Afternoon Tea and the Fib That Lived On

It isn't often one catches a duchess telling a whopper. This one concerns the delightful custom of afternoon tea.

An Afternoon Tea Table
I particularly like the addition of the book at this tea. 🙂 Photo Credit: Per Mosseby, Mt. Lavinia: Governor's High Tea

Anna Maria Russell (1783–1857), the Duchess of Bedford, claimed to have originated the then-fashionable custom. But people were obviously taking afternoon tea long before Her Grace had any influence over the matter.  Take a look at this quote from The Diner’s Dictionary (2nd ed.), by John Ayto:

"As the usual time for dinner progressed during the eighteenth century, towards the evening a gap opened up for a late-afternoon refreshment, filled by what has since become the traditional English afternoon tea, a meal in its own right, with sandwiches and cake as well as cups of tea (amongst the earliest references to it are these by Fanny Burney in Evelina (1778): ‘I was relieved by a summons to tea,’ and by John Wesley in 1789: ‘At breakfast and at tea...I met all the Society"

One wonders if the Duchess would have felt satisfaction or chagrin if she'd known that almost two hundred years later her boast would still be perpetuated as truth, as in this excellent presentation offered by London's venerable Fortnum's department store (established 1707):

No matter where it came from, afternoon tea is still a favorite today. We associate a cup of tea with relaxation. Whether it's taken alone or with friends, accompanied by scones or bread and jam or by nothing at all. Whether taken in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the dead of night, tea is a small way to have a big impact upon our sense of wellbeing. It's a way of being good to oneself.

At my house, this morning, this calls for a batch of fresh blueberry scones and a cup of Earl Grey--piping hot and extra sweet (the way I love tea the best).  Or perhaps I'll pair a couple of shortbread biscuits ("cookies," to my American friends) with a nice cup of Tazo Zen tea.  It's one of my favorites, a wildly fragrant tea with lemongrass, verbena, and spearmint. Or, perhaps I'll cheat a little and have hot cocoa instead, with a sinfully delicious slice of homemade chocolate cake (I'll share my recipe in my next post). What? A proper afternoon tea with no tea?

Why not?

There are those who would insist that "proper" tea isn't very sweet. That it is served with milk, never cream (oh, the horror!). That it is served at certain times. That the pinkie is held aloft and milk is added last (or not; both of those rules are fiercely debated). That one holds the saucer only when standing and never when seated at a table. There is even a rule that says the savory tea sandwiches are eaten first, scones next, and sweets last.

Rubbish! Tea shouldn't be about rules and fashion. It doesn't matter whether you treat yourself to traditional, oh-so-proper black tea and cucumber sandwiches or to Kool-Aid and Oreos, if that's what you enjoy. The important thing is to pause and relax, whether alone or with others. To take care of yourself, just for a moment. To count your blessings. To be happy.

Afternoon tea is all about slowing down and being good to oneself--something I hope the Duchess of Bedford understood, though I suspect the poor thing was more concerned with being thought fashionable than with taking time to relax and enjoy the moment. Life comes at us so fast these days that we don't often take time to enjoy it.

So, won't you join me now?

Take a break. Have some tea (or cocoa or juice or whatever pleases you most). Relax and be good to yourself, for just a moment. And then set a reminder to do this for yourself again very soon.

After you're finished, I'd love for you to come back here and tell me about it. What did you have? What kind of tea? Did you relax and enjoy the moment? And did you set a reminder for next time? Will you make this a regular habit? Anne, the Duchess of Bedford and I hope so. 😉

You’re Invited!

Get Ready!  In just a few days, a few lucky readers will receive a ton of FREE books.  Read on for all the juicy details…

Want to have some fun? Join me as I open the doors to my new street team group on Facebook.

I’m planning lots of fun and surprises just for my wonderful street team members:

  • Online tea parties. 
  • Online live readings of Regency fan-favorites (in pajamas, with hot cocoa, of course!)
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Trivia contests
  • Prizes perfect for history buffs, like antique candlesticks, quills, Regency-style jewelry, and much more.
  • Plus many other great surprises

We’ll have such fun!

Plus, all street team members will receive advanced reading copies of ALL of my current titles AND all of my future releases!

All you have to do to join my street team is show me a review you’ve already written about one of my books. My street team is only for the fiercest lovers of historical romance–especially Regencies.  So you know you’ll be in great company.  🙂

Hurry; there are only 200 spots.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

I can’t wait to welcome you to the team!

Relaunch Post 7: 12,000 new readers

It’s been 4 weeks since my last Relaunch Post. Here’s what’s happened since then:

  • I’ve added 78 new subscribers, for a total of 202 subscribers.
  • I released a Christmas novella, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS on October 20th.
  • ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS received its first reader review (5 Stars–huzzah!) on Amazon.
  • 5000 additional free copies of THE BLUE DEVIL have been downloaded, for a total of 12,000 copies since it went perma-free. 7,500 of those downloads have been from the Apple ebook store (much to my surprise).
  • THE BLUE DEVIL has 83 ratings on Apple’s bookstore, with an average of 4.5 stars (more cheers!).
  • 96 free copies of The Regency Matchmaker Series Book Two, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN were downloaded, for a total of 183 copies so far.
  • I sold 12 times as many books in November as I did in August.

My books are earning about $20 per day right now. Not enough to live on, but it’s 30 times more than I was making before I relaunched my career, and there’s been steady growth, so I’m actually pretty jazzed.

What’s next?

  • I found a few typos in ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, and I’ll be uploading corrected manuscripts here in a few minutes. Two English teachers went over this manuscript.  It was also professionally edited and copy-edited. My two brilliant, adult children also went over it.  You’d think six pairs of well-trained, well-qualified eyes would have found those typos before the book was published, wouldn’t you?  Melynda’s Law: “No matter how carefully edited a manuscript is, there will always be another missed typo.”  *sigh*
  •  I’ll be advertising ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS soon.  Facebook ads.  And I’ll let my subscriber list know about the book.
  • I’m going to publish my first issue of my newsletter, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES, soon.
  • In THE FURTHER ADVENTURES, I’m going to ask my subscribers who have read and enjoyed my books to review them.  Like most other authors, I dislike asking, but online reviews are vitally important these days, and I’ve only received 2 new reviews since I relaunched my career a couple of months ago. I often see romances with hundreds of reviews (and some of those books are of questionable quality–yikes!). I’m guessing their authors aren’t shy about asking.  To regain my place in the market and remain competitive, I must have more reviews, so … well, I’ll just have to step out of my comfort zone and ask.
  • I’ll also be reaching out to my subscribers and other fans to form a street team. The first two hundred people who can show that they’ve reviewed one of my books will all receive free advanced reading copies of my next new release, along with a bunch of other fun stuff. Plus, I’ve set up a private Facebook group just for them.  I’m really excited about the group, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone.
  • I’m watching my sales figures carefully in anticipation of something cool happening.  You see, MISS GRANTHAM’S ONE TRUE SIN, Book Two of the Regency Matchmaker Series, has been outselling all three of the other titles in the series for the past three years. But since both Book One and Book Two of the Regency Matchmaker Series are currently available for free, I’ve been expecting sales of Books Three and Four to slowly increase, and they’re doing just that. Take a look at this graph showing the past year’s worth of sales of THE BLACKGUARD’S BRIDE, Book Four of the series. The last data point represents the projected sales for this month, assuming the sales curve remains constant–but I expect it to increase.

Graph

See why I’m pleased?

In summary: I’m not living a lifestyle of the rich and famous yet–but I’m working on it. 🙂