In researching this topic for a novella that released last month, An Agent for Dixie, I was surprised to learn of the long history of people seeking out mineral baths for health reasons. One of the earliest known baths was discovered in the Indus Valley and suspected to have been built in 2500 BCE. In Roman times (300 BCE) public bathing was part of the general society, and the rich and poor enjoyed the popular way to gather and socialize. Romans believed in thermalism (bathng in warm water) and thalassotherapy (bathing in seawater). Public baths were popular in Turkish (from about 600 ACE, called hammams, and the bathing habit was incorporated into important life events like marriages and celebrations of births) Russian (from about 900 ADE, called banya, and involved a cold plunge pool) and Japanese (from 500 ACE, called onsen, and thought to be started by Buddhist monks) cultures. The public bathing habit continued through the centuries, at times being more popular than others. By the 16th century, interest waned following several wars which threw people into impoverished conditions and the suspicion that diseases spread in the baths, which was probably true.
|roman baths, wikimedia|
But anywhere n the world where hot springs bubbled to the earth’s surface, people figured out a way to submerge themselves. By the early 1800s, doctors took a renewed interest in balneotherapy (medicinal use of thermal waters) and hydrotherapy (immersion of the body in thermal water for therapeutic purposes). The ability to analyze the elements in the waters improved, and doctors prescribed patients to “take the waters” (pinpointing certain hot springs for individual ailments) for their health. As you might imagine, if a doctor recommended one hot springs for gout and another for arthritis and a third location for a skin condition, the “remedy” became a lengthy process, meaning that only the elite could follow such a course of treatment.
Owners of the hot springs, of course, wished their guests to remain as long as possible. Depending on the location, an owner might add carriage rides into a scenic countryside or up a nearby mountainside. Entertainment such as musical performances, acting troupes, dancing, promenades hung with art, and casinos were added for the patrons’ enjoyment. Fans of Jane Austen will have learned about Bath, England. Other famous European locations were Baden Baden in Germany and Victoria-Jungfrau in Switzerland.
I’d love to hear about your favorite hot springs.
Blurb for An Agent for Dixie
Foreign diplomacy is the Zivon family business but Alexei resists the polite constraints, not lasting a year in law school. The four successful years working as a Pinkerton agent prove he was meant to follow a different path. Now, he’s faced with the biggest challenge of his career—training a female agent who has no practical skills. Alexei figures he can convince her to just observe as he solves the case, because nothing will interfere with his success rate.
Since childhood, Dixie LaFontaine lived in her older sister’s shadow but applying to become a Pinkerton Agent is her first major decision. Being matched with confident Alexei is intimidating, especially when the assigned case involves them pretending to be brother and sister at a health spa where jewelry has gone missing. Dixie has no qualms about pretending to be a French heiress needing care for her arthritis. Soon, she falls victim to Alexei’s charm and realizes that hiding her feelings might be as hard as ferreting out the thief among the spa’s clientele.
Will Dixie focus on learning the skills of an agent, or will she concentrate on turning her marriage of convenience into a lasting love?
FREE in KU