Around the World in 80+ Books Part 8

So have we gotten out of the time warp yet? Seems like more than a week has gone by with us exploring Tasmania. The devil, you say? Get on the plane.

141. Australia. Sometimes I can recommend a book because I have read it. Other times I have seen the movie. This is a movie recommendation. The Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington is based on a true story. I like to believe the government program had the best of intentions with removing children from their families, but you know what happens to good intentions. They end up resurfacing a hot roadway.

142. Papua New Guinea. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens does not take place in this country. However, Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones uses the fascination with that story to pull a community together following a devastating war. Not a coming of age story or a novel of how bad it is to be a woman, instead it’s the story of how every individual is important for surviving tragedy.

143. Indonesia. I found this book and stopped looking for others. I just listened to the author’s book, Wild Fire, and if you read my Wednesday post, you’ll understand some of what pulled me into and out of that story. But I came away with a desire to know all about the other characters on the team, and I expect we will have that opportunity. Wild Rain by Christine Feehan is the second in the series Leopard People. At least Indonesia is a more likely setting for leopards than Central America.

144. Singapore. Say what you will about Barbara Cartland, some of her stories were fun and taught readers some things about the world around them. Magnificent Marriage by La Cartland has a heroine that proves to be smart, a little older than Cartland’s usual virgins, and more important to the story than the alpha hero. One reviewer praised the fact that she learned some of the history of Singapore, Malaysia, and Sarawak. A close second is The Elephant and The Tree by Jin Pyn Lee.

145. East Timor. Sometimes the best way to get to know a country is through fiction, and sometimes it’s through memoirs. The Crossing: A Story of East Timor by Luis Cardoso tells his story and that of his homeland during the important struggle for independence. One reviewer complained that it was too intense, with so much packed into a small book. Well, try to describe any such struggle in 20,000 words or less.

146. Madagascar. Did you ever wonder exactly what happened in detail between Tarzan and Jane, all those years in the forest? Well, apparently so did Collete Gale. Entwined is the first book in her series, The Erotic Adventures of Jane in the Jungle. I so want this book, and I so wish I had written it.

147. Mauritius. You are a young boy on an island that is largely in ignorance of World War II. Your father works as a guard at a prison there, and through various events, you meet a Jewish boy your own age. Jews were refused admittance to Palestine, and ended up wherever they could find some acceptance. One reviewer says this is a sweet story with a hard pit. Coming of age with a purpose that would not have occurred had there been more love in the world. The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanan.

148. Reunion Island. I picked a graphic novel because, one, I love and grew up reading comic books, and two, they are a great way to help kids and adults read more. The story of a young assistant to an ornithology professor looking for the nearly extinct dodo bird being swept away by the lifestyle of the island’s inhabitants got my attention. Bourbon Island 1730 by Lewis Trondheim looks delightful in both story concept and the art work.

149. Seychelles. Keith and Sally Pomeroy start their delightful Mathew Butler Adventures series with Butler Did It with a scuba diving photographer, a murder attempt, and lots of fun. Even the reviewers giving it a low star rating agreed that it’s a fun read. Those who liked it added exciting, but don’t expect a classic. And my favorite, it would make a better movie than a book.

150. Comoros. What do you know about the coelacanth? Here’s a cheat sheet: Now you are ready to read A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg. Long thought to be extinct, this possible link between the sea and the land is merely elusive, living in a very inhospitable ocean depth for humans. Can you feel the excitement of seeing a picture of one just caught, when the scientific world felt sure they no longer existed?

151. Mozambique. Why does it seem that as soon as a person vows never to get involved with the opposite sex or the same sex in a romantic way if that’s their inclination, the perfect match for them walks into their life? Mozambique Mysteries by Lisa St. Aubin de Terán may not answer that, but you will read a personal story involving the remote coastal country and the various cultures that settled there.

152. Zimbabwe. Now we turn to a story of coming of age in a country where it’s tough to be female, and cultures clash without thought. Two people find themselves and each other while a country grows in spite of national upheaval, and a mystery might tear their world apart. An intelligent read in the land of growing tension, as well as growing tension between the main characters’ falling in love. The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini.

153. Swaziland. Presented as a fantasy adventure, The Bird of Heaven by Peter Dunseith reveals the world and lives of Swazi tribes through their spiritual beliefs and customs. There’s a character who is a leopard in a man’s body, so maybe wereleopards aren’t that original. We receive the gifts of our ancestors for self-empowerment, and face the transcendent victory of a noble spirit. All in one book.

154. Lesotho. I have struggled to find books about the countries written by natives, or at least citizens, of that country. Here I have a fictionalized account of the life of a great Zulu warrior. Chaka by Thomas Mofolo is compared by one reader to a Hindu myth. Written in the early 1900s, this book has taken a long time to come to any attention in the West, and for that I give it my complete attention.

155. Zambia. Another good way to get to know a country is through the accounts written by those totally unprepared for what they encounter. Peeing in the Bush by Adeline Loh is one such story. I came back to it several times just based on the title. All she knew about the jungle she learned on Animal Planet. I can’t wait to get to know her paranoid vegetarian companion. A wacky retelling of an attempt to leave the comforts of civilization behind, it’s dubbed a wack-o adventure by one of the reviewers. I’m thinking Lucy and Ethel go to Africa. Sold!

156. Angola. Truth or Fiction? Yes. Set in Diary form, Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595 by Patricia C. McKissack is one of a series of books (The Royal Diaries) for young readers detailing the lives of girls from around the world and throughout history. Most of the reviewer readers are young, but not all. And in case it matters, Ms. McKissack is of the same blood as the heroine in her story. A strong main character and a fascinating story.

157. The Democratic Republic of the Congo. There’s so much about the country that is fascinating to me. My mother had a friend who had lived there, when it was called the Belgian Congo. I loved her stories of the jungle and the changing world. I could have gone easy on myself with Congo by Michael Crichton, where I first learned that gorillas are afraid to cross running water or to be wet. But I hoped for something deeper. When you go to Goodreads and read the synopsis, you should know immediately why I picked this one. The Madman and the Medusa by Tchicaya U Tam’si.

158. Rwanda. I’ll give you a few minutes to get over any uncontrollable urges to giggle at the names Hutu and Tutsis. Because the horrid slaughter of families for no other reason than the circumstances of their birth and heritage is nothing to laugh at. Finding hope and love in the heart of slaughter and chaos would be worthy of praise, and so it is in Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin. The reviews are the usual mix of loved it/hated it/ it’s not so bad, but I found it disturbing that one opined that the book would be popular in America because the main character was a strong black woman. I think it more likely that the gift of hope in despair by a person of any gender or race is the key to popular fiction.

159. Burundi. I feel like I have discovered something really special here. There are no reviews so far on Goodreads. But having grown up with Tarzan in all the various forms, and Jungle Book, and loved the idea that a human child could survive when raised by animals, I am all agog to read The Wild Boy of Burundi by Harlan Lane and Richard Pillard. A true case study of a child found living with primates in 1974. How did he get there? What happened to his parents? Is he any relation to someone named Greystoke? Well, I will have to read the book to find out.

160. Tanzania. We’ll end this week with a trip in the Way Back machine, visiting prehistoric Tanzania, and the tribes that live in the shadows of Kilimanjaro. Great Sky Woman by Steve Barnes is a combination of anthropology, cultural history, and fiction. A great read and the first book in a series that I expect will become addictive.

Enjoy the past, the huge herds of beasts that are no longer there, the people who changed to survive, and the foreshadow of a world to come. See you on Wednesday for a fun break, then on to some islands next Sunday.

Chance Encounters

I met my husband on-line. This was many years ago before the internet was such a big deal. We both belonged to a bulletin board system, a BBS, that specifically wanted people to get to know each other and make matches. I’d been on there for a couple years, and Mike had been on before that. He just happened to log on again, and we played in the nightly trivia game.

Many other things had to happen, and did, and we are still happy together, but I sometimes marvel that the chances of a moment brought us together.

I’m sharing most of the first chapter of my Regency Romance, The Dandy’s Wager. The chance encounter of Lady Elizabeth Underwood and Lord Robert Coleman in an old church yard sparks an attraction neither looked for. They are both there for a wedding, following which Elizabeth sneaks away in her quest for Roman artifacts and ruins. She is behind a hedge when Lord Robert and his friends come out to the yard. I hope you enjoy it.

The Dandy’s Wager

Voices from the other side of the hedge startled her out of her meditations. Smoke, too, drifted past the leaves. Some gentlemen had come out to the churchyard to smoke cigars. She shrank back to the wall, thankful for the lush coverage and concealment.

“Thank your brother for us, Rob,” one man called. “This wedding has inspired our mothers to push us toward parson’s mousetrap.”

A chorus of laughing agreement and ridicule followed. Then a different voice answered, “You know I tried to talk him out of it, Will. Being the last unmarried child, both my parents are on me now to settle down.”

Yet another man chuckled. “Perhaps we should just pick one of the pretty girls here today. None of them are hard on the eyes, and none too silly. If we have to marry, we can do worse than these, and we can make it interesting.”

A fourth man, at least Elizabeth thought this one had not spoken before, said, “We court then, wed them, and bed them–”

Shouts and comments interrupted him, mostly things she could not understand. Then Rob, the first speaker, said, “We must have heirs. Then our parents will be satisfied, and while the woman takes care of the child, we are free to return to normal life.”

“Gilbert, what say you? How can we make this interesting beyond the eventual bedding?”

“That’s simple. As long as we can each agree to which female we wish to pursue, the first one to marry will win the wager.”

Rob laughed. “A marvelous plan. Pick your intended bride and the first of us to wed will have twenty pounds from each of us.”

“Twenty pounds? And we still need to be leg shackled?”

“Indeed, Toby, a high price.” She thought this was the first speaker again, Will. “Surely 20 schillings would do?”

“Miss Twigg for me!” one of them called out. “And twenty pounds that she will marry me in three months!”

“Lady Elizabeth,” Rob pronounced, making her jump. “The only title in the bunch, and therefore my match.”

Elizabeth could not stop a gasp at this, but she covered her mouth in the next instant. The arrogance of the man!

“I will gladly try for Miss Sebastian. That leaves Miss Preston for you, Will.”

“She will do as well as any.”

A noise from the church put an end to this conversation. Elizabeth waited for the footsteps and comments to fade away. One more glance at the Roman well, and she hurried toward the gate.

She collided with something firm and unyielding as she rounded the end of the hedge. Her eyes traveled up several inches. Somber gray eyes studied her.

“Lady Elizabeth,” Lord Robert Coleman steadied her with a hand on her arm, but did not let her step back from contact with him. “You are in the habit of eavesdropping?”

“No! I wanted to see the well. Excuse me.” She managed to get her hands up to his chest and push herself away. She took a step back, and straightened her gown. Anything to not meet his disturbing gaze.

“If I promise not to court you, would you–” he hesitated and reached to take her chin in his firm grip. “Promise to not reveal what you heard?”

“I don’t know what you mean, my lord.” Elizabeth returned his look steadily. His hand, ungloved, burned against her skin, with heat and with steely strength. “But I vow I will not repeat a word of it, no matter what you do.”

He grinned and let her go. She walked around him, but before she passed the hedge, she looked back. A smile escaped her. “Perhaps I wish for you to court me.”

His eyebrows rose, causing a flutter in her chest, and giving wings to her feet as she hurried away.


The little vixen! Rob watched until the last flash of her peach muslin skirts were gone from his view. God, what a delicious pocket Venus she could be. Did she have any idea of the danger she flirted with?

He chuckled and glanced back at the well. Antiquities seemed an odd interest for a titled young woman. Intriguing.

Footsteps in the yard drew him out from behind the hedge. William St. James, his closest friend, had come back to look for him.

“Did you scare off the chit?” he asked, looking around.

“Apparently I did.” Rob clapped Will’s arm. “Come, let’s go wish the happy couple well and proceed to drink ourselves blind.”

They walked to the front of the old church. Rob’s brother, Viscount Miles Coleman, and his new viscountess Cassandra, nee Jennings, continued to talk to family and well wishers. The coach waited in the road, the flashy pair of bays showing signs of restlessness.

“Robert,” Miles flashed a strained smile while giving him a firm handshake. “Can you distract the crowd so we may leave? Cassie can’t stand much longer without collapsing.” He nodded amiably to William.

Rob looked at Will, smiling. “I don’t doubt we can think of something.”

“I know just the thing,” said Will, and he hurried off toward the church. He returned in a few minutes with his arms full of very young orange tabby kittens.

The women in the crowd sent up oos and ahs and moved in on Will. This shift opened the path to the carriage. Cassie smiled and took the arm of her husband.

“Thank you, brother.” She stretched up to kiss his cheek.

“I wish you both joy, sister. And if he does anything you do not like, be sure to send word to me. I will thrash him soundly.”

Bride and groom laughed, with Miles adding a low-voiced, “You would have to stand in line behind her uncles, you know.”

Rob managed a thoughtful look. “I suppose I will have to settle for thrashing whatever they leave of you, then.”

He watched them step into the carriage, watched the crowd realize the couple were making an escape, and watched the shower of flower petals follow the dust of their departure. An arm extended out of the carriage and coins rained down on the crowd.

William appeared, still clutching a kitten. “One left. Does she not touch your heart, Rob?”

He looked at the animal in horror. “Do you think I would allow orange fur on my black velvets or silks? Surely not!”

“I suppose I will take her, then. Perhaps Miss Preston likes cats.”

With a theatrical shudder, Lord Robert pulled a lace-edged handkerchief from his pocket and dusted the arms of his coat. But his thoughts turned to Lady Elizabeth and what sort of things she liked. With a surge of anticipation, he decided he would find out soon.

Rainy Day

Southern California is getting some much needed rain, which makes me want to stay home all day and write. However, that’s not in the plans today. So here are some videos of rain! In peace. In a city. In the eyes of a child. In a car. In Ireland. Rain for 15 minutes. And for an hour.

Enjoy your day!

The Street Where You Live

I love my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. I might not always have the same opinions of the other members, but they usually make me laugh. For instance, our speaker last Saturday was saying, “Let’s assume your name, the name you write under, is not on the tip of the tongue with people on the street.” One of my table-mates leaned over, and said with a straight face, “That depends on the street.”

Now I am thinking about streets. In the Regency romances I write, I have to find information about London in the early 1800s, I’ve had to search out the best route from Yorkshire to the nearest port city, and I’ve searched and searched for the correct location in Dorset for the cottage I speak of.

Here is the very best thing I ever found on the web for that: When I am rich, these people are getting lots of donations from me. I love maps. In fact, Windrose refers to the compass rose or compass star on older maps.

Looking for the most dangerous streets in the world, I found depressing, mortifying statistics at this site: Think of how many stories there are in these communities. It’s the only way to live with this.

To make up for it, here are videos and photos of the most beautiful streets in the world. What tickles me is the idea that anywhere in China has an old town.

And everyone’s favorite voyeurs, Google Street Scenes:

What about the safest places on earth? For the most part, they are places most ordinary people can’t get to. Fort Knox, for instance.

As I write romances, guess what’s the next thing I Googled?!1-intro

I hope you have had some fun in checking out these links, and I leave you with a meditation video to help you relax, raise the consciousness of the earth’s people, and find inspiration for your writing. See you on Sunday.

The Changing Male Ideal

This blog is a bit difficult for me to write as I keep getting sidetracked over delightful images. I certainly hope my keyboard is waterproof. I especially drooled over a clip from Beau Brummel – This Charming Man, staring James Purefoy. Sincere thanks to Kristen Koster for posting that delectable eye candy here:

I’ve never been a big fan of the Georgian era, the powdered wigs and overly decorated coats just never struck me as masculine. Dangerous Liaisons changed my mind about that, followed by Rob Roy and somewhat by Amadeus. And of course, the ordinary day coats were simpler than the court and fancy dress suits. France, as was her wont, set the styles and dictated what was beautiful. Full-skirted styles for both men and women came into high fashion, made from velvet, silks, and satins. The hues of the fabrics were brilliant and varied.

In addition to this style for clothing, the style for a man’s body was to look as thin and straight as possible. Think Ichobod Crane. According to Eras of Elegance ( prevailing mode included braid, embroidery, and buttons of gold, silver, or jewels.

Of course a man did not wear his powdered wig all the time. Beneath, his hair was normally about shoulder length, pulled back into a pony tail tied at the back of the neck.

The Regency period took steps closer to the modern business suit. While the coat was still long, the colors became more subdued, espcially as The Beau became more important to fashion. Men became subtle and subdued, and still remain so today in most respects. Evolving from the Country Attire and riding outfits of the late 18th century, and rebelling against the excesses of French fashion, men’s clothing became tight, showing off the masculine form without restricting movement.

Jane Austen’s World ( has wonderful information on the differences in station, activity, and the changes over time of the period. The illustrations are wonderful!

Also hair for men now became more natural. No powdering, no wigs, and no queues. Instead short hair, curled if it would, and brushed forward over the forehead. The popular influences were the Romantic poets, notably Byron. As much hair as was available, the gentleman brushed it forward to appear like Cesar, wearing a laurel wreath. Or if long, thick hair could be had, it was brushed carelessly into curls around the face. See Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion for illustrations. (

As to facial hair, sideburns were required. No man would seriously shave his cheeks. According to Jane Austen’s World (, men tried to look like the Greek marble statues being imported to England. No beards or mustaches were depicted on the statues, so few men wore facial hair of any sort.

Shoes, stockings, and gloves were required, though boots were very much in fashion and use in the country and in riding. Cravats deserve their own page, but I have to point out that Beau Brummel is said to have ruined 6 or more freshly laundered and pressed neck clothes each morning before reaching a satisfactory tie. I believe The Beau was a particularly fastidious person, not the norm for the time. And I hope we are past the era of Regency Heros who go through a mountain of linen in emulation of this style. Do read the Neckclothitania, a satirical catalog of the various popular knots. (

A side note, there are many tropes in Regency romances, and my novel does rely on one. However, I believe I have a fairly interesting twist on it. But when I first discovered this genre and read as many as I could get my hands on, I started seeing these patterns, and thought I would someday write a total satire. The Hero would go riding in Hyde Park very early in the morning, expecting to be alone, but find the park crowded with other heroes doing the same thing. The Heroine would go to Hatchard’s for a book, and find the bookstore impossible to enter because all the other heroines were there.

In general, the Regency period led to improved health, but mostly for the well-to-do. The Georgians did not bath very regularly, and did not wash those expensive velvets. But the increase of cotton linens and an improvement in personal cleanliness led overall to healthier people. Some types of food was expensive, but for the most part one could find plenty to eat if one’s appetite was not too nice. And more than ever before or since, people walked.

Men were expected to be, if they were in the upper circles of society, excellent horsemen, bruising hunters, possibly students of Gentleman Jackson’s boxing academy, and probably involved in wagers regarding their own abilities to ride or walk a set distance in a set time.

I direct you to a page at LikeBooks ( where, if you scroll down a bit, you will find some words about Beau Brummel. Granted, he did not reign over the fashionable world for very long, but he had a lasting impact that still is seen today. He remains one of the best known figures of the Regency period, and very clearly sums up the Ideal Male of fashion.

The Changing Female Ideal

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I have been above average in weight for most of my life. Therefore, growing up when Twiggy was considered the ideal was painful at the least, and damaging in so many ways. I began thinking this post would be about cosmetics, but then I found that the “look” in the Regency period had as much to do with the changes in women’s lifestyles as with makeup.

If you know the Georgian style, makeup was used freely to provide white skin, red lips, rouged cheeks, and patches. Patches were little fabric beauty marks glued to the corner of the eye or mouth, wherever the woman wanted to draw attention. The makeup used contained harmful chemicals and caused hideous problems and even death to the wearers.

In the Regency, a more “natural” look became the ideal. Women began to walk out of doors, taking the air, and would have a healthy glow to their complexions. The condition of the skin and skin care overtook makeup in importance.

Undergarments decreased in number, and the drapey Grecian style was all the rage. Plump women were favored, because a thin woman appeared poor, sickly, and unable to reproduce. Wealth, health, and fertility were sought in a bride. And men of the time admired a healthy appetite in a girl, as that seemed to hint at good appetites in other things.

According to Hibiscus-Sinesis (, skin lotions were a growing industry with manufacturers competing for attention with wild names like Olympian Dew and Bloom of Ninon. A girl did not want to become tan or freckled, but windblown cheeks did not mark her as a dairymaid.

We think nothing of picking up a magazine full of beauty tips and styles as we check out at the grocery store. But not until 1811 were Regency women able to find a publication that told them the looks they should have. The Mirror of the Graces or The English Lady’s Costume, published anonymously by A Lady Of Distinction, promised to follow the rules of nature. But sometimes nature needed a little assistance, and so cosmetics changed and were used sparingly.

The web site also mentioned that dentistry was mostly a matter of extracting painful teeth, so few people in their thirties would have all their teeth unharmed. However, oral cleanliness became easier to achieve with tooth powders and diligence as in general everyone wanted to be cleaner.

Eye makeup is covered in more detail at the Jane Austin Festival Australia web site ( Egypt opened her ancient beauty secrets, making kohl available to the British Empire. Lamp black (a fine soot) mixed with a little oil could be used to darken brows or eye lashes.

I love the recipe for lip balm posted there:
“An excellent Lip Salve (1)
Take and ounce of Myrrh, as much Litharge in find powder, four ounces of honey, two ounces of bees-wax and six ounces of Oil of Roses; mix them over a low fire.” I suppose the resulting salve was put into a small tin, cooled, and carried around in the woman’s reticule for use throughout the day.

One of my favorite sites, Jane Austen’s World ( shows how the Georgian excesses gave way to the Regency natural idea. But notice also the body types of the Regency women. Any book where the heroine is thin and still seen as healthy and desirable by the hero needs to explain why that situation happened. Because it is against the normal cultural ideal.

Hair styles also changed, no one powdered their hair any longer, except the very old and rich. Swept-up hair stated that the woman was no longer a girl, and make the neck visible to male eyes. This page ( gives a simple Regency do, and Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion ( demonstrates the inspiration from Greek “marbles” or statues. You also will find hints about how to wear short hair and a reminder that many women were growing their hair long after decades of wearing it short under wigs.

Two Nerdy History Girls ( point to a real-life beauty, not the idealized fictional women that darling Jane created. Emma, Lady Hamilton, who had “high breasts and well-rounded thighs and bottom.” The sylph of popular fiction would have been considered sickly, maybe consumptive, and not attractive to anyone unless she had a fortune and he was desperate.

Sadly, the authors of this blog have no say over the covers of their books, and next to their documented information about beauty, one finds slinky women in Regency garb. To me, this says more about the state of the world for women than anything else. Skinny sells, plump disgusts, and no one can buck the trend very successfully.

I was in my 40s before I met a man who loves me and finds me attractive because my mind runs along the same silly paths that his does. I know I am blessed to find my happily ever after, and with the pressure being off me to conform to modern body type and ideal, I have been successful in losing weight, and improving my health. I will never be Twiggy, but I will be living a long and happy life.

Next week, let’s examine the same issues from the male point of view.