Highlighting Historical Romance with Rachael Miles and the facts behind her heroine’s textile arts.
In Brazen in Blue, Lady Emmeline Hartley runs her estate on the newest, most efficient methods. She even reads the Farmer’s Magazine — as a point of trivia the articles she comments on really did appear in the 1819 volume of that periodical! But when she needs a hiding place, Adam Montclair escorts her to his estate, where she finds herself thrust into a woman’s artistic community, composed of Adam’s three sisters and three cousins. Valuing the old ways of doing things, the women teach her to spin fiber into thread and yarn, and then to weave or knit it. They show her the joy of art and craft, even as she tries to untangle a mess of yarn.
In many ways the women’s ideas about craft echo those of the Pre-Raphaelites (who show up on the British scene in 1850): that one should fill one’s house and life with “beautiful necessities” — art objects made to be useful. But they also remind the reader that the beginning of the nineteenth century was a time of crisis for those who made cloth by hand.
The advent of mechanized looms threatened to destroy whole communities whose income was tied to traditional hand crafts of knitting and weaving. The machines, first designed to mimic hand knitting, were quickly adapted to produce ribbed cotton work and, eventually, to make lace. The machines — which made cotton goods more and more cheaply — also undercut the livelihood of the silk-weavers, whose products were always more expensive than cotton. Worse yet, by 1812, Parliament approved the death penalty for anyone caught breaking a mechanized loom. While no frames are broken in the novel, I found the question of what constitutes “good” work important for Lady Emmeline’s journey. If you love textiles, knitting, weaving, or any of the other arts (along with a good mystery and a strong heroine), this might be your catnip!
About the Book
Lady Emmeline Hartley has overcome every obstacle life has thrown her way. A spinster, disappointed in love, Em is on the brink of a marriage of convenience, when the man who rejected her heart reappears in need of her help. It gives Em a chance to escape, put to use one her most unusual talents—and perhaps convince him once and for all to risk his heart . . .
Adam Montclair–one of the most successful agents at the Home Office–rubs elbows with the highest levels of society. Even so, he wasn’t to the manor born. No matter how much he desires Em, as a match he is completely unsuitable. While it pains him to be near her, it’s a punishment he richly deserves. Now on a mission to uncover a plot against the government, Adam knows Em’s uncanny ability to recall voices will be essential. Yet as the two thwart the dangers in their path, it may become impossible to deny that Em is essential to happiness itself . . .
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About the Author
Rachael Miles writes richly textured, award-winning historical romance with strong heroines, witty dialogue, and engaging plots. Publisher’s Weekly has called her work “cozily scrumptious” and the American Library Association’s Booklist has praised it as “impeccably researched and beautifully crafted.” Author of eight books, Miles is a former professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature, and she delights in building a Regency world that readers never want to leave.