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All Manor of Yarns
The First Trilogy

First Trilogy
All Manor of Yarns

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  I. Prussian Yarns

 II. A Stitch in Time

III. Tinctures & Tantrums

Second Trilogy
The Snow Queen and
The Caterpillar

IV. There is a Season
 V. Viennese Yarns
VI. Orchids

Third Trilogy
Taffeta Tales

 VII. British Yarns
VIII. Polish Yarns
  IX. Threads of Strife

Favourites Writers
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Lorraine Stanton
Vicki Wootton
Shalanna Collins

Set in Prussia in 1860, the All Manor of Yarns trilogy is a window into a lost world, for since then the vast estates and little villages of the northern European plains have been eroded away by the Soviet collective farm system and Prussia itself has been wiped from the map.  1860 was unique.  It was one of the very few years in history without a single active war, revolution, or uprising anywhere in Europe, which provides a background to answer the question, “What did the people do in between the wars, revolutions and uprisings we keep hearing about?” 

This is the story that is never told, the story of ordinary people living what they considered to be normal life.  There are fascinating differences between the frequently depicted mid-Victorian British, the Czarist Russians, and the seldom portrayed pre-Bismarck Prussians of the same time.

In the first book, Prussian Yarns, the protagonist, Otto von Goff, struggles to be master of his own destiny against the conventions of his society, the demands of his family, the strictures of the church, and, at times, the conflicts within his conscience.  The yearning that shapes and steers Otto’s life is to have his own estate.  However, Otto is a fourth son, without prospects of inheriting any land, nor of acquiring or earning the means to purchase his own land.  The career his father expects of him is the military, an appropriate life for a younger son of the Junker class in nineteenth century Prussia, but one for which Otto is particularly unsuited.

It appears as if Otto has made his dreams come true when he marries Hildegard von Puttkamer, an heiress, and becomes Otto von Goff-Puttkamer, the Master of Schönwald.  Almost immediately he discovers that the title of Master of Schönwald does not make him master; not in fact, not of the estate, not of his own destiny.  His family never forgives him for defying his father, his wife’s family takes him to court to wrest Schönwald from him, and the Schönwald residents who remain loyal to his in-laws oppose him at every turn.  By 1860, 13 years after Otto and Hildegard were married; a faction at Schönwald has still not accepted Otto as the rightful master.  To top it all off, he is married to a woman he can neither talk to nor sleep with, so his dream of leaving Schönwald to a son looks highly unlikely.

Prussian Yarns addresses a question hidden deep in our hearts in everything we do and plan, “What do we do when our dreams don’t come true?”  Otto deals with it with a combination of humour, ingenuity, and rebellion.  He never gives up his dream, no matter how unattainable it looks, no matter how socially isolated he is.  His solace is in the only child he and Hildegard have, his 10 year old daughter, Luise, and in the companionship of the Schönwald residents who are loyal to him.

Hildegard deals with it by withdrawing from the world, becoming more and more isolated and alone, which leads to her being afraid just about everything except new hats.

The antagonist of Prussian Yarns is Berthold von Puttkamer, the first cousin of Hildegard’s late father, Friedrich von Puttkamer.  The custom in Prussia was that eldest sons inherited the entire family fortune, lived in and administrated the estate of their choice, which was usually the family seat and perhaps one other favourite spot, while the second son administered the smaller or poorer holdings.  Third and later sons usually had to find a career, such as the military, although on massive inheritances a third son might be needed to help administrate far flung properties.  In Friedrich’s case, his father had administrated and lived on Schönwald while his father’s younger brother, Elard, administrated the secondary estates.  Friedrich had no younger brothers to take over from his uncle, so Elard continued to administer the secondary estates when Friedrich inherited.  Berthold was Elard’s eldest son, who took over the secondary estates when Elard died.

When Friedrich had no sons, Berthold came up with the idea that if his eldest son married Friedrich’s daughter, then Berthold’s eldest son would live at and administrate Schönwald and his second son would take over the secondary lands.  Friedrich didn’t shoot this idea down, keeping it in mind as a last resort only, but Berthold believed that Friedrich agreed with him, to the extent that when Friedrich’s older daughter ran off to convert to Catholicism and become a nun, leaving the younger daughter, Hildegard, to be the von Puttkamer heiress, Berthold forced his son to wait until Hildegard was old enough to marry him.

Just as Hildegard seemed to Otto to make his dreams come true, Otto seemed to Friedrich to be the answer to his dilemma.  Hildegard adored Otto, Otto was smitten with Hildegard.  Otto wanted to escape the army and have a career as a landowner; Friedrich wanted a way to avoid having Berthold take over the von Puttkamer inheritance.  Otto and Hildegard married and everyone was happy.

Except Berthold.

How Berthold’s son felt about any of it, we can only guess, since he was never consulted in the first place.  Berthold, however, was so unhappy with the turn of events, that when Friedrich died and left the von Puttkamer inheritance to Otto “as if he were my legitimately born son” Berthold challenged Friedrich’s Will in court on the grounds that Otto had somehow underhandedly influenced Friedrich in order to get his hands on the von Puttkamer inheritance.

Berthold’s challenge partially succeeded in that he gained title to the lands he had lived on and administrated, but it was not fully successful in that the family seat, Schönwald, remained in Otto’s name.  Berthold devoted the rest of his life to finding a way to reunite the von Puttkamer inheritance under the care of the von Puttkamer male line.

The “Yarns” part of Prussian Yarns are the stories of the people of Schönwald; the villagers, the estate workers, the household staff, the stable workers, and the von Goff/von Puttkamer families, weaving the threads (yarns) of many subplots throughout the main plot.  What one character does or says affects others.  This is not a saga of one family, but of a group of people of different social and ethnic backgrounds whose lives are intertwined by place and circumstances.  The people were united in their love of the vast expanses of their land, divided by their opinions of what was right for the land.

In the second book, A Stitch in Time, Otto struggled to be everything to everyone.  Hildegard either could not or would not run her household or raise her daughter, which put Otto in an untenable position.  As a man, and as Master of Schönwald, he could not take over Hildegard’s responsibilities.  He could not be seen to do “women’s work.”  His efforts to persuade, coax, coerce, or force Hildegard to fulfill her responsibilities all failed, and he couldn’t hire someone to do the Mistress’s work when the Mistress was in residence.  Meanwhile, the house had to be run and Luise had to be raised.  There are few or no books telling of a man’s struggle to balance the responsibilities of earning a living, raising a child, and running a house all at the same time, never mind such a story about a nineteenth century man.

The Cobden Treaty came into effect in 1860, introducing Free Trade to Europe, and Otto knew if he didn’t take advantage of the coming changes, he would be victimised by them.  For the sake of the inheritance he planned to leave for Luise, Otto had a French trader spend most of September and the beginning of October at Schönwald in order to draw up an agreement whereby he could send his cattle to France for sale, using the new railways.  He then found himself trapped by the presence of Jean Beaulieu in his house when his child and his household needed his attention, because he couldn’t be seen to be doing women’s work.

Unable to be everywhere at once, Otto put off dealing with problems in the house, in order to concentrate on the trade deal.  To force Hildegard to come out of her rooms, he made her plan a garden party to be held while he and Jean were away having their agreement notarised.

As an only child Luise was lonely.  By accident she found the two sons of Jean Beaulieu, after which the three children sneaked out to play together every day.  Their play was innocent; their crime was in deceiving all around them in order to play together.  When Luise heard that her mother was planning a garden party, and she was expected to play the part of dutiful heiress in a starched white dress over a wide crinoline, the three children captured a bat and released it into the garden party to rescue Luise from having to attend it.

Otto at first found the stories of “thousands of rabid bats” at a garden party very funny, but when he discovered that Luise had been sneaking around with the French boys, he was devastated.  She had been the idol of his life, and she had deceived him and those he had entrusted with her care.

It was some time before the relationship between Otto and Luise could be restored.  He took a long time to get over the fact that while he had been working so hard for her sake, she had been deceiving him.  It took him even longer to face the fact that if he had taken care of the problem when he first knew it existed, it would never have reached that stage.  Right from the beginning Otto had known that Luise was lonely, and had recognised that such loneliness could lead to trouble.

Once he faced his own shortcomings, he was able to repair his relationship with his only child, and to realise that he had answers to the problem there all along.  Luise could spend time with the children from the neighbouring estate.

He tried to apply the principle of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” to Hildegard, only to realise that to be in time he should have dealt with her problems when they were first married, 14 years previously.  Hildegard had reached a point where there was little Otto could do.  He swallowed his pride and asked Hildegard’s family for help in providing a widowed aunt to act as Mistress of Schönwald.

In the third book, Tinctures and Tantrums, Otto was determined to find out what was wrong with Hildegard, and to help her.  He questioned the doctor who had been treating her all of her life, and when he couldn’t get a straight answer, he fired the man. 

After a search Otto hired a new doctor, Herr Doktor Hirsch, who explained the effect it had on a person to be given a tincture of laudanum to go to sleep every night, and to settle the ‘nerves’ any time she was upset, and to be giving a restorative potion every morning.  Laudanum was opium based and the restorative potions were cocaine.

Otto’s first reaction was to throw all of the medicines away, but Doktor Hirsch cautioned him that patients taken off opium and cocaine too suddenly had a tendency to die.  His prescription was to set an amount that Hildegard was allowed to have every day, which was to start out close to what she was used to having, then slowly reduce it.

Neither Otto nor Doktor Hirsch had any experience with the cunning of drug addicts.  Every time they thought they'd cut off Hildegard’s access to new drugs, she found another avenue.  There was no one they could turn to for help.  There was little medical literature on drug addiction in 1860; it was seen as a problem of sin, not of medicine.  Otto could talk to no one, not even his family, since such things were so unspeakably shameful in the 1860s.

When Doktor Hirsch found out that there were experiments being done in Vienna to get people off opium, Otto decided that the only way to save Hildegard’s life was to take her to Vienna.

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First Book: Prussian Yarns

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