Author Roundtable: Garden Favorites

Did you know that the lovely bouquet you’re eying in the florist shop could actually contain a secret message?

Well, not today, maybe. These days, a rose is just a rose. But in the Victorian era, young people would use the commonly accepted meanings of flowers to express their feelings for each other. (Pity the poor suitor who didn’t know that yellow tulips meant “hopeless love” or that snapdragons meant “deception or presumption”!)

Here are a few of our authors’ favorite flowers and their corresponding Victorian symbolism.

Becky Wade: Geraniums

GeraniumMeaning: True friendship

Kimberley Woodhouse: Tulips

TulipsMeaning: Declaration of love

Jen Turano and Elizabeth Camden: Sunflowers

SunflowersMeaning: Loyalty

Ann Tatlock: Violets

VioletsMeaning: Faithfulness

Melissa Tagg:  Daisies

DaisiesMeaning: Innocence, hope

Nancy Mehl: Irises

IrisMeaning: Faith, wisdom

Ann Mateer: Gardenias

GardeniasMeaning: You’re lovely, secret love

Regina Jennings: Zinnias

zinniasMeaning: Thoughts of absent friends

Dee Henderson, Leslie Gould, Kate Breslin: Roses

RosesMeaning: Love

Mary Connealy: Daffodils

DaffodilsMeaning: Respect

Here’s a fun idea: Look at the meanings of certain flowers and think of friends who fit that description perfectly. Then buy seed packets of those flowers and mail them to your friends with a note about why this particular flower and meaning made you think of them. (Zinnias are always good for a “Thinking of You” card!)

What’s your favorite flower, and what does it mean? (There are some variations in meaning from place to place, but most of these I found here and here.)

Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1880s, Part Two

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Martha J. Sturm! Martha, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com so I can send you a copy of A Match Made in Texas.)

Last Friday, we went to the West to find out what courtship looked like on the American frontier. But, even though set in a similar time period, Elizabeth Camden’s novels have a very different feel. Set in cities like Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C., they portray a different kind of love story than one set on a ranch or in a small Western boom town. Here, Elizabeth shares the unique challenges of romance for her heroines.

AgainstTheTide_4color.inddWith Every Breath

Title and Setting: Against the Tide and With Every Breath, late 1800s Boston and Washington D.C.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your novel was typical of the time period and what was atypical?

Elizabeth’s Answer:
The American Civil War brought a surprising opportunity to American women. As men left to fight in the war, the government hired thousands of women to fill office vacancies in Washington, D.C. Even after the war, the floodgates had been opened and it was acceptable for American women to obtain respectable white-collar jobs in cities all over the United States. By 1891, there were 70,000 women working in offices, and by 1920 that number had swelled to half a million.

As a romance novelist, this presents an irresistible temptation for me. Although “dating the boss” is taboo in today’s society, in the late nineteenth century women who ventured into the workplace were considered fair game. Sometimes they welcomed the attention of their employers and sometimes they didn’t, but there was no law against workplace sexual harassment until the landmark Supreme Court case of 1974, Barnes v. Train, recognized this as a distinct issue.

I’ve always been fascinated by the professional woman of the nineteenth century, and most of my novels feature heroines working in professional capacities.  In Against the Tide, Lydia was a translator for the Navy when she met a man who does undercover work for the government. It wasn’t a terribly risqué plot, since Lydia never reported to Bane and could walk away from him whenever she wished.

CustomHouse

The Boston Custom House where Lydia and Bane often interact with each other, from Elizabeth’s Pinterest board.

I got a little more daring in With Every Breath (August 2014). This is a hospital drama, and Kate is a government statistician who is hired by a doctor to help with his research. Kate reports directly to Trevor, and both are well aware of the risks associated with getting romantically involved. “Dating the boss” added a delicious layer of tension and complication to the plot, one which I wouldn’t be free to explore were I writing a contemporary romance. Over the years we have too much instinctive suspicion of relationships that begin with such a disparity of power, but this is a twenty-first century attitude, and I write nineteenth century characters. Trevor and Kate are smart enough to be aware of the emotional danger of their relationship, but it hardly stops them from pursuing it.

If you’re curious about professional women in the late nineteenth century workplace, I hope you’ll take a peek at one of my novels!

CAMDEN_ElizabethConnect with Elizabeth on Facebook and on her website.

For a chance to win Into the Whirlwind, comment below with your thoughts on this question: what event or time period would you most like to see as the setting of a historical novel, and why? The winner will be announced in next Friday’s post!

What’s So Wonderful About It’s a Wonderful Life?: Elizabeth Camden

Every year Hollywood releases a slew of Christmas-themed movies, most of which barely make a ripple in our collective memory. It’s a Wonderful Life is different. This 1946 movie is a perennial favorite even though it is darker, heavier, and more profound than we typically associate with fluffy Christmas movies. After all, this is a story about a middle-aged man who believes his dreams have passed him by. He fails to attain his grand childhood aspirations, endures a business failure and a scandal, and contemplates suicide. Why does such a heavy theme resonate with us, especially at Christmas?

It's a Wonderful Life

Christmas is a time when we are supposed to be riotously happy. The media blasts us with images of happy families, glittering lights, lavish gifts, and the implication that the rest of the world is living in a warmly-lit, Norman Rockwell-like world. Then comes the New Year’s holiday, which prompts us to take stock of our lives and examine our accomplishments. Is it any wonder that many of us fall a little short of this idealized world?

I think this is why Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of George Bailey has made such a lasting impression. George is an ordinary man who nurtures such huge dreams and works hard to make them happen. As he moves into middle age, he is forced to conclude that most of his grand hopes will never come to pass.The magic of It’s a Wonderful Life is that it celebrates the extraordinary beauty and dignity of an everyday, commonplace life. George Bailey proves to us that our lives need not be lived on an epic scale or with material wealth to have profound value. George Bailey is the salt of the earth, and his tireless devotion to his family and community—even in the face of his own thwarted ambitions—deserves to be memorialized.

Continue reading