Page 39. " set the coffin on the stone floor before the priedieu "
by cm

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePriedieu - Credit: Jorge Barrios
A priedieu is a personal prayer desk, with a shelf for prayer books and a cushion or board for kneeling.  A small altar may be incorporated, as in this example.

An oratory is simply a small room intended for prayer.

Page 42. " He laughed uproariously when I discovered that I could see myself in a mirror and that crosses had no effect upon me. "

The idea that vampires have no reflections, and that they fear crosses, are both traditional ideas held for centuries. In Bram Stoker's Dracula, a famous passage recounts Jonathan Harker's realisation that Count Dracula is not reflected in his mirror:

"Suddenly I felt a hand upon my shoulder  [...] and I started, for it amazed me that I had not seen him , since the reflection of the glass covered the whole room behind me." p26.

Stoker's vampires also cower back from crosses and garlic. Rice does not allow any of these traditional ideas to affect her vampires.

Stephenie Meyer takes the heresy even further: Twilight vampires are quite happy in sunlight.

Twilight on Book Drum

Page 47. " producing refined sugar "
Slave-Friendly Sugar
Public DomainSlave-Friendly Sugar

Sugar increased in popularity enormously in the 18th century. Grown and refined across the New World, it was a source of great wealth for plantation owners.

Sugarcane cultivation drove a surge in the use of slaves, and in 1791 abolitionists in Britain organized boycotts of slave-sourced sugar.  This may have been the first time consumers used their purchasing power to confront an ethical issue.

Page 48. " had become involved in a duel "

A duel was a formal engagement between two gentlemen to settle a dispute by single combat. Duels were fought over matters of honour, and would come about if one man offended the other or his family. Famously scheduled to take place at dawn, duels usually had very fixed rules and the expected outcome for the losing party was death.

Towards the end of the 18th Century, duelling fell out of favour in the USA and gradually declined.