History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

30 April 2008

Shop for the Cure with Brenda Novak

I was in fifth grade when I read my first historical romance. It was JANE EYRE and, from that moment on, I was hooked. Next I tore through WUTHERING HEIGHTS and GONE WITH THE WIND. And then, when I was in eighth or ninth grade, I found Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was introduced to Kathleen’s work via A ROSE IN WINTER, and it remains my favorite book to this day. So is it any wonder that when I started writing I chose to target the historical romance market?

OF NOBLE BIRTH, my first novel, came out from HarperCollins in November of 1999, and I still think the cover is one of the most beautiful clench covers ever shot. I’ve heard the cover model’s name is Massimo (but could be wrong about that). With such a start, who would’ve guessed that nearly nine years later I’d be writing romantic suspense? LOL Had I not been orphaned when Harper bought Avon , who knows, maybe I’d still be writing historicals! Or maybe I’ll have the opportunity to come back to them some day. I keep telling my editor about an idea I have for a series. I’m drying to write it. If only for the time…

One of my other favorite books of all time is OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve also really enjoyed Amanda Quick and Catherine Coulter’s stories. I’m sure I’m not alone, which is why I’m so excited to tell you about my upcoming on-line auction for diabetes research May 1 – May 31st at http://www.brendanovak.com/. There, you can bid on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have lunch with Diana Gabaldon, Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz), Catherine Coulter or myriad other items that should thrill any fan of historical romance (or any fan of any kind of romance).

I started this fundraiser four years ago and made it an annual event in an attempt to help my eleven-year-old son (diagnosed at 5) and the many, many others who struggle with diabetes. The need is there--and thanks to many, many generous donors, we’re doing what we can to help.

In the first three events, we managed to raise over $250,000. This year, we’re hoping to match that amount. How? By offering over 1,200 items, many of which can’t be found anywhere else—just like those opportunities to have a personal lunch with one of your favorite authors. There are too many items to list here, so you’ll have to hop over and check it out, but just to whet your appetite, how would you like to win:

An elegant, framed autographed picture of Johnny Depp, Keira Knightly and Geoffrey Rush?

A trip to Hawaii including airfare, accommodations, surf lessons AND spending money from Jane Porter?

A lovely Victorian Wedgewood Cameo donated by Dianna Drake?

A Kindle with a $100 Amazon Gift Certificate from K.M. Daughters?

A trip to San Francisco, Eaton’s Ranch in Wyoming, Las Vegas, New York or Africa ?

An 8 GB Nano with $100 iTunes Gift Certificate from Carly Phillips?

Autographed advanced reading copies of books from your favorite authors, including MR. CAVENDISH, I PRESUME by Julia Quinn (which isn’t out until October)?

Rare and out-of-print books, autographed, by authors like Loretta Chase?

YOUR NAME in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s next Dark Hunter book?

The auction runs just like E-Bay. You shop the entire month of May (there are also one-day auctions going on each day so be sure to check the schedule), bid on whatever you like and pay for what you win via Paypal, credit card, personal check or money order after the auction ends. The person who places the highest number of bids over all, even if that person doesn’t win a single item, will be awarded an amazing prize package that includes a brand new Camcorder (retail value of at least $1,000), Your Name In My Next Book, an autographed copy of TRUST ME (6/08--the first of The Last Stand series), and chocolate (lots of chocolate)!

And that’s not all. As a way to promote the auction, Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, Allison Brennan and I are sponsoring a very fun contest, the winner of which will take a friend on an exciting trip to Port Orchard and Bainbridge Island that includes so much fun stuff I don’t have room to write it all here. Go to http://www.brendanovak.com/ to enter the drawing, register for the auction and receive a $10 gift certificate off your total bill (one coupon per shopper).

Here’s to making a difference!


The Napoleonic Wars in India

When you think of the Napoleonic Wars, India isn’t usually the first place to come to mind. We all know about Napoleon’s Egypt expedition (who isn’t amused by the notion of Napoleon swanning around in a turban?), meant to threaten the British in India, but I had always assumed that that was pretty much that, and that India, five months from Europe by boat, had little else to do with the Franco-English struggle on the Continent—the other continent.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The history of the Napoleonic Wars in India is a tangled combination of French and English partisans attempting to win the support of local rulers as part of pan-French or pan-British schemes, while local rulers played off one side against the other for their own ends, courting British or French military and diplomatic assistance as their own affairs and historical rivalries dictated. One of the most flamboyant examples is that of the kingdom of Mysore, where the ruler, Tippoo Sultan, long an enemy of the British, cultivated the revolutionary regime, loudly announced his support for Robespierre, donned a Cap of Liberty, and referred to himself as “Citizen Tippoo” (although one wonders what he would have done had any of his subjects had the nerve to refer to him so).

Tippoo wasn’t the only one hoisting the tricolore in India. Many of the independent rulers of India had hired European adventurers to lead corps of their personal armies. The foreign mercenaries were technically accountable to the local princes they served. But when war broke out in Europe, national loyalties were recalled and schemes were mooted throughout the cantonments of India for pressing the French revolutionary cause and beating out the British. In Hyderabad, the French corps (fourteen thousand men strong) fought under a flag bearing the revolutionary tricolore. Their captain, M. Raymond, had schemes for uniting all the French in India against the British and establishing France—revolutionary France—as the dominant power in the region. When Raymond died under mysterious circumstances in 1798, his work was picked up by his deputy, Jean-Pierre Piron, who made his own intentions clear when he sent a Cap of Liberty and a republican silver tree to fellow French commanders in the employ of other Indian rulers.

By 1799, Napoleon’s fleet in Egypt was destroyed at Aboukir, Tippoo Sultan was defeated by Colonel Arthur Wellesley, and the English Resident at Hyderabad staged a bloodless coup that neutralized the ambitions of Piron’s French forces. But the struggle between French and British in India, filtered through local battles and rivalries, still went on. In 1802, General Pierre Perron importuned Bonaparte for French troops for Daulut Rao Scindia’s army. The troops were sent. A boatload of French troops made the mistake of landing at the British capital of Calcutta and were sent packing. After the Mahratta War of 1803, one of the conditions in the treaties signed with the various defeated Mahratta chieftans was that they dismiss all French officers in their service. The Governor General of India, Marquess Wellesley (Arthur Wellesley's older brother) wasn't taking any chances.

In the end, the French threat in India was neutralized. But in the process, the nature of British involvement in India changed irremediably. Most of the works I've consulted agree that Marquess Wellesley's stint as Governor-General at this time was a formative period in British India, the definitive moment when the British in India laid the foundations for the Raj, where they went from being a foreign power, working through treaties and diplomacy with local rulers, to ruling outright. One has to wonder to what extent the British fear of French influence in India, during the long, drawn out struggle of the Napoleonic Wars, contributed to this monumental change.

So far, in doing my India research, I've been surprised right and left by all sorts of things (including the fact that Eli Yale was Governor of Madras-- who knew?). Have you come across any historical surprises recently?

28 April 2008

Privacy -- or the lack thereof

Of all the ways in which life in Regency England differs from my own, none strikes me more than the issue of personal privacy.

Imagine having someone within earshot, if not within sight, every moment of the day. Large country houses were large and somewhat isolated, but there were hordes of servants in the house and on the estate, and the duties of those servants required constant intrusions into the privacy of their masters and mistresses. Servants were trained to walk into rooms without knocking. Even at night, they were close at hand. During most of the 18th century, most valets slept in a small room just off the master's dressing room, and ladies' maids slept in a room adjacent to the lady's bedroom.

This shifted a bit at the turn of the century, as improvements in the bell pull allowed servants to be housed on a separate floor. But even if the servants were sleeping far removed from their betters, they were still present in the bedrooms of their masters and mistresses from before dawn until well after dark. Early each morning, a servant would enter each room – long before the occupant awakened – to open the curtains, light the fires, and bring water for the washstand. A little later, different servants would arrive with chocolate or tea and help their employers dress for the day. During the day, servants would enter the room to air the bed, change the sheets, stoke the fires, replenish coal, and tend the lamps. All this coming and going meant that no one could be assured of privacy at any particular time in any room of the house.

It doesn't take a dirty mind to imagine the sorts of domestic dramas that must have played out in front of the watching eyes of the servants. Servants knew everything – when the ladies of the house had their courses, when beds were shared or not slept in, when clothes were torn or undergarments needed washed. Chances are that one of the first people to know when a young lady lost her virginity was her maid. Would years of service lead her to help her mistress cover up the misdeed? Or would she be tempted to blackmail?

When I'm brainstorming a new plot, I always wonder what role the servants might have played in the lives of the hero and heroine. Was the valet an enemy? The maid a confidant? Did the footman willingly run billets-doux to a lover, or was he firmly in the pocket of the master? In my current work-in-progress, I think the heroine is going to be betrayed by her maid – a woman who's motivated by economic concerns to throw her lot in with the master.

And what of all those interruptions into private reverie? Even knowing my husband is in the house with me, I still give a start when I hear him close a door. Did the mistress of the estate jump when the door to her dressing room opened and a maid came in to open the drapes, light the fire, or remove the chamber pot? Or did she blithely continue whatever activity she was in the midst of, as though the maid was of no consequence? It's difficult for me to imagine, but perhaps such intrusions were considered a normal part of life. What do you think?

25 April 2008

The Warp and Woof of Historical Fiction: What They Read and Wrote and (even) Wore

One of the joys of history-hoydendom is bouncing off the thoughts and words of the others in our group. And Tracy's intricate and elegant post about the political context of Waterloo and Peterloo has plunged me into vortex of associations, some of which have been swirling in my backbrain since I tried (and failed) to write my own book set in 1819 Manchester; some of which I've only encountered in the reading I've been doing very lately; and some of which I'm resolving to follow up as soon as I can.

But although in The Slightest Provocation I did do a lot of research about the political context of Home Office-sponsored provocateuring (the plot follows the documented day-to-day activities of a certain seedy secret government agent, known to history as Oliver the Spy), in truth political context isn't my favorite thing about writing historical romance.

In truth, what I most love is thinking about is what people read and wrote during the period I'm trying to portray. Because majoring in English (as Garrison Keillor has shown us) is a commitment that goes beyond your four years of college...

And so, qua Peterloo, the lifelong English major in me couldn't help but think of this response to the event, written soon after it happened, by one of the most passionate and engaged writers of that -- or of any -- age:

I met murder on the way
He had a mask like Castlereagh
Very smooth he
looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:

All were fat; and
well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Shelley's "Masque of Anarchy," goes on for far too long (this is only a tiny excerpt). But it's still one of the most brilliant responses ever written to outrageous political violence (and would we had him with us now).

But here are some less well known and considerably less brilliant words from Blackwood's Magazine of the same period: "It is a better and wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet, so back to the shop Mr. John."

A gentler outrage, this one. No hussars charging into a crowd and slashing at innocent women demonstators here. No marchers cut down, Sunday clothes bloodied, the greenery they'd stuck in their hatbrims that bright morning torn and muddy and trampled underfoot. Only a stupidly self-regarding gentleman of letters sneering at Shelley's friend the apothecary and surgeon John Keats, for having the effrontery to write English poetry.

Keats continued to write, of course. For what it's worth, it was during the dark and difficult years of 1818 and 1819 that Keats wrote most of his prodigious output, before dying of consumption. And I can't help but associate this young writer's asgoinighs will and ambition with that of the period -- steam technology, empire in Asia and Africa, fortunes to be made in manufacturing, inner worlds to be discovered in romantic poetry. (I wanted to call my failed novel of 1819 Steam.)

And here are more words, from another man who'd worked in a shop -- the manufacturer and progressive employer Robert Owen remembering how, as a young assistant to a draper, every morning he had "the hairdresser to powder and pomatum and curl my hair."

While as to what links these quotes together...

..and what links them as well to our unfailing history hoyden interest in period dress and what it meant to feel your best in the clothing of a time other than our own...

...for me at least part of it must be the problem of how to portray a society like Georgian and Regency England, that was so callously stratified and yet so buoyantly striving.

An author ought to remember the period's cruel political reaction and repression, the appalling working conditions the as-yet unorganized factory workers fell victim to. But she also needs to remember that even the victims of history are the heroes and heroines of their own stories.

And that the heroes and heroines of their own stories always will probably always try to dress as befits a hero or heroine. Which is why, I suppose, I'm touched by young Owens' powder and pomatum, as well as the Peterloo marchers' Sunday clothes.

And why, first chance I get, I'm going to check out what looks like a wonderful new book. If you're as interested in dress as a part of the social fabric of everyday life in Georgian England as I am, you can read the whole of the TLS review of John Styles' The Dress of the People: Everyday fashion in eighteenth-century England here.

Which makes me wonder how you -- readers and you writers both -- resolve, or even approach, the historical paradoxes of ambition and optimism in times that do their best to crush it.

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23 April 2008

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!

For Shakespeare, England, and St. George!

First, let me state that I am not one of those people who believe that William Shakespeare’s plays and poetry were written by someone else. Nor would I dare to offer such a scurvy insult on this 444th anniversary of his birth—which is also the 392nd anniversary of his death.

It would be ridiculous to rehash his biography in the brief space of a blog post, particularly when that information is so readily available from a plethora of sources. But, for anyone who is entrenched in the camps that fervently believe that a “nobody” could never have written such glorious, deeply insightful, universal and transcendent works of literature—Shakespeare wasn’t exactly a nobody.

John Shakespeare's house in Stratford Upon Avon

His recusant Catholic father, John Shakespeare, had worked his way through Stratford’s political system. He began as a tradesman, a whittawer (one who worked in white leather goods), and got himself elected to various local offices, becoming an alderman and a bailiff, the highest office in the town. He was a gentleman who was eligible for a coat of arms; a prominent and respected figure in Stratford.

John Shakespeare's coat of arms

Some scholars like to point to William Shakespeare’s scant schooling as proof that he could not have penned such brilliant works as are attributed to him.

However, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Shakespeare would also have acted, as part of his education, either in Latin plays or in oratorical declamation, the latter a crucial part of the performative training in classical rhetoric. William's own education was not likely to have been affected by his father's fluctuating fortunes. . . . Certainly, given John’s status in the community, his four sons would have gone to Stratford’s grammar school where their education would have been free. Before that William would have attended “petty school” from about the age of five to about seven, learning to read.

At the King’s New School, Stratford’s splendid grammar school, William would have learned an immense amount of Latin literature and history, perhaps using the Latin–English dictionary left to the school by John Bretchgirdle who had baptized him. Among the works that Shakespeare later used as sources for his plays are a number that he would have read as part of his grammar-school education: the history of Livy, the speeches of Cicero, the comedies of Plautus and Terence, the tragedies of Seneca, and the poetry of Virgil and, above all, Ovid, who remained his favourite poet. The range of Latin writing that formed the curriculum was, by modern standards, vast. The mode of teaching, by a good teacher assisted by an usher, was one calculated to ensure the arts of memory, facility in composition, and rhetorical skills.

So, William was not the country rube that some academics would like to depict. I like to think of him as an extraordinary sort of sponge, soaking up everything around him, from the plays performed by the traveling theatre troupes that visited the Stratford of his youth, to everyday interactions among the people he encountered and observed throughout his life.

But enough about Will; you can celebrate his birthday by exploring his biography and his writing on your own. I want to hear from you. Do you enjoy the works of Shakespeare? Some more than others? Do the contemporary attempts to impose “concepts” on his plays ruin the experience for you, or enhance it? How has Shakespeare shaped your own reading and writing experience? (As I occasionally have difficulty plotting, I admire him for cribbing his plots from other sources! And now, contemporary writers crib their plots from him!)

21 April 2008

After the Deadline

How many times in writing process do you look up a word to see if it was in use in your period? What are the sources you use? Generally, I rely on Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. I use my OED when I have some spare research time, which is to say, not that often.

Here is the list of words I looked up in the last two months. Can you tell me which words were in use in 1815? The answers will be at the end of the post. Please do test us on your favorites.

chatelaine (as a fob)







breaking and entering







And bedeviled as I am with rampant insecurity I always wonder how many words there were that I did not even think to look up.

With my manuscript on my editor’s desk I am clearing my own desk of research material, preparing for the next project and playing with the idea of going to England to visit the Peak District. That last may be pure fantasy but as soon as I receive my next royalty check (this week!?) I am going to check into the possibility. Either I have the money and no time, or the time and no money. We’ll see which it is this year or if maybe the stars will align.

One of the wonderful books that I read while writing Lovers Kiss was Izaak Walton’s The Complete Angler. The 17th century voice is as much fun as the content. If you have not read it, I encourage you t0 do so. Even if you do not fly-fish. There is a reason this book has been in print for most of its 350 years.

Once again I made nodding reference to Rowlandson’s cartoons and Hogarth’s paintings which Michael finds in the vicar’s office. The vicar, a truly holy man, explains that he has led a very sheltered life and Hogarth and Rowlandson have been an essential part of his education. The cartoon shown above is a play on the English fascination with everything Egyptian. The cartoons that educated the vicar are too lascivious to use here.

The books I read on cooks and cookery made me realize how much the process of preparing food has changed in 200 years but how much the enjoyment of food has stayed the same. I spent quite a while trying to come up with recipes that readers could relate to and were also something that had a Regency feel. I decided on cinnamon buns and chicken soup. I even tried (and love) the recipes.

The post war political anxiety and the fist stirrings of industrial development were very much in my mind in this last project, but are only on the edges of the story. I think politics will be a more important element of the next book in the series. The head of the family, the Duke of Meryon, is the hero and it was a time when every responsible man was called on to take a stand, don’t you think?

These days between two projects is so much fun for me. Did you here the Oprah figure that 84% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs? For once I am delighted to be in the minority.

Here are the words and their dates of usage according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate. Corrections welcome.

Chatelaine: 1845

restorative: 15th century

reconnaissance: 1810

self-control: 1711

mulish: 1751

mildew: 1552


breaking and entering: 1797

lollygag: 1868


parlor: 1552

obstreperous: 1600

momentum: 1610

hullabaloo: 1762

Reconnaissance surprised me and played right into my story. I did not use "breaking and entering" even though it qualified because it sounds too modern. I think the hullabaloo sounds much more Victorian than lollygag.

What are your favorite resources for checking on word usage? How about some words you would care to share?

18 April 2008

Tzu Yeh: Geisha Poet

I’ve never been a student of poetry or even considered myself a fan, but I must admit when a poet manages to convey powerful emotion or evoke the senses with just a few well-placed words, I read with awe and envy.

I recently discovered the works of a poetress named Tsu Ye (Tzu-Yeh Shi), a geisha who lived in 4th century China, Chin dynasty. I think her words resonate with all of us, even though she penned the verse centuries a ago . Tsu Ye writes:

I cannot sleep for the blaze of the full moon.
I thought I heard here and there
a voice calling,
hopelessly I answer 'Yes' to the empty air.

It is night again.
I let down my silken hair over my shoulders and open my thighs over my lover.
'Tell me, is there any part of me that is not lovable?'

I had not fastened my sash over my gown when you asked me to look out the window.
If my skirt fluttered open, blame the spring wind.

The bare branches tremble in the sudden breeze. The twilight deepens.
My lover loves me, and I am proud of my young beauty.

I am the North Pole steady for a thousand years.
Your sun-like heart goes east in the morning and west in the evening.

Your Deceits

I’'m too unschooled to play these games -False starts, excuses, lies,
But you are like free-floating river weeds

Changing with every shift of the Spring wind . . .

Winter skies are cold and low, with harsh winds and freezing sleet.
But when we make love beneath our quilt, we make three summer months of heat.

When she approached you on the street, you couldn't possibly say no.
But your neglectof me is nothing new.

Hinges soon sag on an empty door: it won't fit snug like it did before.

A Smile
In this house on a hill without walls,
the four winds touch our faces.

If they blow open your robe of gauze,
I'll try to hide my smile.

An End to Spring
Your leaving brought an end to spring,
now longing burns like summer's heat.

Will I ever lift my dress for you again?
Will my pillow ever hold your lovely face?

Yes, Tzu Yeh wrote touching, erotic love poems, but did you know Tzu Yeh also wrote the wonderful Ballad of Mulan? I had no idea (admitting my ignorance here).

Tzu Yeh fascinates me. I wonder what she looked like, who she loved, and what events inspired her. I can find almost no details about her life, or even an image, but I am glad her words left us a glimpse of a complex and brilliant woman.

If you know more about her, please post! Do you have an ancient, perhaps obscure but favorite poet you’d like to tell us about?

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16 April 2008

The aftermath of Waterloo & Peterloo

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the social and political context in 1817 England and Scotland, in which Beneath a Silent Moon (the second book in my Charles & Mélanie Fraser series, which is about to be reissued) takes place. The third book in the series, The Mask of Night (as yet unpublished) begins two and a half years later, at a Twelfth Night masquerade ball on 6 January 1820. Britain is still grappling with many of the same issues and so are the characters.

Waterloo is only four and a half years in the past. Napoleon has been defeated and exiled to the tiny island of St. Helena, but the ruling powers from Whitehall to Paris to Moscow still fear he could escape. In France, a restored Bourbon King is on the throne, and the “Ultra Royalist” faction is in power. Their zeal to exact revenge for everything since the Revolution has brought about the “White Terror” in which scores of former Bonpartists have been imprisoned and executed. In this fevered atmosphere, political games are played for life and death stakes and personal loyalty is an ephemeral thing.

The Come de Flahaut, a real historical figure who plays an important role in The Mask of Night, is fortunate to have escaped France. In the words of a character in the book, had he remained “he might well have lost his head, and not over a pretty woman this time.” Flahaut was an officer in Napoleon’s army and the lover of the Empress Josephine’s daughter, Hortense (who was unhappily married to Napoleon;s younger brother, Louis). Flahaut is also the illegitimate son of Talleyrand, Napoleon’s wily one-time Foreign Minister. Talleyrand has managed to survive under the Bourbons (he represented France at the Congress of Vienna) and has helped protect Flahaut. Flahaut has sought refuge in Britain and married the British heiress Margaret Mercer Elphinstone (whose father, Admiral Viscount Keith, escorted Napoleon to St. Helena; research into the connections between real historical people often convinces me I shouldn't worry that my fictional characters are too intertwined :-).

Flahaut's former lover Hortense Bonaparte is also exiled from France, living in Switzerland with her two young sons. The plot of The Mask of Night has her make an entirely fictional secret trip to Britain. In my fictional world, Hortense and the Bonaparte family have past ties to my heroine Mélanie. Hortense calls on these ties in the book, putting Mélanie in a dangerous predicament.

While the British Government still worries about Bonapartist plots, the situation in Britain itself is far form easy. As I mentioned in my post on the situation in 1817, the Napoleonic Wars left Britain victorious but badly in debt. Work is scarce and the price of food is exorbitant. The Tory government (Lord Liverpool the Prime Minister, Lord Sidmouth the Home Secretary, Lord Castlereagh the Foreign Secretary, among others) have a pervasive fear of violent revolution at home. (Echoes of the French Revolution reverberate through the politics of the day). At the same time, the Government Ministers fear Parliamentary reform and see repression rather than any sort of reform as the best way of preserving the world as they know it.

But while the Government fear revolution, they recognize that events such as the mob surrounding the Prince Regent on they way to the opening of Parliament in 1817 help pave the way for repressive measures. They also realize that revolutionary talk, violent acts, and rioting are an effective way to separate moderate radicals and reform-minded Whigs from their more extreme fellows. As Will Gordon, a young actor and radical, says to Charles in The Mask of Night, “And with every act of violence more sober bourgeois and nervous aristocrats decide that even modest reform is the first step to the guillotine.” With this end in mind, the Government, particularly Lord Sidmouth, employed agents provocateurs, who infiltrated radical groups and not only reported back to Westminster but actually incited violent action.

On 16 August 1819, four and a half months before The Mask of Night begins, a radical meeting took place at St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester. Manchester had been the site of prior meetings and demonstrations, mostly in favor of reform of Parliament and against the Corn Laws. There had been some reports of men drilling with staves, though this was perhaps at the instigation of agents provocateurs in the pay of the Government. The 16 August meeting, however, began as a more festive event with an almost country fair atmosphere. Radical groups from all over the country arrived with bands playing and banners flapping in the breeze. The men were unarmed, even with staves, and many brought their wives and children with them.

Several local magistrates watched the meeting from a house overlooking the square as a crowd of sixty to eighty thousand people gathered to hear speeches by the famed radical speaker Henry (”Orator”) Hunt and others. As Hunt began to speak, mounted men charge the crowd, trampling spectators and attacking with sabres. Almost six hundred were wounded (including over a hundred women) and at least eleven were killed. The Government claimed afterwards that they had urged caution and the local magistrates had panicked and ordered the attack. Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, would have sanctioned the use of the 15th Hussars, who were stationed in Manchester, but most of the carnage was committed by the local Yeomanry, who may have been under orders from the magistrates. However, as J.B. Priestley mentions in The Prince of Pleasure, there have also been suggestions that Sidmouth had sent his own instructions to Manchester in secret. As with so many historical events, the truth of what happened remains open to debate.

The events of 16 August came to be called Peterloo, a darkly ironic play on Waterloo . The Prince Regent responded by thanking the magistrates and the military for “decisive and efficient measures for the preservation of the public peace.” As Priestley describes it, while “Tory loyalists were congratulating the Manchester Yeomanry as if they had cleaved their way trough Napoleon’s Old Guard, to most people in the country, of the middle as well as the working class, Peterloo came as a profound shock. Throughout the late summer and early autumn of 1819, industrial workers, especially in the Midlands and around Tyneside, still furiously reacting to the news, were buying sharpened knives to fasten to their staves–and so make pikes.”

The battle lines in the country were more clearly drawn than ever. Lord Althrop, a Whig, brought a motion in Parliament for an inquiry over Peterloo. But to some, words and Parliamentary inquiries didn’t seem an effective response. In The Mask of Night, Mélanie remembers their friend David discussing a speech he planned to make in support of Althorp’s motion and his lover Simon turning on him:

Simon had clunked down the decanter and said, Where the hell is that going to get you? Even if it passes, do you think it will change anything? The usual irony had been quite gone from his face and voice.

David had taken out his handkerchief and blotted up the port that had splashed from the decanter. It’s a start, he’d said, in a hard, even voice.

That’s brilliant, David. Simon had stared at David with the full force of the caustic wit Mélanie had never seen him turn on his lover. The Government used troops to break up a peaceful meeting. Women and children were trampled in the streets. And you’re going to make a speech saying they shouldn’t have done it.

Althorp’s motion for a Parliamentary inquiry into Peterloo didn’t pass. By 30 December (just days before The Mask of Night begins), Parliament passed the Six Acts proposed by the Government. Magistrates could search private houses without warrants and summarily arrest and sentence anyone they suspected. Meetings of more than fifty persons required the permission of a sheriff or magistrate. Anyone attending a meeting for the purpose of drill or training in weapons was liable to arrest and transportation. “Seditious libel” (a term that could be made to encompass just about anything a magistrate wanted it to encompass) could lead to immediate prosecution. And a stamp duty brought the cost of periodicals up to at least sixpence, which made it more difficult to disseminate information.

The Mask of Night unfolds against this backdrop, in a city seething with suppressed unrest, teetering on a knife edge between reaction and reform. These issues form the basis of the conflicts for the central characters, real and fictional. The Comte de Flahaut and Hortense Bonaparte are each, in their own way, attempting to find safety in the post Waterloo world. The Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, and my fictional Lord Carfax (Charles’s former chief from his intelligence days) and are determined to suppress dissent and unrest at all cost. Charles and his Oxford friends and fellow MPs, David and Oliver Lydgate, are increasingly frustrated at the possibility of any sort of reform. Simon questions the possibility of effecting change through legal means at all and doesn’t reveal all his activities to David. Mélanie and Charles face that fact that the past is not as far behind them as they would like it be. At heart Mélanie is still a revolutionary (and now free to voice her opinions to her husband) while Charles, however reform-minded, is still a member of the aristocracy. As Charles says in this exchange with Mélanie:

We listen to the evidence and we each make up our own mind and act as we see fit. Same as we’ve always done.”

And if we make up our minds differently?

It won’t be the first time we’ve been on opposite sides. Only this time the battle will be out in the open.

In my post on 1817, I asked about the tension between the often intimate canvas of a novel and hte wider context in which the novel is set. But what about books in which issues involved in the wider context form the basis for the characters' conflicts. Writers, have you written books like this? Did you begin with the characters or the historical context? What were the particular challenges? Readers, is this a kind of a book you like to read? Why or why not? Any interesting examples to recommend?

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14 April 2008

Pocketbooks and Wallets

Over on Candice Hern’s discussion board we were talking about wallets and pocketbooks recently, and now I'm obsessed with making one. After a bit of research (don’t throw me in the briar patch!) I went out and got all the supplies and started in. To the right is an extant pocketbook from 1780 from the collection at Old Sturbridge Village.

I copied the pattern I’m using from an 18th century chair in the MET’s collection (see image to the left), but I'm using a different color pallet, which I got from an 18th century pocket book in the Old Strubridge Village collection, but I can’t get that site to open today. *grumble*

A bit of etemology for those who like that sort of thing: The OED gives 1845 for the “wallet” usage we’re talking about:

3. A flat bag, usually of leather, closed by a flap fastened with a button or clasp, or secured by a band. Orig. U.S. a. A pocket-book for holding paper money without folding, or documents.

1845 N. P. WILLIS Dashes at Life II. 245 Our several borrowings were thrust into a wallet which was sometimes in his pocket, and sometimes in mine, as each took the turn to be paymaster.

Earlier usage seems to have been for a larger bag:

1. a. A bag for holding provisions, clothing, books, etc., esp. on a journey either on foot or on horseback; a pilgrim's scrip, a knapsack, a pedlar's pack, or the like. c1670 in 10th Rep. Hist. MSS. Comm. App. I. 39 A wallet to cari books. 1712 Spectator No. 289 9 Having looked about him for some time, he [a Dervise] enter'd into a long Gallery, where he laid down his Wallet, and spread his Carpet, in order to repose himself upon it. a1721 PRIOR Cupid turned Plowman 2 A rustic wallet o'er his shoulders ty'd. 1760-2 GOLDSM. Cit. W. lxii, With her scanty wardrobe packed up in a wallet, she set out on her journey on foot. 1791 A. WILSON Pack Poet. Wks. 1876 II. 30 My pond'rous Pack apo' the ground I carelessly had flung; A wallet green, wi straps fast bound. 1840 DICKENS Old C. Shop xii, The old man had forgotten a kind of wallet which contained the light burden he had to carry.

So what I’m making is a pocket book, and yes, both men and women carried these. Some of them are embroidered, but many of them are done in a type of needlepoint called

Bargello (or Florentine work). It involves a series of straight stitches that leap over multiple squares of the canvas. It also involves the use of changing hues of the same color. It’s period from the late 16th century on up.

To recreate the pattern I took the detail image of the chair and blew it up on my computer until I could count the stitches, then I worked it out on graph paper. I choose colors similar to those on another period pocketbook (pinks and blue-greys). To the right is a scan of my progress to date . . .

I can’t wait to get the Bargello work done so I can start assembling the actual pocketbook! I’m sure I’ll be carrying it at the RWA conference in July. So if you happen to be there and want to see it, just ask.

11 April 2008

Smelling like a Rose ... a brief overview of perfume

Smelling good has been high on the list of Musts (no pun) since mankind climbed down from the trees. Balsam was the first scent actually used for something “off the plant.” Balsams (Balm of Gilead, for instance) were used to treat wounds and to protect plants from browsing animals. Then someone, a Persian or an Egyptian, discovered attar of roses and the world was off on a quest for flowers and trees that smelled nice. [See Persian rose-water sprinkler at right]

Oil from aromatic plants had all kinds of uses: Egyptians, the first to use scents for personal adornment, scented their hair; sweetened their breath; air-conditioned and freshened their houses (the dispersing scent actually lowered the temperature); smoothed their skin with perfumed oils; and doused the bodies of the dead.

Later, the Romans introduced lavender water for washing clothes (in fact laundry was first known as “lavendre”). Dried leaves, resins, spices and oils were imported from all over Asia and India to the Roman empire, which quickly saw the aesthetic (and economic) possibilities for church incense, fragrant candles, even juice to rub on furniture (from balsam and Sweet Cicily, a kind of fern). To say nothing of strewing floors with rue to keep down the fleas.

In the 10th century, the Arab physician Avicenna distilled the oil of rose petals and the world hasn’t smelled the same since. Even today, Bedoins lace their coffee with attar of rose-water.

By the late 1100's, perfume sellers in Paris had established a fraternity of scented-glove makers who were also allowed to sell perfumes.

Arnaldo de Vilanove, a Catalan physician in the late 13th century, studied the effect of soaking, squeezing, or heating flower and tree petals or leaves or bracts to extract their essential oils (attar) and by the 14th century, the art of mixing attars with alcohol (oils are insoluble in water) gave us perfume!

Known as simples in the medieval period, tinctures of herbs and flowers were used for medicinal and aesthetic purposes. Red Damask roses were used because of their reliably perfumed petals, along with mint, thyme, rosemary, lavender, orris root, etc. Upper class medieval women packed their clothes in cedarwood chests, sprinkled sheets with ground lavender, and wore glass scent bottles around their necks.

But not until the 1500's did perfumes come into general use in England, and it’s interesting that scented oils and water were not applied directly to the skin, but worn in other ways: perfumed face washes, perfumed baths (particularly after the Plague, people became more conscious of personal cleanliness); perfumed snuff (and cigars, especially after tobacco was imported); perfumed finger rings (including a Regency “fountain ring” which squirted a 12-inch jet of fragrance).

King Henry VIII had a favorite scent recipe: 6 spoons rose oil; 6 spoons rose water; 1/4 oz sugar, 2 grains musk, 1 oz ambergris. Boil 6 hours and strain.

By the time of the Stuarts, ladies enjoyed vinaigrettes (rose-scented “vinegar”), scented pastilles, perfumed lamps, perfumed handerchiefs, poncet boxes (wooden boxes filled with perfumed powder), pomanders, etc. Queen Elizabeth I developed a passion for scented gloves imported from Italy (impregnated with attar of something); in fact, it was the glove manufacturers (working with herbalists) who first sold perfume!

Much later, tinkering chemists discovered that mixing an acid with an alcohol made an “ester” and now, no matter how meager the Damask rose crop, voila! Man could imitate nature. Today, 2/3 of all scents are man-made.

People like to smell good. Hence the continued demand for perfumes introduced in the 1920's: Arpege (Lanvin), L’Aimant (Francois Coty), and Chanel No. 5 (Ernst Beaux).

Sources: Perfume Through the Ages, Roy Genders;“History of the Perfume and Fragrance Industry” [articles from internet site, Perfume 2000.com].

10 April 2008

Something Wicked About My Birthday

Something Wicked (A Rakes of London Short)
Kalen Hughes
Available now, for FREE!

Scandal is impossible to avoid . . .
Eleanor Blakely is only too aware that her reputation dangles by a very slender thread. One false step, one mistake, and the entire world will know the secret her family has struggled to keep hidden. Unfortunately, she’s found herself in the midst of a desperate series of wagers with a consummate charmer . . .

And even harder to resist . . .
Viscount Wroxton isn’t exactly sure what twist of fate has kept his friend Blakely’s sister on the shelf, but the inveterate little gamester is too fascinating to ignore. The fact that she has five enormous—and protective—brothers is hardly worth thinking about . . .

Today is my birthday. Let’s just say I’m somewhere between 29 and 40 . . . ok, I’m 38 and loving it! Even though it’s traditional to receive presents on the anniversary of one’s natal day, I thought I’d give you all one instead.

A long, long time ago, I sold a short story to the now defunct magazine Arabella. That was really my first “the call” story, and it left me grinning for days. I was so excited when the editor called me to say she loved it and wanted to feature it as the main offering in an upcoming edition.
Unfortunately, the magazine folded before I even got the contract. But that short story was still lurking on my hard drive . . .

Fast forward a few years and Amazon Shorts makes an appearance. The Amazon rep was pushing these big time at the Dallas convention, so I dusted off my story, rewrote it for the longer format that Amazon allowed (up to 40 pages) and got ready to submit it as part of my effort to pimp my upcoming second book, Lord Scandal. Then I find out the program has been put on hold. *le sigh*

So you won’t have to pay the low low price of 49-cents for the chance to read Something Wicked. You can download the free PDF on my website. Feel free to share it around and email it to your friends, that’s what it’s for! My presie to you, my readers. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews and emails about Lord Sin, and here’s hoping you enjoy Lord Scandal every bit as much when it hits the shelves in June (you can preorder it now if you're an Amazon shopper).

I do have to say I love love love my new cover! I'm a sucker for a nose like that . . .

09 April 2008

Time Bandits

When I started to write about banditry, electronic bandits were the last thing on my mind-- which is probably why they struck. Yes, folks, the computer ate my post. So I apologize in advance for the paucity of this post. Reproductions are never as good as the real thing.

At any rate, last night, I had the great good fortune to meet up with the author of a series of Renaissance romance novels. You don't see too many of those on the shelves, or that many Renaissance set novels in general. There's Alexandra Ripley's "The Time Returns" for Renaissance Florence, Judith Merkle Rileys "Serpent Garden" and "Master of All Desires" for Renaissance France, and Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles for Renaissance Scotland. But you have to look for them, whereas you can scarcely go two yards into a book store without tripping over a Regency rake (the man, not the garden implement) or encountering the foot-wide ruff of a superannuated Tudor. This brings up an old question of mine-- what is it that leads us, as readers and as writers, to cluster around certain historical times and places?

When I was growing up, it was all Victorians. There they were, in huge, flounced dresses and too much blue eyeshadow, constantly flouncing off to go nursing in the Crimea or get brutally massacred in the Indian mutiny of 1857. They were vast, sweeping novels, as broad as the ladies' skirts, spanning continents, oceans, generations. And, then, suddenly, the world contracted, shrinking to the span of a Regency drawing room, where bored bucks in narrow pantaloons shrunk the scene yet further through the lenses of their quizzing glasses. There were no more attacks of cholera, natives shaking spears, wives screaming in attics; instead, there was the cut direct and rout cakes at forty paces. Nowadays, it's Tudors, Tudors, everywhere, all ruffs and farthingales and Anne Boleyn everywhere you look.

That's not to say that you can't find books set in all variety of eras and settings. You can, and many of them are wonderful (like our own marvelous guest blogger, tackling the German Reformation). But there appears to be a zeitgeist that blows us towards certain historical eras at certain times, creating intriguing clusters that beg the question: what is it about these particular eras that speak to us at particular points in our own history? Why Victorians in the 80's? Why Regency in the 90's? Why Tudors now? And whither next?

06 April 2008

Different views of the same story

Happy Monday! I'm subbing for Doreen who's ill and unable to post (hugs, Doreen, hope you feel better soon!). Trying to think of an historically related blog topic, the first thing that came to mind was the PBS Masterpiece Sense and Sensibility. Part II aired this evening, and I haven't yet seen it, as I was out (at a quite wonderful recital, which included some Rossini songs I have to work into a book, but that's another blog topic :-). I saw Part I last week, however. I watched it with some trepidation, because I adore the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson film of Sense and Sensibility. It's one of my favorite movies. And yet I found myself really enjoying the new adaptation by Andrew Davies.

I find I can often enjoy different adaptations of favorite books. As I've mentioned before, I love the Garson/Olivier Pride and Prejudice and also the Firth/Ehle mini-series, and the Knightley/McFadyen film. Each captures different aspects of the novel, though none is precisely "my" vision of the book.

I blogged recently on my own website about "the reader's role in telling a story." I wrote, "I think that to a certain extent every time we read a book we collaborate with the author. We bring our own likes and dislikes to the story, our own preconceptions, our own historical knowledge. We may hear lines inflected differently from the way the author hears them, imagine different expressions of the character’s faces as they speak, even fill in bits of back story differently in our imaginations. Our sympathies may not lie precisely where the author’s do. The words on the page may be the same, but every book is slightly different depending on who is reading it."

Every screenwriter and director is going to play their own role in telling a story. Even if they are trying to adapt the novel precisely as the author wrote, their version of what the author wrote may not be quite the same as ours. It will be filtered through the prism of their own experiences. They'll have their own sense of what elements in the novel are important. The Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility highlighted the pervasive, corrosive importance of money in a brilliant, subtle way that now colors all my reading and viewing of Jane Austen. The new Andrew Davies version frames that the story in a way the emphasizes (at least based on Part I) the risks of giving way to passion, and the sexuality underlying this decorous society.

Do you enjoy watching different adaptations of the same story? Is there an historically-set novel you'd particularly like to see a new film or television version of? Or an historically-set novel that hasn't been filmed that you'd like to see filmed? Any thoughts on who you'd like to see in the cast?

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02 April 2008

Mary Rose Tudor--you know, the one from history.

I am proud to say that my experience of Showtime’s The Tudors is limited, having caught the first two painful episodes for free on the Internet. I don’t pay extra for the premium cable channels like Showtime and HBO. Of course I bristled when I read about the conflating of Henry VIII’s two sisters into a single character, which resembled the biography of neither of the two princesses. And if the producers were so terrified that viewers would confuse Henry’s daughter Mary by Katherine of Aragon with his younger sister, often called Mary Rose (in fact, Henry had a ship christened after her with that very name), why didn’t they just consistently refer to the elder Mary Tudor as “Mary Rose” and let her have her own life?

Because it was a fascinating one.

Here—for those who get their English history from
The Tudors, and with a hug to those who, blessedly don’t—is the real story of Mary Rose Tudor. It’s a bit long, but I hope you’ll read on.

It takes a brave woman to defy a king, even if the king happens to be your big brother and you’re his favorite sister. But that’s precisely what Mary Tudor (1496-1533) did.

Mary Rose Tudor, tall, graceful, and fine-boned, with the same red-gold hair as her brother, was considered one of Europe’s most beautiful princesses. She was also one of its greatest pawns. In 1507, Mary was betrothed to Archduke Charles of Austria, heir to both the throne of Spain (occupied at the time by Ferdinand of Aragon, the father of Henry’s queen, Catherine) and to the title of Holy Roman Emperor, held then by Maximilian of Austria. But the sands of political alliance were always shifting, and the wedding plans were scotched when Ferdinand and Maximilian went behind Henry’s back and signed a truce with France.

On Henry’s behalf, his new Archbishop of York, Wolsey, negotiated their own arrangement with France. As part of their treaty, on August 13, 1514, Henry’s younger sister, Mary, “a nymph from heaven,” was married by proxy to Louis XII, the fifty-two-year-old French monarch.

The Brandon family had an illustrious relationship with the Tudors. Charles’s father, Sir William Brandon, had been Henry VII’s valiant standard-bearer. He had paid the ultimate price for his service to the crown when he was killed during the Battle of Bosworth by Richard III himself.

Charles Brandon (b. 1484), who was said to resemble Henry so much that some people thought he was the king’s “bastard brother,” was one of Henry’s favorite courtiers. In 1513, Henry made him a Knight of the Garter and Master of the Horse, and that same year created him Viscount Lisle. That summer, Lisle distinguished himself in battle during Henry’s campaigns in France.

In 1514, Brandon was made Duke of Suffolk, and his rise through the ranks of the peerage had many nobles from older and more established families bristling. But Brandon had his fans as well. “A liberal and magnificent lord,” wrote a Venetian visitor to the court. “No one ever bore so vast a rise with so easy a dignity.”

Charles Brandon (1484-1545)

Brandon took part in the jousts that Henry had organized to celebrate the marriage of Mary to the King of France. It is not known for certain, though it is surmised, that although he was a dozen years her senior, Suffolk caught young Mary’s eye during the tournaments.

Henry rejoiced in the match with the French monarch, but the bride was miserable at the prospect of being wedded to an aging, ailing man for whom she had no love. Henry was quite aware, as was Wolsey, of Mary’s unhappiness, but her feelings were of no importance when compared with matters of international politics. Yet she may have been canny enough to see a way out of her dilemma. Letters were exchanged among the parties wherein Mary had proposed a bargain, conveying to her brother that she had “consented to his request and for the peace of Christendom, to marry Louis of France, though he was very aged and sickly, on condition that if she survived him, she should marry whom she liked.”

The wedding festivities in England proceeded as though the groom himself had been there. The young bride was placed in the huge bed of estate with a stand-in, the duc de Longueville. He “consummated” the marriage on his sovereign’s behalf by removing his red hose and touching one of Mary’s bare legs with his own.

Then the great preparations began to send Mary across the Channel to France with her trousseau and her retinue—which included Thomas Boleyn’s two daughters, Mary and Anne. On October 2, about to sail from Dover, Mary Tudor reminded her brother of their agreement. Henry did not acknowledge her remarks, instead telling her quite formally, “I betoken you to God and the fortunes of the sea and the government of the King your husband.”

And on October 9, in Abbeville, France, Mary Rose Tudor and Louis were married in person. She was crowned Queen of France at St. Denis on November 5. After that, Mary and Suffolk may have crossed paths at her own court, where Henry had entrusted him with diplomatic missions to Louis XII.
Louis XII of France (1462-1515)

Under Salic law, the French crown could only pass to a male heir, and although Louis was nicknamed Le Père du Peuple—the father of his people—he was unable to father any sons with his first two wives. Hope, however, sprang eternal in the king’s soul. In fact, after his wedding night to Mary, he announced that “he had performed marvels.”

But on New Year’s Day 1515, less than three months later, Louis XII passed away, quite possibly during, or at least due to, his amatory efforts to beget an heir. Mary had never been happy in the marriage, and now she was free, only eighteen years old, and, she believed, with the rest of her life ahead of her to do as she pleased.


Mary’s rank as the English king’s sister as well as her youth and (assumed) fecundity made her a key player in international relations. Henry VIII was legally in control of her future, and it was important for him to see her settled in a second advantageous match.

In late January 1515, after promising Henry that he would not propose to his sister, Suffolk was dispatched to escort Mary—now the dowager Queen of France—back home, and to offer England’s official congratulations to the new king, François I. But rather than hurry swiftly home, Mary and Brandon remained in France, where they secretly married on March 3. Theirs was no mere elopement; it was an act of treason. A princess of the blood had wed without the consent of the sovereign.

Suffolk had already been wed twice before. He had obtained an annulment of his marriage to his first wife, Margaret Mortimer; and his second wife, Anne Browne, had left him a widower in 1512. At the time he eloped with Mary, he was around thirty-one years old, a handsome, sophisticated man in the prime of life. He had risked his sovereign’s displeasure—and possibly his head—to marry Mary.

Writing to Wolsey, the new bridegroom confessed, “The Queen would never let me rest till I had granted her to be married. And so, to be plain with you, I have married her heartily, and have lain with her insomuch I fear me lest she be with child.”

Naturally, the cardinal went straight to the king. Henry was livid—not only with Mary but with Suffolk, who had given his oath to avoid this very situation. The king’s Privy Council (on which sat many peers who were jealous of Suffolk’s ascendance to wealth and power) urged Henry to make an example of the wayward couple and have them executed, or at the very least imprisoned. Henry was only six years into his reign, a mere youth himself at twenty-three. And perhaps because he was young and lusty himself he understood Mary’s passion, at least on an emotional level. He adored his sister, and would have suffered almost equally to see her immured within the Tower—or worse.

So Henry finally forgave Mary and Suffolk—or claimed to—and welcomed them back to England. On May 13, 1515, they were officially married on English soil. Although the ceremonies were modest, it was a triumph of True Love.

But sentimental attachment, and even sympathy, didn’t pay the kingdom’s bills. Henry had taken a huge hit in the purse by their disobedience. And he demanded restitution. So he forced Suffolk to reimburse him for the vast sum spent on Mary’s wedding to the French king as well as for the luxury items, such as jewels and plate, that Louis had promised to bestow on Mary. Then there was the matter of Mary’s dowry. That, too, had been forfeited to France.

The pecuniary penalty for the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk was enormous. The dowry alone amounted to £200,000, worth nearly eight hundred fifty times that sum in today’s dollars. Compensation for the plate and jewels was an additional line item. And to repay Henry for the remaining expenses, Suffolk was to tender another thousand pounds per annum for the next twenty-four years.

It was Cardinal Wolsey who had brokered this financial arrangement. When Suffolk and Mary eventually returned to court, Suffolk, nearly bankrupted by it, became the cardinal’s severest critic.

Mary bore Suffolk three children: a son, Henry Brandon, and two daughters, Lady Frances and Lady Eleanor. But the family did not become permanent fixtures at Henry’s court, preferring the relative sanity and solitude of the duke’s estates. Now that he was the king’s brother-in-law, the duke’s power and influence remained as strong as ever.

Suffolk was one of the diplomats present at the Field of Cloth of Gold summit between Henry and François I in 1520, where he might have first caught a glimpse of Anne Boleyn, in the train of Queen Claude. He could not have known at the time that the young lady-in-waiting with the dark eyes and sallow complexion would cause a rift with his own wife and a strained relationship between Mary and her brother.

Mary had known Anne well enough during her brief reign as Queen of France; and she didn’t like her, though Mary’s reasons for her early antipathy have not been preserved. After Anne became Henry’s mistress, Mary came to court as infrequently as possible, and she sympathized with Katherine of Aragon during the protracted Great Matter. Because of her rank, Mary could get away with her strong opinions against Anne, although Henry didn’t have to like them. It broke his heart that his favorite sister detested his mistress, because he was bound by love to prefer Anne in such circumstances.

Anne Boleyn (1500-1536)

In 1532, Mary was heard using “opprobrious language” about Anne that literally sparked violence between her husband’s men and those of Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. Two of Norfolk’s men, the Southwell brothers, murdered Suffolk’s retainer, Sir William Pennington, as the knight sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Suffolk then “remove[d] the assailants by force” from holy ground.

The court went into an uproar over the incident. Suffolk and Mary retreated to their country estate, Westhorpe Hall, but the mood at Whitehall remained so tense that Henry had to intervene by riding out to speak with Suffolk directly, and fining one of the Southwells the whopping sum of £1,000 (nearly $730,000 nowadays).

Suffolk, too, had at first not thought much of Anne. As late as May, 1530, Eustache Chapuys, the ambassador to the court of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, reported that the duke had been banished from court for warning Henry of Anne’s unsuitability to be queen, owing to her “criminal” relations with a certain courtier “whom she loves very much and whom the king had formerly chased from court for jealousy.” The married poet Thomas Wyatt was likely the man in question, and Anne was terribly upset by the gossip, though she always denied that she and Wyatt had ever enjoyed each other carnally.

Yet, when all was said and done, Suffolk was a loyal courtier, supporting the king in all he sought, and therefore became enough of a proponent of Anne’s to remain in Henry’s good graces. After all, a simple Act of Attainder could wipe away with one stroke of Henry’s pen all the honors and titles and accumulated wealth and property that the king had bestowed upon him. So Brandon had to clench his fists and suck it up when, upon Anne’s coronation, Henry replaced him in the office of Earl Marshal with Anne’s uncle, his archrival Norfolk.

The Duchess of Suffolk lodged her own protest; when Anne finally became queen in 1533, Mary quite pointedly refused to come to court at all.

She fell dangerously ill that June, and in her dying wishes sought reconciliation with her brother. In her last letter to Henry, she wrote that “the sight of Your Grace is the greatest comfort to me that may be possible.”

But her illness was a mere footnote amid the weeks of festivity surrounding Anne’s coronation. Suffolk hurried to her sickbed with Henry’s written reply to her sad little letter, offering his forgiveness and reconciling Mary to the royal bosom.

Mary died at Westhorpe Hall on June 25. First interred at the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds, her corpse was moved to St. Mary’s Church after the abbey was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. You would think that Henry might have tried a little harder to protect his precious sister’s resting place.

Suffolk wasted little time in remarrying. On September 7, 1533, the same day as the birth of Princess Elizabeth, the forty-eight-year-old duke took a fourth wife—the barely-fourteen-year-old Katherine Willoughby, daughter of Katherine of Aragon’s trusted friend and lady-in-waiting Maria de Salinas. Suffolk had desired the girl when she was betrothed to his son. Now that he was single again, the duke broke off his own son’s contract to marry Katherine himself. The scandal it created was not over the age difference between the groom and his new bride, but over the sordidness of the family dynamic. Suffolk’s son, Henry, Earl of Lincoln, who passed away on March 8, 1534, was said to have died of a broken heart over his father’s betrayal. Although the youth had been ill for some time, it didn’t stop certain tongues from wagging, particularly Anne Boleyn’s, who remarked, “My Lord of Suffolk kills one son to beget another.”

Suffolk remained an influential and powerful courtier and a trusted military commander. In 1544, at the age of sixty, he was once more sent to the Continent to command the forces that besieged Boulogne.

While the court was in Guilford, Suffolk died unexpectedly on August 24, 1545, at the age of sixty-one. The cause of death is unknown, but since it came quite quickly, it was possibly a heart attack or stroke, rather than an illness. However, the legacy of his love match with Mary Tudor would enter the history books for more than its aspects of passion, intrigue, and the flagrant defying of a king.

On February 12, 1554, their granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, known as “the Nine Days’ Queen,” would lose her head in the struggle for succession engendered by the death of Henry VIII’s teenage son, Edward VI, who left no heirs. The hapless Jane Grey would be succeeded on the English throne by Henry’s daughter Mary.

01 April 2008

Welcome, TJ Bennett!

The Legacy

“Bennett delivers a powerful evocation of an exciting period in history most romance novels have ignored. Her full-blooded characters take you on an emotional rollercoaster, for a trip you won't soon forget. We'll be seeing more of this author, and I can hardly wait.”
~ Susan Squires, New York Times bestselling author

" This story is superb....The Legacy is a riveting story that explodes with tight action. Drama at its best, this is one overpowering, extraordinary tale."
~ 5 out of 5 cups, Coffeetime Romance ~

When secrets destroy, can love live on?

When her brief, disastrous marriage to a fortune hunter ends in scandal, Baronesse Sabina von Ziegler's vengeful adoptive father imprisons her in a cloister. Nine years later, however, following the teachings of the reformer Martin Luther, she arranges a daring escape. She is free at last—for the moment—a noblewoman of conscience, and has learned a lesson about trusting men she will never forget.

Wolfgang Behaim, a widowed commoner, is a tradition-bound printer from the rising middle class with a secret that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. Burdened by the mysterious circumstances surrounding his father's death, he has no heart for love. Yet he finds himself suddenly betrothed to Sabina, the Baron von Ziegler's adopted daughter.
It is a marriage neither wants. Sabina again finds herself imprisoned by the Baron, in a dungeon this time, being slowly starved to death. Her only key to freedom is marriage to Wolf. And Wolf must marry Sabina, or the murderous Baron will reveal the secret from his past.

Though neither comprehends the dark purpose behind the Baron's machinations, they are forced into a union they never plan to consummate. But as they fight to discover the truth of the mysteries surrounding them, they find themselves challenged by a fiery passion they cannot resist. Can they overcome their past and find love even as lies, war, and an unexpected enemy conspire against them?

THE LEGACY is set in 1525 Reformation Germany. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?

The Early Reformation period makes for fascinating history. I remember reading the story in school about Martin Luther, the protestant reformer, hammering his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, thus sparking the Protestant Revolution. I also remember the stories of the Gutenberg press and how it made the written word affordable for the common man, much the same way Henry Ford's Model T made the automobile affordable for ordinary people. So much happened that set the stage for the modern era during those times, including the rise of literacy, Protestantism, and egalitarianism. So much of the Western world, particularly America, is heir to that history. How could I not want to find a way to tell a story from that time in a unique, exciting way?

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

The climax of the book takes place during the Peasants' Revolution in the German regions. Unfortunately, I had to rely on secondary sources to do most of my research. The primary sources were in German, and I don't speak the language, despite being born there as an American military dependent. Learning the noble lineages and terms was hard, too, as well as figuring out who the members of the royal houses were at the time the story takes place. Everyone seemed to have similar names!

Also, each city and region had its own monetary system and currency. Trying to figure out what kind of money my hero would have earned, and what it would be worth today, was a nightmare. It was crucial to the story. I'm still not sure I got it right. Finally, inheritance law in the German regions was very different from those of other European countries and of England. I consulted two well-known professors from Harvard and from London who specialized in this period of German history, and did the best I could to stay true to the times.

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

The clothing! LOL! I didn't have Kalen as a source then, and although I used some extant fashion plates of German couples dressed in their finery to write descriptions of what my hero and heroine would have worn, I really wasn't sure what to call some of the pieces, or what the women might have worn beneath their clothing. When in doubt, I guessed or used deliberately vague language.

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

There is only one thing I know for sure I got wrong: I used a contemporary menu of the times from a hotel in the region, so I knew it would be possible for my characters to consume the foods I described. However, I wasn't sure how they sweetened their dishes. I knew they wouldn't have used refined sugar then, so I found a source that seemed to indicate sugar beets were used for baked goods. It wasn't until I'd turned in my galleys that I found out the sugar beet didn't come into usage for sweetening until very late in the sixteenth century, darn it, and even then it would have been consumed only by the wealthy as a special treat.

Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss.

I have to admit, I'm not much into the "interviewing your characters" thing that would give me this information. I do know my hero Wolf and his brothers, Günter and Peter Behaim, had a big sibling rivalry going on. They used to get in fights with each other when they were children, picking on each other mercilessly, but if anyone else tried it, they would stand side by side and back their brothers up against all comers.

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

I was inspired to write this outside-the-box historical romance about a printer and the runaway nun he is blackmailed into marrying when I came across a book entitled Martin Luther Had a Wife. The book described how the religious reformer met and married Katherine von Bora, an ex-nun. She and eleven other nuns engineered a daring escape from the convent and fled to Luther's doorstep in Wittenberg, asking for help in starting a new life. Luther decided to help the women, finding most of them husbands in a round of hasty matchmaking. The twelfth nun, Katherine, decided she'd rather marry Luther than anyone else, and theirs became one of the great love matches of history. It got me thinking: What must it have been like for the other eleven women? They went from nun to wife in such a short time. That must have been a dizzying, even scary, feeling. I started imagining what that would have felt like if I'd been one of the women, and thus The Legacy, about the fictionalized life of one of those other nuns, was born.

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

Oh, yeah, major research. I really knew very little about the time or place. One thing I discovered was that unlike most European nations, in the German regions women in business were considered equal to men and were allowed to speak in court for themselves, to own property in their name, and to make contracts without a man's permission. On the other hand, women who were not in business were considered little more than the property of their husbands, brothers or other male relatives. Even noblewomen weren't allowed to speak for themselves in a court of law, but had to rely on a male relative to represent their interests. It was a curious dichotomy.

What/Who do you like to read?

I've recently discovered Elizabeth Hoyt. I love her bawdy, realistic romantic heroes and heroines. Madeline Hunter, Laura Kinsale, and Susan Squires are perennial historical romance favorites. Colleen Thompson and JD Robb are favorites in contemporary romance (although JD Robb's books are classified as futuristic). Outside the romance genre, I thoroughly enjoyed Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, and Audrey Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

All of the above. LOL!

I started out as a plotter, although I seem to have gotten away from that with my latest work. I write multiple drafts, often cleaning up as I go. In fact, I'm a perfectionist, and I have yet to become comfortable with the idea that I'm not done after the first draft because I've worked on revising it all the way through. My writing critique partners and my agent always have to remind me there is more work to do. I usually will rewrite a manuscript a couple times before everybody is happy with it.

What are you planning to work on next?

Well, I've got the sequel to The Legacy, entitled The Promise (featuring the middle Behaim brother, Günter) due out in May 2009. I have a couple of stories I'm working on right now, both of which I call paranormal romantic suspense with science fiction elements, both contemporaries. Someday, I may wish to revisit the world of the Behaim brothers and tell Peter's story (he's a physician), but I don't see that happening anytime soon. I'd have to have time to do the research on the state of medicine in the early 16th century, and I've a full schedule right now, so that is a future project still on the shelf. For now.

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