Thursday, May 12, 2016

Civilizing the West - One Cup of Tea at a Time

by Shanna Hatfield

My thoughts have been swirling around tea parties and tea and what a grand ritual it is to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

Tea time soon became a social event , usually held sometime between three and five in the afternoon. During the 1880's upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea. It might be taken in the dining room, parlor, or even outdoors if the weather cooperated.

In my Baker City Brides series, the women use tea as a way to connect, to share confidences, to bring something special, something refined, to the world around them.

The first book in the series is about an English Lady who marries a man she detests to be able to stay with her sister's children. She leaves behind the beautiful, lush "cottage" where she's lived most of her life to travel to her husband's ranch in Eastern Oregon.

She arrives to find dust, sagebrush, rattlesnakes, and a primitive cabin. Despite the circumstances, it isn't long until she's setting out a proper tea most afternoons. It's a way for her to keep connected to her roots and maintain her sanity in this strange new world. And there is nothing rushed about sitting down for a "properly prepared" cup of tea. It gives her a few moments of rest in her busy, hectic days.

Through her efforts, she brings a bit of civility to ranch and her rough-around-the-edges husband. By sharing the ritual of tea time, she shares pieces of her heart with those around her. In the second and third books, the gathering for a shared cup of tea is something the women greatly look forward to.

Just contemplating the idea of civilizing the West - one cup of tea at a time - made me wonder how many times women indulged in that cup of tea just to hold on to something genteel or calming or a sweet reminder of home as they braved the wilds of the frontier.

Not all women would have had fine china cups or even tea. The best they had may have been a tin cup or a ceramic mug. Perhaps their tea was brewed from a plant native to the area. But my guess is that many women found some solace holding a warm cup in their hands.

All of you are warmly invited to join me for an online Tea Party I'm hosting this Friday, May 13, on Facebook with the Baker City Brides from 10-11 a.m. (PT).

We'll be celebrating the release of the third book in the series, as well as sharing recipes, participating in games, and there are some great prizes to be won. Make yourself a cup of tea and come join in the fun!


Sheriff Tully Barrett never knew 
                  trouble had such a pretty face.
Brianna Dumont never knew the law 
             could be so handsome and hardheaded.
Pampered and privileged, Brianna Dumont escapes the life she’s always known in an effort to clear her father’s good name. She arrives in Baker City, Oregon, intent on selling her father’s shares in a mine. Only the mine is a bust, her father’s partner is a crusty ol’ coot who hates women, and the sheriff in town is determined to keep her behind bars.
With good friends around him, a small ranch of his own, and a fulfilling job as sheriff, Tully Barrett loves his life. Then an exasperating woman shows up, making demands and driving him crazy. No matter how hard he tries to ignore her brains and beauty, she works her way under his skin.
Corsets and Cuffs captures the fun-loving banter of two strong-willed characters determined not to fall in love in this sweet historical romance.

USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic  is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

 Find Shanna’s books at:
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  1. I love teacups ... and tea, Shanna! Enjoyed your post! I once went to "High Tea" at a fashionable old hotel in downtown San Diego. They have been doing it for years and serve scones and tea cakes and a choice of different teas all snugged up in cozies. It was a fun afternoon with my mom, grandmother, sister and cousin.

    1. How fun, Kathryn! It sounds like a wonderful experience that gave you sweet memories! :)

  2. I used to collect tea cups, but lost them when my family's home burnt while I was away at college. Still, there is something so special about that 'cup of tea'. Still drinking that lovely beverage.

    Sorry to have missed you party, but the whole work thing. Doris/Angela

  3. Oh, sorry about the loss of your tea cups, Doris. So sad. And sorry you missed the party. :(
    Tea is such a lovely ritual and celebration, though, isn't it?

    1. It is. We have a tea shoppe here in town that has 'high teas'.