Hello my friends, I have an amazing post for you all today! I have the massive pleasure to welcome lovely historical romance author; Jeanine Englert to the blog, she is going to be sharing an amazing, exclusive guest post with you all – really, you are all going to love it. Plus she will be telling you all about her gorgeous new book; Lovely Digits, which I am currently reading and completely adoring it, you are all in for a treat. So, over to Jeanine!
“Layer-out of the What?”
This is a fairly common response from people after I tell them about my debut novel, Lovely Digits, and my quirky heroine’s profession as layer-out of the dead. It’s usually paired with a subtle lean in, small head tilt, and furrowed brow. So, lean in, tilt your head, and I’ll tell you all about a profession that used to be dominated by women, and one that drives the backdrop for my Victorian romantic suspense.
The layer-out of the dead of times past was the equivalent to today’s mortician. Preparing bodies for burial was predominantly performed by women up until the later portion of the Victorian era when mourning and all the practices that came along with it became its own business. Once men learned of the money that could be had in preparing bodies for burial and honoring the loss of loved ones, morticians became fashionable and the “business” of burying the dead was born, displacing many of the jobs previously performed by women to men. And as you may have guessed, the layer-out was well, out of fashion.
The business of dying became a consumer affair full of tradition and etiquette. Not only were there specific mourning clothes, procedures, and practices after a family member passed on, there were preparations one often made while one lived. It wasn’t uncommon for families to go without the necessities while living to ensure they had the money needed to provide a proper rather than pauper like burial for any of their family members if they died. “Burial clubs” ensured such appropriate funerals, by providing an insurance policy of sorts, to families making sure its members were cared for and provided proper funerals, when needed.
The job of preparing a body for burial had morphed into a business, one that no longer needed a simple layer-out of the dead, like my novel’s heroine, Lucy Wycliffe. But for hundreds of years before that, women had been the primary preparers and caregivers of the dead before they were seen to pass on to whatever they believed to be the next world.
Is that a nod of interest and understanding I see? I hope so. Care to get a glimpse into Lucy’s world? Then, check out an excerpt below. Thank you, Frankie, for having me on Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals today!
About the Book
When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third?
Lovely Digits is the town oddity…
But quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work. Lovely Digits, as she’s known to the local townspeople, no longer dreams of marriage, but takes pride in providing dignity to the dead. Desperate to hold on to her family’s cottage and support her widowed sister and young niece, an unexpected offer of employment as assistant to the constable arrives at the perfect time.
Former sailor John Brodie is the mysterious new constable…
But John Brodie is far from a stranger to Clun or the events of its past. Accepting the position as constable in the small town is a double edged sword meant to heal his past and redeem his future, but falling for the beautiful and intelligent Lucy Wycliffe was never part of his plan. As the killer closes in, will John reveal his secret and risk losing everything to save Lucy’s life?
Old Man Codger’s frozen toe rolled across the floor toward the door.
“Lord above. Mind the corner, sister,” Lucy muttered. She blew an errant curl from her cheek as they swung the man’s stiff body onto the scarred wooden table in front of the hearth. The body landed with a thud.
Blast. Lucy scanned the floor. Nothing. Where had it gone? She lifted her skirts.
“There you are,” she grumbled. The rogue digit rested between the scuffed heels of her old brown boots. Using the edge of one of the sleeves of her faded blue blouse, she leaned down and clutched the rather putrid, large hairy toe and placed it on the man’s chest. Now she’d have to sew on a toe, too. A frozen toe.
Priscilla covered her mouth with the back of her hand and yielded a dry retch. Plugging her nose, she rolled her eyes. “There has to be another way.”
Lucy eyed her pert younger sister and sighed. At thirteen, Cil was on the cusp of womanhood. There were so many things she would miss from their parents not being there to guide her. The guilt over the death of Mother and Father a month past stung like a barb under Lucy’s skin. If only she’d arrived home at the cottage sooner instead of lingering about the forest to find her pet starling. She banished the thought away.
After tying back her hair, Lucy pushed up her sleeves to the elbow. “If there had been any other option, we’d have done it. It’s either prep him for burial or starve. It’s just us now, Cil.”
The old man’s time in the woods had not been kind to him, but at least the extreme cold had kept the insects at bay. A white milky maggot dropped from his nose to the table. Lucy shuddered. Most of them. She loathed insects, especially worms. Things that could move without legs weren’t natural.
“Hand me the needle and thread.” Lucy rested her hands on her hips. “I need to get this toe sewn back on when he thaws. I’ll not be docked pay for him missing parts.”
About the Author
Jeanine Englert is a Golden Heart ® Finalist and Daphne du Maurier Award winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.
When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.
Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, was released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing. It is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense.