Antimacassars and Victorian furnishings

Antimacassar scarf for furnishings. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

By Sharon K. Gilbert

When I was a young girl, men who wanted to impress ladies still used hair oils and grease to make their hair behave and shine. It was no different in the 19th century, when men slicked back their unruly locks with a pomade known as Macassar Oil.

Supposedly, the hair oil was created and popularized by a barber named Alexander Rowland in the early 19th century and eventually trademarked in 1888 (our Book One year).  Made from coconut oil or palm oil with the addition of ylang-ylang oil for a light fragrance, it not only served as a fashion statement for men but even influenced home furnishings.

I can tell you that my father and uncles’ hair often left ‘stains’ on chairs, so even in the 1950s, we still used doilies on couches and other upholstered furnishings. These became ubiquitous necessities in Victorian homes and came to be called ‘antimacassars’ in honor of the oil these small scarves hoped to absorb.

So, the next time you see a doily on a chair, think of all those oily heads and smile.

Music and Mayhem

By Sharon K. Gilbert

For those who don’t know me well, the inclusion of musical scenes in Blood Lies may come as a surprise. Actually, I spent many years as a professional singer, and I even studied and performed opera at the University of Nebraska Lincoln for a couple of years (and before that at Indiana University). So, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that my main female character (and her little cousin Adele) both love to sing. Using opera as a plot device also allows me to include theater scenes and use the lyrics of arias as a means for internal dialogue and even conflict. 

In many ways, the inclusion of operatic elements allows me to pay homage to one of my favorite early 20th century novellas, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (the link is to the Kindle Unlimited Free edition at Amazon).


The Manuscript is Finally Done

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Yesterday afternoon, I finally hit ‘save’ on the final edit of the Book One manuscript, ‘Blood Lies’. I started writing the series last February, so it’s been nearly a year to the day, and throughout that journey I’ve learned a great deal about the late 19th century, about Jack the Ripper, the police officials, the victims, and the people of England and Scotland at the time.

Generally, it doesn’t take me nearly this long to write a single novel, but I’m planning this series to encompass the transitional years between 1888 and into World War I and perhaps even World War II, so I’ve not only planned out the future plots but also written the first SIX books. Needless to say, I’ve been very busy over the past year.

During that time, I’ve come to love many of the characters within the pages, and I hope when you read the books, you’ll also become attached to them. Though the 1880s were a simpler time, for those living then, the rise of the industrial and ‘scientific’ age often caused distress and drew many away from the church, allowing spiritual entities to gain ground in the ever expanding supernatural war between God Almighty and the Fallen.

That’s what this book is all about. That War. And it’s played out within the lives of the Redwing Saga characters, and I hope that, in addition to entertaining, the series also helps to teach Biblical truths.