I bought Golden Needle for one reason only: because I like small tea cakes.
Most tea cakes are 200 grams (around 7 ounces), or sometimes 352 grams. There is no reason why I should care, but for some reason, the 100 gram cake just appeals to me. It’s small. It fits into the palm of my hand. It’s the kind of thing I can imagine that I would be able to finish over the course of a month, if I was dedicated to drinking it. Those are rational reasons but honestly, it’s just an excuse.
At heart, my inner sensibility whispers that smol = good and I don’t know why.
In any event, I got this tea because smol tea cake! Yay!
This is a nice little tea. It has a pleasant flavor—a little earthy, a little sweet—and a nice, velvety texture to the soup, without any added muss or fuss. It’s not super complex, but it also doesn’t demand attention. It’s the kind of tea I want when my attention is wandering in the afternoon and I need a little bit of a break to let my mind go where it wants.
I often pressure myself to look for teas that stand out—teas that are complex and mysterious. But sometimes I just need something that’s reliably there: something warm and pleasant that gives my hands something to do so my mind can quiet down.
the newsletter: it is slightly late!
I meant to send this sometime in the afternoon, but alas—I just forgot, and only now remembered that this was a thing I hadn’t done.
Some historical romance thoughts
I started reading historical romances when I was in my mid-20s. There were lots of reasons for coming to them late, chief among them my unexamined stereotypes about what romance novels were. But once I was there, I was really there.
When I was in law school, every time I got stuck on a concept, I would read a historical romance and give my brain a chance to relax. As soon as I got summer jobs, I started buying them by the stacks. And when I was out of law school and working for a Very Horrible Boss who let us out to have dinner for an hour or so around 6 PM and otherwise expected us to be in the office all our waking hours, I would go to Borders (back then, it still existed) and search up something I hadn’t read yet.
I probably read over a hundred romance novels in that one terrible year. I can remember some of the ones I read then—I read Julie Anne Long and Elizabeth Hoyt and Jennie Crusie during that year, for instance. But most of them, I can’t remember.
I do remember this: every book I read gave me a space where I could step away from what I was experiencing and remind myself that up was up and down was down and wrong was not right.
I finished that job with the Very Horrible Boss and was about as close to losing my mind as I’ve ever been. Romance novels were the reason I didn’t. Some of them were amazing and necessary. Others of them…were there. And I needed something to be there.
Historical romance novels are in some ways set in a shared world: one where we all know what the ton is (or at least we pick it up from context after our first half dozen books), where we know about tea and ratafia and sometimes things like the Corn Laws and there’s a Season and balls and… well, if you read historical romance, you know what I mean. That place was very comforting to me: visiting it literally saved me when I was on the verge of falling apart.
And so for the first handful of years that I was writing historical romance, I was revisiting that space that had been so comforting to me. It was only after I’d been doing it for a while that I began to really think about why the shared world I was writing in included tea but not the people who produced the tea.
And so for the last three or four years, I have been trying to widen the aperture of the shared world that historical romance is set in. I want it to be comforting for people to visit a place where we have tea and biscuits and also steamed pork buns in the same way that it was comforting to me to read about a tea party.
It is a lot more work. This will be in my author’s note for the next Wedgeford book, but the level of research I’ve had to put into this has been both horrifying and delightful.
But it is also emotionally overwhelming. If I let myself think too hard about everything that is at stake, about how I am writing something that is a reflection of the story of how my great-grandparents left their homes and if I don’t do it right—
I have a vision for what I want to accomplish, and I can’t let myself think about it without reducing myself to paralysis.
When this happens, I just have to take a deep breath and lower the stakes: If I can write a book that is there for someone the way so many books were there for me, that is enough.
My Very Bad Job (mentioned above) was one where we were expected to be in the office from around 9 AM until 1:30 AM with the aforementioned hour-long-ish dinner break. Every day. On weekends. On holidays we were supposed to be able to come in at noon, but I came in at noon on Christmas and got yelled at for not being there earlier, so! I did mention it was Very Bad!
In any event, this novella is written in the spirit of “oh no I am literally trapped at my horrible job,” not a thing I thought about consciously when I set out to write it, but realized as I was editing.
Fun times. Anyway, Mary is a companion to an elderly lady and in a Not Good employment situation.
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