History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

01 November 2007

Farewell, Good Friends!

Hello, hoydens!

Yes, the rumors you’ve heard are true. I’ve been asked to step down as a Hoyden due to an ill-advised evening I spent with a Scotsman, a vampire, and a certain cold-hearted duke. I had no idea the details would get out and I apologize for any shame I’ve brought to this lovely group of writers. Today will be my last post. O, the humanity!

Actually, the real reason I’m bidding you farewell is far less titillating, unfortunately. *g* I’ve recently been offered a contract for my first contemporary novel... A sexy romantic comedy that I had a blast writing. Talk Me Down will be out with HQN in 2009, and another romantic comedy will follow sometime later that year. So for the near future I will be working on two contemporaries a year and only one historical. And I’m completely useless as a Hoyden when I’m working on a contemp, as some of you eagle-eyed readers may have noticed. But I will continue to write historicals also! In fact, Kensington just offered for another three books, so you’re stuck with me on the scene for a while!!!

Speaking of historicals, I’ve got a new book cover and an official title for my 2008 release! A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure will be out next August and I hope you’ll still consider checking it out. Don’t worry. It’ll be easy to spot. Just look for the purple satin!

A Rake's Guide to Pleasure features a heroine who is quite naughty. I'm sure you're not surprised. If there is one theme that has permeated most of my posts here it is this: People are naughty. Actually, to make it slightly more high-brow, let's say my overarching theme is: Human nature never changes. That's why my Victorian characters are so sexual, despite the repression of the age.

I found this great line in a book called The Dark Angel which examines sex in the Victorian age. "Any society which puts an inflated valuation upon virginity must inevitably resort to desperate measures to ensure its preservation." If these women were really raised to be so afraid of sex and its consequences, if the gentlemen were just too gentlemanly and the girls too mindful... why the constant obsession with keeping them separated every moment of every day? Because regardless of the importance of virginity, they were still horny.
It doesn't matter what century it was... People are inherently horny. So here we go! My last few arguments on the topic: Societal pressure might keep some people from having premarital sex, but not all the people, all the time. (And definitely not the people in my books.)

1. The smarter you are, the more likely you are to be very aware of the restrictions placed upon you, and the more likely they are too chafe. I prefer to write about smart women who may push at those boundaries and question why they’re in place. And though there were many people, male and female, who entered into Victorian marriage completely free of even the faintest idea of sex, there were plenty others who were not smothered beneath the idea of sin and indecency.
Take this amazing excerpt from a letter written by the clergyman Charles Kingsley to his wife-to-be Fanny Grenfell: "My hands are perfumed with her delicious limbs, and I cannot wash off the scent, and every moment the thought comes across me of those mysterious recesses of beauty where my hands have been wandering, and my heart sinks with a sweet faintness and my blood tingles through every limb."
Wow! This to a woman who seems to have remained a virgin until her wedding night! (if her claims of nervousness are to be believed.) That’s hot stuff! Who would've expected a letter like that from a man of the cloth?! Or any Victorian gentleman? But then again...

2. People are horny. (Wait, have I already made that point?) And the characters of the past are people. Just people. I was recently watching the Ken Burns documentary The War. A lot was made of the fact that there was color footage from WWII included. If you watched it, you know why. Because suddenly these boys, these men we’ve watched fight on film for the past sixty years, suddenly they weren’t the stoic, noble soldiers of a different, better time. They were boys just like the boys I’ve known my whole life. It was strange and eerie and very sad to look that right in the face. And the same applies for the people of whatever era we write. These people weren’t anything like the serious perfection of their portraits. They were like us. Think of all the rules you broke as a teenager, think of the first boy you loved! The idea that you would someday marry him even though you were sixteen! Imagine if you actually COULD marry at sixteen! Ah, the stupid things you might do despite the consequences. Speaking of which...

3. Horny does not often walk hand-in-hand with smart choices, no matter how smart you are. These days we have a few choices in approaching our sex life. The basics are A) No sex. B) Heavy petting or alternative release. C) Full-on sex with excellent protection or D) Unprotected sex. And what do so many people choose? D! D!!! Why? Why, why, why? Because too often horny doesn’t think. It doesn’t even pause to allow the woman to say, "Wait, I’ve got a condom in my purse!" much less, "Let’s stop this entirely and think about the long-term consequences to our families and reputations!" Pffft.

Yes, the consequences were serious. Pregnancy. Complete ruination in the eyes of society. Disease. Rejection by your family. Actually, now that I think about it, those are the same as they were in the early part of the twentieth century, and there were plenty of women who "got into trouble" then too, and they were probably in a worse position. A man of the ton who wouldn’t own up to his responsibilities in Victorian England could be in a world of hurt. In the 1950’s? Not so much. And, as Ronald Pearsall asserts about the Victorian era in Public Purity, Private Shame, "Upper-class girls were trusted further than their middle-class contemporaries, and if something unfortunate did happen and an inconvenient little bundle was on the way there would be found means to circumvent the difficulties." Yes, she might be cast out onto the streets, but I’d imagine those are the only instances you’d read about now. A long trip to the continent or a quick marriage weren’t nearly as delicious and much less likely to be recorded for posterity.

All right. That’s it. My last three points. I’ll have to let my obsession with scandal and naughtiness rest (finally!!!) and make way for the amazing new Hoydens who are joining the blog! But I’ll be back often to visit. In the mean time, I’ve got a great idea for a heroine who gets herself into a little too much trouble... and the hero who’s brought in to marry her quickly. I'm grinning already! Farewell!!!


Blogger doglady said...

Victoria, you definitely saved the best for last. What a great post!! I will definitely be looking for the Rake's Guide. The cover is in my favorite color!! Congrats on the contemporaries and have fun!!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

What wonderful post Victoria. The one thing that I've learned about all my Scandalous Women that I've been researching is that a) they were horny and b) they had no problems breaking societies rules while they indulged in their horniness (particularly Barbara Palmer). We'll miss you! Congrats on the contemporaries and the new historicals.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Victoria, you are a treasure and it has been my pleasure and privilege to be a hoyden alongside you. I'm so excited about your new bifurcated career (since I write contemps and historicals simultaneously, I will always welcome any questions, venting, kvetching and qvelling -- I don't know why I'm channelling Yiddish today) from you!

Your final post is so wonderul, and I couldn't agree more! Um... yeah ... people have always had sex (and, goshy-golly-gee, MANY of those people have actually enjoyed and even craved it!!) despite the odd misconception that people who lived during more prudish eras, like the reign of Queen Victoria, or the Eisenhower years, gritted their teeth and thought of England, or new Frigidares instead.

EKM makes a good point about Barbara Palmer (a female rake, if ever there was one). [Happy B'day, EKM]. Certainly most of the royal mistresses I've learned about in the past 5 months broke those molds and enjoyed the sex for its own sake -- they weren't just in it for the jewelry.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Thanks Amanda. And happy belated birthday to you too. One 17th Century woman Ninon de Lenclos actually ran a school to teach men how to make love to women. Would that school still existed!

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Victoria! I'm sorry to hear your time here has ended as I've enjoyed reading your posts! Luckily, I know where to find you. *evil grin*

Best of luck with your future books! I'm thrilled you've been asked for 3 more historicals. Yay!

Take care always!

2:25 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I'll miss bigtime, Vicki -- but you will be back to visit, and talk history, trash, and scandal, right? Best of luck, and mazel tov (channeling more yiddish -- it always comes out in emotional moments)

3:32 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Beautiful color on RAKE'S GUIDE. Very cool. Great post, too.

Stop by often, and BTW when is RAKE'S GUIDE coming out again?

Best, Kathrynn

6:04 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Oh, I'll miss you all so much! Though I'm not going anywhere, I guess! *g*

Thank you doglady (I feel really bad typing that!) and Elizabeth! Elizabeth, my friend Delilah Marvelle has written a great book about a woman who runs a sex school for gentlemen!!! Mistress of Pleasure. It'll be out with Zebra in August 08!

despite the odd misconception that people who lived during more prudish eras... gritted their teeth and thought of England, or new Frigidares instead. hahahaha Amanda, did I know you wrote contemps too? Possibly. I have a horrid memory. I'm off to look at your website!

8:16 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Kiki, thank you so much! I'll see you on MySpace!

And Pam, you are so sweet to me. I'll see YOU in San Francisco!!! Actually, I'll see all of you there, at the bar, I'm quite sure.

And, Kathrynn, clearly I suck at self publicity. *eye roll* Rake's Guide will be out in August 2008. Thanks for the prompt. LOL

8:18 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Bon voyage, Victoria! I've so enjoyed reading your posts, and I 'm so sorry we didn't overlap for longer! Loved your post today. It's so true that hum,an nature is human nature in any era and that there are always people who break society's rules in various ways. I blogged on my own website about this a little while ago. I really think you can motivate such about any behavior in any era, as long as you explain *why* the character would act that way and deal with what hte consequences would be for her/him in their society.

Come back and visit often!

1:30 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Thank you, Tracy! Can't wait for your next book. Are you gonna make me cry again?

Btw, I forgot to thank Kalen... Thank you, Kalen, for brainstorming this group, inviting me to be one of the founding members, and then keeping all of our heads above water. You're amazing!

6:14 PM  

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