November 18, 2014

Guest Post and Jane Austen-Inspired Giveaway with Syrie James

Wacky Parlor Games in the Georgian Era
By Syrie James

What did people do at evening parties in England in the Georgia era? After dinner was over, the gentlemen had smoked their cigars, and then joined the ladies to drink tea in the drawing room, they often played cards or games likes charades—but not all “parlor games,” as they were called, were quite so familiar…or civilized!
In my novel Jane Austen’s First Love, Jane and members of her family spend three weeks at Goodnestone Park in Kent, the estate of the Bridges family, to celebrate the engagement of her brother Edward to one of the Bridges sisters. While plotting the novel, which takes place in the summer of 1791, I researched the sorts of amusements and activities that were popular in the Georgian era. I learned about two parlor games that I think are very strange—Bullet Pudding and Snapdragon—games which were so popular, they were still being played many decades later.
Jane Austen’s niece Fanny Knight (daughter of Jane’s brother Edward) described how to play Bullet Pudding in a letter sent to a friend in 1804:

“You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peek at top. You must then lay a bullet at top and everybody cuts a slice of it, and the person that is cutting it when it falls must poke about with their noses and chins till they find it and then take it out with their mouths of which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose and mouth and choking you: You must not use your hands in taking the Bullet out.”

How weird is that! This illustration by Francis Hayman shows a group  playing the game, with one young lady bent over the table, taking the bullet into her mouth.

Snapdragon (also known as Flapdragon) was a popular parlor game from the 16th to the 19th centuries. To play the game, a wide, shallow bowl of heated brandy was placed in the middle of a table. Raisins were placed in the brandy, which was set on fire. The goal of the game was to pluck the raisins out of the flaming brandy with one’s fingers, then drop them into one’s mouth (and eat them) to extinguish the flames, all at the risk of being burnt. All the candles in the room were usually extinguished to add to the eerie effect of the blue flames playing across the liquor.
An article in Richard Steele’s Tatler magazine at the time explained, “the wantonness of the thing was to see each other look like a demon, as we burnt ourselves, and snatched out the fruit.” The game was usually played during the winter, particularly on Christmas Eve. I found the idea of the game so fascinating that I included it in my novel, when Jane and her companions are looking for something to do on a cold, rainy afternoon. Just imagine it: snatching burning raisins from a flaming cauldron and eating them. Totally wacky!


In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy, and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honor of her brother's engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door—the wealthy, worldly, and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realizes that there are obstacles—social, financial, and otherwise—blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.

Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Group USA)


Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at syriejames.comFacebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames


Grand Giveaway Contest

Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen's First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour.

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie's unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

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