For many of us, no holiday gathering would be complete without playing games. During the Regency and Victorian eras, when young people’s interactions with the opposite sex were strictly chaperoned, parlour games also provided an unprecedented opportunity to flirt.
For example, in Blind Man’s Buff, a game in which a blindfolded player must catch others and identify them by touch, a clever gentleman might peek beneath the blindfold to lay hands on a particular lady. An earlier version, Hot Cockles, was even more daring. In it, one player laid his head face-down in the lap of someone seated and tried to identify who was spanking him!
Sardines, a sort of reverse Hide-and-Seek, required players to find the one who hid and squeeze into the hiding place—the closer (and darker) the better! Hand-holding was the rule in Reverend Crawley’s Game, an early version of Twister. Players stood in a circle and clasped hands—but you couldn’t take the hand of the person next to you or give both hands to the same person. The object was to untangle the group without releasing hands, which must have made for lots of wiggles and giggles.
A more sedate crowd might prefer word games. By the Victorian era, “charades” referred to the game still familiar to us today: acting out a person, scene, or saying which others were expected to guess. In the Regency and earlier, however, charades involved rhyming riddles. (Jane Austen mentions this version in Emma.) My characters play this kind of charades in The Duke’s Suspicion, and here’s one of the easier puzzles they pose: “I’m a box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.” Do you know the answer? Be careful, because an incorrect guess will require you to pay a forfeit.
The forfeits demanded were often silly or embarrassing (having to stand on a chair and sing, for instance). Sometimes, however, a forfeit was simply an excuse to give (or get) a kiss. At Christmastime, a lady’s forfeit might be to stand beneath the mistletoe and spell “opportunity,” before one of the gentleman at the party took the opportunity to kiss her.
This holiday season, why not liven up your celebration and have a little “old-fashioned” fun with a traditional parlour game?
About The Duke’s Suspicion
An English war hero must unlock the secrets of an Irish beauty’s heart . . .
Named for the heather in her native Ireland, botanist Erica Burke dreams of travel—somewhere she won’t be scorned for her scientific interests. Instead, a storm strands her with cool and commanding Major Tristan Laurens, the Duke of Raynham.
An unexpected heir, Tristan is torn between his duties as an intelligence officer and his responsibilities as a duke. A brief return to England to set his affairs in order is extended by bad weather and worse news—someone is after the military secrets he keeps. Could the culprit be his unconventional Irish guest? He needs to see her journal to be sure, and he’ll do what he must to get his hands on it even indulge in a dangerous intimacy with a woman he has no business wanting.
Erica guards her journal as fiercely as she guards her heart, fearing to reveal a side of herself a man like Tristan could never understand. But though she makes Tristan’s task infernally difficult, falling in love may be all too easy.
About the Author
A love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to a degree (okay, three degrees) in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to better use: writing Regency-era romances she hopes readers will find both smart and sexy. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat. Visit her online at www.susannacraig.com or on the social media platforms below.