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A Tease and a Gift

February 4th, 2015 by Madeline

If Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and love is celebrated in romance novels, I believe it’s safe to say that Valentine’s Day equals romance novels.ValentineHopGraphic

And boy do we have some romance novels for you. :)

Welcome to the kickoff blog post for the Romantic Reads Valentine’s Hop, filled with great authors giving away great prizes, including a chance to win a $50 gift card on February 14th.

That said, this blog post is about two romance novels and I promise you’ll see more throughout the Romantic Reads Valentine’s Hop.

The first romance novel…is mine! Deception of a Highlander is book 1 of my three book Scottish historical series. Below is the first official excerpt teaser. Enjoy!!

DeceptionOfAHighlander_CoverIt was only a kiss, but he knew without a doubt the heat of her mouth against his would only serve to whet his desire further. He would not be able to still his hands from gliding over what was hidden from view, from pulling her against the parts of him she made ache.

With an incredible act of willpower, he straightened, released her and took a step back to address her from a safer distance lest he give in to temptation.

“If ye still want to come, meet me here tomorrow morning at nine o’clock, aye?”

He turned to leave when her hand on his forearm stopped him.

“Why did you not kiss me?” she asked.

Kieran studied her face and desire tugged at him once more. “Do ye always get what ye want, Mariel?”

Her eyes trailed the length of his body, her expression shrewd. “Only if I know how to get it.”

Deception of a Highlander is set to release on April 28, 2015 and is available for preorder on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1x5J12G

The second romance novel is your gift (potentially) – and it’s a good one.

The incredible and fabulous Valerie Bowman has offered her latest release, The Accidental Countess, up for raffle. If you haven’t checked out her Playful Brides series (The Accidental Countess is the second in the series), you MUST.

Read on for tantalizing detail of what you could win:AccidentalCountess_servercover

For seven long years, Lady Cassandra Monroe has waited for the man of her dreams to return from the war. Unfortunately, he happens to be engaged to her flighty cousin. What Cass wouldn’t give to take her cousin’s place! When he mistakes Cass for Patience Bunbury, a fictitious friend her cousin has invented to escape social obligations…even with her future husband, Cass thinks this is her chance.

After defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, Captain Julian Swift is not quite ready to settle down and enter into his unwanted arranged marriage—especially when the real object of his affection turns out to be a beguiling beauty he meets at a party. Patience Bunbury is witty, independent, passionate…and, unbeknownst to him, the cousin of his current fiancée. When the truth about Cass comes out—and Julian  discovers that their courtship is anything but accidental—will he surrender his heart to a woman who really is too good to be true?

The Accidental Countess (Book 2 of the Playful Brides series) can be found at many top retailers, including Amazon http://amzn.to/1Dc31RW

So – have you ever pretended to be someone else to get out of (or into) a certain situation? If so, please leave a comment below.

If you have not and still want to comment for a chance to win an eBook copy of The Accidental Countess by Valerie Bowman – that’s OK – you can post what you love most about romance novels.

The drawing will occur on the evening of 2/4/15 – good luck to everyone who plays!!  :)

Tomorrow’s Blog Hop will take you to Angi Morgan at http://www.getlostinastory.blogspot.com/

Gross Out – Ancient Dining

January 6th, 2015 by Madeline

The New Year has started and we’ve all eaten our fill of all things we usually wouldn’t and are trying to bounce back. Well, maybe I can help. Because where we celebrate our festivities of the season with sweet potatoes and sugar crusted cookies, people of long ago had a more interesting palate. Caution: you may lose your appetite a little. :)

DormouseFirst let’s discuss the dormouse – you know, that cute little mouse thing from Alice in Wonderland who was always sleepy and had to have jam put on his nose when he got upset? Well, the Romans would have found that entirely delicious. They loved dormouse so much, they actually had a terra cotta pot, glilarium, created just for the keeping of dormice for consumption purposes. The dormice was quite the delicacy and could either be eaten as an appetizer or slathered in honey and eaten as a dessert. The dormouse went beyond culinary appeal in the Elizabethan period when the fat was rendered from the little rodent notorious for its hibernation and used by insomniacs to encourage their own sleep.

The Tudor period is my absolute favorite in history. Between the scandal of all Henry’s marriages to the way he had crosses painted all through the castle to discourage urination inside the castle halls, there are just so many fascinating facts to know about this time period. Their food is no less interesting. It was not uncommon for fowl to be consumed on a regular basis, but chicken was the poultry of peasants. Swan and peacock – those were truly meant for royalty. Not only would they be prepared and placed upon the place of honor at the dinner table, they would also be trussed up in their own feathers for decoration. I personally have a hard enough time eating a fish with the head still on (like he’s watching me with that bulging, glossy eye) – I can’t even imagine the whole skin being swept proudly off before I eat it. Blech.peacock

Another interesting tidbit about Tudor food is that during Lent when they weren’t allowed to eat meat or eggs, cooked fish was often times pressed and dyed to resemble the forbidden meats. Eggs were even carefully pushed into eggshells to resemble eggs. Though the taste wasn’t the same, it somehow seemed to placate the court by kind of letting them eat food they weren’t supposed to eat.

While we’re on the topic of eggs, there are a couple different eggs that were considered a delicacy (and still are). The first of which are Virgin Boy Eggs. These are essentially eggs that have been boiled in little boy pee. Yes, little boy pee. They cost twice as much as a regular boiled egg and are said to increase one’s yin where it might otherwise be flagging.

Another egg delicacy is Balut (I’m not going to post a pic of because even I’m not THAT mean) which is a fertilized egg that has gone 17-21 days before being cooked. The end result is a partially formed fetus whose bones have been softened by the cooking process. While some make think it’s gross, it is still hugely popular in Vietnam and Cambodia where it’s eaten with hot sauce and vinegar.

ambergrisBy far the worst disgusting food I’ve encountered in my research is ambergris. First, let me explain what ambergris is: this is a gray, waxy substance that balls up in sperm whale’s intestines to help it pass the sharp edges of fish bones through its system. These chunks are either defecated or, if too large, regurgitated and can be up to 100 pounds. Ambergris has a foul odor when fresh, but then that fades into a sweet, musky sort of scent that has been applied to perfumes and lotions for centuries. But that isn’t all. Through history, it was also stirred into teas and mixed into desserts to add flavor through scent. It was an ingredient only the very wealthy could afford. Charles II of England’s favorite dish was eggs and ambergris. Kinda makes me wonder if he actually knew what he was eating… (I’m thinking no)

As if eating questionable food wasn’t enough, some cultures actually ate poisonous food. In the Regency period, a color called Paris Green was used to color desserts and other various foods. What they didn’t realize was that Paris Green had high amounts of arsenic in it and people would oftentimes become very ill after dinner parties where green food coloring was used. In the mid-1800’s a group of Austrian men actually made a tonic out of arsenic that acted as a stimulant. That’d be a pour you’d want only from a professional.

Ironically, foods that were healthy were sometimes avoided as being thought of as poisonous – like the common tomato. People were initially put off by its bright red appearance and stayed away from it for quite a long time before incorporating it into their diets. I can’t help but wonder about the guy who had the balls to try eating it for the first time…

So, there you go – automatic appetite suppressant for 2015. J What are some gross foods you’ve either eaten or heard of people eating?

Trick-or-Treating for Soul Cakes

October 23rd, 2014 by Madeline

turnip lanternHappy New Year! Yeah, you read that right. Because really, that’s how Halloween all began. The Celts new year was not January 1st, but November 1st. October 31st symbolized the end of light and harvest and November 1st marked the start of the shorter, darker days of winter. Makes sense when you think about it. And what’s New Year’s Eve without a party? Thus Samhain became quite the celebration.

With Samhain marking a time between light and dark, the Celts believed the dead mixed with the living those nights. It was not uncommon for people to wear animal masks with animal pelts (costumes) to frighten off any ghosts. Bonfires were lit to keep the dark at bay and also used for cleansing people of their past year’s transgressions (accomplished by walking between the pyres). Over time, people went from door to door seeking food and refreshment. They lit their way with hollowed out turnip-lanterns carved into spooky faces.

Later when the Romans conquered the Celts, they spliced their holidays with Roman holidays to make everyone more accepting of a unified calendar. Roman holidays meant to commemorate the dead and the goddess of fruits and seeds were combined with Samhain. Apple-themed Halloween décor, while adorably autumn festive, is an inadvertent nod to good ole Pomona, the goddess of fruits and all she bore in her incorporation into Samhain.

Later still, the Catholics tried to recoup the people’s celebrations by getting their own edge on Samhain. Since the holiday incorporated the dead, it was a great opportunity to honor all the dead saints and give prayers to those whose loved ones had died. Conveniently, this was called All Saint’s Day. They took the traditions of Samhain and added them in for good measure. There were bonfires and parades and even costumes as people now dressed up as saints, angels and demons (I bet they’d be appalled with the sexy angel and devil outfits of today hehehe). Souling

On All Saint’s Day, the poor (who were always looking for a good excuse to score a free meal) would go from door to door and ask for food. They were given pastries called soul cakes in exchange for the promise to pray for the people’s deceased loved ones. There is speculation that this was the start of giving candy to people on Halloween.

When the Protestants fled to America, the All Saint’s Day celebrations fell by the wayside. It was not until the great waves of immigrants came into America that it was truly celebrated again. Albeit a little different, because it was now a melting pot of old and new and all different cultures. Granted some adjustments needed to be made to accommodate the new land, like using pumpkins in place of the dinky American turnips for the lanterns on Samhain.

Regardless of when Halloween existed or what it meant to those celebrating, Halloween has always held a special bit of exciting magic. Whether it was tossing an apple peel behind you in the hopes it would fall into the shape of the first initial of your future husband or warding off evil spirits with costumes or granting peace for the beloved deceased or even just landing a pillow case full of Snickers and Reese’s, Halloween has always been an extraordinary and exciting holiday guaranteed to leave lasting memories. Mask

One of my fondest memories was the year my mom made me a My Little Pony costume. It was a pink leotard and stockings with bubblegum-pink felt hooves for my feet and hands and a horse shaped hat with blue yarn hair (yes, I had a blue yarn tail too – don’t judge me). In the day of plastic apron clothes and a snap band plastic mask (guaranteed to tangle in your hair and pop on your cheek), it was about the coolest costume I’d ever seen. My brother was not so lucky that year. He was a clown with thick, greasy white paint and a LOT of tears. Ahhh…little brothers…

What’s your favorite memory?

Dying to be Beautiful

September 9th, 2014 by Madeline

The pursuit of beauty through the centuries has been ongoing and, more times than not, treacherous.

The use of make-up was first recorded over 5,000 years ago and not by women. Yup, you read that right – men were the ones who started the cosmetic trend with ground gemstones sparkling at their lips and on their faces. I may or may not have thanks to give them based on how I feel/look on a particular day.

We all know the Egyptians used kohl to elongate their eyes in an exaggerated fashion and while the kohl itself was not toxic, one of the components they used to preserve it contained lead. This not only caused eye infections, but it could also lead to sickness and madness.

The Egyptians were not alone in their use of lead-based products. Romans achieved red lips with a chemical referred to as minium which contains lead. Grecians achieved milky white skin with lead based face creams and bleaches.cleopatra

Perhaps the most horrifying of all were the cosmetics made during 16th century. In the Elizabethan court, death white skin was all the rage. Upper class women had nary a freckle gracing their immaculate faces – at least while they were wearing their make-up that is. Because when the make-up came off, so too did some of their skin.

The white, mask-like paste the women of the Elizabethan court put on their faces was made of something called Venetian Ceruse which was a toxic, acidic mix of lead and vinegar. It was said of make-up then that when you started wearing it, you could never stop. The more of the paste you put on, the more your skin would deteriorate underneath, meaning the more make-up paste you would need to wear, etc.

From the 15th century on, women were so obsessed with keeping their faces fair, they bleached their skin, applied lipstick and even swept pink shadows across their eyelids to make their skin appear paler by comparison – all with lead.

What does lead do, you ask. It causes lesions to break out on the skin. Small pimples at first that can peel away into gaping wounds depending on the level of exposure. Lead seeps into the skin and enters the body causing everything from cancer and madness to infertility and even death. A woman named Maria Gunning, a countess famed for her beauty, was known to have died in 1740 from cosmetic poisoning at the young age of 27. MarieGunning

Cosmetic experimentation only continued to grow wilder as time went on until the late 1800’s/early 1900’s when people were diagnosed with Lead Palsy due to all the lead exposure. The FDA officially became involved in the creation of cosmetics in 1938 after something called Lash Lure (a permanent mascara) caused blindness in fifteen women and killed one.

Even cosmetics that did not contain lead weren’t always something appealing to put on your body. I believe every historical novel reader/writer has heard of carmine balm the lips and cheeks a flattering shade of red. Well, carmine comes from the cochineal insect. The body is boiled in ammonia or sodium carbonate and then the color is extracted from its body and eggs. And was then applied to a fine lady’s lips. Mmm…kissable. Even more kissable, in Japan Geisha who dye their teeth black to signify the end of their apprenticeship sometimes used bird droppings.

As if all of this weren’t shocking enough, would you believe lead and mercury are still used in cosmetics today? They are. Lipstick contains lead, mascara contains mercury and even antibacterial contains something called triclosan which alters hormone levels and can actually impair child development and cause cancer. Pretty horrifying. FDA continues their regulation on cosmetics, but cannot control levels in foreign created make-up and even still allow traces of lead and mercury to stay on the market.

As awful as it is of me to say, while I may not be the next Maria Gunning, I probably won’t give up my mascara either. How about you?


The Rise of the Cod Piece

September 9th, 2013 by Madeline

Cod PieceAny less than bosom-blessed woman out there has had her go with a wonder bra. Chances are likely, she’s probably still using it. But that’s her little secret…

Men had a similar tool (no pun intended) they implemented during the 15th and 16th centuries – the cod piece. Its origins didn’t start out with the intent to make men appear so large that any rational woman would be cowering in the corner. As with many out-of-proportion inventions, the cod piece served a rather functional purpose. Initially.

Men’s fashion was rather simple early on, consisting of a tunic and hose. The hose weren’t like the pantyhose of today despite what Robin Hood Men in Tights portrayed. Hose were not connected at the crotch and were made for each leg individually. While tunics remained long, this wasn’t an issue. But then tunics started to creep up. Oh my…hose

As the hem of the tunic rose, the men were quickly becoming inappropriate. The invention of the cod piece was simple – a triangle of fabric to cover the exposed genitalia. Even the name was simple as cod piece literally translates to “scrotum piece”.

Creativity came later. In the 15th century, the cod piece got a little fancier, a little bigger, a little more…attention grabbing, if you will. Essentially, these bad boys got fancy. Not only with ribbons and lace (*sigh* I’m not kidding about that), but they also got very, very padded. They came egg shaped, triangle shaped, vertical shaped and even, yes, horizontally shaped. Cod pieces went so far as to grace the battlefield. These metal codpieces got even fancier and were sculpted to resemble all sorts of things from swirls to faces grinning at the tip (not at all creepy, right?). Sometimes daggers were even worn directly over the cod piece, pointing tip down as if to proclaim “Here it is!” Like it wasn’t visible already…

Interesting little tid bit (again, no pun intended), over time ‘cod’ became slang for a man’s penis. However, the name for cod fish did not change. I’ll let you make your own assumptions as to all the bawdy jokes that doubtless sprang from that coincidence.

Cod pieces were filled with all sorts of materials from batting to spare fabric to rolled coins. Some men even went so far as to double their cod pieces as pockets. Can you imagine getting paid warm, moist coins straight from a cod piece? Though I guess it’s no different than getting sweaty bills from a woman’s bra…HenryVIICodPiece

At any rate, all good things must come to an end. While Henry VIII was an enthusiastic wearer of the cod piece, his daughter was not so impressed. When Elizabeth took the throne, she preferred a more feminine style for her courtiers. Let’s just say a jutting cod piece doesn’t exactly scream femininity. So, it finally became little more than a center slit in a very poofed out set of short pants.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how the proud cod piece rose and eventually, sadly, deflated.

Back in the Game

June 5th, 2013 by Madeline

Confession: I’ve been a bad blogger. I’m fortunate to have been prompted several times by people in the past for more blog posts- yet, shamefully, I haven’t delivered. That crazy thing called life swept me away for a couple months, add a few more for wallowing and ta-da! We’re at being a bad blogger.

But no more.

And it all starts with a website makeover with a gorgeous new header by The Killion Group with Hot Damn Designs who I very highly recommend for their prompt and obviously gorgeous work.

You see, I’ve decided to do the flip from Scottish set historical romances to Regency set historical romances. It’s not that men in kilts aren’t hot (because THEY ARE!) but Regency has always piqued my curiosity. Something about the humming sexual tension restrained by rigid society rules, not to mention the dresses and balls and all those other lovely things that make me squee with delight.

I’ve thrown myself into a series about women who fall from society and are scooped up by The Duchess to work in cleaning up scandal for those of the ton who can afford to pay. It’s a treacherous job that requires everything from prowling the dank alleyways of Fetter Street to attending lavish masquerade balls in the most luxurious of silks. Each doll has her own talent and as the series goes on, perhaps I’ll reveal them to you.

For now, I’ll share a glimpse of Lavinia – a woman who was left to die on the streets of London. A failed attempt at prostitution results in the death of a nobleman and her leads her into a position with the Broken Dolls. However, while on her first official assignment, she runs into the brother of the man who died and discovers he is most determined to uncover his brother’s murderer. Things become complicated when he decides to use Lavinia as a cover to ward off unwanted eligible wives. She agrees to the ridiculous notion in order to keep tabs on what he knows. Unfortunately, he uncovers more than she thought possible and she finds herself doing what every Doll is warned against – falling in love.

Scheduled to be to beta readers by July 2013. *eyebrow waggle*

In the meantime, I intend to resume my blog posts and delve into interesting tidbits of research I’ll need for my books, like prostitution, alchemy, poisons, and all sorts of other fascinating things. Feel free to swing by any time to check out my gorgeous new blog and say hi. J

And don’t forget www.THEKILLIONGROUPINC.com and www.HOTDAMNDESIGNS.com for all your designing needs. <- Shameless promo for a company I’m heartily impressed with.

Scandalous Weddings with Valerie Bowman

October 2nd, 2012 by Madeline

I am a Regency romance author but I’m visiting Maddie’s blog and she loves all things Scottish, so I thought I’d combine the two and give a little insight into a location that plays a large and varied role in my Regency romance debut, Secrets of a Wedding Night. That place is the infamous, Gretna Green, Scotland.

It all started with Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1754. When the English parliament passed that act, it prohibited several things. Before the act went into effect, in England young men and women over the age of 16 (but younger than 21) were able to merely declare themselves married in front of witnesses. After the act was passed by Parliament, couples in the throes of a passionate love affair had to hightail it to Scotland to have their quick (and unapproved) weddings. You see, in Scotland, a boy age 14 and a girl age 12 could marry. (As opposed to the legal age of 21 in England and Wales.) And again, all they had to do was declared themselves married in front of witnesses…and then get to the business of consummation, of course.

It turns out, Scotland has a long and storied history of being quite protective of love and marriage (I can see why Maddie loves it so). When the English outlawed the practice, Scotland did not follow suit and it naturally became the closest place for the young lovebirds to marry quickly and (most importantly) without their parents’ permission. As a result, the small Scottish town of Gretna Green became synonymous with eloping couples.

But of all places in Scotland, why Gretna Green?

Well, back in the day, Gretna just happened to be the first posting stop across the Scottish border for the coaches traveling between London and Edinburgh. They merely needed to get across the border and to a reliable witness.

Legend has it that the local blacksmith (and only because his shop was the first that a visitor came to in town) became the “anvil priest.” Scottish law allowed for an irregular marriage that basically stated that anyone could witness a wedding for it to be declared valid.

The romance and scandal of Gretna Green play a large part in my Secret Brides trilogy. In the first story, Secrets of a Wedding Night, there are two foiled attempts at a trip to Gretna. And in the second, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, guess what? Yes, another trip to Gretna Green!

I love the concept of an illicit marriage over the anvil in Gretna. There are just so many possibilities. The road was treacherous, the consequences were dire, and the scandal of it all could bring many a young lady to ruin. All the makings of a wonderful romance novel plot, no?

So tell me, if you had lived back in the days when Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act had made it impossible to be married in London, would you have been scandalous enough to run off to Gretna Green? What are your favorite romance novels featuring a trip to Gretna?

Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging storylines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands! Publishers Weekly calls Secrets of a Wedding Night, an “enchanting, engaging debut that will have readers seeking future installments” and Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “This fast-paced, charming debut, sparkling with witty dialogue and engaging characters, marks Bowman for stardom.” Booklist gave it a starred review!

Want a little taste of what you’ll find in Secrets of a Wedding Night? :) Here ya go:


Young, widowed, and penniless, Lily Andrews, the Countess of Merrill, has strong opinions on marriage. When she spots a certain engagement announcement in The Times, she decides to take action. She will not allow another hapless girl to fall prey to a man—particularly the scoundrel who broke her heart five years ago. Anonymously she writes and distributes a pamphlet entitled “Secrets of a Wedding Night,” knowing it will find its way into his intended’s innocent hands…


Devon Morgan, the Marquis of Colton, desires a good wife and mother to his son—someone completely unlike Lily Andrews, the heartless beauty who led him on a merry chase five years ago only to reject him. When Devon’s new fiancée cries off after reading a certain scandalous pamphlet, he vows to track down the author and make her pay. But when he learns it’s his former fiancée Lily, he issues a challenge: write a retraction—or prepare to be seduced—to find out how wonderful a wedding night can be…

 “Secrets of a Wedding Night

is the most charming and clever debut I’ve read in years! ”

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas

Valerie lives in Jacksonville, FL with her rascally dog, Roo. You can find Valerie on the web at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy Links for Secrets of a Wedding Night: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million

Ye Olde Baby Blocker

September 24th, 2012 by Madeline

People in history – they liked sex. Imagine that. However, sex leads to kids and not everyone wants kids, or mass quantities of them at least. As controversial as birth control is today, the concept has been around since before the Bible.

Speaking of the Bible, there are multiple references to the use of coitus interruptus as a means of contraception. But that’s not really why you’re reading my blog post. You want to know about the nasty, crazy stuff. (Can’t say I blame you…) I will not disappoint. J

In ancient Egypt, they had several interesting methods to keep from becoming pregnant. A gummy substance was applied to the cervix to prevent sperm from getting in. One of the ingredients for this substance…crocodile dung. I can’t but wonder what that would do to a woman’s delicate pH balance downstairs. Yikes.

But women weren’t alone in subjecting their naughty bits to bad stuff. Men in Greece were reported to rub juniper berries on their business before getting down to it. I can’t help but wonder how effective that really was. Plants were relied on a lot through history to prevent pregnancy. There was a specific plant, called Silphium that was found to be kind of like the birth control pill for keeping someone from getting pregnant. Unfortunately, in 1BC it became so popular it was harvested to extinction.

There are a couple of modern inventions we use today that have roots going way back in history. First of all the diaphragm. Back in the day, they would cut a lemon in half and clean out the pulp. Not only did the shape of the halved fruit prevent entry into the cervix, the acid killed the sperm.

The sponge was a popular way of contraception. Many different substances were used, usually based off of where the person lived and what was easily accessible. Everything could be used from cotton to sponges and even wool. To think I can’t even wear a wool sweater for the way it irritated my skin…  *wince*

Finally, the all popular condoms. They’ve actually been around since ancient Egyptian times when men used animal intestines as condoms. Kinda makes you wonder who came up with THAT idea first. Later in the 16th century, they came out with linen condoms. It was really mainly to prevent the spread of disease more than prevent pregnancy, though I can’t imagine a thin scrap of fabric doing much of either. Casanova was reported to use this kind of condom, tied at the base with a pretty bow. How dainty.

Rubber condoms were first introduced in the late 1800’s and were not the disposable kind we’re used to today. No, these came in a specially designed box where they could be washed after use and tucked away for another ‘special occasion’. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving. ;)

They definitely had some pretty interesting ways to keep from getting pregnant so many centuries ago. And while I shudder at the thought of slathering animal dung where the light of day will never reach, I think it’s a much better alternative to a whole gaggle of kids.

So…would you do it?

Smiling Through History, Part 2

June 14th, 2012 by Madeline

After reading the first post on Smiling Through History, you know that people cleaned their mouths/teeth on a regular basis. But sometimes having healthy teeth isn’t enough, sometimes we want more. Whether it be a straighter smile, a smile without teeth missing, a whiter smile or a blacker smile. Whoa…wait…a blacker smile???

Yup, in ancient Japan, it was common for people to blacken their teeth with a method called ohaguro. The Japanese thought black lacquered things were incredibly beautiful and teeth were no different. Married women, aristocrats, geishas and soldiers (before battle) typically painted their teeth black. The blend of acetic acid and dissolved iron was painted on the teeth either once a day or once every few days. Interestingly enough, those who painted their teeth black typically had healthier teeth as the dye acted as a sort of sealant over the teeth and prevented decay. This tradition was banned back in the late 19th century, but some ignore the ban and still continue to blacken their teeth to this day.

Europeans and Romans, however, were not unlike us in their desire for brilliantly white teeth. Romans used to swish with urine on a daily basis for a whiter smile. This actually worked as the ammonia in urine helped to lift stains of recently consumed food/wine from their teeth. Don’t get me wrong, you will not find me swishing with pee any time soon – I’m just saying I’m surprised it worked is all.  ;) Europeans had a much more effective method…though quite painful. If one wanted whiter teeth, they went to their local barber-surgeon who would file a layer or two of enamel away and drip acetic acid onto the freshly sanded teeth. The white would last for a while, several months or several years, depending on the person’s genes/diet, etc. But after a while, the thin enamel would not hold up and bacteria would start to seep into the teeth. Eventually, that brilliant white smile would turn into a mouthful of rotten teeth. Such was the price of vanity…

What happened if someone lost a tooth back in ancient times? Or worse…what if they lost all of their teeth? Believe it or not, there were solutions for all of this. As modern as we believe dental implants to be, the Mayans were implanting tooth shaped stone into the jaw all the way back in 600 A.D. as was uncovered in some remains. I’m sure they weren’t up to par with the impossible-to-tell-they’re-fake implants of today, but pretty darn incredible if you ask me.

Per dentures, these were originally made with teeth. Real teeth. Either those of dead animals or those of dead people. I shudder to even think of eating food with a mouthful of dead people’s teeth. But I guess if it comes to either starving to death or using corpse teeth, well… Earlier dentures were also made of wood. Several examples were found in Japan dating back to the 1500’s – unlike other dentures from around the world at that time frame, these suctioned onto the roof of the mouth like the dentures of today. In regards to wooden dentures, George Washington did not have them. His were most likely made of ivory. Unfortunately, he was just a few years shy of receiving a porcelain set that would have been affixed with springs and porcelain paste.

Efforts of early dentists were also applied to the correct of crooked teeth. The early model for braces was first invented in the mid 1700’s and looked more like a horseshoe than the braces of today. About 70 years later, a more modern-looking wire bracket style of braces was invented.

I’m not being wholly honest – Braces actually date way before that first horse-shoe shaped attempt. They just weren’t used for the living. Strands of gold/metal wire and even cat gut (which is string made of…yup, cat guts) were looped around the teeth of dead Romans and Etruscans to keep their teeth from coming loose in the afterlife.

Old school dentists even went above and beyond with dental bling than we do today. Yeah, we’ve got gold teeth, but the Mayans had gem-encrusted teeth. Nothing says gorgeous like a mouthful of precious stones glinting in the sun, right? These things were attached with a little drilling here and a little cramming there and voila! A dazzling smile.

So, next time you need to go to the dentist for a little cosmetic work, think back to the insanity of what you’ve read and be grateful for those sterile tools…and the use of Novocain. Lots and lots of Novocain.  J

Smiling Through History, Part 1

June 10th, 2012 by Madeline

How many of you hate going to the dentist? *raises hand*

Most of us don’t really enjoy going for dental work. In our minds, those little partitioned cubicles are sterile chambers of torture complete with tools specific for finely crafted cruelty. Unfortunately, we all crave that perfect smile of brilliant white, straight teeth where we can eat anything, hot, cold and in between, without ever having the slightest twinge of discomfort. Alas, that makes the dentist necessary.

This need for a healthy smile is not a new one, although it has become significantly less unpleasant throughout the years. While many believe dental hygiene is a modern convenience, I think you’ll be surprised at what I uncovered.

First of all, people have been cleaning their teeth for centuries. They may not have had access to ADA toothbrushes and fresh, minty toothpastes, but they did still brush their teeth and they did still swish with mouthwash. After all, how could one wake up with morning breath and be totally OK with that funk all day?

The most popular early toothbrush wasn’t a brush at all. It was a stick – a chew stick to be specific, which is exactly what it sounds like. A twig or stick with the end frayed. That end would be scraped across the teeth to brush away excess bits of food particles and that ‘tooth fuzz’. This was actually a pretty effective method of brushing the teeth and is still used today in some countries. Hard brushers be warned: you can do serious gum damage with chew sticks.

Toothbrushes were first invented in China and made with horsehair and ivory. They were brought back to England, but the trend didn’t really catch on. Why not, you wonder… Well, imagine if someone gave you a brush with pig hair in it and told you to put it in your mouth? Say you were daring enough to do it…and then you realized how the animal hair started falling out and sticking between your teeth and plastering to your tongue. A chew stick is looking significantly more hygienic at this point, isn’t it? And that’s exactly how the European nobles felt about it.

In addition to the chew stick, nobles also incorporated the use of tooth picks to clean their teeth. Not the cheap wooden bamboo stick things we all poke in cakes to make sure it cooked all the way through – these things were FANCY! They were made of silver and gold with little handles crusted with gems by the most skilled of craftsmen. After a 17th century dinner, it would not be uncommon to see nobles cleaning their heavy meal from their teeth with these fancy picks.

Not only were there chew sticks and tooth picks, there were also tooth powders and mouthwashes. Mouthwashes were usually made of vinegar and/or wine/liquor. While it wouldn’t do much to make our mouth as feel clean by modern day standards, it was a decent method of combating bacteria back in the day.

Tooth powders were typically made of an abrasive material mixed with dried herbs to freshen the breath. The abrasive materials could be anything from ground up shell or pumice to bits of charcoal. These powders were rubbed onto the teeth either with the fingers or a cloth and then rinsed and spat out. The concept of toothpaste was introduced several times, but didn’t catch on until the end of the 19th century. It probably seems strange that people would be opposed to toothpaste (which came in lead tubes – yikes!), but if you think about it, how weird would it be to switch our toothpaste to a tooth powder? I guess people just like to go with what they are familiar with.  ;)

If you’re interested, I found a fascinating article on one person’s experiments with old tooth powders and mouth washes. If you’re a history dork like me and are curious, check it out here: http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/teeth.html

Don’t get too excited about seeing anything on dental floss. That didn’t really come onto the markets for consumer use until the late 1800’s. Nor were there any methods for filling cavity ridden teeth or performing root canals. If you had a serious tooth ache back in the day, you went to a barber-surgeon who would wrench that tooth right out of your head. With no anesthetic, mind you. While the process was most likely incredibly uncomfortable, the tooth pain would cease almost immediately with the pulling of the tooth.

Now you know that people really were hygienic about their teeth back in the day, but what about cosmetics? Were white smiles desirable? What happened when people lost all their teeth? Guess you’ll have to find out in the part 2 edition I post later on this week. Bwhahahahaha!!

Trust me, you’ll want to come back – it’s fascinating. ;)