Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dining in the Court of Louis XIV, or: What's the Deal With The Peas?

Hello, everyone!

I hope you're all enjoying the Ides of March. We're voting here today in my state, and I can't help but feel the timing is fitting. I have already voted, so I'm staying in. Anyone care to join me for reruns of Rome? I love me some Mark Antony!

In book news, The Long Way Home has been out for two weeks now, and people are asking me about the superabundance of peas in the book. Peas are everywhere. Ysabeau loves them so much she has them delivered to her room in case she gets peckish in the night. So you know that I haven't completely lost my marbles (on this, at least), here's a post on dining that will explain the thing about the peas. 

Enjoy!

Caravaggio's Bacchus (1596-7). Not super relevant, but they were really into their classical gods. Raise a glass to the god of wine and tragedy and take a moment to enjoy his seriously defined arms and on point eyebrow game. Cheers!

Dining in the Court of Louis XIV

The Court of Louis XIV was a vibrant and opulent place. The menus and dining habits of the King and court offer insight into the excesses that saw six of every ten francs collected in taxes spent at the enormous chateau of Versailles and its ten thousand inhabitants. The population of France at this time was approximately twenty million.

Versailles was more than a seat of government. As W.H. Lewis explains, “To the man or woman of ambition it was a lottery in which the prizes were dazzling, and in which few could resist the temptation to take a ticket.” Conducting oneself well and securing the King’s favor could result offices, property, influence, and connections. Though it could be prohibitively expensive to put on appearances as a courtier, many people thought it was worth the risk, and in any case, life at court was unlike anything else in the world.

Let’s take a look at the food:

Dinner 

For most courtiers, dinner was eaten at eleven or twelve before attending the King’s dinner at one. In spite of appearances, many courtiers hoping to obtain the King’s favor were relatively poor, and were referred to in the slang of the time as cherchemidis, or seekers of free dinners. If they were not able to eat in town or at their patron’s table, they could dine with the five-hundred others reliant on the King’s generosity at the cuisine de commun, a special kitchen kept to feed them in Versailles.

At one, the King would eat au petit couvert, au grand couvert, or au public. Watching Louis dine au public was a popular pastime, and any well-dressed person could be admitted. They were not allowed to stare at the King, however, and were led through one door and out another, moving past the King’s table in an orderly queue.

Louis rarely dined in public, and preferred to eat au petit couvert in the privacy of his rooms. Even in private, the ceremony was considerable. After they were tasted by the maitre d’hotel and the Equerry of the Kitchen, thirty or forty dishes were carried from the kitchen in the rue de la Surintendance across the street and through the palace to the King’s rooms with a formal entourage of more than a dozen people known as the cortege de la viande de Sa Majeste.

The King ate at a square table in his bedroom facing the window, and the food was kept warm over dishes filled with red embers. Never left alone, he might be joined by his brother, the Dauphin, bishops, or Princes of the Blood, but he was the only person allowed to sit.

Supper

The supper hour was ten o’clock, but the King usually ate much later. Supper was his favorite part of the day, and the court was awed by the amount of food he could eat. An average supper for the King might include four plates of soup, a pheasant, a partridge, ham, mutton, salad, pastry, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs. Although he retired to bed soon after supper, he would be met there with en cas de nuit, a snack meant to sustain him until morning. This would include two bottles of wine, water, three loaves of bread, and perhaps three cold dishes.

If you’re wondering how he managed it, it is worth noting that Louis never ate between meals. Unsurprisingly, his post mortem revealed his stomach was twice the size of an average man’s.

Supper for the privileged was no less grand. Whether dining at Versailles or in Paris, suppers consisted of three or four courses eaten with trenchers. Forks existed, but had not caught on yet, and their use depended upon breeding and company. They were commonly used in Paris, but shunned by the King, who preferred to eat with his fingers.

A sample supper menu from 1662:

1st Service
Centre Plate: Oille [a stew of spiced duck, partridges, pigeons, etc.]
Entrees: Partridge in cabbage: fillet of duck: galantine of chicken: fillet of beef with cucumber.
Hors d’oeuvre: Chickens cooked on hot embers.

2nd Service
Centre Plate: Quarter of veal.
Roasts: Two hens and four rabbits.
Hors d’oeurve: Two salads.

3rd Service
Centre Plate: Partridge pie.
Plats Moyens: Vegetables and fruits.
Hors d’oeuvre: Fried sheep’s testicles: slices of roast beef spread with kidneys, onions, and cheese. 

Dessert
Pastry: strawberries and cream: hard-boiled eggs

Drinks might include red wine or liqueurs served after dessert. Rossolis was a liqueur made from brandy and spices, and Hippocras was a distillation of white wine, sugar, and spices scented with musk.(1) Champagne was in development, but did not exist in its current form until the 1690s. Cider was common, but it was “thought by right-minded men to be God’s judgment on the Normans for their rascality.”(2)

Oysters, salmon, and sardines were popular. One of the most popular dishes was potage. Typically a large dish of meat boiled with vegetables, potage was so loved that there were more than one hundred and fifty recipes for it at the time. In The Long Way Home, Alice and Jack are treated to a supper of Potage a la Jacobine, a thick stew of partridges and chickens served in almond sauce over a layer of cheese.

One of the most coveted foods at court was one we would least expect. When Alice arrives at Versailles, she is perplexed to find that everyone is obsessed with peas.

Still Life With Peas. Mateusz Tokarski, ca. 1795 
As Madame Maintenon(3) writes from Marly in 1696:

“We are still on the chapter of peas. Impatience to eat them, the pleasure of having eaten them, and the anticipation of eating them again… Some women having supped, and supped well, at the King’s table, have peas waiting for them in their rooms to eat before going to bed.”(4) 

Green peas were an expensive luxury beloved by the court. In 1660, Louis XIV had a huge quantity brought to him from Italy, packed in roses to keep them fresh.

From coffee and pastry to peas and potage, you can read more about the food, dining habits, and etiquette of Louis’ court in The Long Way Home.

(1) Mmm, perfume. Anyone for shots of Chanel No. 5? (5)
(2) Damn right. Also this is from Lewis' book, below
(3) Madame Maintenon started out as nanny to Louis' children with his mistress, Madame de Montespan. Then she married him. First rule of Royal Mistresses Girl Code: There are no rules
(4) It wasn't just Ysabeau inhaling bowls of peas in the dark
(5) Please don't drink perfume

Sources: 
W.H. Lewis. The Splendid Century
Anne Somerset. The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism in the Court of Louis XIV

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Cover Reveal! Stiletto Secrets: Book 1 of Bella J's New Series, Fairy Tale Bastards

Stiletto Secrets
Fairy Tale Bastards #1
By Bella J
Release Date:  04/25/16
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Adult Fairy tale

Nicholas Blake is your typical class A, rich bastard who loves getting what he wants. He’s spoiled, selfish and enjoys all the lavish pleasures life has to offer—especially those that involve women and getting naked. Nicholas’ life is just damn near perfect. But one night out on the town with his friends and everything changes. One encounter with a stripper in stilettos who fittingly calls herself Cinderella, and his life suddenly doesn’t seem so goddamn perfect anymore.

As if that isn’t enough, there’s also Emma, the new maid in his father’s mansion that immediately piques his curiosity with her sweet smile and blue-green eyes. He finds himself drawn to her and wants nothing more than to seduce her into his bed, to make her his. But he just can’t seem to stay away from the stripper that makes him burn in ways he never knew possible.

The more he starts to care for Emma, the stronger his obsession grows for Cinderella.

Insane? Absolutely.

Twisted? Yes.

Completely screwed up? Hell yes.

A decision needs to be made; he needs to choose. But will Nicholas be able to make that choice when he finds himself all tangled up in a giant cluster of love, lust and stilettos?


Excerpt 

“Pick one.” 

Nicholas jerked his head to the left in the direction from where the woman’s voice came, and noticed the dark-pink curtains. 

“Pick one what?” He scanned the room. 

“The shoes. Pick a pair,” a soft, sultry voice replied. 

Then Nicholas noticed movement behind the curtain. Whoever it was dragged her hand along the fabric while leisurely pacing, apparently waiting for him to choose. 

Instantly intrigued, he glanced at the cabinet and then back at the curtain. “You want me to choose a pair of shoes?” 

“Yes, pick a pair and I will wear them.” 

Nicholas felt a little tingle in the back of his neck when she spoke. He had only been in this room for five minutes and whoever was behind the curtain already had all his attention. 

He moved a little closer to the curtain. “You know, a lot goes into choosing the right pair of shoes. For example, I’d need to know what you’re wearing first.” He tried to get a better look at the woman behind the curtain, but the fabric was just too damn dense for him to make out anything other than a silhouette. 

“Why don’t you just pick a pair under the assumption that I’m not wearing anything,” she replied with soft, smoothly spoken words. Somehow it reminded him of melted chocolate. 

“Why don’t you let me see for myself what you’re wearing?” 

“That’s not how it works, Mr. Blake.” 

The curtain swooshed a little as she moved behind it. 

Nicholas turned to the glass cabinet with the shoes. How in God’s name was he supposed to choose? It was like telling a kid to choose one item in Willy Wonka’s candy factory. Im-fucking-possible. 

After inspecting each pair, he finally opened the door and reached for a white pair of stilettos with a little diamond bow on top. A simple design, but it was the pair with the sharpest heel, and Nicholas loved those damn heels. 

“So what do I do with these?” Nicholas inspected the shoes more closely. 

And then a hand reached out from the other side of the curtain. Nicholas noticed the freshly manicured nails and beautiful dainty fingers. “Now you give them to me, and take a seat, Mr. Blake.” 

Nicholas looked to the chair before handing her the shoes. 

“On the table next to the chair you will see a pair of handcuffs and a blindfold. You need to sit down, lock one of the cuffs around your hand, put on the blindfold and then place both hands behind the back of the seat.” 

Nicholas frowned. “Okay, I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this. I thought this was a show. How am I supposed to enjoy the show if I can’t see anything?” 

“Mr. Blake, I have three different types of shows I present. See, feel, and touch.” 

“See, feel, and touch?” he mimed silently with his mouth. 

“You can’t experience all at once.” 

“Well, I’d sort of feel cheated then.” 

“When you lose one of your senses, the other senses get heightened, Mr. Blake.” 

Nicholas could not get over the beautiful sound of this woman’s voice. It was like her voice had a direct line straight down to his cock. 

He started to leisurely pace around the room. “So I’m just curious, which show did my friends book me for?” 

“Feel,” she replied. 

Being the smart-ass that he was, Nicholas asked, “Isn’t that kind of the same thing as touch?” 

“No, it’s not. With touch you would be allowed to use your hands, guided by me of course. With feel, you will only feel what I want you to feel.” 

Okay, now he was really damn curious. 

As he turned to the table and eyed the contents, he contemplated what his options were. Either he turned around now and then got labeled as a pussy by his friends, or he could put on the mask and the cuffs and see where this all went. But honestly, there was no way in hell he would be able to walk away now. 

“What will it be, Mr. Blake?”

Nicholas shrugged and picked up the cuffs. “I guess we should get this show started then.”

***


Bella J lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband, two kids, & chihuahua. Her love for writing started in eighth grade when she received her first writing assignment—which she flunked. But the positive side of her failure—her newly found passion for writing. The negative side—now she’s completely spaced out half of the time living in her little pretend world of romance, love, & insanely hot heroes


Other Titles by Bella J

Resplendent Ruin (Resplendence #1)
Goodreads
Amazon
Resplendent Rush (Resplendence #2)
Goodreads 
Amazon
Resplendent Rage (Resplendence #3)
Goodreads
Pre-order 


Monday, March 7, 2016

Locked Box: Sexy New Contemporary Romance by Eve Dangerfield

Eve Dangerfield's new contemporary romance Locked Box was one of the best books I have read in years, so I was psyched when Eve agreed to stop by my blog with some fun behind-the-scenes facts about her new release. I'll try to restrain myself from going all fangirl over here, but in case you'd like to read my review of Locked Box, you can find it here. 

Eve's previously unknown facts about Locked Box:

Max’s motorbike, a Triumph Scrambler, is the bike my boyfriend desperately yearns for in his heart of hearts.

Julia’s sister Ash is based on the soft-but-rock hard bogan girls I only seem to meet in regional Victoria. They drink, they swear and they’re fiercely protective of the people they love. They also flawlessly manage to look like sexy garbage, which you might think is gross and obvious but in reality is a very hard look to pull off.

Max’s sisters are named after two of my favourite cousins. (They also give amazing no-bullshit advice.)

Julia’s sense of style, which I can see perfectly in my mind’s eye, is that hippie, floaty kind of fashion that only suits rail-thin model types. It’s really no surprise Max teases her about being a hipster.

Tiff, Julia’s gaming partner was originally meant to have a much larger role but was cut due to plot issues. She’s a blue haired lesbian who is constantly trying to quit smoking.


Gaming, cider and RAM are all things young IT woman Julia Bennett understands. Her agonising crush on a seemingly married cop? Not so much. Julia’s been avoiding Max Connor for six years but now they're spending the weekend trapped in an evidence room full of whiskey and mice. Locked Box is a novel about two people with an unspoken connection who are forced to look each other in the eye and say “I really, really, really want to make out with you.”  

Julia Bennett isn’t having a great day. Funding for her video game is running low, her IT job is sucking her dry and to cap it all off she’s locked in a police station with the very handsome, extremely married guy she’s been avoiding at all costs. Max Connor isn’t having a great year. He’s getting divorced, his best friend is squatting in his spare room and his inappropriate crush on the IT girl is getting dangerously out of hand. And that was before he locked the two of them in an evidence room for the weekend. Surrounded by three decade’s worth of drugs, guns and floppy disks, Max and Julia are forced to confront the heat that lies between them with dangerous, funny and occasionally toe-curlingly sexy results.

Excerpt

“Hey! Hey! Is someone in there?”

It was a man’s voice, calm and controlled and Julia knew it was a cop. Relief blasted through her, so all-encompassing she could barely speak. She slapped at the door trying to tell her would-be rescuer she was alive and in need of evacuation.

“Hang on a second,” the cop barked. “I’ll go get the spare keys.”

There was a pounding of feet as her rescuer dashed away. Julia inhaled, trying to calm her racing heart. The footsteps returned. Whoever this guy was, he was quick.

Julia swiped a hand across her sweaty forehead. “Oh my god please let me out.”

“Don’t worry Henri, I’ve got this.”

So the cop thought the actual evidence supervisor was the one entombed in Brenthill’s evidence room? That was awkward, then again who cared? He could think she was Humphrey B Bear if it got him to let her out. There was an agonizing rattle of keys, a muttered curse and then the door clicked open. Julia didn’t think she’d ever heard a sexier sound. She and the cop turned the handle at once, jamming the door. Julia laughed and let go, allowing him to open it. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m going to nominate you for Cop of The Ye--”

It was him. Of course it was him. She was locked in a room, making a total dick of herself. Why wouldn’t it be him? Julia’s mouth went dry as Senior Constable Max Connor’s gaze flicked over her flushed cheeks and quivering mouth. His eyes were as dark as Julia remembered, black you could barely make out the pupil.

“Julia? What are you doing in here?” His voice was so low and deep she could practically feel his voice reverberating in her bones.

“I-I...” She stared blankly up at Max wondering if she’d remembered to wear mascara today.

“Julia?”

Max’s expression was a mixture of amusement and disdain as though he couldn’t figure out how someone could be quite so ridiculous. Julia cheeks burned hot and she knew that if she’d been given the choice she’d have gladly starved to death in the property office to avoid this situation.


Eve Dangerfield has loved romance novels since she first started swiping her grandmother’s paperbacks at the age of fourteen. Now she writes her own unapologetically sexy tales about complex women and gorgeous-but-slightly-tortured men. Eve currently lives in Melbourne with her lovely sister and a rabbit named Billy. Locked Box is her second novel. 





Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Old Flames Burn Hotter in Susan Behon's New Small Town Contemporary Romance, One Last Call

One Last Call, Book 4 in the Madison Falls Series, centers around Sarah Brandon, Sophie’s sister who was introduced in Book 1. Sarah owns the Suds and Spuds, a popular bar and grill where most of the characters hang out and attend karaoke night once a month. Sarah leaves work one night and gets into a car wreck while avoiding hitting a deer in the middle of the road. Her long lost love, Josh Logan comes to her rescue. They soon find out that the car wreck was no accident and someone is out to hurt Sarah. Josh is determined to protect her and win her back in the meantime. There is a thin line between love and hate. Their arguments turn heated and their kisses even more so! Old flames burn hotter in Madison Falls.


One Last Call
Book 4, Madison Falls Series
by Susan Behon
Release Date: February 29, 2016

Ready for a little small town fooling around? Romance that’s the perfect mix of sweet and spicy!

Sarah Brandon is having the night from Hell.

Thanks to a deer playing chicken in the middle of the road, Sarah is forced to make a frantic ditch dive and gets stuck in her wrecked vehicle. Fiercely independent, the idea of being a damsel in distress chafes more than the seat belt holding her in at an odd angle.

Stranded and needing a rescue, the last person she expects to be her knight in shining armor is Josh Logan. Even with the sexy southern drawl and bad-boy charm, her long lost love could just as well stay lost as far as Sarah is concerned.

She’s had it with men. With a cheating ex-husband trying to win her back and a too sexy for his own good ex-boyfriend trying to make amends, she doesn’t need any more trouble. Trouble finds her anyway when it comes to light that the cause of her accident is no accident. Someone is out to hurt her, and Josh wants to protect her before it’s too late.

Josh considers it fate that he finally has a chance to explain to Sarah why he left town without a word the summer after graduation. It was years ago, but he never stopped loving her. Secrets from the past and threats from the present collide in a dangerous game that could cost Sarah her life. One kiss at a time, Josh is out to prove that he would slay dragons for her if she would only give a lost love found a second chance. 

Buy Links: 

Author Bio
Susan Behon, author of the Madison Falls series, enjoys creating a world that brings readers romance, laughter, and a healthy dose of sexiness. Susan graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Norfolk State University. She currently lives in Ohio with her very own romance hero of a husband and their two wonderful daughters.

Author Social Media

Excerpt

“Don’t scream, sunshine. You’ll wake up the neighbors.” Josh was reclined on top of her covers, bare feet crossed one over the other and his hands tucked behind his head. His black T-shirt stood out starkly against the pastel colors of her quilt. His faded blue jeans were slung low and outlined his lower half to perfection.

Sarah didn’t know what had her heart pumping faster, getting startled by seeing a man in her bed or the actual sight of that sexy man reclining on her bed like he belonged there.

“Josh?” Sarah hissed. “What the hell are you doing in here? How did you get in? You better hope my mom didn’t hear you!”

He sat up and ran his fingers through the short layers of his tawny brown hair before rubbing the back of his neck. “Am I the only one here havin’ déjà vu?”

“How did you get in here?”

His grin was anything but innocent. “You should lock your window, darlin’. Anyone could climb on in here.”

“What if my mom heard you? You could have woken her up!”

“Doubt it.”

“Why is that?”

“She’s not here.”

“She’s not?” So Sarah had been tiptoeing for nothing? “How do you know?”

“She’s still with my dad.”

“At this time of night?” Sarah felt ridiculous as soon as she asked the question.

“Yep. Guess they’re havin’ a slumber party.” He raised his eyebrows in innuendo. She ignored the images that volley brought forth.

“Then why didn’t you knock and come through the front door like a normal person?”

“I was feelin’ nostalgic.”

“You’ve never climbed in my bedroom window before.”

“I know. But I wanted to.”