Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Historical Myths in Romance...Busted!

Am I going to crush everyone’s dreams today? I certainly hope not *smiles* but there are just some things I can’t keep to myself! History itself is romanticized a lot, and I’m not knocking it, I love to romanticize about history! I’m a historical romance author, guilty of all the things I’m about to reveal to you…

Why am I doing it? Mostly because its fun!

Myth #1—The heroine has smooth legs…Sorry folks but ladies didn’t shave their legs in medieval times! Nor in Regency either…And you can forget armpits! Waxed eyebrows or upper lips! And she certainly wouldn’t have a trimmed/waxed honeypot either, lol (for more info, click here)

Myth#2 – She smells of orange blossoms. Sure she might, right after a bath, but put all those clothes on, give it an hour or two, and her armpits might start a stinking… And as for the hero? I’m not sure I even want to think about it. I’ve ridden public transportation, lol

Myth #3 – They had pearly white teeth. First of all, the first tooth brush wasn’t even patented into the 1850s! Before that they used herbs, rags, sticks, and other odd remedies to clean their teeth. There are rumors that Elizabeth I had black teeth…not sure if that’s true or not…(for more info, click here)

Myth #4 – Fresh scents filled the air of the castle…Maybe a few select times of the year. But think about it. Not everyone bathed or cleaned their clothes and linens. The placed to do your business was a hole, that didn’t flush. You wouldn’t see me 100 feet in front of castle on a hot summer day. Don’t forget, a lot of times in the great hall, the people would simply toss bones behind them into the rushes for the dogs—and there were rats too…(for more info, click here)

Myth #5 – They married for love. Very rarely, and I mean like maybe 1 in a 1000, did this happen. Marriage was a contract, meant for bartering, whether that was money, lands, protection, or something else. Feelings didn’t play a part in it.

Myth #6 -- Kilts weren’t around until much later…Doesn’t that stink??? I love thinking about a medieval Scottish laird in a kilt! But unfortunately the kilt wasn’t popular until closer to the 18th century, although it has been documented that kilts were worn in the 16th century. They did have plaids though, and they were worn, so I think we can fudge it a bit *wink*

I’m sorry to spoil it for you. But don’t worry, you’ll never (well I certainly pray you never) pick up a romance novel where two smelly, hairy, people with bad breath make out on a bed full of lice and fleas while rats run around scurrying for scraps of food nearby.

Any more? What did I miss? Share with me!

Eliza Knight is the best-selling author or Regency romance and Time Travel Highlander erotic romance with The Wild Rose Press. She is the author of the award-winning blog, History Undressed. Eliza teaches various workshops online, including history, research and writing craft. Visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com or www.historyundressed.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Romancing the Scone

Is it just me, or have historical romances gone anorexic?

Think, when was the last time you reveled in a glorious meal enjoyed by the hero and heroine where the steaming dishes brought to the table reflect the steamy looks exchanged by the two? Is there a ban on food scenes circulating the critique groups? Are they on the editors' no-no list?

In the interest of moving forward, are authors condemning their heroines to near starvation as they go on the run with the hero? Will the reader learn what comforting menu will be presented when they are forced to leave the storm-lashed road for the shelter of a wayside inn? When those proper Regency belles dither over which eligible potential beau will escort them to dinner, do they ever get to enjoy the meal? Does the reader ever get to see what is on the lavishly spread table? Must we go all the way back to medieval times before we're ever allowed to sit down and feast?

If you think I'm making too much of this missing element, I'd like to remind you of some of the memorable food-related scenes in classic fiction. From the first page of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, we learn that the author should accept the obligation of providing a "bill of fare" for the reading to come. Fielding fulfills this duty throughout the book with sensual descriptions of all of Tom's bad boy antics including an eating scene that is hilariously rendered in the Albert Finney film of the book. In this one scene, we learn about characters, plot points, and setting. What more can you ask a scene to show?

Moving further down literary lane, remember the sensuous strawberry-eating done in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles? The picnic Scarlett prepared herself not to eat by the snack Mammy forced her to gobble? The cow's brains and eyeball Leslie Benedict was presented with as an honor for her to eat at her first Texas barbecue in Edna Ferber's Giant.

Of course, the top chef emeritus of the literary world has to be Charles Dickens. In his novels, rich and poor alike are delineated by the food they eat, serve or crave. Cookbooks, restaurants, and London shopping districts are dedicated to the menus in his books. What's Christmas without the fond retelling of the Cratchits' meager but appreciated meal, Scrooge's nephew's party fare, and the giant turkey the reformed Scrooge sends to amaze and nourish Tiny Tim?

Remember when Mrs. Cratchit serves the plum pudding?

"She entered the room, flushed but smiling proudly; with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in a half-a-quartern of ignited brandy and bedecked with Christmas holly stuck into the top.”

Husband Bob immediately deems it "the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage.”

And who can forget the Miss Haversham's abandoned wedding feast entombed in spider webs and mice from Great Expectations?

Are there any such unforgettable food scenes in modern historical romances? Am I missing them somehow? Aside from medievals where there is often a focus on food as the new heroine takes over the management of the manor, have you read or written one lately? Tell me about them.

For a few recipes reminiscent of Dickens, try www.thebrasssisters.com where you can find a Hearty English Meat Pie. Shepard's Pie, an easy Irish Sponge Cake or Currant Creme Scones. Each recipe includes a brief description of the role of that food in Victorian times.

Two of my recent releases contain food scenes: Listen with Your Heart (www.desertbreezepublishing.com) and Cast a Pale Shadow (thewildrosepress.com) Haunts of the Heart's (www.aspenmountainpress.com) food scenes don't involve eating. The characters are ghosts. But food is still an issue to heroine Deanna Butterworth as described in this excerpt:

Deanna shoved her feet out from under the covers and made up her mind. Now that she was going to live, she might as well eat.

The kitchen had no windows, but opened up into a small greenhouse. She was used to the sun speckling through the plants onto the kitchen floor and walls. Now, of course, there were no plants. No sun either. The boards on the greenhouse walls were sealed nearly tight. She had an urge to go out and rip them off, but she was not exactly dressed for that, so she suppressed it and turned on a light instead.

"Looks like Old Mother Hubbard's," she said as she opened the pantry door. Nothing but dust and mouse droppings. "Yuk!" Her empty stomach turned over.

"I know," she muttered to it, "I shouldn't resurrect you for this." She stepped back and closed the door. Without enthusiasm, she opened and closed each of the cupboards over the sink. She found a canister in one and thinking popcorn, she opened it. It was buggy flour. Her stomach protested once again.

"Foraging?" Anthony's voice right behind her ear startled her.

The canister slipped from her grasp, its contents spilling to the floor, the bugs skittering for cover. Her stomach heaved its emptiness into her mouth as she stumbled for the nearest chair.

"Really," said Anthony as he crouched to examine the flour, flicking through it with his finger, "there's entirely too much starch here and very little protein. Not at all good for your uh...," he appraised her, hunched in a ball in the chair, "figure."

"It's all right," she managed, "the sight of you kills my appetite anyway."

You can learn more about my books at www.barbarascottink.com

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why We Like Cowboys

Who hasn’t thought about the cowboys of yesteryear driving cattle across the prairie, a lawman riding for justice, a modern rodeo cowboy, or the cattle rancher down the road and sighed. There’s something about a man in boots, denim, and a cowboy hat that makes a woman’s heart increase speed and her mouth go dry.

Is it their manners, chivalry, sense of justice, or the fact they take off their hats and say, “Thank you, Ma’am”? All I know - cowboys have the ‘it’ factor for me and many women.

The swagger of the rodeo cowboy after he picks himself up off the ground. The set jaw, cool demeanor, and stance of a lawman in a movie standing up to the bad guy. The easy way a rancher leans over the corral fence taking stock of his herd, with one foot resting on a rail.

Sigh, there’s something about cowboys.

I write about cowboys both in the past and now. I try to capture the honor, justice, manners, and that raw maleness that seems to ooze from cowboys and men in the 1800's. I don’t know how else to explain it, but they would fight a man twice their size, barehanded, to defend a woman or child’s honor. That is what makes a cowboy or any hero in a romance stay in my heart.

Any man who doffs his hat and opens doors in this day and age gets a smile and notch on my hero meter. And you’ll find most cowboys do. They respect women. I think it harkens back to the days in the West when women were few and far between and men were so tickled to have a female to cater to, they bent over backwards to make them want to hang around.

What is the “it” factor about cowboys that makes your heart skitter with

To read about a cowboy some reviewers have fallen in love with, check out my latest release, “Outlaw in Petticoats”. You can purchase it in e-book at http://thewildrosepress.com or in print at any book store. To find out more about Paty Jager and my other books you can go to: http://www.patyjager.com

Friday, May 22, 2009

First You Walk

It seems we are on the verge of a major change in the art of wordsmithing. What exactly do I mean by wordsmithing? To me it stands for getting ideas from one person to another through the use of words.

The human race has been “wordsmithing” for many thousands of years. Long before there was the written word, we felt the need to share part of ourselves with others. Storytellers kept the past alive by speaking and singing tales of our creation, myths, battles, heroes, and the history of the tribe/family. The tradition is carried on today with storytelling and folksong festivals all over the world.

The next big step (other than the creation of the written word itself) was to keep a permanent record so that if the storyteller got killed in battle, the history would not be lost. Over time many civilizations learned to record history on everything from clay, to stone, to wax, to paper (papyrus was an early form of paper), but by far the masters of bureaucracy, a fancy term for making sure it is recorded, was the Roman Empire. The reason we know so much about Rome today is because they had so much “paper” that no matter how many times the city burned to the ground or was looted by invaders, there was always something written down that didn’t get destroyed.

So the human race toddled along writing things down. Being a scribe was hard work, but at least you had job security, one square meal a day, and a place to sleep. 

Until Mr. Gutenberg came along with his marvelous printing press. We all know what that did to the publishing world. Manuscripts could be mass produced and the rich no longer controlled the distribution of reading material. The middle and even lower classes started to learn to read, realized that they were getting the wrong end of the stick, revolutions and uprisings, pilgrims, Australia…well you get the picture. 

So the human race walked along printing books. Being a publisher eventually grew from being a three or four man operation to investing large sums of money in equipment and hundreds of people to run the equipment, find books to print on the equipment, sell the books you’ve printed and keep track of the whole thing. Until someone invented a CRT and a CPU and put them together to make a computer, which someone turned into a PC/Mac which Bill Gates turned into Microsoft, and Steve Jobs turned into Apple. We all know what happened then.  Laptops, cell phones, smart phones, and finally e-readers.

So now it seems the human race is poised to run. Yet it’s almost as if we are afraid to step away from the starting block. Print Book or e-book? That seems to be the question of the day in the publishing industry. Why not both? As an author, I know I am happy to have as many outlets as possible for my creative endeavors. I love writing e-books and I love writing for print. As a reader, I love being able to have 200 books on my i-phone and I love turning the page of a novel when I’m in bed late at night. So I’m encouraging all publishers to do both. It can only help. Especially in times like these.

Let me know if you prefer one over the other and why.  Or stop by and comment on any of the blogs posted this holiday weekend. I will enter you to win one of three gift cards; a $10 Amazon Gift Card, a $10 Wild Rose Press Gift Card or a $15 Limited Edition Widow’s Peak Visa Gift Card. The winner of the Widow’s Peak Gift card will also be entered in my Super Contest to win one of two art prints. Check out the Super Contest at my blog Never Too Late For Love.

Hanna Rhys Barnes is one of those people with an evenly balanced right and left brain.  She has a BA in English, but recently finished her final year as a high school math teacher.  She loves to cook and was a pastry chef in a former life. A member of RWA’s national organization and of several local chapters, she currently lives and works in Portland, OR. Hanna’s Debut Novel, Widow’s Peak, is due to be released September 23, 2009 from The Wild Rose Press. She is currently working on Book 2 in the series, Kissed By A Rose.

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys – or what I learned from western movies.

Yes, I admit, my heroes have always been cowboys. My love of cowboys came from old western movies. Here were men who were larger than life, who stood up for what they believed in, who’s word was their bond, who were willing to do what had to be done. And when they fell in love, it was deep and forever -- even if they fought it at first.

Nothing surprised me more when I started to write, that I chose set my stories in the American frontier. Now, it wasn’t a surprise that I chose to write historicals –after all, I have a BA and MA and a second BA in History and taught US History and Western Civilization at the college level. However, I liked teaching Western Civ more than US History and my MA had specialization in Tudor and Stuart England, and the second BA in European Studies. But when it came time to write it was the frontier and the cowboy who caught my imagination. Big surprise.

Guess Fredrick Jackson Turner was right. Turner, a historian, presented his ‘frontier thesis’ in 1893 at the American Historical Association, stating that it was the westward expansion that formed the American character, making us as Ben Franklin said a new race that was rougher, simpler, more enterprising, less refined.

I think now it was the frontier aspect that drew me, as on the edge of civilization, it took a man and a woman working together to make a home. This was the basis for my first novel, Kentucky Green, when the frontier was ‘the land beyond the mountains’, the Kentucky and Ohio territory in 1794. My hero, although he’s not a cowboy, has all those cowboy characteristics.

But for most people Turner’s westward expansion brings to mind the cowboy. Which leads me right back to my old western movies.

When I was teaching, I used to have the student watch Stagecoach (1939) and discuss how the character portrayed the values of the time. If you haven’t seen the movie (shame on you!) a group of disparate individual undertake a dangerous stagecoach trip through Indian Territory.

Our hero, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne, where director John Ford gave Wayne’s character the greatest screen introduction ever) is out to get the man who killed his father and brother. There is the ‘good woman’, a military wife on the way to join her husband, and the ‘bad woman’, the dancehall girl run out of town. The Confederate and the Union veteran. And of course, our hero helps save the day when the Indian attack. Here are our cowboy values of putting the good of the group before personal advantage, care and protection for those who need it. Courage in the fact of danger (the Indian attack).

Ringo also show determination to get revenge on the man who killed his family. This is often part of the ‘man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’ philosophy of the frontier. The average man, our hero, is forced to act as the law as either the law is absent (part of the definition of frontier) or unable or unwilling to do the job that needs to be done to protect society. And, of course, after the final shoot out, our hero and his girl ride off to start a new life together. The ‘new start’ part of the frontier standing for redemption. Stagecoach is #9 on the American Film Institute’s Top Ten Westerns.

I also used to show part of Red River (1948) to my classes also. This movie is #5 on the American Film Institute’s Top Ten Westerns. In the first part (a prologue actually), our hero, Tom Dunstan (John Wayne) leaves the wagon train heading to California and the girl he’s fallen in love with to go to Texas to start his ranch, saying he’ll send for her. She fails to convince him to let her go with him, and says she’ll come.

I liked to use this to point out to my classes, who were used to instant communication, how you have to understand the times the people lived in to understand the history of what they said and did. I used to ask the men in my class, how are you going to send for her? A letter? Who would carry the letter? How would you address it? Would you go yourself? How would you find her? Then I’d ask the women in my class – how long do you wait for this guy to send for you? A year? Two years? Forever?

Perhaps part of the pull of the western is the lack of technology that sometimes seems to overwhelm and swamp the personal and individual in today’s society. People seemed more important than things in the west. Relationship were personal. Today we can spend more time with our computer that with our family.

The main part of Red River deals with the dangerous cattle drive north many years later. Here again we see the cowboy hero in several guises. Dunston (Wayne), who willing to do what no man has done, the cattle drive to try and save not only his ranch but all the surrounding ranches. Dunston willing to step up and take responsibility. He’s helped by his surrogate son, Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) and a cast of great secondary characters. As the cattle drive is beset with disasters, Dunston becomes more autocratic and driven to the point that Matthew rebels and takes over the herd. Matthew standing up to and against the man he loves like a father, necessary to do what right in his mind. Matt says ‘know he (Dunstan) was wrong. Sure hope I’m right.’ The story is not only one of man against nature (taming the frontier), but of Matthew (Clift) and his conflict with Dunstan (Wayne) each man doing what he thinks is right as the central theme of the film.

And, of course, there is a romance between Matt and the girl he meets, falls in love with, but must leave to complete the cattle drive. This romance between Matt and Tess (Joanne Dru) is what help lead to the final reconciliation between the men. This is a great movie with a young and beautiful Montgomery Clift and John Wayne allowed to act before all the directors wanted him to do was be John Wayne.

The Forties and Fifties were a great time for western movies, really too many to mention. But you might recall a few with Jimmy Stewart such as Winchester ’73, or The Far Country. Randolph Scott working with directory Bud Boetticher made several good western such as The Tall T, and don’t miss Seven Men From Now if only for the final gun fight between Scott and Lee Marin as the ‘good’ bad guy.

For lots of good cowboy heroes, there is always what’s know as director John Ford’s Cavalry trilogy, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande.

These three, along with Stagecoach were shot in Monument Valley and the scenery is as much a character as the actors. Especially the storm in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon which blew up as they were filming, and Ford kept right on filming. No special effect, just the real thing.

I think part of the allure of the cowboy is the wide open spaces and scenery that surrounds him. It was the remember clean, clear and bright mountain scenery around Durango, Colorado that made me set Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold there.

My cowboy hero is an undercover officer for Wells Fargo who, of course, is determined, brave and does the best he can. And, of course, as all western heroines, the woman he falls in love with is strong, capable and makes him realize he’s a better man than he thinks he is.

Modern westerns in the old tradition are starting to turn up on television, such as Broken Trail (2007) with Robert Duvall as the older mentor and Thomas Haden Church as his nephew. And the traditional cowboy values are showcased in Open Range (2003) with Kevin Costner teaming with Robert Duvall, as two itinerate cowboy who end up taking on a corrupt sheriff and town boss – doing what needs to be done to make the community safer and revenge their friend. Also a nice little romance between Charlie (Kevin Costner) and Sue (Annette Bening).

Even the contemporary cowboy has those values. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991) where an estranged son and father re-connect as he finds love with an old flame.

How much better would things be today, if those cowboy values – honest, true to their word, willing to sacrifice to help those who can’t help themselves, putting the good of the community before their personal needs when necessary.

Yep, my heroes have always been cowboys. I watch the old movies any chance I get, and keep a lookout to see if they are out in DVD to replace the VHS tapes I have. My current favorite is Tall In The Saddle. Did I miss mentioning one of your favorite westerns? I know I missed some of mine. Do you watch the old movies, or do you have a favorite ‘modern’ western?

Terry Irene Blain

Escape to the past with a romantic adventure

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hollywood's View of History

For the most part, writers of historical romance strive for accuracy in capturing historical events and characters. Can the same be said of Hollywood?

I’d suspect that ninety-nine percent of book editors would run screaming from a plot that featured a beautiful, tempting Pocahontas and a very studly Captain John Smith…after all, history tells us that Pocahontas was about seven when Smith and his crew landed in Jamestown in 1607. The New World, starring Colin Farrell as Captain John Smith (who obviously was not cast due to a striking resemblance to the legendary colonist) highlighted the romantic attraction between Smith and a teenaged Pocahontas, portrayed by a striking young actress, Q’orianka Kilcher.

Before its release, the studio was said to have deleted several love scenes deemed too steamy between the nearly thirty-year old actor and the fourteen year-old actress. Besides the “ick” factor here, this romance is completely inaccurate. Many other scenes in the movie are historically wrong as well, but the romance is the most glaring example of Hollywood mauling the truth in this film.

Disney’s Pocahontas isn’t quite as bad, but as a teacher who works with children who have to learn the facts about the Jamestown expedition and its key players, it’s difficult to overcome the portrayals of Pocahontas as someone who looks like Barbie’s Native American cousin and Captain John Smith as Jamestown Expedition Ken. At least, that’s a fantasy, complete with the requisite Disney talking animals, and that offers a teaching point about fiction versus non-fiction.

Hollywood has always taken liberties with the truth...huge liberties, in some cases. Henry VIII is portrayed as a studly hunk in many films, not a gout-ridden, portly monarch. Of course, some would say that Henry was not always fat and was known to be rather athletic in his youth, but how on Earth did anyone decide to cast gorgeous, dark Eric Bana as the monarch in The Other Boleyn Girl ? The portrait of Henry VIII in his twenties shows a man who certainly would not have made a girl lose her head (yes, I know…such a bad pun) if he were not a monarch.

Of course, The Tudors casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers isn’t any more visually accurate, although I think he captures the moods and manipulations of Henry far more convincingly than hulky Eric Bana (yes, another bad pun), who came across to me as a rather dull-witted monarch.

I could go on and on about Hollywood’s historical inaccuracies. Bonnie and Clyde portrayed the notorious bank robbers as lovers on the run, not the cold-blooded killers they were. Braveheart depicts a kilt-clad Mel Gibson even though kilts weren’t worn in Scotland until about three hundred years after William Wallace died. More remarkably, the film depicts Wallace as the father of Edward III, who was born seven years after Wallace’s death (and I thought nine months was a long time to be pregnant). Mel was at it again with The Patriot, in which he almost single-handedly wins a battle that history recorded as a win for the British…a minor detail, I suppose, in the minds of Hollywood. Gladiator’s villain, Emperor Commodus, was certainly not a nice guy, but it’s believed his father died of disease, not at Commodus’ hand. Commodus was murdered after ruling for more than a decade…in his bathtub, not fighting in a gladiator’s ring. I suppose a guy dying in his bathtub would not have created the heroic ending the folks behind Gladiator were looking for, and as I adore Russell Crowe, I’ll forgive this particular inaccuracy.

What about movies that got it right, or at least, close to right? Are there any? Tombstone and Wyatt Earp might have played loosely with the truth and selectively omitted some of Earp’s less than favorable qualities, but both films portray the era with a feel for the times. Plus, Tombstone has Michael Biehn as Johnny Ringo...I just love the actor in that character and root for the villain, much to my husband's chagrin. Cinderella Man is more of an essay about the hardships of the Depression than a boxing movie, and Russell Crowe depicts Jim Braddock with a feel for the desperation of a man during those times trying to keep his family afloat. The Untouchables, while depicting Eliot Ness and his men as almost saintly, does capture the flavor of the times while depicting the truth…all the gun power in Chicago couldn't bring Capone down, but crooked income tax returns did.

What do you think of Hollywood’s view of history? Could authors get away with the gross inaccuracies sometimes found in films? I’m curiously awaiting the new film, Public Enemies, which portrays John Dillinger and Melvin Purvis. Of course, the casting of Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as Purvis (an obvious choice, given that Purvis was about 5’ 4” and looked absolutely nothing like the hunky Bale) might influence my mad dash to the theaters this summer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

King Stephen vs. Empress Maud

"In the days of this King there was nothing but strife, evil, and robbery, for quickly the great men who were traitors rose against him. When the traitors saw that Stephen was a good-humoured, kindly, and easy-going man who inflicted no punishment, then they committed all manner of horrible crimes . . . And so it lasted for nineteen years while Stephen was King, till the land was all undone and darkened with such deeds, and men said openly that Christ and his angels slept".

-- from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (the Peterborough Chronicle, second continuation)

I mentioned in a previous post that I was inspired to set my medieval paranormal erotic romance, Seeking Truth, in medieval England during the reign of King Stephen because I'd watched the Brother Cadfael Mysteries.

I was totally confused the first time I watched one though. They kept talking about King Stephen - and I didn't remember any English King named Stephen. Then came the whole "Empress Maud" stuff. I thought it was totally bogus. Obviously, I didn't know my English history very well. To remedy that, I started reading historical books on the topic. It took a lot of reading in order to NOT make an idiot of myself. Even so, with my book coming out May 29, I realized I hadn't gotten the whole story. I have one little line near the end wrong - now I hope no one notices. Darn.

I started with trying to figure out what side my hero would choose. Ultimately, I decided he was a "king's man" like Sir Hugh Beringer. So then I had to figure out what that meant.

It took some work, but I discovered the bare bones of Stephen's reign. Henry I's only legitimate heir was a daughter, Matilda. Her unpopular marriage to Geoffrey, count of Anjou, did her no favors. Although Henry obtained fealty oaths to Matilda by many barons, there were objections to her because she was a woman and because she was married to an Angevins. Unfortunately for Matilda, when her father died in December of 1135 she made no effort to travel to England to assume the throne, but her cousin Stephen of Blois did.

Stephen acted decisively to hold London and was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This audacious action is one my hero would approve, so I knew that my feeling that Eaduin would be a King's man was the right one. Of course, being crowned and keeping it on your head are two very different things. This began one of the most tempestuous lengthy periods in English history. Stephen reigned from 1135 to his death in 1154. Throughout almost all of his reign, civil war and anarchy covered Britain. Queen Matilda, or Empress Maud as she was also called, didn't let Stephen's actions stand. She, along with her bastard half-brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester waged war on Stephen and at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 captured him.

What intrigued me about this was that rather than kill him and claim the throne outright for Maud, they held him hostage and left a rallying point for the opposing forces. Forces led my Stephen's wife, Matilda. Yeah, not much in the way of creative naming back then. It was REALLY confusing when I started my research.

In March of 1141, Matilda/Maud was recognized as Queen in Winchester but still had the formidable task of holding London and being formally crowned. By all accounts she was a strong and forceful woman - in modern terms we'd probably call her a "bitch on wheels." Being a strong female is admirable in modern views, but in 1141, not so much. She wasn't remotely conciliatory with her new subjects or with Stephen's son, Eustace or Stephen's Queen, Matilda.

Maud should have known better. She might have won through if she hadn't ticked off Stephen's wife, Queen Matilda by planning to disinherit her son, Eustace and being rude to her. The turning point of this story is two strong willed Matildas going at it. Queen Matilda (Stephen's that is) decided that she'd had it with "diplomacy" and decided to wage war to retrieve her spouse from his prison. I like her...a lot. Queen Matilda raised a large force and marched on London.

Maud had complete confidence, until the people of London rose up against her. You see, she wasn't particularly popular with them. She'd been as unpleasant to them as she'd been to Queen Matilda. The Empress and her half-brother Robert left London...at a run. Queen Matilda (Stephen's wife) then turned her army to Winchester. Empress Maud was inside besieging a bishop and was in turn besieged from outside. Empress Maud managed to escape, but her brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester did not. Maud needed her brother's support desperately and ultimately, Stephen was swapped for Robert.

Even after these calamities the war continued. My books are set after the critical battles of Lincoln and Winchester. I chose to set things during the slightly more stable period of 1146. But I continue to learn more about this time period so I hope I don't find I've made any huge errors. No doubt, readers will tell me if I do.

Looking for books on this troubled period? Here are some of my go-to books. If you know more, please share! I'm always looking for more information on this time period.
Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-53 by Jim Bradbury
The Troubled Reign of King Stephen 1135-1154 by John T. Appleby
The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign edited by Edmund King
The Reign of Stephen: Kingship, Warfare, and Government in Twelfth-Century England by Keith J. Stringer
The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother, and Lady of the English by Marjorie Chibnall
King Stephen's Reign edited by Paul Dalton and Graeme J. White
The Reign of King Stephen, 1135-1154 by David Crouch
Additionally, check out this VERY COOL blog by Teresa Eckford about the relationship between King Stephen and his lady, Queen Matilda titled Romantic Couples in History: King Stephen and Queen Matilda of Boulogne. (Link corrected per Teresa's Comment)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Housing in the 1800's America

Houses in the 19th Century were not the way we know ours to be today....three bedrooms, two baths, family room, kitchen, dining room, maybe even an office. Oh, and don't forget the two-car garage. Or the carpet, tile, indoor plumbing, electric lights.

When you think about the size of the country and the population, it's easier to understand that most of America did not live in what we would consider a 'nice-sized' house. Keturah Belknap, in her diary reprinted in COVERED WAGON WOMEN, describes the house her husband built in the prairie land of Iowa. It was 24 feet x16 feet. (pp. 201) Most frontier homes had dirt floors. Or, if they were lucky, a puncheon (plank) flooring. Even in the city and larger towns, a great many citizens didn't have their own homes. They lived in crowded tenements or boarding houses.

Whether a tiny frontier cabin or a tiny tenement, the options were normally the same. Usually only the parents had their own bedroom, with infants or toddlers sharing the room. Older children shared not only a room, but a bed. Sometimes as many as five youngsters slept together. On other occasions, the bed would be shared with houseguests, or by houseguests. EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE 1800'S says that “Even travelers barely acquainted with one another slept together at roadside inns.” (pp. 92) When one had multiple bedrooms and hosted a large gathering of people, the custom was to put the men together in one room and the women together in another, sharing beds or bedrolls. Only the wealthy slept in “amply stuffed feather beds; the poor made do with straw mattresses.” (pp 92)

Kitchens were used for both preparing and cooking food and for warming the house. Until the invention of the cast-iron stove in the 1820's, the cooking was done in the open hearth. In their early days, it was mostly the rich who could afford these items that were made to cover the fireplace and burned one-third less wood. They were also waist high, so a woman didn't have to stoop to check the food. By the 1850's most homes except those on the frontier and the very poor had cast-iron stoves. Keturah tells us “I had never cooked a meal on a stove.” (pp 203) Instead, she cooked a meal for 12 “by the fire.”

Bathtubs, let alone bathrooms, were nearly unknown. Though the first tub was installed in a Boston hotel in the late 1820's, only hotels and wealthy households had them as fixtures by the 1850's. EVERYDAY LIFE tells us “previously, a round, wooden or tin tub was hauled out onto the kitchen floor or onto the bedroom and filled with hot water from the fireplace or stove.” (pp 92) Having seen some of these tubs in antebellum home tours, I can tell you that one could not sit back and relax in them, as we often read of romance heroes doing.

Chamber sets consisted of a basin and pitcher for washing, a cup for brushing the teeth and a chamber pot. EVERYDAY LIFE explains that hotels provided the sets in the 1830's, with homes using them by the 1840's. (pp 94).

Since there was no electricity or a flick of the switch to provide lights, households used several different methods to illuminate the household after dark. Candles were the most common throughout the country, especially during the first half of the century. Lamps were used as well. Whale-oil lamps made of tin, brass or pewter were used through the 1880's. Lard-oil lamps became popular in the 1840's. Kerosene lamps were widely used after 1865 and replaced whale-oil lamps for the most part. Kerosene tended to produce a smoky, torchlike light.

So, we can see that life was not at all full of the conveniences we have today, but you already knew that. What one modern convenience would you miss the most if you had to go back in time? Leave a comment and you could win a copy of my novella “Salvation Bride,” my mail-order story set in 1873 Texas. Can determined doctor Laura Ashton heal Sheriff David Slade’s pain before the dark secret in her past turns up to steal his Salvation Bride?

EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE 1800'S: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians, by Marc McCutcheon

COVERED WAGON WOMEN: Diaries & Letters From The Western Trails, 1840-1849, edited by Kenneth L. Holmes

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats
Heartwarming, Sensual Westerns

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Question for authors and readers

Here’s a question for you. How much history can a romance writer alter for the sake of a story without being accused of betraying his/her craft?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, because I’ve done just that, intentionally. With Heartsong, the medieval from the 13th century, I had my hero going into Wales for hostages. Taking hostages was a practice used during the medieval ages, but there is no record I could find of Edward I seeking hostages from Wales. I also changed his son’s birth a year to make the timeline fit my story.

When I first began to write, I had the scene of a US Civil War battle wrong. I caught the mistake, and it was my mistake, before the book saw the light of day. Now, even I would consider that poor research on the author's part. But, I still wonder if a historical romance author can alter the date of an event or a character's participation in an event, without an avalanche of objections being heaped on her/his head.

I agree, there are some events, some occasions as an author you cannot alter. An example might be the date of a war's beginning or ending, the corination of a king or queen, or their deaths. But, I know writers who have included a book character in a event or at a particular occasion and I suspect many will continue to be do so because, after all, it’s fiction. My concern is how much can an author alter?

The reason I'm asking is simple. In one of my books in process, I have my hero coming up with a plan to stop the great London fire. Can I do that, or is it stretching the truth a bit too far? After all, it certainly wasn't his idea because I made him up.

I'd love to hear your opinion.

Allison Knight
"Heartsong" Named
Best Novel of the Year
available from Champagne Books

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Need A Hero!

When I start a new book, one of my favorite parts is finding a picture to use for my hero and heroine—kind of a “stand-in” model while I write. With my first book, I actually had the picture on my desk, but that drew a few subtle remarks of jealousy from my husband, so now I discreetly keep the pictures in a computer file.

You can probably identify who these actors are, but for fun I thought I’d let you guess. (Answers are at the bottom of my post)

For The Angel and the Outlaw ~ The hero is a ground-locked sea captain/suddenly father and the heroine is a feisty schoolteacher.

For The Rebel and the Lady ~
The hero is a “lone wolf” frontiersman and the heroine a Spanish landowner.

For Texas Wedding for their Baby’s Sake ~
The hero is a young physician/soldier and the heroine a southern belle.

Cover not available yet!

It will be fun to see how close the Harlequin art department comes to envisioning “my” vision of my characters.

Here are the answers ~ Mel Gibson, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brandon Routh, and Katherine Heigl.

Now for the start of my next book... Any suggestions out there for a hero and heroine? Let me know who you would like ...
Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Writing Historical Romances and What Comes First: the history or the romance?

I've been asked this question often enough that I should have the response rehearsed. I don't. The answer depends on many factors.

Writing historicals is an unusual job for me. In school, history wasn't my favorite subject. In fact, I thought it was terribly boring. I realized as an adult, my teachers didn't make it interesting for me. So why am I writing historical romances? And how much of history goes into each story? Do I look up a historical fact and weave a romance around it? Or do I have a romance in mind and fill in history of the time?

Let's begin with the reason I write romances. Growing up, I read anything I could get my hands on. In my early twenties, I discovered historical romances. They certainly were more romantic than Jacqueline Susann or Jackie Collins. I credit Kathleen Woodiwiss and Johanna Lindsey for tickling my muse and starting me on the writing path. What I loved about historical romances was the fantasy of visiting far away places coupled with a dashing hero and a heroine who, despite an aversion to the hero, fell in love with him anyway. This was the time when heroes were extremely Alpha. They ruled with an iron-clad heart and a libido they appeased no matter that the heroine didn't want him. She would eventually come around.

When I wrote my first historicals, I concentrated on the American West. I grew up in Southern California, near Hollywood. There were many influences from the acting community and my friends who were in the business. On TV, westerns were popular. I loved going to Knott's Berry Farm for its western feel, and to Universal Studios where my sister worked. I was able to get in without paying and attended many special events. One such event was an evening with actors and stuntmen from western movies and TV series filmed at Universal.

The American West's rich history spurred numerous ideas in my head. In fact, there were so many that I had to keep a notebook just to get them out and free my mind to concentrate on one story. Back then, I'd have a name and occupation for the hero and heroine. Next, I would come up with a story idea. And lastly, the location and history. I used to over research because of my lack of knowledge of history. But I concentrated mostly on the relationship and romance, sprinkling in the history.

I am and have always been a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I couldn't write an outline to save my life. But the one thing that stayed true in my stories was the history. There were times when I discovered an interesting historical fact, which inevitably changed the story a bit. I'm a firm believer in "truth is stranger than fiction." So I keep an open mind and go with an unusual historical tidbit as well as the insistence of my heroes and heroines who often do their own thing. There were many times they backed me into a corner plot wise, and I had to figure out how to get them out of a situation.

I've come a long way since writing my first historical. And I've grown a complete interest in history, kicking myself over and over for not paying more attention in school. These days, I begin a book by researching the history. I do have a hero and heroine in mind, but their relationship is often worked around history. For instance, in the first book of my four-book Italian medieval series, THE LILY AND THE FALCON, I knew I wanted it to take place in 15th century Florence, the town of my ancestors. I learned that the powerful Cosimo de' Medici had been exiled from Florence by his rival, Rinaldo degli Albizzi. Immediately I knew the hero had to be a Medici (the more influential family) and the heroine an Albizzi. Because of their families' constant battle to be the unofficial ruler of Florence, they had issues of mistrust. To add the feeling of place and time to the story, I used actual events, such as a hanging, along with the broken down governmental changes, as well as researched portrayals of Cosimo and Rinaldo, both of whom make appearances in the book.

So in answer to the question of whether the history or the romance comes first, as I stated in the first paragraph, it depends. Although history is a vital aspect in my novels, it will always be the backdrop for the hero and heroine's romantic quest.
Jannine Corti Petska
Assapora la passione (Feel the Passion)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Irish Connections

Ireland has always held a special place in my heart. My first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, is set in Ireland. I’m married to a man who is half-Irish. And there’s a very special connection between Ireland and my hometown of Montreal, Canada.

During the Great Famine of 1845-1850, thousands of starving Irish refugees fled to Canada. Conditions on the “coffin ships” were brutal. Typhoid, dysentery, and other diseases ran rampant, and many died on the voyage that was supposed to take these people to a new and better life. Hundreds of children were orphaned, either on the ship, or later, at the quarantine station called Grosse Ile, not far from Quebec City.

As lost and bewildered as these children must have felt, they weren’t entirely alone. Quebec families, mostly French Catholic, were eager to take in these children of their own faith. Not only were they welcomed with open arms, but most kept their Irish surnames. So a little bit of Ireland survives in Montreal.

It’s still seen today in the “Irish Stone,” a momument which stands at the approach to Montreal’s Victoria Bridge. During the construction of the bridge, workmen discovered human remains of Irish immigrants to Canada. They decided to erect a large stone that bears this inscription:

To preserve from desecration the remains of 6000 immigrants who died of ship fever A.D. 1847-8, this stone is erected by the workmen of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts employed in the construction of the Victoria Bridge A.D. 1859

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gratuitous Pimping Post

Today is May 5th 2009. When I picked a day for a monthly post on the Seduced by History blog, I specifically choose the 5th of every month…because of today. The very first book I contracted releases today. If you hear a faint squee in the distance, it is likely me.

Yes, I am quite pleased it is 5/5/09. The last year passed quickly, yet also very slowly. The print publishing world moves at a different pace than the two e-publishers I also write for. But today did finally arrive, and I shall be one happy chick for the next week or so. I plan to make several visits to local bookstores, just so I can gawk at my own book on the shelf. And point at it, and smile at it, and pick it up and pet it, …oh, and take pictures. And I will likely buy a copy at every bookstore I visit. Yes, I get author copies from Berkley, but like I’m going to walk out of a bookstore and not buy my own book??? Yeah, don’t think that will happen. I have author friends with books releasing in May as well, so I foresee myself parting with a nice chunk of change on those visits to bookstores.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, I tend to get rather ridiculously excited about release days. This is actually my fourth book release (I’ve had three Ava March books release since Sept’08, and yes I got all giddy over each of those), but as Her Ladyship’s Companion was my first sale to any publisher, this book holds a special place in my heart.

To celebrate that today is finally 5/5/09, I’m giving away a copy of Her Ladyship’s Companion to a commenter. So leave a comment and on Wednesday, 5/6, at 7pm EST I’ll pick a winner at random and post the name on this blog. The winner can then e-mail me with their name and address, and I’ll have the book winging on its way to the winner.

I should probably tell you a bit about the book, since the object of this post is to pimp the book. Her Ladyship’s Companion is a Regency-set historical romance. It’s a sensual romance, with sex and angst (two things I love in a romance). At its core it’s a love story between a lonely young woman and an equally lonely man, who just happens to be a male prostitute. Two individuals very deserving of love, but who have yet to find it, for various reasons. In Gideon’s case, self-imposed reasons…but as he spends time with Bella, she manages to slip past his defenses until she’s stolen his well-guarded heart. But Bella’s a married lady, and while Gideon plays the part of a gentleman, he's definitely not one by birth. So there’s no hope for them. Or is there? Love can conquer all, can’t it? Of course it can – we’re in Romanceland. :D

And now for the official blurb -

Her Ladyship’s Companion
Available from Berkley Sensation in Trade format

His job was to please her. Not to steal her heart.

In the Scottish countryside of Selkirk, Isabella, Lady Stirling resides at Bowhill Park, serving penance for a sin that nearly ruined her family. For five years she has been condemned to a loveless marriage and confined to the estate where she does little more than tend her rose garden. With her husband absent for months at a time and few visitors, Bella lives a lonely existence, denying the passions that burn within her very soul.

Then her cousin comes for a visit and makes an outrageous suggestion: what Bella needs is a lover. A
hired lover. Despite her need, Bella says no. But soon Mr. Gideon Rosedale arrives – and he is at her service for two weeks. Indulging in what she intends to be a harmless flirtation, Bella is overcome by Gideon’s intoxicating presence. And when she at last permits him to satisfy her desires, she discovers she’s done the unthinkable – she’s fallen in love.

Interested in an excerpt? I hope so, because here it is - excerpt.

To my great delight, the book’s also received some nice reviews. To check them out, go on over to my website - reviews. If you go to the ‘About’ page and scroll through the FAQ, you can also find out about my next work in progress for Berkley, currently titled Seven Nights to Forever.

That’s all for me today. Don’t forget, if you want to win a copy, leave a comment and I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday.



I took all the names of everyone who commented and used the list randomizer on random.org. And the name that came out on top is...


Congrats!!! :) Send me an e-mail at Evangeline @ EvangelineCollins.com with your name and snail-mail address, and I'll have a copy of HER LADYSHIP'S COMPANION winging on its way to you.

Thanks bunches to everyone who commented!!!! :)
Evangeline Collins
Lush. Elegant. Sensual Historical Romance

Ava March
OBJECT OF HIS DESIRE – Samhain Publishing
Gay Erotic Romance…in the Regency era

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Glimpses of Scotland

by Nicole North

I'm thrilled to join the fabulous group of writers on this blog. For my first post here I wanted to talk about one of my favorite places (and favorite topics!)--Scotland.

Very few places capture the imagination the way Scotland does. It has a reputation of misty isles, myth and magic. Before my visit, I thought maybe all this was overblown and exaggerated. Not so. Scotland lived up to its reputation and then some. I had not expected to feel the magic and history as I did. What surprised me most was how breathtakingly beautiful the landscapes are. Pictures cannot truly capture the essence of it. Some of the places I found to be most fascinating and beautiful:

Culloden Battlefield

I didn't know what to expect at Culloden. I'd seen pictures of this site but hadn't researched it, so I went into it with an open mind. It was easy to feel the history surrounding me, the sadness. It was not gloomy, however. The landscape is flat moorland with incredible vistas to the mountains in the distance. The ground where so many Scots had fallen during the battle and been buried was peat bog. Many wildflowers bloomed among the little pools of water. I tried to imagine what it would be like to fight a battle here. Very difficult, I'm sure!

Orkney has a lot of fascinating Norse influences like St. Magnus Cathedral, which the builders began in 1137. Walking through a structure that is almost a thousand years old, containing the tombs of saints and many others was unreal.
I'm also fascinated with prehistory so it was a wonderful treat to visit such Neolithic sites as Skara Brae and Ring o' Brodgar.
Here is a cool video I found showing some sights on Orkney.

North Coast - another amazingly beautiful area of Scotland is Sutherland along the northern coast. Kyle of Tongue and Sango Bay at Durness, especially. The views are breathtaking and the area remote and mostly wild. Not very populated. When I return, I want to spend lots more time in this area (which stole my heart!)
Isle of Skye - the misty isle. To many, the Isle of Skye is the epitome of what Scotland, especially the Highlands, is all about. Surely fairies and magic exist here. When I sat in the hotel dining room at Broadford, looking out over the ocean (The Inner Sound) at the misty forms of land in the distance, I had a Wow moment. How could I be doing something so mundane as eating breakfast and looking at such a breathtaking view? I was stunned for a moment and knew I would remember that moment for a very long time.

I found this neat video showing many of the beautiful places on Skye...

Where is your favorite place in Scotland? Whether you have been there or not, which area do you feel is most beautiful?

I'm having a contest on my website during May and it's easy to enter: http://www.nicolenorth.com/

Nicole North
Devil in a Kilt, Red Sage Secrets Vol. 27 Untamed Pleasures 7/09