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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seduced by Medieval Castles

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I just love the title of this blog and all the articles various writers have been putting into it. When I think of seduced by history, so many things come to mind—in particular is my love of castles.

My first time seeing a real castle was when I was eight years old. I was fortunate enough to have grandparents who resided in Paris, France, and they took me to Versailles. After that I visited many castles in the South of France and Ireland. Before that like most little girls I was obsessed with fairy tales, princesses and happily ever after. Seeing such a magnificent castle in person left a huge impression on me, and I’ve been captivated ever since.

Today I thought I’d give you lovely readers a little background on medieval castles.

Castles in medieval times varied greatly from large wooden forts to magnificent stone structures. Earlier castles were built up on large man-made hills called mottes. Surrounding the motte was a bailey, which is like a courtyard. Atop the motte was the castle or better known as a keep, which was fenced in. Surrounding the bailey would be a wall or fence, and sometimes a castle could have more than one bailey, an upper bailey and a lower bailey or inner/outer. Inside the bailey were huts for the people, stables, a chapel, blacksmith, tanner, etc…All the things that will keep the people within the castle thriving—especially if they were caught in a siege. The bailey could be surrounded by a mote and a drawbridge could be raised or lowered to allow entry.

The interior of the castle was a rather drafty place. The window openings were thin and narrow—glass not appearing until the later middle ages, and the floors were made of stone. Even heat from the fireplace seemed to disappear when you reached the corners of a room. Castles were built for security not comfort—however much we wish they were and try to portray in our stories—and completely different than my first view of a castle at Versailles.

A typical castle consisted of three levels. The ground level was the storeroom (sometimes a kitchen—but most kitchens were set in a building outside of the living quarters as fires happened quite often), and if there were knights, they would often sleep there. The dungeon, if there was one, was set below ground, a dark hole dug into the ground, most of the times.

On the first floor was the great hall. A raised gallery overlooking the great hall, was called the minstrel’s gallery, and was where musicians played during meals. The chapel could have been located within the castle near the great hall or a separate building.

A garderobe was also an important part of the castle, and could be located in any number of places. I’ve seen them set off to the side on staircases. What exactly was it? This is a medieval toilet room. A hole in a cement slab with a shoot that led to the mote or a pit. Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? When it was windy and winter, imagine sitting on that cold cement with a breeze coming up through that hole…or even worse summer time and the heat increases the smells…

The third floor was the lord’s chamber, the wardrobe and solar. This is a very basic layout. Some castles were much larger, and housed chambers for guests as well.

The furniture in a castle made of thick solid woods, like oak, ash, elm, poplar, larch and beech. It was put together much like out wood furniture is today: wooden pegs and iron nails. Have you ever bought a bookshelf from Ikea? You’ll put it together with wooden pegs and nails—although I don’t think they are iron.

An adhesive like glue was used to attach fabrics (tapestries, brocades, leathers, and velvet) to the furniture. The woods were also painted, reds, golds and greens being the most popular, but whites, yellows, black and blues were used too. Paint and fabrics were not the only ways to decorate furniture. Often times the woods were carved into intricate designs, or metal work and gilding adorned it.



What types of furniture did they have? Large four-poster beds, pallets, stools, benches, trestle tables, smaller tables, desks, chairs, chests, coffers, altar tables, buffets, wooden barrels (used for storing food/drink, and for taking baths). The previous list could be moved easily to another castle or manor home, if needed, as some nobles and royals often did. Furniture that stayed put were: cupboards, window seats, and built-in wall seats.

Décor in the home consisted of portraits, tapestries, candle holders, religious artifacts, weapons, nick-knacks, jugs, statues, clocks, deer/elk racks, hunting horns, in a bed chamber you would occasionally find a rug either made of animal skins or woven fabrics.

What picture do you have in your mind of the medieval castle? Have you been to a castle? Was it everything you imagined?

Cheers!
Eliza

Like what you read here? Check out Eliza Knight’s workshop, A Noble’s Life in Medieval Times, next class beginning June 1st—you do not have to be a member of RWA to participate. Also check out her workshop, The Tudors-An Epic Dynasty, starting May 4th! Visit www.elizaknight.com/workshops.aspx to register.

Eliza Knight is the author of sizzling historical romance and erotic time travel romance. She is the author of the award winning blog, History Undressed. Eliza teaches various online workshops on history, research and writing craft. Visit her at,
www.elizaknight.com or www.historyundressed.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And the winner is

Thanks to all of you who commented on my blog about the musical talents of Henry VIII.

The winner of the Official Pembroke Castle Guide Book is Terry Blain. Congratulations Terry. I hope you and the Corgi enjoy.

See you all next month.

Hanna Rhys Barnes

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Your Historical Reading Choice Says About Your Personality

After ten years of study, biliotherapists at prestigious Dever University in Knob Knoster, MO have discovered a startling correlation in readers' choice of historical era romance preference and their personalities. "The stronger the preference, the more consistent the predictions we can make," says Alice Fleming, PHD, BMA, the initiator of the study. "We have been contacted by the FBI on the possibility of adding our findings to their ongoing study of profiling. Of course, that would violate the privacy of our study participants and is completely against University policy."

What does this study reveal about your personality? Check the descriptions below.

Medieval, Scottish: Devotees of this sub-genre are marked by their desire for family connections and their preference for plaid. They tend to be fearless, bold, and youthful in their attitudes toward life. Intensely loyal and magnanimous with their friends and family, they are equally as distrusting of strangers. They usually live in large houses with straw colored carpets.

Regency: Refined and orderly can describe the personality of the Regency lover. They prefer a structured life and can be somewhat rigid in their attitudes and choices. Well-mannered, they are an asset to any rout. On the downside, they can be subject to excessive pride and prejudices and, if single, have an overwhelming obsession with getting married.

Colonial, North American: Independent and ambitious, Colonial readers will fight for their rights and place in the world. They crave democracy and may cherish ideals that seem impossible to achieve by others. They can be somewhat stalwart in their approach to religion and are ambivalent in their attitudes toward indigenous peoples. However, they are always ready to invite you over to share turkey, pemmican, and pumpkin pie.

Civil War, American: Despite where they actually reside, readers in this sub-genre, speak with Southern accents and tend to choose lovers and spouses with the opposite political leanings to their own. Lovers of gentility and a slow-paced life, but also quick to judge others and take sides, they can sometimes be seen as stubborn and backwards. You can usually find this reader relaxing on her porch with mint tea or, alternately, volunteering to roll bandages and read at her local veterans hospital.

Victorian: Prim, proper, and virginal (actually or pretended) are the words you might choose to describe the Victorian era reader. Self-control, rules, and modesty in appearance are the hallmarks of their day. Their nights, however, can be an entirely different matter. It is then, they will find a delight in the risque or even hotter aspects of the romance genre. Statistics show they are the most frequent consumers of naughty lingeree and satin sheets. By contrast, they also consume extraordinary amounts of Activia.

Western: Rugged, courageous, strong willed, but also quiet, non-communicative, and quick to anger, the Western lover has a personality filled with contrast. Happy on their own, they can be surprisingly willing to be tamed and domesticated. In fact, when settled, they often prove to be uncomplicated individuals with a lovable zest for life. They prefer country music, pick-up trucks, and wide open spaces and can chafe at the restrictions of an urban lifestyle.

Historical Time Travel: Not surprisingly, time travel readers yearn for a simpler life. While outwardly adventurous and, some might say, gullible, inwardly, they want life's decisions to be already made and recorded. They can be clear thinkers with intellectual tendencies, but they also take on personality traits of the particular historical era they chose as their time travel destination. Thus, they can be a jumble of the personalities cited above in other eras. If they have no particular preference of time travel destination, then, watch out, they are a mess and possibly dangerous.

Whatever your personality or historical reading preference, Barbara Scott hopes you will chose to read one of her Spring releases: Listen With Your Heart, a Victorian, Haunts of the Heart, a Civil War ghost story, or Cast a Pale Shadow, a contemporary romantic suspense. You can learn more about them at her website, www.barbarascottink.com

She does not guarantee that the profiles given above are in any way true or accurate and they do not necessarily express the opinion of this blog or its bloggers. She cannot verify the existence of this university or Dr. Fleming. In fact, their names sound suspiciously like the street she grew up on and her Grandma's maiden name.

Virginia is the winner of a teddy bear for commenting on my blog last month. You will have a chance to win this month just by leaving a comment.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Month's History and a Few Prizes

What a month! Followers of the Seduced by History Blog have been treated with a treasure chest of historical gems this month. From Egypt to the Wild West, from Tudor England to Medieval Italy. We celebrated Easter and Hunt the Gowk Day, learned the intricacies of writing historicals with heat, and discovered that much of the history we swallow with the popcorn at the movies is, at best, poetic license.

Now it's time to reward 2 faithful followers with something beyond knowledge in our second All-Blog Contest. Once again, I have chosen 2 commenters at random and paired them with 2 bloggers who have volunteered prizes. The winners this month are Kerensa and Stephani Hecht. Congratulations!

April's prizes will be provided by Brenda Wright and Barbara Scott.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pickin' your hoss.


Cowboys on working cattle ranches had a string of horses they picked for their use while working a ranch. The same horse couldn't be used every day chasing critters and traveling great distances, so they had a string to take care of and use.

A "choosin' match" would be held at the beginning of the season. The foreman had first pick, then the older hands down to the last person hired who had the final choices or what was left.

Taking a horse from a man's string was the same as asking him to quit. A newly hired hand would be given a string without a word being said as to the temperaments. If he was a good cowhand, he'd figure it out. Any cowboy who rode someone else's horse or conspired to cause trouble for another was looking for trouble. If a cowboy quit or was fired his string was kept until a replacement was found and his horses turned over to the new employee.

The boss of the outfit counted the remuda or horses every day and took notice if a horse was being abused in anyway. If a horse showed signs of saddle sores or spur marks, the wrangler was asked to take his private horse and leave.

Most cowboys treated their horses well and bonded with each animal. No one wanted to get stranded on the trail or chasing cows without a horse. The hardest part at the end of the trail ride was having the boss sell their string of horses when the cattle were delivered.

Remudas usually contained geldings. They made the best cow horses. Most authors tend to put their cowboys on stallions but they fought and disturbed the peace of the remudas. And mares were too temperamental and a constant disturbing element.

In the fall when the work was done only a few mounts were kept on the ranch. The rest were turned out on winter range. Before letting them loose, the boss checked their ages, conditions, and feet. Every horse in the remuda had a name and was well-known to the longstanding hands. Their names were usually descriptive of their coloring or attitude.

Roundup work was hard on horses and they were changed three times each twenty-four hours. Horses had specific jobs depending on what they were good at. They had circle horses, cutting horses, rope horses, and night horses.

Circle horse- These were horse used to keep the cattle bunched up as they moved. They had to be strong, fast, agile, and not easily intimidated as they may have to ride into or around a herd of stampeding cattle.

Cutting horses- These were the top-ranking horses in the outfit. They were trained to cut a specific animal from a herd. The cowboy would point the horse at the animal and it would know that's the one to cut out. These horses anticipate every move of the cattle, have speed and quickness to spin and turn faster than a cow. It took a good horseman to ride a good cutting horse.

Rope horses - A good roping horse was a must during branding or just checking the herd. A good roping horse knows the minute the cowboy unhooks the lariat that they are ready for business. He races to the side of the cow selected and maintains the position so the cowboy can throw the loop. If the rope misses the horse drops back, allowing the cowboy to gather his rope and reposition. Once the animal is roped, the horse immediately sits back on his hind quarters and faces the animal keeping the rope tight. A good rope horse never lets the rope slack.

Night horse - The remuda has night horses. These are selected with care. The attributes needed in this horse are: gentleness, sure-footedness, dependability, keen eyesight, and a sense of direction. A night horse can see a single cow straying from the herd at night and turn it back without guidance. The horse could find its way back to the camp on the darkest night. Many cowboys dozing in the saddle while on night duty could be wakened by their horse making a sudden move to return a straying cow. A seasoned night horse also knew when the two hour shift was ending and would alert the rider by pulling on the bit and shaking its head. The horse and not the rider knew what to do during a stampede at night caused by thunder and lightning. The horse raced along the flank of the stampeding cattle. The rider gave his horse his head and depended on the animal's sight and sure-footedness to get them through.

A good horse was as well if not more respected than a good cowboy. The job of raising and moving cattle in the west was an occupation of danger and a good horse helped you survive.

My horse, though not a total cow horse yet, Bud, can be seen on the cover of my book Outlaw in Petticoats. You can view the cover, read an excerpt and reviews, and enter my website contest at: www.patyjager.com

Thursday, April 23, 2009

WOMEN IN ANCIENT EGYPT

If you were a woman travelling back in time, ancient Egypt would be the best place to land.
Pharaohs ruled from approximately 3000 BC to 300 BC and they made Egypt a rich and powerful nation, admired throughout the ancient world. They built great temples for their gods and elaborate tombs for themselves.

The mark of a pharaoh was an oval shape containing hieroglyphs, called cartouches. Two of them make up a pharaoh's name and, as well as the Rosetta Stone, it is these cartouches that helped Egyptologists decipher the ancient Egyptian language.

The ancient Egyptians believed that their pharaohs were god-kings. They had to dress, eat and even wash in a special way, and every day they went to the temple to offer food to their ancestors. People thought the god-kings were all-powerful and controlled the flowing and flooding of the River Nile and the growth of crops, as well as the country's success in foreign trade.

It was great to be a woman during the rule of the pharaohs. Pharaohs' wives were also revered as gods and shared their husbands' wealth. The queens were important, but few women ever ruled the country. It could happen only for a short time at the end of a dynasty when there were no men to take over.

Hatshepsut was the only strong woman ruler. When her husband died, she ruled for her stepson because he was only five years old. She held power for about 20 years. But Hatshepsut was referred to as "His Majesty" despite being a woman. She was depicted as a man, without breasts and wearing the dress of a ruling pharaoh, complete with false beard. The queen was so hated by her grandson, that when she died, he ordered her name erased from her monuments and all her statues destroyed.

Nefertiti is depicted in the famous bust wearing a crown and necklace rich with jewels. She was the wife of Akhenaten and helped him establish a new city at Amarna on the east bank of the River Nile in Middle Egypt.

Nefertiti is often confused with Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramesses the Great, around 1275 BC. Nefertari was known for her beauty and charm and her tomb in the Valley of Queens is the most beautifully painted of all the royal tombs, a sign of her husband’s devotion.

Cleopatra, 51-30 BC, was the seventh queen to bear that name. Cleopatra was not born Egyptian but was the last pharaoh of a dynasty in the Greco-Roman period. She was the only pharaoh who had to learn the Egyptian language.

In general, women had a good life in ancient Egypt. They could own property, but they did not take part in government business. Even in temple ritual, priestesses played some part, but the high priests were always men.

Women who were not of the wealthy class dealt with everyday living and usually were farmers or worked for others. Lower class women were servants.

Common women's work included tasks such as: Twice a day, women fetched water and filled huge clay vessels that stood in the courtyard or by the doorway of every house; women did most of the weaving, spinning linen thread from flax fibers; as farmers, women never handled tools with blades. They winnowed the grain, separating the stalks and seeds, and ground the grain for baking; women helped to make wine and beer, and they pressed oil from nuts and plants.; women did not wash dirty laundry. Men handled the laundry because it was washed in the Nile and there was a constant threat from crocodiles along the river banks; sometimes women were hired as mourners to lead funeral processions. These women were paid to wail loudly and cover their heads with dust. Behind them walked officials and the family group.

Ancient Egyptians usually married within their own social group. Girls became brides when they were about 12, and boys married at about age 14.

People dressed in light linen clothing made from flax. Weavers used young plants to produce fine, almost sheer fabric for the wealthy, but most people wore garments of coarser texture. The cloth was nearly always white. Pleats, held in place with stiffening starch, were the main form of decoration, but sometimes a pattern of loose threads was woven into the cloth. Slaves or servants had dresses of patterned fabric. Women wore simple, angle-length sheath dresses with a shawl or cloak for cooler weather.

Women both rich and poor owned jewelry and used make-up, especially eye paint. The favorite eye shadows were green powdered malachite and black crushed lead ore for kohl. Kohl eyeliner was used to help protect the eyes against infection. Women loved perfume and rubbed scented oils into their skin to protect it against the harsh desert winds. Face creams, eye paints and body oils were kept in decorative glass and pottery bottles and jars. They paid great attention to their hair. Some colored their tresses with henna. Others cut their hair short.

The wealthy wore elaborate wigs made from human hair at ceremonial occasions and banquets.

People believed that amulets protected them from harm and warded off accidents and sickness. They wore them as personal jewelry and were buried with them for use in the afterlife.

It is fascinating to explore the world of women in ancient Egypt. Five thousand years ago and now one fact remains true: behind every great man stands an even greater woman.

If you were a woman travelling back in time, ancient Egypt would be the best place to land.
Pharaohs ruled from approximately 3000 BC to 300 BC and they made Egypt a rich and powerful nation, admired throughout the ancient world. They built great temples for their gods and elaborate tombs for themselves.

The mark of a pharaoh was an oval shape containing hieroglyphs, called cartouches. Two of them make up a pharaoh's name and, as well as the Rosetta Stone, it is these cartouches that helped Egyptologists decipher the ancient Egyptian language.

The ancient Egyptians believed that their pharaohs were god-kings. They had to dress, eat and even wash in a special way, and every day they went to the temple to offer food to their ancestors. People thought the god-kings were all-powerful and controlled the flowing and flooding of the River Nile and the growth of crops, as well as the country's success in foreign trade.

It was great to be a woman during the rule of the pharaohs. Pharaohs' wives were also revered as gods and shared their husbands' wealth. The queens were important, but few women ever ruled the country. It could happen only for a short time at the end of a dynasty when there were no men to take over.

Hatshepsut was the only strong woman ruler. When her husband died, she ruled for her stepson because he was only five years old. She held power for about 20 years. But Hatshepsut was referred to as "His Majesty" despite being a woman. She was depicted as a man, without breasts and wearing the dress of a ruling pharaoh, complete with false beard. The queen was so hated by her grandson, that when she died, he ordered her name erased from her monuments and all her statues destroyed.

Nefertiti is depicted in the famous bust wearing a crown and necklace rich with jewels. She was the wife of Akhenaten and helped him establish a new city at Amarna on the east bank of the River Nile in Middle Egypt.

Nefertiti is often confused with Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramesses the Great, around 1275 BC. Nefertari was known for her beauty and charm and her tomb in the Valley of Queens is the most beautifully painted of all the royal tombs, a sign of her husband’s devotion.

Cleopatra, 51-30 BC, was the seventh queen to bear that name. Cleopatra was not born Egyptian but was the last pharaoh of a dynasty in the Greco-Roman period. She was the only pharaoh who had to learn the Egyptian language.

In general, women had a good life in ancient Egypt. They could own property, but they did not take part in government business. Even in temple ritual, priestesses played some part, but the high priests were always men.

Women who were not of the wealthy class dealt with everyday living and usually were farmers or worked for others. Lower class women were servants.

Common women's work included tasks such as: Twice a day, women fetched water and filled huge clay vessels that stood in the courtyard or by the doorway of every house; women did most of the weaving, spinning linen thread from flax fibers; as farmers, women never handled tools with blades. They winnowed the grain, separating the stalks and seeds, and ground the grain for baking; women helped to make wine and beer, and they pressed oil from nuts and plants.; women did not wash dirty laundry. Men handled the laundry because it was washed in the Nile and there was a constant threat from crocodiles along the river banks; sometimes women were hired as mourners to lead funeral processions. These women were paid to wail loudly and cover their heads with dust. Behind them walked officials and the family group.

Ancient Egyptians usually married within their own social group. Girls became brides when they were about 12, and boys married at about age 14.

People dressed in light linen clothing made from flax. Weavers used young plants to produce fine, almost sheer fabric for the wealthy, but most people wore garments of coarser texture. The cloth was nearly always white. Pleats, held in place with stiffening starch, were the main form of decoration, but sometimes a pattern of loose threads was woven into the cloth. Slaves or servants had dresses of patterned fabric. Women wore simple, angle-length sheath dresses with a shawl or cloak for cooler weather.

Women both rich and poor owned jewelry and used make-up, especially eye paint. The favorite eye shadows were green powdered malachite and black crushed lead ore for kohl. Kohl eyeliner was used to help protect the eyes against infection. Women loved perfume and rubbed scented oils into their skin to protect it against the harsh desert winds. Face creams, eye paints and body oils were kept in decorative glass and pottery bottles and jars. They paid great attention to their hair. Some colored their tresses with henna. Others cut their hair short.

The wealthy wore elaborate wigs made from human hair at ceremonial occasions and banquets.

People believed that amulets protected them from harm and warded off accidents and sickness. They wore them as personal jewelry and were buried with them for use in the afterlife.

It is fascinating to explore the world of women in ancient Egypt. Five thousand years ago and now one fact remains true: behind every great man stands an even greater woman.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All Goodly Sport-The King of Music


The things you learn driving around lost in the Welsh countryside. Did you know that King Henry VIII was an accomplished musician? He played every kind of instrument. Recorder, crumhorn, lute, drums, bagpipes and even the organ. 

Southern Wales is the birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty. During my visit there I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to BBC Radio 3, one of their classical stations. They had all kinds of interesting information about the music they play.  I happened upon a show called In Tune.  The guests that day were a Choral group called Sirinu. I rushed right home (as fast as you can go while being lost) and bought their CD, All Goodly Sport.

Henry was first exposed to music as a young boy. Some believe that the tutor who taught the young prince French, also taught him how to play the lute and from that time forward, Henry was enamored of music. He spent hours a day playing the recorder and even later in life spent hours practicing the organ. But Henry’s favorite instrument always remained the lute.

The king was an accomplished lute player. Many times he played for court visitors who were amazed at his proficiency. One minister from Italy even said that the King took great joy in performing his music.

King Henry was also a composer. It’s been said that he composed several mass requiems for the organ and hundreds of songs for recorder and horn, some with words, some without. Many of his love letters to various wives were set to music. Today only the scores for thirty-four short songs remain. Here are the lyrics to one of the most well known of them. 

Past Time With Good Company

Past time with good company
I love, and shall until I die
Grutch who lust, but none deny
So god be pleased thus live will I
For my pastance
Hunt, sing and dance
My heart is set;
All goodly sport
For my comfort
Who shall me let?

Youth must have some dalliance
Of good or ill some pastance
Company methinks then best
All throughts and funcies to digest
For idleness is chief mistress
Of vices all: than who can say
But mirth and play
Is best of all?

Company with honesty
Is virtue, vices to flee;
Company is good and ill
But any man hath his free will
The best ensue
The worst eschew:
My mind shall be
Virtue to use
Vice to refuse
Thus shall I use me...


Music played an important part of life in medieval and renaissance times. Every court no matter how large or small had some kind of musician. The hero in my upcoming release, Widow's Peak, was able to get close enough to high level officials because of his skill with instruments. A man could go a long way with just a quill, a psaltry (that's a stringed instrument) and ... well other instruments of pleasure.

Do you play an instrument? Write songs about friends and lovers like Henry? Leave a comment about your musical life and I'll enter you in a contest to win a copy of the official guide book to Pembroke Castle (Where Henry VII was born).

Hanna

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Senator’s Daughter – The Woman Who Loved John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth – the name brings to mind one of the most infamous murders in American history – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The circumstances of Lincoln’s assassination and Booth’s death days later are common knowledge. What is not so well known is the identity of the woman whose picture Booth carried in his pocket when he was captured and killed. That woman was his fiancé, Lucy Hale, the twenty-two year old daughter of influential New Hampshire senator John Parker Hale.

The circumstances of John Wilkes Booth’s courtship of Lucy Hale paint a picture of star-crossed lovers. Lucy Hale was a pretty woman, but she was nothing like the beautiful young actresses who surrounded John Wilkes Booth, onstage and off. Living in Washington with her parents and sister, Lucy devoted time to her work with the Sanitation Committee, the Red Cross of the era, and even rode in a horse-drawn ambulance to the front line in Virginia during a lull in the fighting. Her father, a passionate abolitionist, appears to have hoped to unite his daughter in marriage with Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s son rather than an actor with a flair for romantic gestures and outspoken southern sympathies. John Wilkes Booth, an actor whose performances drew acclaim for his talent and notice for his formidable appeal to women, had been called “the handsomest man in America” and “the most promising young actor on the American stage”, and provoked outrage for what some citizens considered “treasonable statements”.

Despite the obstacles, their romance began in the early months of 1865. By March, the couple were secretly engaged. Senator Hale, eager to separate his daughter from the outspoken southern sympathizer, visited Lincoln on the morning of the assassination to seek an appointment as ambassador to Spain. The ambassadorship would provide the means to move his family, including Lucy, out of the country and away from John Wilkes Booth. When Lincoln offered the position, Senator Hale accepted on the spot.

Could John Wilkes Booth have fallen for the subtle charms of the senator’s daughter, or had his motivations for their romance been much more sinister?

Historians are divided on this question, although several aspects of their courtship point to motivations other than true love on Booth’s part. A relationship with Lucy Hale benefited Booth’s plans because Lucy enjoyed some degree of political influence and provided access to many powerful figures in the government. Booth even attended Lincoln’s Second Inaugural on March 4, 1865 as Lucy Hale’s invited guest. Several men who went on to participate in the horrifying events of April 14, 1865, including the brutal attempted murder of Secretary of State Seward, were also in the crowd that day. Was this a coincidence? Possibly. Booth’s later comments to a friend when he remarked about his excellent chance to kill the President that day add a chilling aspect to this event and cast into doubt the idea that the Lincoln conspirators had all just happened to gather to watch the man they despised take his second oath of office.

The nature of Booth’s pursuit of Lucy Hale also casts his motives into doubt. Lucy received a romantic note on Valentine’s Day, 1862, signed “A Stranger”. The writer of the note was none other than John Wilkes Booth. Despite this dramatic beginning, he did not continue his pursuit until nearly three years later, at which point he seemed determined to marry her. Within a few short months, they were engaged. During the time of their courtship, Booth was a key plotter in a scheme to kidnap Lincoln, a plan that went awry and led to the assassination conspiracy. Why had Booth become so ardent in his pursuit of Lucy Hale at the same time his schemes against Lincoln were about to be put into play?

His devotion to Lucy Hale is also unclear. While Lucy’s picture was found with Booth at his death, four other portraits of comely young actresses were also found in his pocket diary. Does a man in love carry photographs of several other women into a situation where he had to anticipate danger and possible death?

Historians widely believe Lucy Hale had no knowledge of her secret fiancé’s plans. One can only imagine her shock and horror at the revelation that her lover was to go down in history as a notorious assassin. Did she ever wonder if she unknowingly aided Booth in his scheme? Could her connections in Washington and her father’s political status have furthered Booth’s plans?

The story of Lucy Hale and John Wilkes Booth and their ill-fated, and possibly ill-motivated, romance was one inspiration for my action-packed historical romance due to be released in the coming months by The Wild Rose Press. Set against the backdrop of the tempestuous years of
the Civil War, Destiny is the story of Emma Davenport, the daughter of an influential senator, and the man whose love is her destiny. When Emma is swept away by Christopher Staton, a charming traitor who plans to use her as a pawn in his quest for vengeance, one man risks his neck to save her from a ruthless plot that could destroy them both. Jack Travis embarks upon a bold scheme to protect Emma from Staton and loses his heart in the process.

John Wilkes Booth authored an American tragedy that rivaled any tragedy he performed on the stage. Undoubtedly, Lucy Hale found herself caught up in the horror of his actions. Did she ever wonder if she might have done something to prevent Booth’s infamous actions on that long-ago April night? Had his charming manners and handsome face blinded her to the truth? Sadly, we can only hazard a guess....

Monday, April 20, 2009

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" - William Shakespeare

Names. What you choose to name your hero and heroine can often make or break a story. It can inspire the writer or inhibit her. If the name is a turn-off to readers, they might not pick up the book to read. Yet, if you choose too modern a name for a historical character, your readers will laugh at your ignorance.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism since the late 1990s. One of the first choices any newbie makes is to choose their name. The name reflects the culture and personality you hope to project to the world.

It was as I was trying to name myself that I first felt sympathy and empathy for expectant parents. So many names to choose from and the name is so important. The nickname shouldn't be horrible but even though I was careful, people persist in shortening my first name, Francesca. Anyone out there calls me Frannie and you're dead. Seriously. No offense to the Fran and Frannies of the world , but Francesca is my name, not Fran or Frannie. But I digress. Choosing a name. It took me awhile but I found a first name I liked and use it both as my SCA name and my pen name.

I ran into the same issue when choosing character names. Fortunately, I know an SCA herald or two who can recommend good books and Web sites which offer excellent documentation for medieval names. My SCA persona isn't English but when I knew my stories would be set in Medieval England, I asked an SCA herald for books to document names. He suggested two and I swear by them both.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names by E.G. Withycombe is WONDERFUL. It documents when specific first names came into common usage in England. So not only is it useful to those of us who write stories set in the Middle Ages, but it provides origin information for later time periods too.

When I was choosing a name for my heroine, I wanted to choose the name Verity because it means "truth." Well, I looked up the name in Withycombe and ran into a brick wall. One line, and I quote "Verity (f.): used as a christian name since 17th C." I thought, "well, crap." Then I contacted the herald that recommended the book and pretty much begged him to offer me a plausible out. Thankfully he did. He said it would have been unusual BUT a parent might have named their child Vérité...maybe. (Which probably meant - no they wouldn't have, but I was desperate cause I wanted her to be named Verity, darn it!!) So Vérité she became. I just love artistic license, don't you?

BUT, I can document my hero's name. Eaduin is an older spelling of Edwin. My hero had an Anglo-Saxon father and a Norman mother. Eaduin is Old English - well Eadwine is. It was also the name of the first Christian king of Northumberland. The spelling "Eaduin" can be found in the Domesday Book, according to Withycombe. So this worked great. Of course, Eaduin was actually the villain in another book (which will never see the light of day). After I created him, he convinced me he was merely misunderstood and NOT a villain. I picked the name Edwin because I was sure it was a name I would NEVER name one of my hero's. Eaduin had the last laugh and he's a hero now. He can be very seductive when he wants to be.

The other book I highly recommend for English name research is: A Dictionary of English Surnames by P.H. Reaney. I have the 3rd edition which was updated by R.M. Wilson. If you're a name geek, this book is fascinating reading. My heroine's last name is - by modern spelling - Savigny. This entry provided variations and de Sauigni was documented to the Domesday Book. Score!

I have to admit, once I'd picked out my first names, I just read through the surnames book and looked for names that sounded good together. I was happy with what I found.

Finding names for other cultures can be a challenge, but you can try searching at the Web site for The Academy of Saint Gabriel which is a group of around 50 volunteers who research medieval names primarily for the SCA. Now, you may not be interested in the SCA (which is fine) but let me tell you SCA researchers are sticklers for authenticity and they are also obsessive about excellent documentation. So chances are if you stumble across an SCA site, you will probably find good information. By all means, cross-check your information so you can find things in more than one resource, but an SCA related Web page isn't a bad place to start your research. Look for bibliography information and you'll have located a gold mine.

Now go forth, and name characters! What are your favorite names for heroes and heroines? What names do you hate? Share your adventures in naming!

Note: Just found out this morning (4/20/09) that Seeking Truth will be released by Ellora's Cave on May 29, 2009. Wooo Hooo!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Covered Wagon Women II

I didn't go into writing planning to author books on the American West. My first novels were not set in that region. I sort of fell into it by accident. Now, I've discovered a love for the region and certain time periods. I have a story on the back burner about a couple forced to marry so they can travel on a wagon train to Montana. Their plan is to divorce when they arrive, but of course, that ain't gonna happen! But even as a panster writer (one who doesn't do story boards or character sketches) I do have to plan and I do have to do research. After all, I've never traveled by wagon train. So, I turn to books that relay true life tales of adventure and heroism. I have a couple which have reprinted letters and diaries of women who crossed the country on foot, horseback and covered wagon.

One book in particular is COVERED WAGON WOMEN: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trials, 1840-1849 by Kenneth L. Holmes. Mr. Holmes has culled libraries and museums to find actual letters and diaries to transcribe in his book. He also did biographical research on the women who wrote the stories he relates. It's a fantastic read.

One story I am fond of in his book was written by a young woman, Sallie Hester. Certain recounts of her diary say she was twelve when she wrote it, but Mr. Holmes's research shows she was actually the more mature age of fourteen. Sallie traveled from Bloomington, Indiana to California in 1849. Her parents, two brothers and a sister accompanied her on the journey. Most of her entries were done on Sunday, a day her wagon train nearly always rested.

Sallie's family leaves their home on March 20th and arrives at Vernon, California on October 6th. Their journey starts when they travel by steamboat to St. Joseph, Missouri to meet up with the wagon train. The boat ride is full of its own adventures, as it continually hit sandbars, finally causing the passengers to disembark ten miles from their destination.

Within weeks of leaving St. Joseph, the train finds itself in hostile Indian territory. The wagons circle at night, with the animals kept inside the circle while families pitch tents outside the circle. Men are on guard throughout the night to keep the Indians from killing or stealing the livestock. Sallie and her family sleep inside their wagon on a feather bed.

They “have a cooking stove made of sheet iron, a portable table, tin plates and cups, cheap knives and forks, camp stools, etc.” for the trip. They “live on bacon, ham, rice, dried fruits, molasses, packed butter, bread, coffee, tea and milk as we have our own cows.” Occasionally fresh game is killed and fresh fish caught to add variety to the meals.

The trip, as they all are, is full of hazards. One of the things the travelers have to contend with is cholera. Sallie's train is hit several times by this disease and she reports in her June 3rd entry, “A great many deaths; graves are everywhere.” Her family seems to fair well the entire trip, however. Another hazard is crossing rivers. Sallie reports on June 21st, during a crossing of the Platte River, “A lady and four children were drowned through the carelessness of those in charge of the ferry.”

On July 4th, like a great many other travelers (re: my April 17th blog entry at 'Chatting with Anna Kathryn.') Sallie's group takes a “cut-off,” which should be quicker and faster than the regular route. Instead they have “neither wood nor water for fifty-two miles.”

These days, we just jump into our car and we're off to visit here, there and everywhere. I live 250 miles from my eldest daughter. I can make the trip in about five hours. On August 20th, Sallie notes, “We are now 348 miles from the mines. We expect to travel that distance in three weeks and a half.”

On September 4th she relays their journey through the desert. Though they supply themselves with extra water and cut grass for the cattle, it isn't enough and some of their cattle give out. Cries of “another ox down” stop the train as the men unyoke the dying animal so it can follow or not, as it wills. The baying of the tired and thirsty cattle fills the night as they try desperately to reach water before they lose any more animals. Finally, they see the Truckee. “Saved at last! Poor cattle; they kept on mooing, even when they stood knee deep in water,” Sallie writes.

On September 8th, she writes, “Traveled fourteen miles; crossed the Truckee twelve times.” Can you imagine? On September 21st she describes the train “descending a tremendous hill. We let the wagons down with ropes...At Sleepy Hollow we again let the wagons down the mountain with ropes.”

On October 6th, she announces that the train has reached Vernon, California.“Our party of fifty, now only thirteen, has at last reached this haven of rest.” Her family crosses the river and makes camp in Fremont for the winter. They live in a two room shanty for more than six months. It will do for a temporary home, though. Sallie seems to enjoy her time in Fremont...with a scarcity of girls, she is invited to many outings. In April of 1850, her father travels to San Jose and decides to bring the family there, which is where they settle.

Sallie continues her diary until she marries on October 5, 1871 (which makes her 35 years old). She writes “I was married to James K. Maddock of Eureka, Nevada...and now Dear Journal, I give thee up. No more jottings down of gay and festive scenes—the past is gone and the future before me. 'So mote it be.'”

I think it sad that Sallie thought that as a married woman she had no more insight of her world to offer.


As mentioned above, I wrote of another Covered Wagon Woman on my own blog on Friday, April 17th. You can read about Tabitha Brown's wagon trip at http://annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
More Than Tumbleweeds
Heartwarming, Sensual Westerns

http://www.aklanier.com/

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A bit about the history of food.


One of the things an author of historical romance must research is what food was eaten when. Fortunately for me, the history of food stuffs has always fascinated me. So here are some facts I’ve learned over the years.

If we go way back in history, there are some interesting things about the food consumed by the Israelites. Their rules, handed down from Moses and their religious leaders, make sense with what we know today. But considering their knowledge of science at the time, the rules are intriguing. For instance, they were forbidden to eat pork. At the time, pigs were the scavengers of the food chain. They were fed food scraps, in the dirt, and were often spoiled. Without proper care worms that could be transferred to humans were usually present in the animals.

Then there was the rule they couldn’t serve meat and milk from the same wooden bowls.
Today, we know that the bacteria from meat can become imbedded in wood particles,
spoil and effect food which comes in contact with that wood. Their meat was usually goat or sheep and they used the milk from the goats. Beef, the kind we consume today, was never cooked.

During the medieval ages, in Europe, the fare was venison, all kinds of fowls. People living close to water had the advantage of fresh fish and sea food. The food was served in bowls made of bread and the eating utensil was usually a small dagger worn at the waist. When spices were introduced, they were used excessively, to cover up the taste of tainted food. Lots of people died from what they called indigestion. Today we think they died of food poisoning.

Flour was stored in barrels and often contained objectionable objects. It was brown because they had yet to develop the means of refining it. The drink of the time was ale or wine, both made from their own produce. The serfs or servants usually drank ale. Vegetables were very limited but they did have fruit.

By the way, Whiskey was first produced in Scotland, way back in the 13th century and made it’s way to Ireland then to England.

When the pioneers came to the United States they were introduced to all kinds of new foods. Corn, of course was new, and squash. Even the artichoke was grown by the Indians. Surprisingly, they used a tremendous amount of pumpkin. They boiled it, baked it, put molasses on it, make a soup of it, and even baked it in pies. The Europeans considered pumpkin a peasant’s food, but many colonists survived because of it.

They also had sea food, fowl of all kinds, sheep, and of course the Indians introduced them to the buffalo.

Food preservation was always difficult. Food was dried, salted or smoked. If it had been properly dried it lasted longer than salted or smoked food. Like a fire which had to be tended to keep it going in very early days, the same was true of bread starter. Unless you wanted unleavened bread (cracker without the salt) you had to keep your starter going or make new. It took weeks to get a new batch of starter going.

Sugar has always fascinated me. The first sugar was stored in a cone and scraped or sliced from the cone to sweeten things. And raw sugar is not white. It’s a dirty brown.
Not that appetizing to my way of thinking.

Of course, tea was the drink in Europe which they began to trade with China. Chocolate became the ladies’ drink, especially in the morning, but it was not the sweet hot chocolate we know. It contained some water, milk and bitter chocolate powder made from the pulverized beans. (Ugh!)

I have to admit I’m sincerely glad I live today, when we have so much and such a variety.

Allison Knight
www.AllisonKnight.com
"Heartsong" Named Novel of the Year
"A Treasure for Sara" available now

Monday, April 13, 2009

When a History Teacher Goes to the Movies

When a History Major/Teacher Goes To The Movies.

It can be really tough when a history major/teacher goes to the movies. A basic part of going to the movies is the ‘willing suspensions of disbelief’, that is, you believe what you’re seeing. But I have trouble when I see things in the movies that I’m unwilling to accept as my BA and MA in History and BA in European Studies often get in the way.

I remember years ago when my sons went to see Braveheart and came home talking about the ‘evil English king’. I’m thinking evil English king, evil English king? Then I realize it was Edward I, who generally considered one of the great kings of England. Ok, I understand how from the Scottish perspective he’s evil. But when I saw the movie I found a lot of other problems.

First, while I believe Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) was the kind of a guy who would tip his son’s gay lover out the window, he would never send a woman, the princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau) on a diplomatic mission. Aside from the fact that she would have been a child. Isabelle married Edward I’s son when she was 13 and this was after the execution of William Wallace (Mel Gibson).

The major battle of the movie, filmed on a wonderful big battle field rubs military/history people the wrong way – it’s the battle of Stirling Bridge. The fact the battle was fought on a bridge gave the smaller Scots army the advantage, which is why they won. Ok, it filmed better on a big battle field.

I don’t’ mind a little tweaking to make a better story, but what really bothers the history professor in me is when there’s a total lack of historical reality.

Such was the part that really bothered me is at the end, when the Princess Isabelle goes down to the dungeon to see Wallace (which wouldn’t have happened because she was child). The guard doesn’t want to let her in and she says ‘the king (Edward I) is dead’ meaning that she is now the queen as she’s married to Edward II, and the guard falls all over himself to let her in. At this point I’m trying not to yell at the screen. Everyone knew that Edward II was gay, and had no desire to please his wife. In essence, she just told the guard that she was a nobody and had no influence or authority. Aside from the fact that Wallace was executed two years before Edward I died, and before Isabella married the future Edward II.

Sorry, Mel, but Braveheart is not one of my favorite movies.

I did another double take watching Elizabeth when Elizabeth, (Cate Blanchette) already queen, is dancing with Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) and she’s shocked and angry to find out he’s married. But I knew Dudley married Amy (he needed her families money) before Elizabeth became queen. And Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) only wished he had that much power and influence with Elizabeth as shown in the film.

But don’t get the idea that I don’t like ‘historical movies’. I really enjoyed Gettysburg. My girlfriend, who’s the Civil War buff, took me and then I took my family. The best part for our family was when the Union Lt. Thomas Chamberlain (C. Thomas Howell) questions some Confederate prisoners and he says “No disrespect to you brave men, but why are you fighting this war?” The Confederate prisoner answers that he’s fighting for his ‘rats’. Lt. Chamberlain is puzzled, as is most of the theater audience, and asks “your what?” But since my husband is from Oklahoma, and has a little southern accent. I could see my son’s understood ‘rats’ as ‘rights’. Oh, and any movie that has Sam Elliot (as Brig. General John Buford) is worth seeing.

Another of my favorite historical movies is Mary, Queen of Scots. I used to show this to my class and then ask them to name three things that they thought were ‘real’ and three things they thought were ‘reel’. Most often one of things listed as ‘reel’, the blood red chemise worn by Mary for her execution, but that was ‘real’ (red being the liturgical color of martyrdom). Most student got the ‘reel’ for the face to face meeting of Elizabeth (Glenda Jackson) and Mary (Vanessa Redgrave) as the film show it to be a ‘secret’ meeting.
My son took me to 300 (three hundred), where I had to keep reminding myself it was based on the graphic novel, not actual history.

It’s not that I don’t like historical movies. Some of my favorites are A Man For All Seasons, Shakespeare in Love, Last of the Mohicans, The Train, and The Longest Day. I even like 1776 where John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson sing.

I can even enjoy a light heart historical even as I point out the inaccuracies. My favorite in this is The Mask of Zorro. While I enjoyed the movie and bought the DVD (not too tough to watch Antonio Banderas) here’s what the whispered conversation between me and my companions during the film.

Scene – the ship bringing Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) back to California lands in the middle of now where
Me (whispering) – why are they in the middle of nowhere? No town, pier, or anything?
Companions – shush!

Scene - where Captain Love (Matt Letscher) the American Army officer appears.
Me (whispering) – why is an American military officer acting with authority in Spanish Mexico. A military presence in a foreign county is like an invasion.
Companions – shush!

Scene – they go to the gold mine, all those cells and tunnels
Me (whispering) – they didn’t mine gold like that in California then, it was placer gold panned or washed out of stream beds.
Companions – shush!

Scene – in the fight at the mine there is a wagon load of gold bricks.
Me (whispering) – where did the gold bricks come from? There has to be a smelter to turn gold ore into bricks
Companions – shush!

Yep, life it tough when a history major goes to the movies.

So, what about you? Can you or do you have the necessary ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ when you see ‘historical’ movies? What are your favorite historical movies?

PS - sorry there are no illustrations - technical diffuculities (me) kept me from uploading.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Greetings!

This month my blog will be short here at Seduced by History.
I write about love, relationships and “happily ever after” even if at times it is bittersweet. My stories are heart-felt, but ultimately still fiction.

On the Christian calendar today it’s Easter—a day that many people will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ ~ the One who came to give us the most ultimate “Happily Ever After.” His story, his act of love, is not fiction.

Happy Easter!

Kathryn

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guest Blogger - Delilah Marvelle

It's HARD writing sexy books (pun intended)
by Delilah Marvelle

For those of you that don't know me (and I won't be so bold to say you all do), I write very, very sexy historical romances. So sexy some have actually categorized me as writing romantica. Some going even so far as saying erotica. I absolutely love erotica, but seeing as I know what it is, I also know I don't write it. Romantica is probably more where I fit in. Because in the end, if you were to pull out all the sex scenes in my book, you'd still have not plot but a love story. And in my opinion, sex is only as good as its love story.

Seeing I write humorous historical romances which happen to have scorching scenes in it (or so I'm told), I find keeping up with what my readers want almost frightening. Because you can only keep upping yourself so much. The very idea makes me go flaccid (ehm..,). I swear, there are many, many times I sit in front of my computer and tell myself it's too freakin' HARD to keep writing hot, hot, hot sex, sex, sex, when even *I* want to up and take a break for a cigarette. Even though I don't smoke.

But taking a break from writing hot sex, in the end, would be like me taking a break from breathing. If I hold my breath too long, I'll die. Or rather, my career will. As people now expect a certain somethin' somethin' from me. So it finally came down to me doing something about this cigarette break dilemma I was having. I needed to be more hands on (I just love these puns, don't you?). So I started thinking of ways to keep this flame within me burning. Because if I'm not feeling it, my characters aren't feeling it. And if my characters aren't feeling it, my editor won't want to feel it at all.

So for those of you writing sexy books, allow me to share four tips that keep me going (actually, I have more, but this post has to end sometime). And if you happen to only read sexy books, not write them, then this list will simply make you appreciate how much effort we writers put into being creative.

1.)I try being a sensualist. That is, I focus on pampering myself. Lighting candles, listening to music, watching romantic movies, and anything that will make me feel all girlie, girlie. It's amazing how much it really works.
2.)I make out and get hot and heavy with my husband before I write a sex scene. Seriously. I don't do it all the time, because frankly, it pisses him off when I make out with him, things get heavy (literally) and then I'm like, “Thanks! Now I'm ready to go write!” But believe me, it really works when he does let me get away with it.
3.)I read very hot books that inspire me to write the scenes I know that will make my writing pop. Like Lisa Valdez's Passion. Holy cow. I'm fanning myself just thinking about that book.
4.)I indulge in chocolate and whatever sinful foods I can get my hands on to heightens my senses and makes me happy. Of course, this also requires me setting aside additional time to work out. And sex is actually considered a work out. Which my husband rather appreciates. Grin.

So as you can see, it's hard work staying in the mood and writing sexy books. Because we all love chocolate, but if that's all you eat, chocolate isn't going to taste all that good. Is it? So. What do you do before, during or after writing a love scene you want to share? Keep it clean people. We're trying to stay PG.

http://www.delilahmarvelle.com/
Mistress of Pleasure, Available now
Lord of Pleasure, August 2009
RT REVIEWER'S CHOICE AWARD NOMINEE
for Best First Historical Romance of 2008!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fun and Pastimes in Medieval Italy

by Jannine Corti-Petska

Italy has long been integral in the flourishing of the arts, literature, finances, and fashion throughout Europe. But what did they do in the Medieval period for fun?

In my Italian medieval romances, I have explored many ways Italians have whiled away the hours when not engaging in necessary and important business. In THE LILY AND THE FALCON, I added a game of kicking an animal’s bladder into opposing tents at the hero and heroine’s wedding. Today, this game is called soccer or, as the Italians refer to it, calico.

In the fourth book of my Italian Medieval series, TEMPT NOT MY HEART (not contracted at present), the famous horse races of Siena are a vital part of the story. I’d like to share an article I wrote for Renaissance Magazine entitled “The Palio of Siena.”

Throughout history, men have tested their strength, endurance and skill in ways that often seemed barbaric. The games of medieval Siena were a prime example of the extent these men carried their quest in order to be hailed a champion. For what began among military forces as a war-like competition, soon evolved into violent rivalry between the contrade (districts or neighborhoods) of the town.

Only one contest has survived the centuries—the Palio—which existed well before the 11th century and took place two times a year: on July 2nd, in honor of the Madonna of Provenzan, who miraculously appeared to Provenzan Salvani, the hero in the Battle of Montraperti; and also on August 16th, a day dedicated to the Madonna of the Assumption.

The name of the race was synonymous with the prize awarded the winner. A misrepresentation of the Latin word pallium (meaning a rectangular piece of cloth), a palio was a wool, silk or velvet piece of cloth bearing a representation of the Virgin Mary and was awarded to the contrade who won the race.

Prior to 1555, during the Palio young men carried colored wooden structures usually representing animals, with followers parading behind them in a procession. After 1555, each district began to organize with headquarters defining territorial limits and announcing specific rules, thereby developing its own badge, colors, animal of distinction for its banner, its own church and religious staff, and a stable for the horse racing on its behalf.

In the beginning, men would talk about “running to win the Palio” (correre per vincerer il palio). As the race evolved over time, they spoke instead of “running the Palio” (correre il palio). Pride played a huge role in these races; the horses were decked out as colorfully as their riders, and each district dressed the part, as did individual supporters. And while the town divided their loyalties to the riders, the idea of the contrade was not enforced.

The days leading up to the races were set aside for a festival. During this time, women and girls decorated the streets with rich adornments, flowers and banners in the colors of
their contrade. These were happier times for the town, and the friendly competition among the neighborhoods to see which one could out-decorate the other lifted the spirits of the Sienese.


Late in the Medieval period, the horse races, previously run in a straight like through the streets, began taking place around the sloping shell of the Piazza del Campo. But the incline of the piazza proved to be a dangerous course. Over time, many animals were seriously injured or killed because of the unfit shape of the “track.” Run along the outer rim, the actual race ended in less than 90 seconds. But despite the shortness of it, the winner was hailed a hero and the contrade who won deemed superior above all the others. At least until the next Palio.

To this day, the pomp and circumstance surrounding the short race is a sight to see. The pride of each contrade is the same—the only difference is the more than 500 years of history in between.
Piazza del Campo, Siena

In my newly released Italian Medieval romance, CARINA AND THE NOBLEMAN, you won’t find any sports of yesteryear. However, it is the first book of a trilogy about three psychic sisters separated at birth. To read the first chapter, please visit my website: www.jcortipetska.com

My available books:

CARINA AND THE NOBLEMAN, Available at www.eternalpress.ca

REBEL HEART, 2007 Aspen Gold Finalist,
available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Love and Destiny - Irish Style


It seems as if Ireland has always had a hold on my heart – even before I realized it myself.



Growing up, I spent my summer vacations in a tiny little Eastern Quebec village called Irishtown, where my father was born. I can’t count the number of times I heard him sing Danny Boy, or dance a jig. I was surrounded by Irish/Maritime culture.



When I was fifteen, I developed a crush on an Irish actor, and being a bit of a “research junkie,” I decided I must learn everything I could about Ireland. That was when I began to seriously study the country’s history, culture, myths and legends, music – and anything else I could get my hands on.



Three years later, when I attended a friend’s wedding, I met the man destined to be my husband, and wouldn’t you know his mother is Irish?



I couldn’t get away from Ireland if I wanted to! So is it any wonder that my first historical romance, In Sunshine or in Shadow, is set in Ireland? Here’s a blurb:



Siobhán Desmond will do anything to keep the tattered remains of her family alive, even if it means working for the new landlord – a darkly handsome stranger with secrets in his eyes and pain in his smile. As she watches her village return to life and begin to thrive under Rory’s care, she comes to understand his true nature, and soon finds herself falling under his sensual spell. As danger ignites all around them, Rory and Siobhán fight to right the wrongs of the past – and protect their newfound love.



And here’s a short excerpt:



Rory's words echoed in her brain, sending prickles of alarm through her. "Do you know who did this, Rory?" she asked quietly, fighting to keep the tremor from her voice.


He didn't flinch from her probing gaze. "I think it was Frank and Joe Kerrigan."


The Kerrigan brothers again!


Chilled to the very marrow of her bones, she rubbed her hands over her arms in a futile attempt to warm herself. It seemed her destiny was forever tied to the brothers who'd destroyed her life so many years ago. Would the past never leave her alone?


"Was it because of me?" she asked, her voice no more than an aching whisper.


He heard, though. Abruptly he turned to her and gathered her into his arms. He felt warm and solid and safe. "No, my love, it wasn't you. It was because of me. I dismissed the Kerrigans on Tom's advice. The night he and Nora married, Eileen O'Farrell lost her crop to a fire. Now Tom and Nora's cottage goes up in flames. It's no secret in the village how Charlotte died. Wouldn't Frank and Joe Kerrigan think this a fine way to punish me?"


She heard the pain in his voice and gazed up into his face, raw with anguish. She reached tentative fingers to caress the lines around his mouth and eyes, smoothing away the soot and perspiration he'd accumulated while fighting the fire.


"It wasn't your fault," she whispered, her throat aching with tenderness. She knew this was another burden her wounded love would take upon his shoulders. "Rory, it wasn't! Sure, Frank and Joe Kerrigan were causing trouble in Ballycashel long before you came. Why, look what happened with Michael and Sean!"


"It's different this time," he insisted, and she felt his body shudder against hers. "They're cowards, Siobhán. They won't go after me directly. Instead they will attack me through my people. Who will be next? Old Liam Brady as he's coming home from Donahue's pub? Paddy Devlin as he comes back from courting his girl in Clifden? You?"


A great sense of weariness swept over her. "They've already taken my husband and brother. What more can they do to me?"


"They can take you away from me."


His quiet intensity sent a jolt of molten desire through her. What did those words mean? She'd never belonged to him--not really. Did he truly value her that much? Or was she just another one of his tenants?


"I cannot lose you, Siobhán. Not now, when I have only just found you. I've been a bloody damned fool, thinking if I sent you away, you'd be safe. You will never be safe with me--no one ever has been. But I cannot bear to let you go!"


"I don't want you to!" she whispered vehemently. "I love you, Rory O'Brien, and love is worth any risk in the world." Raising up on tiptoe, she pressed her lips to his in a kiss that bespoke forgiveness, healing and passion.


He broke the kiss and glanced down at her, something like wonder in his eyes. With great tenderness, he skimmed his fingers down her cheek, sending little shivers through her. But his eyes were filled with torment. "I do not know if I can do this, Siobhán."


"Do what, my love?"


"This! Any of this!" He gestured to the small thatched cottages, the fields of potatoes and corn, then to Ballycashel House. "I don't know if I can be lord of Ballycashel. I cannot keep the crops safe, I cannot keep the tenants safe. I just don't know if I can do it all. I don't know if I can be everything to everyone!"


Siobhán touched his face tenderly. "You don't have to," she told him softly. "You don't have to be anything but what you are. You're such a good man, Rory O'Brien, responsible and caring. You've brought Ballycashel back to life. Sure, you're the best landlord this village has ever known, and we're lucky to have you."


"I'm the lucky one," he countered, his hands moving in warm, gentle circles over her back. "For in coming back to Ballycashel, at long last I think I've finally come home."


She pulled him close, so close she could feel the mingled beating of their hearts. "Then come," she whispered against his cheek. "Come all the way home, my love."


He watched her for a long, intense moment, and she could feel the awareness pulsing between them. Then, as if he'd found what he sought in her eyes, he released her, drew off the cloak that fluttered about him like a storm cloud, and tossed it to the ground. He knelt upon it, then turned to her and held out his hand.


"Come home with me, Siobhán."


Come visit me at



http://pages.videotron.com/cowens/index.html


and


http://cynthiaowensromancewriting.blogspot.com/

Monday, April 6, 2009

Trodding the Boards in the Old West

Theater has been the universal form of entertainment for eons. Across Europe and the civilized United States, troupes of actors and entertainers traveled from city to city putting on shows for the masses.

The Old West was no exception. In this sparse rugged land, people hungered for diversion.

During the decade between the Gold Rush and the start of the Civil War, the proliferation of theaters and performers in San Francisco rivaled the heyday experienced in London in the seventeen hundreds. Culture had reached the savage West, and virtually every town, settlement and mining camp rushed to erect theaters to attract performers.

Some of the grandest halls were in San Francisco and Denver. Those in small burgs and mining camps ranged from modest playhouses to tents. A few were little more than platforms.

In California, the massive trunk of a felled tree served as the stage, with the stars serving as lighting for the famous Chapman family who gained fame performing on Mississippi showboats.

Gold brought prospectors to California, and their wealth lured performers west. From that point on, troupes of professional actors routinely traveled throughout the West to give performances ranging from Shakespearian plays to Opera.

Female singers, dancers and actresses were granted a higher degree of success due to the fact that they were women in a country that was predominately male. Solo performances were the featured draw in countless small towns, with pleased miners showing their appreciation of the shows by throws gold nuggets and bags of gold dust onto the stage.

One celebrated actress was Caroline Chapman, the illegitimate daughter of a famed actor. She quickly became the darling of the Western stage, and after one riveting solo performance in San Francisco, a shortage of coins were reported in the city the next day, due to her audience raining coins onto the stage in applause of her performance.

Another actress to achieve great success with her outrageous performances was Lola Montez. Her flamboyant spider dance and darling lifestyle kept her in the limelight for years, but her inability to best rival Caroline Chapman finally drove her from the city and the stage.

Many women made their mark singing, dancing and acting, with many giving performances that leaned toward burlesque. Some reached celebrity status and a few gained great wealth.

Lotta Crabtree started acting when she was a child. With her mother keeping a close eye on her career and her money, she was likely one of the first actresses under the thumb of a stage mother. Where other performers relied on gimmicks, Lotta possessed true talent. Her variety shows in San Francisco earned her the titles of "La Petite Lotta, the Celebrated Danseuse and Vocalist," and "Miss Lotta the Unapproachable."

Even after living through several depressions during the late 1800s, Lotta amassed a fortune of four million dollars by the time she died in 1925. She'd never married, and the one claim of an illegitimate daughter was never proven.

So her entire fortune, much of it in gold, was given to charity.

In One Real Man, I touched on the darker side of female performances that were operated by saloons. Like my heroine, many woman were attracted to the lure of money and fame. Unlike my heroine, the outcome was tragic for far too many women.

What romances have you read that featured an actor or actress?