Historical Reads: Wet Nurses and Breastfeeding in the 17th - 18th Century

Anna Gibson discusses 18th century views on wet nurses and breastfeeding. To quote:

The wet nurses for royalty would have typically been given temporary accommodations within the court. While these nurses would naturally spend a significant amount of time with their royal charge, the parents would be presented with little trouble in visiting. Mercy recounts in his letters to Maria Theresa that both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette spent much time visiting the infant Madame Royale, who even began to recognize them separately from her nurse and many attendants.

The wet nurses employed by the rest of the population, however, were more likely to live separately from the child's mother and family--perhaps even as far away as the countryside from Paris. This usually meant that the child would live full time with his wet nurse and her family, sometimes for as long as 18 months.

This type of arrangement would naturally encourage the development of feelings and strong attachment between the infant and their nurse. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was a staunch supporter of mothers breastfeeding their children (except in cases where the mother's or child's health might be affected) considered this type of development a drawback which "alone should take from every sensitive woman the courage to have her child nursed by another. The drawback is that of sharing a mother's right, or rather of alienating it, of seeing her child love another woman as much as and more than her..."

To read the entire post, click here.

The Scandalous Life And Mysterious Death Of The Beautiful Venetia Digby

Venetia Stanley, the third daughter of Sir Edward Stanley and his wife Lady Lucy Percy, was born in December 1600. Venetia grew up into a beautiful woman. "She had a most lovely and sweet-turned face, delicate dark brown hair…," wrote contemporary writer and philosopher John Aubrey, "Her face, a short oval; dark brown eyebrow, about which much sweetness, as also in the opening of her eyelids. The colour of her cheeks was just that of the damask rose, which is neither too hot nor too pale." One of the most celebrated beauties of her time, her looks didn't fail to catch the attention of a lot of men when she went to court. It was rumoured Venetia had had several lovers by the time she was 20.

I doubt this is true, though. Maybe she committed some indiscretions, but such a behaviour would have been very scandalous even at the lascivious Stuart court. What's certain is that she fell in love with Kenelm Digby, a charming and goodlooking noblemen three years younger than her and a Catholic. Both families were horrified by the match and hasted to separate the couple. Digby's mother had him sent abroad on diplomatic missions hoping he would soon forget Venetia.

The plan didn't work. Once Digby returned home, he was still determined to marry Venetia, even though by then the young woman, left alone and without protection, had become the mistress of Richard Sackville, Earl of Dorset, and even had had children with him. Kenelm and Venetia married in a secret ceremony in 1625, and for a few years, they didn't mention their union to anyone. Poor Venetia even gave birth in secret and silence, without groaning and crying out in pain not to alert the servants in the house about what was going on. The couple had three more children, two of which sadly died young. Marriage seemed to have done her good, though. The rest of her short life, dedicated to her family and the Catholic religion, was scandal-free.

Rumours of marital problems between the couple surfaced, though, when Venetia was found dead on the morning of 1st May 1633. It was her maid who found her dead, her husband having gone to sleep in a different room after returning home in the early hours of the morning so as not to disturb his wife. What had killed Venetia? Theories abounded. Had Digby murdered his gorgeous wife in a fit of jealousy? Had she repented of the marriage and committed suicide? Or was the toxic ingredients in her cosmetics, concocted by her husband to preserve her beauty, that had killer her?

Whatever the truth, Kenelm was devastated. He asked Anthony Van Dyke to paint a deathbed portrait of Venetia, which he kept with him at all times of the day and night. Like that weren't morbid enough, he started writing letters to his dead wife, which were later published in a book titled "In Praise Of Venetia". He also wore mourning for the rest of his life and became more reclusive and unkempt as the years went on. He died on 11 June 1665.

Further reading:
Memoirs of Eminent Englishwomen, Volume 3 by Louisa Stuart Costello

The Mysterious Fair One, Or The Royal Introduction To The Circassian Beauty

George, the Prince Regent, loved women. All but his own wife, Caroline of Brunswick. The Prince was disgusted by her coarse manners and poor personal hygiene and refused, after their wedding night, to consummate the marriage again. For the rest of her life, he would try to get rid of her, which elicited people's compassion for the slighted Princess, and instigated a slew of satirical prints about their marriage.

One of these prints, created by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, is titled The Mysterious Fair One, or – the Royal Introduction to the Circassian Beauty. The Persian Ambassador introduces a fair Circassian to the Regent with the hope she will join his harem. At first, the Prince is enthusiastic and declaims, "Oh what a form? What Symetry, what Elegance of manners ; in every gesture dignity and Love, --Oh how I long to have my Eyes gratified with a sight of that much injured fair one – a Slave indeed –no she shall not be a Slave to any Mans Passions, I’ll take care of that; for I’ll Marry her myself!!!"

At this the fair Circassian raises her veil and exclaims, "you have married her!". The exotic foreigner turns out to be none other but his wife, the Princess of Wales. The Regent is horrified and cries out: "What, what, save me, hide me from – from –from – Myself." Only the Persian ambassador isamused. He laughs: "What your own Wife ha- ha".

Further reading:
English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. How they Illustrated and Interpreted their Times, by Graham Everitt

Book Reviews: How To Ruin A Queen, Tackling Selective Mutism, & Retrain Your Anxious Brain

Hello everyone,

ready for this week's book reviews? Here we go:

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair by Jonathan Beckman
It was the greatest scandal of 18th century France. An almost unbelievable story that novelists would have been afraid to write for fear of being accused to be too unrealistic. And yet, it happened for real, and it left the Queen's reputation in tatters. For some, it was even the beginning of the Revolution. I'm talking of the affair of the Diamond Necklace.
Jeanne de Saint Remy is born in an impoverished family descended by royalty that abuses and abandons her. Filled with resentment and repenting of marriying the good-for-nothing Nicolas de la Motte, she heads to court to try and reclaim her family lands or petition for a generous royal pension, but her efforts fail. But Jeanne is determined to live in style, even if that means lying, cheating, and taking advantage of everyone she knows. She befriends the Cardinal of Rohan, whose political ambitious have been thwarted, he thinks, by the Queen's dislike of him. Jeanne is willing to help. Pretending to be a good friend of the Queen, she makes Rohan believe Marie Antoinette needs his help to buy a necklace so expensive that's threatening to bankrupt its jewellers. Desperate to believe the Queen is ready to forgive him, he falls for it. Only when the jewellers, tired of waiting for a payment that never arrives, contact the Queen directly, the whole scam is uncovered. But who is to blame? Was Rohan a victim or an accomplish of Jean?
A trial ensued. Of all the conspirators, only Jeanne and the forger were found guilty and punished. Rohan was acquitted, which was a real blow to the monarchy. He wasn't just acquitted of stealing the necklace, but also of the more serious crime of lese majeste. The court, apparently, found it very possible that Rohan could have believed the Queen would ask him to do her such a favour and even meet with him at night in the garden of Versailles. Once her reputation was so sullied, it was possible for the French people to believe all kinds of bad, vicious, and salacious things, about their Queen.
Beckham does a great job at presenting this complicated affair in a clear manner that allows the reader to understand how the story unfolded and why, despite its absurdity, so many people fell for it. We are introduced to the main players and their lives, both before, during, and after the affair (although those who want to know more about Marie Antoinette will be disappointed; there's not much biographical information about her here). The author also frequently cites literature of the time to help us understand what people might have been thinking back then, providing valuable insights into Jeanne's psychology and the public's opinion of the trial and its infamous protagonists.
The book is widely researched and full of interesting details weaved seamlessly into the story. Well-written, it flows easily almost reads like a thriller. It's a story of greed and ambition, crime and passion, prison breaks and assassination attempts, credulity and extravagance that captures your attention from the very beginning. Once started, it's impossible to put down. It's a must read for any fans of Marie Antoinette or French history.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Tackling Selective Mutism: A Guide for Professionals and Parents by Benita Rae Smith, Alice Sluckin
I wish this book had been written 30 years ago. I suffered from selective mutism since kindergarten (the typical age of onset is between 3 and 5, although some develop it earlier or later), but at the time, no one knew what it was. Even know, it is too little known. Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that causes people to remain silent in certain situations but talk in others. Usually, these children are very chatty at home or with close relatives and friends, but find it impossible to utter a word at school, with distant relatives, or strangers. As a result, they often appear rude and are labelled difficult and stubborn.
If left untreated, like in my case, selective mutism can become so entrenched to make it very difficult to have a social life and hold a job, causing low self-esteem and depression. The good news, though, is that, if caught in time, it is easy to treat, and remission is very rare. That's why books like this are important. Written and edited by a wide array of experts on selective mutism, and sharing stories from sufferers and their families, the book explains what selective mutism is, what causes it, and the many therapies that can treat it. There is also a section about selective mutism in adults. Although more difficult to treat the longer left undiagnosed, there's hope for them too.
The book also explains what rights children and parents have under UK law, and lots of tips on how families, teachers, friends, and anyone else who knows a person affected, regardless of where they live, can help. At the end, you'll find lots of resources you can consult and organizations you can turn to for help.
Because the book is written by professional, the writing style is mostly academic (but not boring). The sections written by sufferers and their families are in a more colloquial and engaging style that allows the reader to better relate to them. Their stories are very touching. It really moved me to read about how these children were helped and eventually cured. Too many aren't and, I hope that as awareness towards selective mutism, even thanks to this book, rises, their positive stories will be the rule rather than the exception everywhere.
This book is an invaluable resource to anyone who is affected by selective mutism. But everyone else should read it too. If you don't think you need to because you don't know anyone with this disorder, then reading it may make you realise that you actually do. This disorder is more common than people think and highly misunderstood. And if you really don't know anyone with it, you can still help by raising awareness. The more people know about it, the easier it will be for families and teachers to identify sufferers and help them seek appropriate help.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Retrain Your Anxious Brain: Practical and Effective Tools to Conquer Anxiety by John Tsilimparis
While a small amount of anxiety has its pros (read the book to find out more), worrying too much about things can cause unnecessary fear, even panic attacks, and doubts that negatively impact your self-esteem and every area of your life. John Tsilimparis know this only too well. He suffered from severe anxiety and, once he learned how to free himself from it, he became a therapist to help others who are still battling with it.
In this book, he first explains how anxiety works and then shares the tools and techniques that helped him recover. They are all cognitive, and range from challenging old beliefs to replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones, from focusing on gratitude to changing the way to interact with other people. He proposes lots of exercises to try. Not everything will work for everyone, so you are encouraged to choose those that best apply to your situation and needs. While these tips are all, undoubtedly, extremely useful and will greatly help sufferers reduce their anxiety, some people may be disappointed by the lack of alternative and holistic treatments.
The book flows really easy. The writing style is clear and engaging and, because the author shares his experiences and those of his (anonymous) patients, it is easy to relate to. I highly recommend it to anyone who suffers from excessive anxiety. Anyone here will find at least a few tips that can help them get better.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Have you read these books, or are you planning to?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Historical Reads: Ages Of Consent

When were 19th century teenagers considered old enough to work and marry? Regina Scott, over at Nineteen Teen, explains:

--7 or 8: a boy might be sent to sea, starting his Naval career as a cabin boy and going on to become a sailor or officer.
--9 or 10: boys might be apprenticed to learn a trade
--10 or 12: aristocratic boys might be sent to boarding schools like Eton or Harrow
--12: girls from poorer families might be apprenticed to learn a trade (although they often weren’t dignified with the name apprentice)
--12: girls can marry with their parents’ permission (but note that very few actually married this early)
--16: aristocratic young men with ambitions for politics, law, or the Church might head off to Oxford and Cambridge
--16 to 18: aristocratic young ladies are introduced to Society
--21: a young lady or gentleman could marry without parents’ permission
--30: a woman is considered “on the shelf” (given up all hope of ever marrying). Note that some people put this age considerably lower (like 26 or even 20), but that real-life examples don’t seem to verify this

To read the entire post, click here.

The Costs of Living Abroad in London

Living in London has always been expensive. Evangeline Holland, author of Edwardian Promenade, gives us an idea of just how expensive it was in the Edwardian era. To quote:

Life in London “chambers” has romantic associations with the old Inns of Court and ancient and somnolent city squares, where one can live in the atmosphere of dead memories and associations, features that tend to add considerable to the charm of London for the American. Usually “chambers” are to be had at a cheap rental, but also with a few attendant disadvantages. In the Adelphi Terrace, a little backwater just off the Strand that the flood of modernising which is sweeping over London threatens annually to blot out, one can still hope to find vacant “chambers” in a house decorated by the famous Adam Brothers.

From the windows of many of these houses one may look out over the Embankment Gardens and the foggy stretches of the Thames. The Royal Chapel of Savoy is a near neighbour, and ghosts, of Dickens’ characters float around every corner. On a winter’s day at four o’clock the muffin man, ringing his bell, still makes his round of the district. Muffins and crumpets for afternoon tea at twopence each are a pleasant interlude and quite in the spirit of this old-time atmosphere.

Hereabout one ought to be able to find five rooms, distributed over two unevenly laid floors, for five to six pounds a month, which is not out of proportion for such genuine historic associations as the rental includes. To discount this there will be a lack of water, hot and cold, except that which flows intermittently from an adapted kitchen sink, and your heat, what does not go up the chimney, is all radiated from grate fires. In these old buildings there are no elevators, no dumb waiters even, and coal, wood and everything else must be lugged up the front stairs, though plenty of willing hands are to be found, and at a small price, to do one’s fetching and carrying. Ashes and garbage must be carried down to a tiny, well-like courtyard, and within the week the dustman will come along to remove it, of course demanding a tip. You may ask why, but he couldn’t tell you if he would, except that it is in accordance with precedent, the thing that governs all walks of English life. The tenants collectively contribute towards the cost of the lighting of the front hall and of the keeping of it clean, the tenants of each floor attending to their own hall.

To read the entire article, click here.

Madame Sophie Of France

Born on 27 July 1734, Sophie Philippe Elisabeth Justine is the lesser known of the surviving daughters of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska. Even art historians hardly know who she is. For years, one of her portraits (below) was thought to represent Marie Antoinette, and was only correctly identified recently thanks to the parquet in her library! I'm not sure Sophie would have minded though.

Sent to the Abbey of Fontevraud with her two younger sisters, Thérése and Louise, to be educated, Sophie returned to Versailles only 12 years later. Lacking both social skills and a strong, dominant personality, the shy girl was happy to appear in public only when etiquette required it. Like Madame Campan, reader to the daughters of Louis XV, wrote in her memoirs, she much preferred to be alone or with a small group of favourites ladies:

"I never saw anyone having such a frightened look; she walked at an extreme speed, and to acknowledge, without looking at them, the people who gave way to her, she had acquired the habit of looking sideways, in the manner of hares. This princess was so shy that it was possible to see her everyday for years without hearing her pronounce a single word. One asserted, though, that she displayed wit, even graciousness, in the society of some favoured ladies; she studied much, but read alone; the presence of a reader would have infinitely bothered her.

Yet on occasion this princess, so unsociable, suddenly became affable, gracious and showed the most communicative kindness; it was during thunderstorms: she was afraid of them, and such was her fright that she would then approach the least important persons; whenever she saw lightning, she would press their hands, for a thunderclap she would have embraced them; but once fair weather was back, the princess went back to her stiffness, her silence, her fierce look, passed everyone without paying attention to anyone, until the next thunderstorm brought back her fear and affability."

Madame Sophie died like she had lived, unnoticed. She passed away of dropsy in Versailles on 2 March 1782. She was buried in the royal tomb at the Royal Basilica of Saint Denis, which was plundered and destroyed during the French Revolution.

Further reading:
Memoirs Of The Court Of Marie Antoinette, Queen Of France, by Madame Campan

Etiquette Of Travelling

There is nothing that tests the natural politeness of men and women so thoroughly as traveling. We all desire as much comfort as possible and as a rule are selfish. In these days of railroad travel, when every railway is equipped with elegant coaches for the comfort, convenience and sometimes luxury of its passengers, and provided with gentlemanly conductors and servants, the longest journeys by railroad can be made alone by self-possessed ladies with perfect safety and but little annoyance. Then, too, a lady who deports herself as such may travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, and meet with no affront or insult, but on the contrary receive polite attentions at every point, from men who may chance to be her fellow-travelers. This may be accounted for from the fact that, as a rule in America, all men show a deferential regard for women, and are especially desirous of showing them such attentions as will render a long and lonesome journey as pleasant as possible.


However self-possessed and ladylike in all her deportment and general bearing a lady may be, and though capable of undertaking any journey, howsoever long it may be, an escort is at all times much more pleasant, and generally acceptable. When a gentleman undertakes the escort of a lady, he should proceed with her to the depot, or meet her there, a sufficient time before the departure of the train to attend to the checking of her baggage, procure her ticket, and obtain for her an eligible seat in the cars, allowing her to choose such seat as she desires. He will then dispose of her packages and hand-baggage in their proper receptacle, and make her seat and surroundings as agreeable for her as possible, taking a seat near her, or by the side of her if she requests it, and do all he can to make her journey a pleasant one.

Upon arriving at her destination, he should conduct her to the ladies' waiting-room or to a carriage, until he has attended to her baggage, which he arranges to have delivered where the lady requests it. He should then escort her to whatever part of the city she is going and deliver her into the hands of her friends before relaxing his care. On the following day he should call upon her to inquire after her health. It is optional with the lady whether the acquaintance shall be prolonged or not after this call. If the lady does not wish to prolong the acquaintance, she can have no right, nor can her friends, to request a similar favor of him at another time.


The lady may supply her escort with a sum of money ample to pay all the expenses of the journey before purchasing her ticket, or furnish him the exact amount required, or, at the suggestion of her escort, she may allow him to defray the expenses from his own pocket, and settle with him at the end of the journey. The latter course, however, should only be pursued when the gentleman suggests it, and a strict account of the expenses incurred must be insisted on.

A lady should give her attendant as little trouble and annoyance as possible, and she should make no unnecessary demands upon his good nature and gentlemanly services. Her hand-baggage should be as small as circumstances will permit, and when once disposed of, it should remain undisturbed until she is about to leave the car, unless she should absolutely require it. As the the train nears the end of her journey, she will deliberately gather together her effects preparatory to departure, so that when the train stops she will be ready to leave the car at once and not wait to hurriedly grab her various parcels, or cause her escort unnecessary delay.


A lady, in traveling alone, may accept services from her fellow-travelers, which she should always acknowledge graciously. Indeed, it is the business of a gentleman to see that the wants of an unescorted lady are attended to. He should offer to raise or lower her window if she seems to have any difficulty in doing it herself. He may offer his assistance in carrying her packages upon leaving the car, or in engaging a carriage or obtaining a trunk. Still, women should learn to be as self-reliant as possible; and young women particularly should accept proffered assistance from strangers, in all but the slightest offices, very rarely.


It is not only the right, but the duty of ladies to render any assistance or be of any service to younger ladies, or those less experienced in traveling than themselves. They may show many little courtesies which will make the journey less tedious to the inexperienced traveler, and may give her important advice or assistance which may be of benefit to her. An acquaintance formed in traveling, need never be retained afterwards. It is optional whether it is or not.


In seeking his own comfort, no passenger has a right to overlook or disregard that of others. If for his own comfort, he wishes to raise or lower a window he should consult the wishes of passengers immediately around him before doing so. The discomforts of traveling should be borne cheerfully, for what may enhance your own comfort may endanger the health of some fellow-traveler.


See everywhere and at all times that ladies and elderly people have their wants supplied before you think of your own. Nor is there need for unmanly haste or pushing in entering or leaving cars or boats. There is always time enough allowed for each passenger to enter in a gentlemanly manner and with a due regard to the rights of others.

If, in riding in the street-cars or crossing a ferry, your friend insists on paying for you, permit him to do so without serious remonstrance. You can return the favor at some other time.


If a gentleman in traveling, either on cars or steamboat, has provided himself with newspapers or other reading, he should offer them to his companions first. If they are refused, he may with propriety read himself, leaving the others free to do the same if they wish.


No lady will retain possession of more than her rightful seat in a crowded car. When others are looking for accommodations she should at once and with all cheerfulness so dispose of her baggage that the seat beside her may be occupied by anyone who desires it, no matter how agreeable it may be to retain possession of it.

It shows a great lack of proper manners to see two ladies, or a lady and gentleman turn over the seat in front of them and fill it with their wraps and bundles, retaining it in spite of the entreating or remonstrating looks of fellow-passengers. In such a case any person who desires a seat is justified in reversing the back, removing the baggage and taking possession of the unused seat.


A gentleman in traveling may take possession of a seat and then go to purchase tickets or look after baggage or procure a lunch, leaving the seat in charge of a companion, or depositing traveling-bag or overcoat upon it to show that it is engaged. When a seat is thus occupied, the right of possession must be respected, and no one should presume to take a seat thus previously engaged, even though it may be wanted for a lady. A gentleman cannot, however, in justice, vacate his seat to take another in the smoking-car, and at the same time reserve his rights to the first seat. He pays for but one seat, and by taking another he forfeits the first.

It is not required of a gentleman in a railway car to relinquish his seat in favor of a lady, though a gentleman of genuine breeding will do so rather than allow the lady to stand or suffer inconvenience from poor accommodations.

In the street cars the case is different. No woman should be allowed to stand while there is a seat occupied by a man. The inconvenience to the man will be temporary and trifling at the most, and he can well afford to suffer it rather than to do an uncourteous act.


While an acquaintance formed in a railway car or on a steamboat, continues only during the trip, discretion should be used in making acquaintances. Ladies may, as has been stated, accept small courtesies and favors from strangers, but must check at once any attempt at familiarity. On the other hand, no man who pretends to be a gentleman will attempt any familiarity. The practice of some young girls just entering into womanhood, of flirting with any young man they may chance to meet, either in a railway car or on a steamboat, indicates low-breeding in the extreme. If, however, the journey is long, and especially if it be on a steamboat, a certain sociability may be allowed, and a married lady or a lady of middle age may use her privileges to make the journey an enjoyable one, for fellow-passengers should always be sociable to one another.

Further reading:
Our Deportment, Or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society by John H. Young

Book Reviews: La Belle Creole, So You Want To Work In Fashion, & Train Your Way To Financial Fitness

Hello everyone,

curious to know what I've been reading lately? Read on:

La Belle Creole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris by Alina Garcia-La Puerta
Before stumbling upon this book, I had never heard of Mar a de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, later knows as Comtesse Merlin, but boy, what a fascinating woman she was! Born in an aristocratic Cuban family, she was raised by her maternal grandmother, who adored and spoiled her, while her parents left for Europe. She would meet her father again only years later, when she was 8, and had to wait even longer, and move to Spain, to be reunited with her mother. Life in Europe was far from peaceful and quiet, though. Mercedes lived there during the time of the Napoleonic invasion, became friends with Joseph Bonaparte, the new king imposed on the country by Napoleon, and then married a French military officer in the emperor's army. When Napoleon lost his throne, Mercedes and her family had to hastily leave the country and start again in France. Here, she hosted a popular musical salon where she entertained and charmed with her grace, colourful personality, and beautiful singing voice, the likes of Rossini and Liszt. But her main contribution to history are her books. She penned several memoirs and accounts of life in Cuba, which charmed European audiences with their exotic descriptions but also made them think by discussing serious issues like slavery.
Mercedes was an emotional and generous woman with a somewhat disobedient streak (she once escaped from a convent to go back to her beloved grandma) but who never let any of the many adversities she faced get her down. Instead, she always made the most of what she had. Garcia-La Puerta draws on her embellished memoirs, letters, and contemporary accounts to bring her back to life once again. She tells her story in an informative yet engaging manner that hooks you from the beginning. You won't be able to put it down.
I highly recommend this biography to all fans of Cuban history, the Napoleonic Wars in Spain, travel, and strong women.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

So, You Want to Work in Fashion?: How to Break into the World of Fashion and Design by Patricia Wooster
Thinking of starting a career in the fashion world? Whether you'd like to become a designer, model, photographer, writer, PR, cutter or colourist, this book has you covered. It features an overview of the many different professions needed in the fashion industry, along with tips on how to get started and interviews from young people, including teenagers, who are making their dreams come true. While the book has a positive tone, the many paths it presents to get an education and start a career in fashion are also realistic. There are several roads you can take, depending on what you want to do and what your current situation is, but they all demand a lot of commitment and hard work.
Although the book is quite short, it is very informative and engaging. It features cool quizzes and activities you can do to learn the basic and prepare yourself for a career in the industry. My only disappointment? The model section doesn't mention the dark side of working as a model, such as the risks of developing an eating disorders or sexual abuse, or the tendency of agencies to separate young girls from their families and making them navigate this sometimes dangerous world on their own when they're still too naive and inexperienced. That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow your dream, but it would have been nice if the book had offered tips on how to deal with these issues.
Overall, this is a honest but supportive read that offers many practical tips on how to get started in fashion, even if you're still at school.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Train Your Way to Financial Fitness by Shannon McLay
I loved the concept of this book, but its execution didn't fully satisfy me. McLay acts as a financial trainer who promises to help you achieve a healthy financial life. The book starts with a quiz to determine your level of financial fitness. There are three: fat, skinny, and fit. The latter's your aim, although financially fit people can have issues with money that needs to be addressed too. Once you've figured out in what category you are, you should read only the section dedicated to it. Each section helps you figure out what your problems with money are and offers advice on how to fix them. You don't have to do all the exercises, though. Just like you would do a lot of squats if you wanted a firmer behind, you should only do the financial exercises that remove the obstacles that keep you from being financially fit.
Of course, the worse your starting point, the more advice you need. Therefore, the financially fit section is very short, while the financially fat one is the longest. As your situation starts to get better, there is no need for you to read the other sections as well. The financially fat section, for instance, provides all the tips you'll find in the other two, only slightly tailored to you. While I appreciate the intention, this tailoring is so minimal to be almost useless. To me, it just makes the book unnecessarily repetitive. Of course, I've read it all so that I could review it. You would only read the section that applies to your financial personality, avoiding repetition. Even so, I'd rather the author had discussed the problems affecting each type more in-depth and then advised you to read the next section as your financial fitness level improved.
Each section is also very short. I read the book in 3 hours or so, so if you were to read only your section, it'd take a lot less time! Don't let this fool you though. This book may be a quick read, but doing the exercises and improving your financial fitness level takes a lot of time and dedication. Yet, to me the book felt rushed. Others will argue that it is simply straight-to-the-point. And it is. If you want a book that tells you clearly and briefly what you need to do, and in a emphatic and non-judgemental way too, then you'll love this book. As for me, I felt that a lot of the tips were simply common sense that I was already implementing, so I didn't find much value in this book.
Despite its faults, Train Your Way to Financial Fitness is a nice introduction to the topics of money management and budgeting that I would recommend to those who are seriously struggling with their finances and are looking for a clear and concise guide to help them get back on track.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

What have you been reading lately? And will pick up any of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

My Top 5 Literary Crushes

If, like me, you're an avid reader, you've fallen in love with your fair share of literary heroes. Some of these crushes are enduring, while others disappoint us as we grow older and make us go, "woah, I can't believe I ever was into you!". I think I'll probably feel like that about a couple of men in this list but for now, here are my top 5 current literary crushes:

1. Mr Darcy (Pride And Prejudice)

Which girl doesn't have a crush on Mr Darcy? He may be a bit of a snob (ok, he was insufferably snobblish and rude at first), but that doesn't prevent him from ignoring both his aunt's wishes and her family's faults and marrying Elizabeth. And he has a heart of gold. His loyalty to his friends and family is unflinching and admirable. He's always willing to help those he loves, and doesn't even want praise or recognition for it. The way he protected Elizabeth's family from ruin without asking for anything in return, not even telling her what he'd done, is something very few would do and made me fall in love with him even more. Oh, and being rich and handsome doesn't hurt, either.

2. Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre)

He's not the nicest chap. He's quite cynical and does attempt to commit bigamy. But at least he didn't lock up his wife in an asylum. He cared for her the best he could given her condition, and only tries to marry again when he truly falls in love with another woman. A woman that's neither beautiful nor rich, but is strong, determined, and true to herself, unwilling to compromise her values, and who challenges him. Only strong men fall in love with women like that. Anyway, he's punished for his sin. The fire ravaged his body, but cleansed his heart. He learned to value kindness and compassion. And remains faithful to Jane throughout it at all.

3. Eric Northman (The Southern Vampire Mysteries)

The Sookie Stackhouse books are more raunchy and violent than I usually read, but they got me hooked. Especially Eric, magnificently brought to life in the TV series by Alexander Skarsgård. A 1000 years old vampire, Eric is cold, arrogant, cunning, and ruthless yet, for the few people/vampires he loves, he is willing to do absolutely everything. Rather than evil, he has his own code of honour and doesn't break it for any reason. He also has a zest for life and a great sense of humour. Of course, if he really existed and I were to meet him, I'd run in the opposite direction as fast as my legs could carry me!

4. Noah Calhoun (The Notebook)

No one does romance quite like Noah Calhoun. A hard worker, he's been in love with the same woman for all his life and raised a family with her. Yet, despite his busy schedule and life adversities, he always found the time to surprise his wife, to write poetry, to take her on a romantic trip to a lagoon, or just to dance with her in the kitchen. And when she becomes ill with Alzheimer's disease and starts to forget everything, he stands by her side, telling her their story over and over and over again. Awww.

5. Mr. George Knightley (Emma)

Mr Knightly is the practical friend you can always count on. He's cute, honourable, always willing to help others or tell them the truth, even when they don't want to hear it. In his gentle, quiet manner, he encourages Emma to be the best person she can be. And that's what true love is all about.

What are your literary crushes?

Movie Review: Moulin Rouge (1952)

Baz Luhrmann's dazzling musical extravaganza, Moulin Rouge, is one of my all-time favourite movies. But I recently discovered another film of the same name, shot ion 1952, that brings the Moulin Rouge to life in a much more realistic way. This Moulin Rouge tells the story of Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, the scion of an ancient aristocratic family who, crippled at a young age, turns his back on his family and the shallow and disappearing world they inhabit, to make it as a street artist in Paris.

Convinced he will never find love because  he's a cripple, Toulouse-Lautrec (Jose Ferrer) finds solace in his art, drinking, and the company of the Moulin Rouge crew who, being outcasts themselves, treat him like one of their own. One day, he meets Marie (Cloette Marchand), a streetwalker he falls in love with. But Marie isn't capable of loving anyone and just ends up breaking the artist's heart. This just makes Henri even more cynical and bitter, to the point that he sabotages every future chance at romantic happiness. Even when the right woman comes along, he's unable, or unwilling, to let her into his heart, and pushes her away instead. Only in his art, he never loses faith, but even that won't be enough to save him in the end.

Jose Ferrer's portrayal is both witty and haughty. He perfectly captures and conveys Toulouse-Lautrec's need to be loved and appreciated for who he really is, but at the same time his cynicism and bitterness give him an air of remoteness and indifference that never allows the viewer to feel much sympathy for him. Henri both amused and annoyed me, but never moved me. I felt a lot more sorry for Marie, the girl who broke his heart, because, despite all her faults, she was more real.

The movie portrays both the glitz and glamour and the dark side and squallor of Bohemian Paris, as well as both the triumphs and failures of Toulouse-Lautrec's life and career. And yet, like most Hollywood movies of the time (and of today, as some can argue), it is highly sanitized. Henri visited brothels quite frequently and caught syphilis which (together with his heavy drinking) caused his death. Yet, there’s no sign of that in the movie. Even his relationship with streetwalker Marie is romanticized, putting the emphasis on Henri's feelings for her rather than on her profession.

The movie is a feast for the eyes. It won two Academy Awards, one for Best Art Direction – Set Direction (Color) and Best Costume Design (Color). It's not surprising as bright colours are a big part of the movie. Together with the extravagant costumes, beautiful music, and colourful characters, it splendidly brings to life the excitement and joie de vivre of Paris and the Moulin Rouge, and of a long ago vanished era. It drags on a bit, but overall, it still makes for a compelling watch.

Why Write A Novel About The Man Who Killed Anne Boleyn?

Many novels have been written about Anne Boleyn, but what of the executioner who took her life? C.C. Humphreys made him the protagonist of his novel, The French Executioner. Here, he explains why:


Where do the ideas for novels come from?

I remember exactly what I was doing when the idea for The French Executioner hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was working out.

I was living in Vancouver at the time. Making my living as an actor. I’d written a couple of plays. But my dream from childhood had always been to write historical fiction.

I wasn’t thinking of any of that, on that day in a gym in 1993. I was thinking about shoulder presses. Checking my form in the mirror.

This is what happened. (It also shows you the rather strange associations in my brain!)

I lift the weight bar.
Me, in my head. ‘God, I’ve got a long neck.’
Lower bar.
‘If I was ever executed,’ - Raise bar - ‘it would be a really easy shot for the ax.’
Lower bar.
‘Or the sword. Because, of course, Anne Boleyn was executed with a sword.’
Raise bar. Stop half way.
‘Anne Boleyn had six fingers on one hand.’

Flash! Boom! Put down bar before I drop it. It came together in my head, as one thing: the executioner, brought from France to do the deed, (I remembered that from school). Not just taking her head. Taking her hand as well, that infamous hand – and then the question all writers have to ask: what happened next?

I scurried to the library. Took out books. I knew it had to be a novel. I did some research, sketched a few ideas. But the problem was, I wasn’t a novelist. A play had seemed like a hill. A novel – well, it was a mountain, and I wasn’t ready to climb it. So I dreamed a while, then quietly put all my research, sketches, notes away.

But I never stopped thinking about it. The story kept coming and whenever I was in a second hand bookstore I’d study the history shelves and think: if ever I write that novel – which I probably never will – I’ll want… a battle at sea between slave galleys. So I’d buy a book on that subject, read it. Buy another, read it.

November 1999. Six years after being struck by lightning. I’m living back in England and I find a book on sixteenth century mercenaries - and I knew the novel I was never going to write would have mercenaries. Twenty pages in, I turn to my wife and say: “You know, I think I’m going to write that book.” And she replies, “It’s about bloody time.”

I wrote. The story, all that research, had stewed in my head for so long, it just poured out. Ten months and I was done. I wondered if it was any good. I sent it to an agent. She took me on and had it sold three months later.

I was a novelist after all.


The most notorious executioner of his time, Jean Rombaud is brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead the condemned Queen of England, Anne Boleyn. But on the eve of her execution, Rombaud is coaxed into a promise by the ill-fated queen to bury her six-fingered hand at a sacred crossroads.

Yet in a religious war-torn Europe, the hand of this infamous Protestant icon is such a powerful relic that many will kill for it...And so from a battle between slave galleys, to a black mass in a dungeon, to the fortress of an apocalyptic Messiah, Rombaud must travel to honor his vow.

The French Executioner can be purchased at Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Barnes & Noble.

The Lecture By William Hogarth

In 1736, Hogarth created a satirical print in which he ridiculed the university of Oxford. Its students were accused to be ignorant and lazy, more interested in having fun that studying. Doesn't sound much different from today, does it?

Here's how John Trusler, in his The Works of William Hogarth, describes this satirical print:

"No wonder that science, and learning profound,
In Oxford and Cambridge so greatly abound,
When so many take thither a little each day,
And we see very few who bring any away."

The scene is laid at Oxford, and the person reading, universally admitted to be a Mr. Fisher, of Jesus College, registrat of the university, with whose consent this portrait was taken, and who lived until the 18th of March, 1761. [...] His eye is bent on vacancy: it is evidently directed to the moon-faced idiot that crowns the pyramid, at whose round head, contrasted by a cornered cap, he with difficulty suppresses a laugh. Three fellows on the right hand of this fat, contented "first-born transmitter of a foolish face," have most degraded characters, and are much fitter for the stable than the college.

A figure in the left-hand corner has shut his eyes to think; and having, in his attempt to separate a syllogism, placed the forefinger of his right hand upon his forehead, has fallen asleep. The professor, a little above the book, endeavours by a projection of his under lip to assume importance; such characters are not uncommon: they are more solicitous to look wise, than to be so.

Thomas Clerk adds:

We are here presented with a motley assemblage of graduates and under-graduates of one of the universities, profoundly attending to a philosophical lecture, the subject of which is a vacuum, (or space unoccupied by matter). Dulness and stupidity seem to characterize the drowsy audience. The portrait of the person reading the lecture is said to be that of the late Mr. Fisher, of Jesus College, Oxford, of which university he was registrar. He sat to the artist for this purpose.

Book Reviews: Better Than Perfect, The New Puberty, & A Winner's Guide To Negotiating

Hello everyone,

are you a perfectionist? Or do you have trouble negotiating? Or is your daughter going through early puberty? If you've answered yes to one of these questions, these books will help you:

Better than Perfect: Free Yourself from Impossible Standards So You Can Live a Happier, Healthier Life by Elizabeth Lombardo
Hello, my name is Gio and I am a perfectionist. I set unachievable goals for myself and then beat myself up when I don't achieve them. I think in all or nothing terms. I have strict rules about how I and other people should behave and judge me and them harshly when we break them. Needless to say, these behaviours have seriously, and negatively, impacted any aspect of my life, from work to relationships. It's only in the past year that I've finally realised how destructive perfectionism can be and have started taking step to overcome it. One of these steps was picking up Better Than Perfect by Dr Elizabeth Lombardo.
A perfectionist herself, Dr Lombardo knows well how perfectionism prevents not only positivity and happiness, but also our productivity. After explaining what perfectionism is, she shares 7 techniques to help you silence your inner critic and create a more fulfilling, happier life. Her exercises and suggestions for behavioural changes are practical and helpful. They include choosing passion rather than fear (perfectionists are usually motivated by fear of failure rather than passion for whatever it is they are doing) and stopping comparing yourself to others in an attempt to feel better about yourself. It just has the opposite effect. Although the tips are simple, putting them in practice is not easy, especially for perfectionists, who feel frustrated if they can't do something perfectly well on their very first try. Just stick with it, or recruit a friend to hold you accountable if you must. The tips work, they just take time.
The book is a fast, easy, and accessible read. Lombardo shares many stories from her personal life as well as case studies of her clients, highlighting how much their lives changed for the better when they put these techniques into practice. This allows readers to better relate to Lombardo and her message, and encourages them to try her advice and stick with it.
Unfortunately, perfectionists don't really think they need any help, so I doubt many of them will pick up this book. I highly encourage you to do so, though, even if you only have some perfectionist tendencies. And if you know a perfectionist, pick up a copy of this book as a Christmas gift for them. If they read it and put its tips in practice, they'll improve their lives... and yours too.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today's Girls by Louise Greenspan, Julianna Deardorff
There have always been girls who matured earlier, but this phenomenon has become more and more common in recent years. Puberty, and the many changes it brings with it, are a challenging time for every girl, but that's even more true when the process starts when you're 8 years old or younger. Without proper support, these girls can become at risk depression, eating disorders, dangerous sexual behaviours, pregnancy, and even cancer.
How can parents, doctors, and teachers help girls who are maturing too soon? The first step is to understand what causes this process to start sooner, so you can avoid potential triggers. And they're not just the usual culprits. The toxins in our environment and the unhealthy food most of us eat can definitely contribute to early puberty onset, but so can psychological factors, such as a distressing and stressful situations at home, lack of a father figure, and sexual abuse. Then, the authors explain what you can do to prevent early puberty or, if your daughter, is experiencing it, how to support her during this critical stage of her life. I especially love the chapter about "the talk". After reassuring parents that developing earlier than usual doesn't necessarily mean that your young girls will have sexual desires just yet, it stresses the importance of not just having one big talk with her when she starts puberty (or right before it), but to have lots of smaller conversations about sexuality, starting at a young age (of course, you should only reveal what's age appropriate). There is also a chapter about how you can figure out whether your daughter is really starting puberty or if any changes in her body may be due to other factors.
The book is written by two experts for the laymen (and laywomen). It's written in a clear and straightforward style that both reassures and informs you, setting the record straight on early puberty and placating any fear you may have about it. However, I didn't find all their sources reliable. In particular, the authors encourage you to follow the recommendations of the Environmental Working Group. While their aim (protecting the population from harmful chemicals) is laudable, their scary reports about the latest dangerous ingredients are almost always refuted by serious scientists. The studies the EWG uses to determine the safety (or lack of it) of ingredients are usually flawed or misinterpreted. For instance, they use studies showing that a substance gives cancer to rats when ingested in huge doses to "prove" that it is dangerous even when applied topically on human skin in a minuscule amount. It just doesn't work that way. While I understand that if your daughter is maturing too soon, you may want to avoid even potential hazards, no matter how insignificant the risk really is, following the recommendations of the EWG may make you become too paranoid and waste money on products that are more expensive but not safer.
Despite its recommendation of one unreliable source, I found the rest of the book informative, insightful and accurate. If you have a daughter, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

A Winner's Guide to Negotiating: How Conversation Gets Deals Done by Molly Fletcher
Think you don't need to learn how to negotiate because you're not an agent, a businessman, or a lawyer? Think again. We all negotiate in our daily life, both at work and at home, with our parents, children, colleagues, and even friends. And yet, we don't do it enough. Molly Fletcher, a successful sport agent, routinely uses the negotiating skills she learnt on her job to negotiate better deals when purchasing something from her family or to get her favourite dish on a plane flight. And, by following her tips, you can do the same.
By sharing her many experiences in negotiating deals for sport stars and family members, Fletcher explains what techniques are effective at getting exactly what you want. Her system is easy and, in the book, she breaks it down into workable segments. They include how to ask with confidence, and how to embrace the pause, that awkward moment in the conversation where silence falls and we go into panic mode, thinking all our efforts have been in vain. Learning how to use it effectively has the opposite effect and helps you close the deal in a satisfactory manner. But not all negations are successful. Fletcher has, like everyone else, made some mistakes in her career. She is very candid and open about them. But rather than beat herself up for her failures, she has learned from them and used that feedback to further improve her skills.
Understanding the psychology behind decision-making is critical too. Every human being is different, and negotiating with every one of them becomes easier when you discover their story, what they want, and why. There is also a chapter about the role gender play in negotiation, and why women especially are finding this activity particularly hard.
Written in an easy, accessible style, this informative and entertaining book is a must read for everyone who wants to become a better negotiator.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Marie Antoinette's A Doll

AmyGaines, $6.00

Darvahlous, $4.00

Marie Antoinette Barbie® Doll, no longer available

Which of these dolls is your favourite? I love the knitted one, it's so adorable!

15 Minutes With Elena Maria @ Tea At Trianon

It's a great pleasure for me to welcome, for this month's instalment of the 15 Minutes With series, one of my favourite bloggers and authors, Elena Maria Vidal. Her blog, Tea At Trianon, is "a place for friends to meet... with reflections on politics, history, art, music, books, morals, manners, and matters of faith."

An avid reader since early childhood (her mother had to put restrictions on her hours of reading!), she soon began writing short stories and novels. A devoted Catholic, Elena Maria is fascinated by Marie Antoinette, who became the subject of her most popular work, Trianon. But her latest book, The Paradise Tree, tells a completely different story. It's a moving family saga about her ancestors, who emigrated to America from Ireland, and their struggles and triumphs.

Read on to find out more about her:

1. If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
13th century France during the reign of St. Louis IX. I see that time as one of the best in the Middle Ages.

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
St. Joan of Arc, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Marie-Antoinette because they all three loved France, small children and their Catholic faith.

3. Three books everyone should read?
Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Caussade, and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

4. Who's your style icon?
Audrey Hepburn. I love her simple style, plus she always remembered that she was a lady.

5. What are you watching on TV?
The Roosevelts.

6. What's the soundtrack of your life?
Definitely Gone With the Wind.

7. What's your favourite holiday destination, and why?
My own home. I love to be home for the holidays. There is no where else I would rather be.

8. What inspires you?
The beauties of God's creation.

9. One thing on your bucket list?
I must make pilgrimages to several shrines which I visited when praying for a special intention. I promised to return and make a votive offering in Thanksgiving if my prayer was answered. It was. I must go to Lourdes and the shrines of Quebec.

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
I took archery lessons in college and really enjoyed it. Fencing, too.

Thank you Elena!

Now, go and check out Tea At Trianon. You can also follow Elena Maria on Twitter and Facebook, and buy her books on Amazon.

The Scandalous Affair Of Queen Caroline Matilda Of Denmark

King George III of England was famous for his fidelity to his wife. His sister Caroline Matilda for the opposite reason. Her affair created a huge scandal that shocked the court of Denmark and led to her imprisonment. Her life had been marred by tragedy from the beginning. The last child of HRH Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his wife, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Caroline Matilda was born at Leicester House in London on July 11, 1751, a few months after her father's death. Despite this, the first few years of her life seemed to have been happy.

Her mother made sure she received an education fit for a princess. Caroline Matilda learned German, French, and Italian, and could sing well. Kept away by her mother from court squabbles, she grew up into a lively and down-to-earth young woman who loved riding and spending time outdoors. But her carefree childhood came to an abrupt end when she was betrothed, at the tender age of 15, to her first cousin, Christian VII of Denmark and Norway. The marriage would strengthen the ties between the two countries, as well as the Protestant religion, and check the power of France as well.

Whether husband and wife liked each other didn't matter, although the Danish ambassador painted his King as a sober and virtuous Prince that would have made a good husband to Caroline Matilda. This couldn't have been further from the truth. Christian was insane. In an attempt to make a man out of him, he had been abused and hit by his tutors. This had the opposite effect, causing him to retreat into a world of his own. He also grew obsessed with his appearance, even stripping in public to admire his body. He also dressed in disguise so he could pick fights with anyone he liked. Once king, he neglected his paperwork, preferring to spend time with friends playing practical jokes and womanizing. He often visited the brothels of Copenhagen, and was violent to women.

Caroline Matilda, who had lived a protected and secluded life in England, was hardly ready for life at the stricter Denmark court, let alone for marriage with an insane and violent man. Nevertheless, on November 8, 1766, the couple tied the knot at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. The young bride still hoped to make her marriage work, but her husband decided that he didn't enjoy being married, and often left her alone. The couple managed to conceive an heir, Frederick, but soon Christian went back to his old bachelor ways. His mental conditions worsened too. He also kept neglecting affair of states, leaving his wife to run the country.

If Christian wasn't interested in his wife, other men were. And Catherine, having already given birth to an heir, felt she was free to take a lover. She fell in love with Johann Struensee, an attractive Prussian doctor Christian had met during one of his incognito trips throughout Europe. He did Christian a lot of good, even convincing him to be nicer to his wife. But he was also an ambitious man, and, once installed at court, began an affair with the Queen. He listened to the Queen, encouraged her to ride fiercely, and even to wear men's clothes. Christian knew (and so did everyone else), what was going on, but he didn't care. He was happy with this new arrangement, and even moved in with the lovers to the secluded palace of Hirscholm, where Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Louise. Although raised as a Danish's princess, she was likely Struensee's daughter.

But Struensee's political ambitions were to be the couple's undoing. He used his influence on Catherine to rule the country with her, which suited Christian just fine, but pissed off everyone else. Soon, the couple's many enemies started plotted their downfall. They gathered enough proof of their affair and, one night, at a masked ball, the couple was arrested. Christian had signed the warrants when told that a revolution was being planned against Caroline and Struensee and that his palace would be stormed soon. Caroline was imprisoned at Elsinore. She was allowed to take her daughter with her. Her son, she would never see again.

At the first, the couple denied their relationship, hoping this would save Struensee's life. But when the doctor was tortured, he confessed to the affair. In the ensuing trial, the Queen and King were divorced, although their children kept their legitimate status. The doctor was condemned to death and executed on April 28, 1772. Catherine, instead, was sent into exile in Hanover. She died of scarlet fever a few years later, on May 11, 1775, aged only 23.

Further reading:
A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings by Stella Tillyard