment was hydrotherapy or water therapy as it was administered for cases of mental illness or madness, as it was more often called in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. The various forms this treatment took in this era ranged from mildly discomforting to death, not to put too fine a point on it.

The original proponent of water therapy for afflictions of the mind was Jean Baptiste Van Helmont. His method was first  recorded in his magnum opus, Ortus Medicinae, which was translated into English in 1662. He believed in the full immersion of the patient in ice cold water to the point of unconsciousness. This near death experience would, he declared, result in the death of the mad idea which caused the derangement in the first place. Sometimes, in addition to the extermination of the mad idea, the treatment resulted in the extermination of… well, the patient. At least he was no longer mad. Dead relatives were far more acceptable during the Georgian age, especially the Regency era, than mad ones.

Yes, this is what you think it is. The patient is tied to a crossbar and dropped into an ice cold body of water until they stop struggling. Only then are they raised from the water. Miraculously cured of madness. Or dead. Whichever comes first.

To be fair, this form of water therapy was not widely used after its side effects became apparent. Yes, even in the 17th century death was seen as a side effect.

Eventually methods of hydrotherapy that did not involve drowning the patient outright became popular among mad doctors, as they were called. For some practitioners it was a particularly appropriate title. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the two major forms of hydrotherapy were the douche or cold shower and the balneum or bath.

The bath was used more often for nervous disorders, to calm patients. The shower consisted of cold water poured over the patient’s head or sprayed directly into their face, and it was for the more violent forms of madness. Rather like turning a hose on dogs fighting. Even into the Regency era, the theory was madness was a spiritual rather than a physical or mental disorder. Therefore, a mad doctor had only to arrive upon the proper method to change the patient’s spiritual thinking to invoke a cure.

These doctors came up with a wide variety of methods by which to dispense this cure. Patients were wrapped tightly in sheets and placed in a cold bath, sometimes for hours on end. More inventive facilities had tubs with wooden doors over them with a hole for the patient’s head to stick out. Thus, the patient might be locked into the bath and left there until they saw the error of their ways.

The shower was the more violent form of hydrotherapy and was used for everything from murderous rages, to fits, to refusal to sleep with one’s husband (but we’ll get to that one in a moment.) There were cold shower rooms where the patient might be locked in and sprayed with water from all directions. The most common method was for the patient to sit in a tub or barrel of cold water whilst a number of attendants ran up and down a ladder on the other side of a screen and doused them with bucket after bucket of water. These sessions might go on for anywhere from twenty minutes to several hours, or at least until the attendants ran out of energy and/or water. All of this was done to force the patient to let go of his or her mad behavior and revert back to what was considered normal, upright, Christian behavior.

Not a bad way to take a shower if it weren’t for the whole not being able to get out of the tub until the mad doctor said so. And the whole entire buckets of cold water being dumped on you one after another technique.

Enter the scene of mad doctoring in 1725, one Patrick Blair. He was firmly ensconced in the mental illness as spiritual failing camp of treating madness. Therefore, his use of water therapy was punitive to the point of torture. Eventually he created his own apparatus consisting of a pump capable of raising 18,000 gallons of water 35 feet and dropping it, in its entirety, onto a patient strapped into a chair. He even added water sprayed into the patient’s face at the same time as extra incentive.

If this doesn’t persuade you to resume your “marital duties,” nothing will.

Blair used this inventive piece of hardware most often to persuade women to return to their marital duties, aka go back to sleeping with their husbands. Yes, this was considered a form of madness no matter how nasty, abusive or sexually unimaginative the husband. His method consisted of stripping the patient naked, strapping her into the chair, blindfolding her, and subjecting her to the constant shower of cold water for thirty minutes to an hour at the time. This was done several times a day for as many days as it took for the woman to be cured of her dislike of her husband. Frankly, after this sort of treatment, most women would agree to go to bed with Jabba the Hut. One can only assume should the woman ever evince a further dislike of her husband, the threat of more of Dr. Blair’s cure would bring her back into line.

Modern psychiatrists, after reading Blair’s own account of this treatment on a number of women, have pronounced it nothing short of a kind of rape performed at the request of a husband to force the wife to take him to her bed. A fair assessment? I’d say so.

Whilst later practitioners in mad hospitals put aside water therapy in its most punitive forms in favor of good nutrition, pleasant environments, and what we call now, occupational therapy; water torture in the same form used by earlier mad doctors found its way into the prison systems. One of these techniques in particular is used today. It’s called waterboarding. Psychiatry has evolved. Mankind, a little less so.




When I was nine years old, my father’s Air Force career took our family to the little village of Kelsale in Suffolk, England. Some of the most magical memories of my childhood are of the three years we lived in this quaint and unique place. It did not take long for my brothers and I to become part of the “gang” of village children who played together every day. It was the 1960’s in a small, rural English village. Which means, our playground was the entire village and we had free run of it so long as we didn’t make too much mischief and were home in time for supper.

Kelsale is an old village. The Guildhall was built in 1495. The pub, the Eight Bells, was built early in the 17th century. The highest point in the village is at the top of Church Street. There stands the 11th century Norman era Church of St. Mary and St. Peter. This church and the surrounding cemetery with its leaning tombstones with ancient dates and inscriptions was the site of many a game of Robin Hood and His Merry Men, King Arthur and His Knights, and any variety of hide and seek you can imagine. And where did all of these adventures begin? Where did we meet to plan a day’s mayhem as only a group of children ages 6 to 11 could do?

At the Lych Gate

Lychgate Church of St. Peter and St. Mary Kelsale, Suffolk, England

Lych is an Anglo Saxon adjectival form for corpse. In addition to lych gate (which can also be spelled lichgate, lycugate, lyke gate or lychgate,) the term is incorporated in other funereal terms from the Middle Ages. The lych bell was a hand bell rung before the corpse as it traveled from the home to the church and possibly from the church to the cemetery, depending on the distance. The lych way was the path along which the corpse was carried to burial. The lych owl was another name for the screech owl because its cry was thought to be a portent of death. And a lyke-wake was a night watch over the corpse.

There were no mortuaries during the Middle Ages. People died at home and were placed on a bier to be taken on their final journey. The first stop on that journey was often the lych gate, where the body might remain until the funeral a few days later. More often than not, attendants or guards remained against body snatchers, no matter what the weather. The corpse bearers carried the body of the deceased under the lych gate at the entrance to the churchyard and placed it on a communal bier. Bodies were buried in shrouds, not caskets. The priest would then perform the first part of the funeral service there.

Lych gates were built at the entrances of churchyards as early as the 7th century. These early lych gates were basically a covered gate built of wood, and very few of these earliest examples have survived in any form. They became more commonly built beginning in the 13th century. They were crafted of older timber construction and traditionally were roofed with wood tiles, clay tiles, or thatch. The large timber beams framing the gateway were often carved with decorative elements. Some had lichstones, large flat stones in the middle of the gate upon which the body might be placed. Many had benches inset into the sides of the gateway to seat the watchers and / or corpse bearers whilst shielding them from the elements.

The oldest surviving lych gate is thought to be the one leading into St. George’s churchyard in the Beckenham area of South London. It has been restored in part, but the roof and much of the structure is over 700 years old.

Lych gate St. George’s in the Beckenham are of South London

A more modern custom, which began during the Victorian era, was the closing of the gates once a wedding began in the church. The children of the village were set as the gatekeepers and the bride and groom had to pay them in order to pass through the gate.

Below are some other examples of this unique and only slightly macabre structure.

St. Wulfran’s Ovingdean
Castle Eaton





Canterbury St. Martin’s

I knew none of the fascinating and tiny bit gruesome history of the lych gate when I was meeting my friends there as a child. Had we known, I am certain we would have spent far more time trying to frighten each other or telling each other ghost stories under the shelter of our childhood meeting place. Countless adventures began and ended at the lych gate over the three years I lived in Kelsale. Which was probably more appropriate than we knew. After all, death is often considered life’s final and most daunting adventure. And for innumerable thousands, the lych gate was the first stop on that journey.