History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

13 December 2007

Welcome, Diane Whiteside

Beyond the Dark
by Diane Whiteside
Available January 2008

My apologies to Diane. I grabbed the wrong book of her site in non-caffeinated stupor this morning.

Caught by the Tides - Diane Whiteside

England, 1803

Exhausted after more than a decade of bloody war, England and Napoleon signed a peace treaty two years ago. England paid off her army and navy and set about healing her people.
Napoleon consolidated Europe under his rule and rearmed. Now he stands less than twenty-five miles from England’s coast with the greatest army Europe has ever seen, determined to conquer the only country that’s refused to bow before him.
England is defended only by a handful of troops, the few ships left in the Royal Navy – and the King’s Mages.

Owen Bentham, a King’s Mage, carries a message Napoleon will do anything to stop from reaching London. A howling gale washes him ashore on the Cornish coast, more dead than alive, where he’s rescued by Emma Sinclair, a naval officer’s widow. But the same treasonous mage who wrecked Owen’s boat has trapped Owen and Emma on her estate, unable to deliver the message or even call for help.

To break free, Emma must give more than her heart to this chance-met stranger – or England itself may fall…

“Caught by the Tides” from BEYOND THE DARK is set in April, 1803. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

I love Regency England – and I love the Napoleonic Wars. I love all the classic elements of a great Regency love story – the tightly constrained setting for each story, how conflict is expressed in quick twists of dialog and manners, the vivid details of clothing, locale, and dialect. Yet I’m also fascinated by the intensity of the Napoleonic Wars, how each side could see themselves as fighting for freedom while the other side jeered at them for being tyrants.
Both aspects are highlighted for a few short months during 1803. The world’s future hung by a thread several times during that war and one of the most critical was April, 1803. Napoleon had just crowned himself emperor and is apparently determined to invade Britain, backed by an enormous army. London is frantically rearming, having stripped their army and navy down to basically nothing. France and the entire continent is littered with Englishmen, blindly having jolly holidays abroad and sending home delicious French handiworks.

“Caught by the Tides” is a Regency paranormal, set in an alternate universe as close as possible to historical fact – except for mages.

What/Who do you like to read?

Yes, I’ve read all of Georgette Heyer to the point of nearly memorizing many of her Regencies, plus Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverly... But I’ve also read all of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels, plus many of the other great naval war stories. And, of course, there’s Daphne Du Maurier’s JAMAICA INN!

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

I wanted to write a story where the more upper-crust elements of a traditional Regency were combined with a grittier reality, closer to that of classic Napoleonic seafaring adventures. Then I remembered King’s Messengers.

King’s Messengers are a very secretive lot who work for the British Crown. There aren’t many of them; in fact, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that the British Government even admitted how many there were. They’ve carried diplomatic messages since the reign of Richard III and their silver greyhound badge came from Charles II, who broke off a punch bowl’s ornaments during his exile to identify them. They’re often former army officers and they have a good deal of authority, although it’s usually wielded discreetly. Legend says they can even commandeer a battleship, if that’s what it takes to get their message through.

Ah ha! I had my hero: Owen Bentham, a King’s Messenger, an ex-cavalry sergeant, a gentleman’s bastard – caught between two worlds, a mage but not pleased about it. He’s absolutely dedicated to getting his message to London but there’s nothing Napoleon won’t do to stop him.

I also used the King’s Messengers’ mystique to build people’s reaction to him. For example, when he’s racing to get out of France, other Englishmen will lend him their horses or ride with him, even tie him in the saddle so he can sleep. Emma, my heroine, is appalled when she first sees his condition, since nobody should knowingly attack a King’s Messenger.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

It’s more that I like this period so much I could have spent more time in it – but I was writing a novella! There’s no room for self-indulgence in a hundred pages.

Owen gets picked up by a courier ship in the first chapter, which the French destroy – thus stranding him in Cornwall on Emma’s doorstep. I had a delightful time working out the exact type of ship, what his quarters would look like, how the magickal battle would occur, how he’d be thrown into the ocean – even wrote most of the scene… Then I looked at the page count, whimpered, and deleted it.

Emma is a very respectable woman. However, she’s a naval widow and she’s not about to let Napoleon kill anybody else if she can help it, even if that means risking her reputation. Well, Owen – and I, as a big fan of traditional Regencies – would have enjoyed a somewhat slower courtship, starting with a few lingering glances and maybe some unexpected brushes against each other. But there’s little time for that in a novella, especially when you’ve also got a treasonous mage who’s determined to kill the hero and kidnap the heroine.

Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

The most startling research had to do with Owen’s clothing, which became a major part of characterizing him. At the beginning, he’s a courier, riding across France with a vital message. If stopped by the French authorities, he plans to tell them he’s a British tradesman, desperate to return home. This wasn’t the typical situation for a Regency hero – neither a ballroom nor a fox in sight!

Well, I could easily guess he was wearing high boots, as befitted a former dragoon. Buckskin breeches were also a safe bet, with a simple shirt and cravat. But what about his coat? Wool? Hardly, when he’s carrying guns. Plus, he’s a tradesman and they dressed more roughly.
Sounded like time for a hunting jacket, made from chamois leather!

Owen is dressed from head to toe in leather, the first time the reader meets him? Oh be still, my beating heart… I still can’t believe I can have a historically accurate hero who wore leather.
Owen graduates from that to a blue banyan, its looseness more appropriate to his invalid status after Emma rescues him from the storm. Then there’s the respectable but somewhat ill-fitting clothing he dons to exercise in, only to magickally tweak it into fashionable perfection when he realizes Emma will be accompanying him.

Owen wears full regimentals for the final battle, which I enjoyed designing. His regimental uniform is based on a hussar’s uniform, which was always intended to be impressive – as in, terrifying to opponents. To my surprise, no British hussar regiment ever wore a purely scarlet and gold uniform, since infantry regiments apparently grabbed that color scheme first. (The facings could be scarlet and gold, but not the tunic itself.)

The uniform itself is based on Baden-Powell’s 1930 photo as colonel of the 13th Hussars. Most of his uniform’s elements would be familiar to Napoleon and all of them had meaning to a soldier. The gold braid and gold lace are actually protection from sword cuts, designed to turn away a blade. The fur-lined pelisse, tossed decoratively over his shoulder, can be worn in foul weather. Baden-Powell’s shako is standard British issue. Owen’s bearskin cap is based on a battle honor earned when a British cavalry regiment bowled over a French one during the early eighteenth century.

Gryphons play an important role in “Caught by the Tides” magick. They’re a cross between eagles and lions and are masters of land and air. To my fascination, the egret feather arrived during the British Raj – and I didn’t find it on any other country’s uniform. It seemed appropriate to place a similarly jaunty and arrogant feather on Owen’s bearskin cap, this one taken from a gryphon, to show his growth from leather-clad courier to polished officer of the King and suitable mate for a lady.

One last comment: Regimental colors are still deeply embedded in people’s psyche. One cavalry regiment was originally raised in Ireland during the late seventeenth century, when it wore its founder’s aristocratic colors. The cavalry regiment still survives, although it serves the British Commonwealth. The land where its troopers once came from is now part of the Republic of Eire, not the British Commonwealth. But the people living there still wear the same combination of colors when they cheer their local football team on.


Blogger Treva said...

Just how free were respectable widows to do what they wanted?

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Diane Whiteside said...

Okay, I admit it - Emma has some things going for her! For one thing, she's been widowed for 5 years so nobody expects her to be husband hunting. She doesn't have a reputation to risk, in the same sense an unmarried girl would.

She lives in the depths of Cornwall, not London. There aren't many people around to gossip. The servants are very loyal, having served her family for generations, and can be very helpful.

I thus took the approach she could do as she pleased, so long as she was discreet.

It worked well for a novella, given the tight timeframe. A novel would probably be different, especially for the genuine world and a longer timeframe.

But this is an alternate universe, where mages control their fertility and magick is inherited. The British Crown very much wants women like Emma to have affaires with mages, even though they wouldn't with ordinary men.

So I had to figure out a way to pull that off in a very Regency England-ish fashion. Much headscratching was needed to pull that off, thank you!


5:22 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

This sounds fabulous! Two of my favorite things - Regency England AND the paranormal! AND you obviously did your research which makes it even better. I cannot wait for this book to come out. Not only does your story sound terrific, you are in very good company in this anthology (then again, so are the other three authors!)Have you thought about doing some more in this dual genre/ A series perhaps? HINT HINT

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Diane Whiteside said...

From your mouth to God - or my editor's! - ears, Doglady! It's my earnest hope this turns into a series.

Just got to hope my editor feels the same way...


4:30 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I know a little voodoo, Diane. Can you get me a few strands of your editor's hair??? It is interesting how things have changed since the Regency. I have been a widow for 14 years and people are STILL trying to fix me up with some guy or another. They insist that I NEED a husband. I was obviously born in the wrong time!

6:57 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Hmmmm, was that decorative gold braid metalic thread? Could it really turn away a sword?

Then again, it doesn't really matter, 'cause it looks so cool on a military man (and a prince).

Sounds like a wonderful story, Diane!

12:52 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Sorry to be chiming in late (I love the holidays, but I also feel like I'm running a race for most of December :-). Loved the interview--the blend of the Regency (and military history) and magic sounds fabulous! You definitely need to write more books set in this world!

11:51 PM  

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