Posted in Guest Post

Victorian Flirtation

By J. R. LaGreca
My novel Afternoon Tea is a historical fiction taking place in New England during the Victorian Age in the year 1895. This era boasted romanticized images and customs, and subtle communication during courtship. The women used their frilly handkerchiefs, ornamental fans, parasols, hats, and gloves as gestures of flirtation.
The flirtations of the fan had a language of its own. If a woman carried it in the right hand in front of the face she invited a gentleman to follow her. Placing it on the right ear implied you have changed. Drawing it across her forehead warned, we are being watched. Twirling it in the right hand, I love another. Drawing it across the eye implied an apology, (talk about never having to say, “I’m sorry.”) Fanning slowly, I am married, fanning quickly, I am engaged. Closing it, I wish to speak to you; opening the fan wide, wait for me. Drawing it across the cheek, I love you. With handle to lips bore an invitation to kiss, a bold gesture especially in Victorian times.
A handkerchief drawn across the lips implied the bold sentiment, desirous of an acquaintance. Drawing it by the center, you are too willing, (a good cure for the annoyingly persistent suitor.) Dropping it implied, we will be friends; hopefully it would be picked up! Twirling in both hands depicted indifference. Twirling it in the left hand, the unkind message, I wish to be rid of you. Twirling it in the right hand, the disappointing, I love another. Folding it, I wish to speak to you. Drawing it across the cheek, I hate you. Drawing it across the hand, unmistakably, I love you, in the language of love no different than saying it with words, the preferred method for the shy or easily tongue-tied female.
Parasol flirtations; carrying it elevated in the left hand signaled, desiring acquaintance. Carrying it closed in the left hand, a subtle invitation to meet on the first crossing, imagine the picturesque horse and buggies as a backdrop. Carrying it in the right hand close to your side, follow me. Swinging it to and fro by the handle of the right hand, I am married. Twirling it around warned to be careful we are being watched. Tapping it on the chin gently, I am in love with another. Placing the end of tips to lips, do you love me? Dropping it professed, I love you. The clumsiness of dropping it by accident would no doubt bear uncomfortable insinuations and a blushing ingénue.
Hat flirtations had their own mystique; putting it under the left arm, I will be at the gate at 8 PM. Touching the rim to the lips asked, does he accompany you? Putting it in front of you, I am single, and no doubt available. Carrying it in the left hand, the cutting remark, I hate you. Carrying it in the right hand meant, desirous of an acquaintance. Striking it on the hand, I am very much displeased. To incline the hat toward the nose, beware we are being watched. Putting it behind you, I am married. Putting the hat on the head straight signaled, all for the present. Running the finger around the crown professed a declaration of love.
Glove flirtations, the brazen right hand with the naked thumb exposed, kiss me. Biting the tips of the gloves, I wish to be rid of you very soon. Putting them away, I’m vexed. Tapping the chin, I love another. Turning them inside out, I hate you. Smoothing the gloves out gently, I wish I was with you. Dropping both gloves, I love you.
My book Afternoon Tea has incorporated similar gestures in a saga of forbidden love, and, the standards of high society and their paradox. Enter this fascinating era in New England and get a glimpse of a glittering, yet cruel world where image and status are everything. Indulge in an unforgettable cup of Afternoon Tea as you become immersed in simpler times when innuendos said as much as words.
I’m doing a random giveaway. The contest closes in 2 weeks.

Posted in General

Afternoon Tea

Spoiler Alert
The story begins at a cemetery outside a church in Clinton, Connecticut. A young woman named Meg Bailey observes Lawrence Gray, an older gentleman with a cane, struggles to reach a gravesite. The grave bears testament to the fact that he visits every day- it is covered in roses.
As Meg asks around to determine the source of Lawrence’s devotion, a fellow church goers tells her that essentially Lawrence is doing penance because he feels responsible for his wife’s death. The church goer tells Lawrence’s story over a cup of afternoon tea…

The story begins in 1895. William and Lawrence Gray (father and son) were traveling through New England looking for employment after William sold his farm. William decides to look up his old (affluent) school chum, Philip Reed. Philip readily agrees to hire the pair and welcomes the duo into his house like family. Philip has a daughter, Emily. Right away we see that Emily and Lawrence take to each other. Emily feels Lawrence is the only person with whom she can talk. Ah, yes. Enter the conflict.
The pair are clearly from opposite sides of the track. Back in the Victorian times, young ladies weren’t necessarily allowed to marry the man they loved, not unless they fell in love with a man of great fortune. Generally, that’s whom their parents would have wished them to marry. Anyway, the pair begin to fall in love, but they are discovered as we suspected that they would be.

The pair find themselves victims of forces that they cannot control. Lawrence and his father find their station at the Reed’s reduced to servants. Emily is forced into a relationship with a man that she does not like. She’s sent to meet the man’s family. Surprisingly, Lawrence is invite to go along as an artist to paint Emily’s intended family.
I won’t tell you more of the story, but I will say that the pair go through a lot before they end up together. Even when they end up together, their lives are not smooth. Ah! Where are the men like Lawrence today? What an upright, courteous, and honorable man. I tell you, they don’t make them like that any more!!

I really enjoyed this book. I know this will surprise those of you who have been around my blog for a while, especially those who saw my Valentine’s Day post. I’m not the most romantic person in the world. But this was an excellent read. In fact I saw down and read it in an evening. What I really liked about this book was the authenticity. The author mentions on the back of her book that she has an affinity with the Victorian Age. It came through loud and clear in the book. For example, the author mentions the book The Mystery of Love Courtship and Marriage Explained. This book does exist. It was written by Henry J. Wehman and published in 1890 by the Wehman brothers. The book offered advice and lessons to help men and women succeed in love. I ran an internet search and found out that little tid bit. I’m going to have to hit up some used bookstores to see if I can’t get my hands on a copy of this book. I’m familiar with a similar book called The Language of Flowers, which taught men and women to communicate by flower arrangements. No I’m not kidding. The sexes were restricted in talking with each other, so they thought up some pretty ingenious ways of communicating.

You readers are in luck. Remember the blog party? Well Jody R. LaGreca will be paying a visit. She has written an interesting article on Victorian flirtation. So all you romantic make sure you come back for a visit.
Since you are here, I’ll like to remind you that the Blog Party starts on The Bluestocking Guide on March 20,2009 at midnight sharp. The party lasts a week. I’ve having 14 authors visit that week, and I believe there will be 9 book raffles, plus I will have a contest or two. Don’t forget!!!