The Mourning Coffee

Podcast Episode 18: The First Christmas Cards

christmas-cardsThe year 1843 saw both the publication of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and the issuance of the very first Christmas card. Developed by Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant who not only assisted with the creation of the Penny Post but was also instrumental in management of the Great Exhibition in 1851, the card was an immediate hit with the British populace. It was not so enthusiastically received by the British temperance movement, who objected mightily to its depiction of a child drinking wine along with her parents. However, Cole had started a tradition that continues nearly two centuries later.

Podcast Episode 17: The Mold Riots of 1869

The town of Mold in northeast Wales has its own fascinating history dating back to the 11th century reign of William Rufus, but became infamous for its riots in the summer of 1869. Friction between Welsh coal miners and a particularly abusive English mine manager would result in military interference would leave several dead bodies and even more acrimony and hatred. As with all horrific events though, it would also lead to reform of the court system in Wales.

Podcast Episode 16: The Andover Workhouse Scandal

England in the early 19th century was rife with bad harvests, disease, and poverty.  Parliament developed the concept of workhouses to assist the poor, by providing them with housing and meaningful work to do.  This plan met with varying levels of success, but was mostly disastrous.  Worst of all was the Andover Workhouse in Hampshire, where workhouse residents were reduced to seeking food from the decayed rotting bones of farmhouse animals…and perhaps a bone or two from the local graveyard.

Podcast Episode 15: The Suez Canal

suez-canalThe Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas through Egypt and thus provides a quicker shipping route from west to east, was inaugurated in an elaborate, weeks-long ceremony in November of 1869. It was promoted not only as an engineering wonder, but as a means by which permanent international peace and harmony would be achieved. Less than a year later, many of the countries whose monarchs had attended the opening ceremonies would be at war with each other. And Egypt would be completely broke and debt-ridden. And Great Britain would be angling for control of the canal over the French. International peace and harmony, indeed.

Podcast Episode 14: Prison Hulks


Imagine the most pestilent, disease-ridden, rat-infested prison in 19th century Great Britain.  Now drop those conditions into a harbor and you have a prison hulk.  Only used for about a century, these floating dens of misery were responsible for countless prisoner deaths.

Podcast Episode 13: The Crystal Palace Exhibition


Opened on May 1, 1851, by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Great Exhibition was the first of the World’s Fair exhibitions of culture and industry. Albert, the Prince Consort, was a major force behind the exhibition, which contained some 100,000 objects, by nearly 14,000 contributors. Britain occupied half the display space inside with exhibits from the home country and the Empire, while France was the largest foreign contributor of objects.  Just a few of the displays included the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the electric telegraph, vulcanized rubber, microscopes, barometers, surgical instruments, and even a 27-foot tall Crystal Fountain.

Behind the Scenes at The Queen is Not Amused

tony-papadakisMany of my readers have asked about my brother, who co-hosts my podcast, The Queen is Not Amused. So that you can get to know more about him and how we work together, I’ve asked him to write a blog post to answer the many questions you’ve had about the behind-the-scenes activities on the podcast. I haven’t edited or changed a word of it. Enjoy! -Christine

Q: How much prep do you get for each episode?

It depends on the podcast episode. Normally I get almost no prep, and sometimes I get zero prep. It depends on if Christine wants me a little prepared or if she wants a genuine reaction. For example, in Episode 9 When Albert Met Victoria, she started out by saying the episode was about love. My reaction was genuine. Frankly, I almost got up and walked out. That’s not what I signed up for!

All my reactions are genuine. I am hearing what my sister says for the first time as we record. I am learning along with the audience. Often, I just sit and listen and take it in. I enjoy history, and I especially enjoy learning about history I did not previously know.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the podcasts?

What I enjoy most is the very thing that made me suggest doing it: Christine’s understanding of history. While researching her books, she quickly walked away with a take on history that was often at odds with what I had heard about Victorian England. Time and again I found myself being fascinated with what she had learned. 

It was her take on history that led me to suggest the podcast to her. I am glad she took me up on the offer!

Q: How much research does Christine do for each episode?

I’m not sure I can answer this directly. She normally comes with a stack of paper that she is flipping through as she talks. It is what she brings for each episode to ensure the accuracy of what she is saying. Sometimes, if you listen closely, you can hear her turning a page.

If I had to guess, I would say she comes with about 10 pages of notes per episode. When she gets on a roll, however, her eyes are not on her notes. She is just gushing out what she learned. It’s really amazing to watch her go.

Q: How many takes does each episode require?

It depends. We normally know in the first minute if we have a good take. We spend as much time on sound checks before recording than we do with the recording itself. This is because when we are done recording, I have to break everything down and put it away until the next time I need to record.

We did three episodes in a row on a single take, and then the next episode took five takes. Each episode is its own little journey.

As the person who edits the podcasts, I can assure you that when we start, we roll straight through. I have yet to edit out any real dialogue. The most I do is tighten up a pause or take out a stray noise.

Q: How did you and Christine come up with the ideas for this podcast?

Christine comes over, we do sound checks, she tells me what the podcast is about (sometimes), and then we record. I have absolutely no idea where she comes up with the topics.

I can say that when we discussed the idea of the podcast, she quickly twirled out about twenty topics. They tumbled out so quickly that I couldn’t keep track of them. She later said that she wrote out about a hundred podcast episodes.

Here’s the scary part: once we nailed down the format of the show, she realized that many of her topics needed to be split up. Her original idea was to pack more history into each episode. So maybe the list of a hundred topics will turn into two hundred or so! I don’t know. I’m hearing these topics as we record them.

Q: Both you and Christine have a love of history. Where does that come from?

Our live of history mostly comes through our parents. Mom was an avid reader, and Chris picked up her love of books from mom. Mom’s preference was for mysteries even though she read widely.

Dad on the other hand grew up in Greece and France during World War II. I remember him watching World at War and Victory at Sea, and those shows stuck with me. I think that was where I first learned to appreciate history. Years later, while travelling to Charlottesville on the back roads, I pulled off to see a Civil War battlefield display (the Battle of the Wilderness). I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about the Civil War, so I bought the American Heritage book on the Civil War and was immediately hooked. Christine asked me extensive questions about the Civil War when writing her first and sixth Lady of Ashes books to make sure she got details correct.

I was in my forties before I began to explore the American Revolution for myself. Additionally, while in Seminary, I found the church history classes fascinating, especially the early church through the fall of the Roman Empire. [I’m pleased to share that my brother hosts  the podcast, 10 Minutes in New Testament Greek, devoted to mining nuggets out of the Greek New Testament that you can use devotionally or in your ministry.  If you desire a connection with the original Greek but don’t have the time for involved classes with lots of memorization, then 10 Minutes in New Testament Greek is for you!]

Podcast Episode 12: The Crimean War


The causes of the Crimean War (1853-1856) were complicated, as they usually are.  During the years leading up to the war, France, Russia and Britain were all competing for influence in the Middle East, particularly with Turkey.  In addition, Russia was angry with Turkey over the maltreatment of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire.  Moreover, control of access to religious sites in the Holy Land had been a cause of tension between Catholic France and Orthodox Russia for a number of years. When riots occurred in Bethlehem (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in 1853, Tsar Nicholas I blamed the Turks for the many Orthodox monks killed during fighting with French monks. This podcast examines this relatively short but terrible conflict that would give rise to the world’s most famous nurse, Florence Nightingale.

NO CURE FOR THE DEAD is Available For Pre-order

I wanted to send you a special note to let you know that NO CURE FOR THE DEAD, the first of the new Florence Nightingale Mysteries, is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

This is my tenth book, and will be my first hardback release. It is currently available in hardback and e-book, but stay tuned for details on No Cure for the Dead coverpaperback and audio releases.

I’m also quite pleased to share the cover with you here. I would be thrilled to hear from you on your thoughts on this cover, which is quite a departure from my Lady of Ashes covers.

The book releases May 8, 2018, from Crooked Lane Books.

When a young nurse dies on her watch, Florence Nightingale must uncover the deep-hidden secrets someone will kill to keep buried.

It is 1853. Lady of the Lamp Florence Nightingale has just accepted the position of Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen During Temporary Illness in London. She has hardly had time to learn the names of the nurses in her charge when she suddenly finds one of them hanging in the Establishment’s library. Her name was Nurse Bellamy.

Florence’s mettle is tested by the dual goals of preserving what little reputation her hospital has and bringing Nurse Bellamy’s killer to justice. Her efforts are met with upturned noses and wayward glances except for her close friend and advocate inside the House of Commons, Sidney Herbert. As Florence digs deeper, however, her attention turns to one of the hospital investors and suddenly, Sidney becomes reluctant to help.

With no one but herself to count on, Florence must now puzzle out what the death of an unknown, nondescript young nurse has to do with conspiracies lurking about at the highest levels of government before she’s silenced too.

For fans of Anne Perry and Laurie R. King comes No Cure for the Dead, the rich and enthralling series debut from Christine Trent.

I hope you enjoy this new series as much as you’ve enjoyed Violet Harper’s adventures. And don’t be surprised to see a young Violet appear in NO CURE FOR THE DEAD!

Podcast Episode 11: Sidney & Elizabeth Herbert


In the 1850’s Sidney & Elizabeth Herbert were the political power couple of their time.  Sidney was the Secretary of War during the Crimean War, and Elizabeth was his ardent supporter.  Together, they brought forward a young nurse named Florence Nightingale to rescue the Crimean debacle, and the course of nursing was changed forever.  Sidney died young, but Elizabeth spent the remaining 50 years of her life as a controversial social figure.