Thursday, January 23, 2014

Final Letter on British Missives

Hey all. I hope you have enjoyed sharing my anglophile obsessions, but as my books continue to sell wildly and I have more fan mail to sort through, and trying to stay focused on writing my latest book, I am going to have to close British Missives.  But you can still stay in touch with me at and if your wanting to become part of my favorite readers loop and get free copies of my books, read the first chapter of my next book, be asked your opinion on a book title or a chapter, send me your e-mail at and I'll add you to the list.

My e-books:
Blue Africa-set in turn-of-the-century British East Africa
The Pretend Princess-set in England incl.the mystery of the Hope Diamond
Bride of Thistleloch Castle-set in the Highlands of Scotland
A British Bride by Agreement-contemporary story with a British heroine
Dunstable Park House-Victorian time travel--like Downton Abbey
Incubation--coming out 2014

Therese Stenzel

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jane Austen Birthday

  1. Tomorrow, December 16th is Jane Austen's birthday.

Here is some information on her brief life.

English novelist Jane Austen is born on this day in 1775, the seventh of eight children of a clergyman in a country village in Hampshire, England. Jane was very close to her older sister, Cassandra, who remained her faithful editor and critic throughout her life. The girls had five years of formal schooling, then studied with their father. Jane read voraciously and began writing stories as early as age 12, completing a novella at age 14.

Austen's quiet, happy world was disrupted when her parents suddenly decided to retire to Bath in 1801. Jane hated the resort town and found herself without the time or peace and quiet required to write. Instead, she amused herself by making close observations of ridiculous society manners. After her father's death in 1805, Jane, her mother, and sister lived with one of her brothers until 1808, when another brother provided them a permanent home at Chawton Cottage, in Hampshire.

Jane concealed her writing from most of her acquaintances, slipping her writing paper under a blotter when someone entered the room. Though she avoided society, she was charming, intelligent, and funny, and had several admirers. She actually accepted the marriage proposal of a well-off friend of her family's, but the next day withdrew her acceptance, having decided she could only marry for love.

She published several more novels before her death, including Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). She died at age 42, of what may have been Addison's disease. Nearly 200 years after her death, she is one of a handful of authors to have found enduring popularity with both academic and popular readers.

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel,
must be intolerably stupid." Jane Austen

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Compiled by Therese Stenzel


Top Recommendations

The Christkindls Gift by Kathleen Morgan

Forever Christmas by Chris Lynxwiler

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Authors Most Mentioned

Angels Everywhere by Debbie Macomber

The Trouble With Angels by Debbie Macomber

Those Christmas Angels by Debbie Macomber

Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber

Gideon's Gift by Karen Kingsbury
Maggie's Miracle by Karen Kingsbury
Sarah's Song by Karen Kingsbury
Hannah’s Hope by Karen Kingsbury

The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado
The Christmas Child by Max Lucado

Christmas Novellas

A Bride by Christmas

Montana Mistletoe

Prairie Christmas

Victorian Christmas Quilt


General Fiction

A Carol for Christmas by Robin Lee Hatcher

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
A Texas Christmas Legacy by DiAnn Mills

A Wish For Wings That Work by Berkeley Breathed

Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge

Home Another Way by Christa Parrish

Miracle On 34th Street by Valentine Davies
Old Christmas by Washington Irving
One Perfect Gift by Kathleen Morgan

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

The Angel Doll by Jerry Bledsoe
The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
The Shepherd, The Angel, and Walter The Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry
Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes



Monday, November 4, 2013

New British historical!

My latest e-novel, Dunstable Park House-A Victorian Time Travel Romance is available on Amazon! For fans of Downton Abbey you'll love this book. The link to the new historical is

Here is the first chapter...

 Present-Day London, England

Visiting England was better than death.
Brenna Keelin stared out the window of her English tour bus at an early morning fog. The mist-swathed countryside lay in a gray blanket that shrouded any view of the bright emerald fields and crisp white sheep she’d hoped to see.
Just when Brenna thought the gray view and the stale bus air might undo her well-organized to plans to have a desperately-needed vacation, the bus finally drove past a sign for Cambridge, the second stop on their two week tour of England.
The fog cleared just enough to reveal an inn that could have been featured on a British postcard, with its rose-tangled doorways and row upon row of centuries old stacked-stone fencing protecting the perimeter.
“Come on, Sleeping Beauty.” Brenna elbowed her sister Janelle, who dozed against the padded headrest, her mouth gaping open. “We're here.”
Janelle slicked on some lip-gloss, then followed Brenna out of the bus. Once they had loaded themselves down with suitcases and bags, mostly Janelle's, Brenna lead the way through the chilly air toward the pension, fought with an unforgiving revolving door, and finally stumbled into a quaint lobby.
Brenna released handles and shrugged straps until the luggage clunked to the floor. She stretched to ease the ache in her shoulders. Looking around the reception room at all the plates and platters hanging on the walls, she nodded at the décor. Very British. “Like the place?” She looked for her sister.
Janelle was chatting up their tour guide, Jacob.
Two hotel staff we`re watching her from behind the desk, as Janelle was a blonde hair, blue-eyed torpedo as their father used to call her. Any man in a ten-mile radius would be under her allure.
“Well, I love it,” Brenna said to no one in particular. She stepped toward a blue plate that caught her eye. The plate showed a faded painting of a woman in a wedding dress. An ache lodged in her chest. Her idle wedding dress still hung in her closet. She wrapped herself with one arm, not sure this trip was such a good idea. But it was better than wishing to be dead.
“We are in England.” Janelle gave Brenna a hearty side hug. “Aren’t you happy now?”
“Yes,” Brenna pasted on a smile. “Now all I need is a cup of tea.” She nodded at the hotel employee who handed her a room key. “Thank you.”
“Oh Bren—you sound just like an English woman,” Janelle whispered as they passed their handsome leader on the way to their room. “What I need is a British boyfriend. What do you think of Jacob our tour guide?”
“First, he’s Austrian, oddly muscular, and a little like a football player who has taken a few too many hits,” Brenna said as she unlocked the door and collapsed onto the bed. “You need to find someone smart and reliable like Dad.
“You are hopeless...lighten up.” Janelle fluffed her white-blonde hair in the mirror. “And with your good looks, it wouldn’t do you any harm to start paying attention to men again.”
“My good looks? Oh please, don’t do that, I’ll humor my older sister thing. We all know who got the beauty in the family.” Brenna playfully pulled on her sister’s hair. She then leaned over and pulled out a stack of postcards she’d bought at the airport, trying to think of whom to send them to.
“Bren, what’s happened to you? You were the most sought after event planner in Virginia. People booked you a year in advance.” Janelle flounced onto the bed. “Tell me again why you quit.”
Brenna twirled a lock of her hair around and around as was her habit whenever she felt overwhelmed. “You know.” She had to admit, she did miss the excitement of her previous job. “That last wedding I did really got to me. All those happy people...I couldn’t stand there and smile, pretending nothing was wrong—”
A gentle knock on their door distracted them.
Janelle bounded up to answer it.
“Hello,” greeted their brawny Austrian tour guide. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but a few of us are going out to a pub. Want to come?”
“Sure thing.” Janelle grabbed her jacket. “You want to go?”
“No, thanks.” Brenna let go of her hair and pretended to get something from her suitcase. “I‘m pretty tired.”
Jacob’s grin dropped. “We won’t be out late.”
“I think I’ll turn in early. I want to unpack, get organized.” She held up a book on English history and fixed a smile in place. “But you all have fun—ah, Janelle, don’t stay out too late.”
Janelle made a face. “Brenna is never up passed ten. She’s an attached lady you know—I mean, she used to be—” Janelle cast an, I’m sorry, look toward her sister. “Well, I guess we’d better go.” Almost out the door, Janelle ran back into the room and planted a kiss on her sister’s forehead. “Are you gonna be okay?” she asked.
But before Brenna could answer, her sister skipped out the door.
Brenna sat on the edge of the bed as her anxiety flowed through her veins like a champagne fountain. This was better than suicide.
The next day, the city of Cambridge worked its charm on Brenna with its outdoor markets and quaint shops. But the most fascinating excursion took place on their second day in the enchanting town, a ride in the long, narrow boats that glided on the Cam River behind the colleges of Cambridge. Brenna felt her melancholy trailing away as the view of the ancient bricked buildings along the water brought an unbelievable sense of being back in time. It was as if one could just lean over and touch history.
She held her face up to a peek of sunshine, fighting to get through the gathering clouds. A smile touched her lips as the short-lived warmth filled her body—until she remembered the boat accident. The sail-boat that was discovered drifting off the Virginia coast with no one aboard. The body of her fiancé that was never found—
The boat rocked as Jacob moved from his center seat and sat down next to her, his tight black t-shirt bulging with muscles. “Are you looking forward to the rest of the tour?”
“I’ve always wanted to come to England.” She dipped her fingers in the cool water and a shiver went up her spine.
Jacob flexed his muscles and stretched his arm along Brenna’s back.
The smell of his musky cologne filled her nose.
“Isn’t this trip supposed to help you get over your loss?”
Brenna shook her head. Janelle. Her gaze drifted to the college students lounging by the river. The grassy slope that overlooked the water provided a quiet place for them to read, talk, study. With Stephen gone, she had nowhere to feel safe. “I think so. I mean yes, of course. I’ll be ready to get back to work as soon as we’re home.”
“If you don’t mind my asking…what happened?”
“My fiancé died in a boating accident three months ago.” She nodded. It felt good to put the horror of it all into one orderly sentence.
“I’m so sorry. Do you think you’ll ever want to date again?” His arm tightened around her.
“I don’t know when I’ll be ready for that.” She would never allow herself to be that vulnerable again. She flitted her gaze away from Jacob’s steely blue eyes. “Where did Janelle’s boat go? That girl, I turn my back for a second—”
“If you ever want a private tour of Vienna,” he handed her his card. “I’d be very happy to oblige.”
She read, Heit World Tours: Jacob Heit-Tour Organizer and Guide.
“We have offices in London, York, and Vienna. If you ever need anything, or if you are ever back in England, call me.” Jacob’s voice sounded husky.
“I’ll remember that.” She sat up straighter, distancing herself from his touch as she filed his card in a card organizer in her purse. “So, where are we off to next?”
“The medieval city of Yorkshire. One of my favorite places to visit.” Jacob raised his brows and smiled mischievously.
“Oh really? So what’s the surprise?”
He shook his head. “No, no, it’s just that the settlement has retained so much of its medieval structure, it’s like walking back in time. Very mysterious, that village.”
“Really? In what way?”
“You’ll see.” His face was engulfed in an admiring grin, his eyes twinkling. “It used to be a city of marshes before it was settled, so people often went missing.” He nudged her shoulder. “It would be a good idea for you to stay close to me.”
Brenna widened her gaze. “Okay, thanks for the warning.”
“Don’t worry, I haven’t lost a client yet.”
Early in the morning, the tour bus headed toward the city of York and its famous cathedral, the York Minster. As Brenna and Janelle made their way up a crumbly set of stone stairs and entered the Great West Door, a cool swath of air swept over Brenna’s neck, sending a chill down her spine. The cold seemed to leach off the ancient walls and seep into her bones.
Janelle was decked out in a white fur vest, while Brenna went with sweats and jeans. She was very proud of how organized her clothing selection was for the trip. Sturdy, practical, multi-functional. No wonder she always felt like the step-sister to Cinderella? She tucked her long hair behind her ears. After being Janelle’s sister for eighteen years, you’d think she would be used to being the wallflower by now. She rubbed at the chill in her arms as she followed the tour group farther into the cathedral.
Brenna’s head almost involuntarily swung upward toward the breath-taking vaulted ceiling. But as she stepped forward, each of her steps thudded loudly. She cringed and looked around at the fifteen or so other tour members in her group, but no one else seemed to notice the sound.
“The York Minster, England’s largest church, was constructed beginning in 1220 and was completed in 1472...” Jacob motioned their group forward as he began his lecture.
Half an hour into the tour, Brenna drifted from her sister’s side, to admire the beautiful stained-glass windows. A sense of holiness filled the air around her. Perhaps, it was the vaulted ceiling, or the other-worldly quietness that lulled one into a sense of peace. The vast size of the cathedral made her feel small, as if there was a world beyond what she could see. Hope rose in her heart. Maybe there could be a new start for her just around the bend.
As she walked farther down, well beyond her travel companions, she rounded the corner to the middle section of the Minster. She stepped up into a semi-circle shaped alcove that overlooked the rear of the church. Right in her line of vision was a small, wooden door.
With a glance over her shoulder, she stepped over and gave the aged door a gentle tug. Poking her head in, and peering up to the left, the smell of dank, musty drafts filled her senses. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw a set of narrow, wooden stairs. Dust and glistening particles hung in the air, illuminated by a shaft of light coming down from the top where there was an opening.
Brenna continued to study the stairway, as if, for a brief second, she could hear the tread of shoes and the rustle of skirts climbing up the wooden corridor. She had the sense of touching time, if one could do such a thing.
She glanced behind her to find only a few tourists taking pictures in the distance, none of whom were paying any attention to her. Adjusting her purse straps farther up on her shoulder, she licked her lower lip. A compelling longing to climb the stairs overcame her normal reserve and fear of doing the wrong thing. She pressed forward. The door closed behind her with a thud like the final gong of a clock. The passage was a tight fit, but she could just make it through. The sense of countless days gone by seemed engraved into the space. If only these walls could talk…
Each wooden step creaked and protested her unfamiliar weight as glistening particles swirled around her. She ran her hands along the roughhewn walls. The same walls that people from centuries ago had touched. The enclosed area made her heart race as the sound of her careful tread echoed around her. An intoxicating sense of destiny beckoned her forward. What was at the top of these stairs?
She wiped the moisture from her forehead. Further and further she continued. Something important waited for her, some discovery. Curiosity propelled her up the cramped steps to what? A secret passage way? A hidden room? She cast a look behind her at the steps that disappeared into the darkness. She swallowed. What was she doing?
Once she reached the top, she stepped out onto a choir loft that overlooked the back of the church. Brushing some of the dust and smudges from her jeans and dark gray sweatshirt, she imagined herself singing in the church. But as she looked over the rear of the Minister, she frowned. Where had all the tourists gone? Everyone had vanished, except for one cleaning woman, sweeping the floor between rows of wooden pews. The scrape of a straw broom was all that could be heard.
Brenna craned her neck, leaning over the balcony to get a better view of the front of the church, trying to see her sister, Jacob, or any of the tour group. The cathedral looked vacant and deathly quiet except for a few people dressed in some sort of Victorian costumes coming down the walkway. Were they getting ready to put on a play?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

English Life in the 1500's
Found by Therese Stenzel (Not sure who the author is)
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water..

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood
underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying . It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a thresh hold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old..

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a ...dead ringer.


Friday, July 26, 2013


In 1998, my accountant husband said the three little words all anglophiles long to hear, "move to England." So we packed up our two boys and our belongings and shipped off to Bedfordshire for eight months with his company.

An excerpt from my non-fiction as yet unpublished book;

An American Housewife in London

One weekend My husband and I and our two young sons had the original idea to travel to old English town of Cambridge, but when we got there, to our surprise we found there was an entire tourist industry set up and running to service our original idea.

The drive to Cambridge was like a trip back in time. We drove past crumbly old kirks, thatched roofed cottages, cobblestone streets, and meadows that revelaed a patchwork of farms and fields. Cambridge is a beautiful historical town with an "oldy-worldy" feel to it.

The highlightof our visit was a trip to Cambridge University which is not one university but thrity-one distinct colleges. Our favorite was King's College. The first stone was laid in 1441 and was completed in 1515. It contains a dark oak screen that was a gift from King Henry VIIIth and bears his initials and those of Anne Boleyn.

But one of these visits was life-threatening to our one and half year old son. Benjamin was sitting in his stroller, sucking on a lollipop, when all of a sudden he started making these awful strangling noises. I paniked. Immediately I tried to get him out of the stroller but in my hysteria I couldn't get the clasp released. My husband pushed me out of the way and calmly undid it. My mind raced with --where was the closest ER? We had parked miles away how would we get to our van in time? Could an ambulance pull up to a chapel built in 1441?

Benjmian's eyes were bulging as we slapped his back over and over, finally he threw up the lollipop and everything else in his stomach all over the himself, the stroller and the ancient chapel floor. I grabbed my son and hugged him firmly to my chest.

A few weeks later, a friend who was with us at the time put the incident into an amusing news flash.

AP Newswire--The building and grounds of Cambridge University will reopen their chapel after an unforeseen shutdown over the weekend. The grounds were closed after an incident involving some American tourists. Apparently, the youngest member of the group expelled large quantites of gastric fludis onto the sacred stones of King's Chapel. Chapel officals reported that the situation seemed to escalate when a blonde-haired woman tried to dismantle a stroller with her bare hands to release the child. Onlookers were agast as the object finally dislodged from the child's throat, shot fifty meters across the courtyard, bounced off a statue, and impaled a pigeon."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


In 1998, my accountant husband said the three little words all anglophiles long to hear. "Move to England." So we packed up our two boys and our belongings and shipped off to Bedfordshire for 8 months with his company for the adventure of a lifetime..

An excerpt from my non-fiction as yet unpublished book;

An American Housewife in London

“Oh, for an American bathroom.” I would mutter as I sat in a bathtub in the early morning hours. Unbelievably, our seven-year-old English home did not possess a shower. So every morning, as my husband was shaving, I sat in a pale pink tub, covered in frothy bubbles, relaxing when I should be trying to wake up. I soon discovered that bathtubs, not showers had always been the custom in English bathroom.

I noticed this bewildering attachment to tradition over and over during our stay. The homes in our neighborhood were not hundreds of years old, most had been built in the last ten years, but baths were simply how it was done and how it would be done regardless of modern inventions like an invigorating, hot shower.

In contrast, Americans are known to be constantly looking for a new and better way to get things done. A throw-the-tradition-out-with-the-bath-water kind of attitude. In my humble opinion, a steaming, brisk shower would be more efficient in the morning, but in British minds, baths were far cozier, and in England, coziness was next to godliness.

Our master English bathroom was quite large, but we missed our familiar spacious sprawling counter top framed with a large mirror and individual double sinks. Instead, this room had one tall thin sink and one tiny slip of a mirror. There was no linen closet. Actually, the entire house had no closets rather the English tended toward using an armoire in the bedroom, or had closets built in around the bed.
Our bathroom’s sink’s were quite confusing too. There were two spigots pouring into the sink. One had hot water and the other cold. But how did one mix the two without scalding one hand and freezing the other? The English may have been credited with inventing the bathroom in the 1800’s, but us Yanks made them much more comfortable.
Three months later, despite being in a rental home, we paid to have a shower put in!