History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

31 August 2011

Guest Hoyden-- Katharine Ashe!

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Katharine Ashe, who manages to juggle teaching history to undergrads with writing critically acclaimed historical romances. Her latest is In the Arms of a Marquess, hailed as "a unique adventure romance" by Romantic Times. In the Arms of a Marquess is part of Avon's new KISS and Teal campaign. For every copy sold, Avon will donate 25 cents to raise awareness and $50,000 for Ovarian Cancer research.

Even better, Katharine is here today to talk to us about one of my favorite topics: India.

Without further ado, Katharine Ashe!

A Taste for the Exotic

I have a confession to make. My first beloved romance novel was not written by Jane Austen. Or by Georgette Heyer. Or Kathleen Woodiwiss. Or any other of the great ladies of English and American romance. The novel that made me a devotee of romance fiction doesn’t even take place on the shores of the Atlantic.

I fell in love with romance when at the tender, impressionable age of fourteen, I read THE FAR PAVILIONS by M. M. Kaye. That book engendered in me a taste for the exotic, for an epic realm of adventure that embraced romance, passion, pain, tragedy, violence, joy, and especially the triumphant power of love.

But perhaps my devotion to British India did not form so late in my youth. For — while I enjoyed Pooh and Tigger, Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables, the Velveteen Rabbit and Peter Rabbit, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the Twelve Dancing Princesses — it was a clever, courageous mongoose who stole my young heart. Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi was my childhood hero. In facing a pair of cobras, Rikki battled darkness. He was not afraid to do violence for right, and in the end he saved the family he loved because he believed it to be his duty.

That defined heroism to me then. It still does. My notions of epic adventure, of romance and passion and truth were formed intimately in the fantastical tales of an exotic nineteenth-century east. It is entirely possible that my pen name came to be Ashe because my romance-loving spirit was forged with the reading Ms. Kaye’s story, whose hero’s English name is Ash. Likewise, it recently struck me that I nicknamed Octavia Pierce, the heroine of IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS, “Tavy”. (The subconscious is an awesome thing.)

But not all my interest in the Indian subcontinent under British rule got subsumed in the depths of my psyche. As a girl I took to the study of Indian history like a young monkey takes to trees. This passionate preoccupation followed me into college and then graduate school. Eventually I learned, of course, that tales like Kaye’s are fraught with romanticisms that misrepresent the reality of British imperial rule. I learned about the subaltern and theories that built upon Subaltern Studies in order to understand the diverse peoples of India even more profoundly. But despite this intellectual dashing of my girlish fantasies, the magic never disappeared.

Then one day while I was supposedly working very hard on my dissertation research amongst the dusty fourteenth-century Papal Registers of the Vatican Archives, a story idea came to me. I’d written a Regency romance in which the heroine’s younger sister was a girl on the verge of sixteen. A hoyden of a young miss with coltishly long legs and freckles across her nose, Octavia didn’t give a fig about what she looked like as long as she could read about the East Indies and dream of someday traveling there.

And then there was Ben — Lord Ben Doreé — a half-Indian, half-Anglo son of a disastrous second marriage, barely twenty, tall, dark and gorgeous, and looking over my shoulder as I wrote. And he said that Octavia would be his. He told me this in no uncertain terms.

Well we had some words (strong words; she was fifteen for heaven’s sake!). He said (with contained impatience), yes, he understood this, but perhaps we could come to an agreement. Finally I relented, but I told him he would have to wait a few years for her to become a lady, then after that he would lose her… for a time. He glowered at that last bit. I cowered a little (he’s the dangerous and mysterious type), but I stood fast.

Then I ran for my books. And for my friends. Scholars of India, they cheerfully answered my questions and pointed me toward more resources, never knowing that the rich, tormented history of British India was to be the bed onto which I laid down a pair of lovers — a young gentleman and lady destined to love, to lose, and to love again quite scandalously, and quite happily ever after.

What tales of foreign lands ignited your young imagination?

You can learn more about Katharine and her books on her website: www.katharineashe.com.

Thanks for joining us, Katharine!


Blogger Ora said...

I loved Rikki Tikki Tavy as a child too. I remember a couple years ago I found the movie and felt like a child again when I shared with my youngest child.
I finished In The Arms Of A Marquess last night. It was absolutely wonderful. I love your characters, even the aunt in India who was absolutely awful. I also loved how it took a while to figure out who was the second villian in the story. I'm not sure what else to say without giving away anything. Definite must read!!!
I read the prologue for When A Scot Loves A Lady, and I was curious if there is a connection with the Savege's in Captured By A Rogue Lord? I remember the twins, and I thought there was a sister. Defintely was a wonderful book and totally worth reading again. I guess I will have ot reread it after I finish reading the new releases I bought this week.
Oh at the Gail Parkins Memorial Walk, will you have any of your fellow authors with you there?

10:21 AM  
Blogger Then said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Lauren. It's a pleasure to be back!

10:29 AM  
Blogger Then said...

Hi, Ora. Thank you!! I'm thrilled you enjoyed Ben and Tavy's story. :)

Yes, indeed, my next series -- The Falcon Club series -- is intimately connected with the characters in CAPTURED BY A ROGUE LORD. The sister, Kitty, is the heroine of Book #1, WHEN A SCOT LOVES A LADY. The hero of Book #2 (tentatively titled SEND ME A LADY TO LOVE) is Jin, Savege's first lieutenant aboard ship, and his heroine is the sister who was kidnapped by smugglers years earlier, Viola (many of my readers have already guessed this, so I'm happy to now admit it!). Constance from IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS will have her own Falcon Club book too, and there are a few more connections between the two series as well. The books can all be read alone, of course. :)

Enjoy your new books! What a fabulous week for new releases!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Then said...

And thanks, Ora, for not giving anything away. As a reader, I'm not fond of spoilers, so I truly appreciate it!

10:40 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Katharine! What a great post. To this day, what I love about a great story is its ability to sweep me away into the world the author has crafted, and to other places and times. One of my favorite books as a girl was Caddie Woodlawn. I loved being transported to mid 19th century Wisconsin roughing it along with the other settlers.

In middle school I read Pearl Buck's East Wind West Wind and got totally caught up in Kwei-Lan's plight and struggle to deal with her Westernized husband and brother in 1930s China.

And I vividly remember reading a Tale of Two Cities in high school and feeling like I was right in the middle of the French Revolution. ::Shudder::

I like armchair traveling and actual traveling. But I must admit I like my creature comforts. My golden rule has always been "If there's no indoor plumbing, I don't go."

12:06 PM  
Blogger Then said...

LOL, Lisa. Indoor plumbing indeed. I'm very fond of being able to vote too. ;)

Your mention of Caddie Woodlawn reminded me of my earliest ventures into American historical fiction, John Jakes's Heaven and Hell trilogy. I loved those books, so full of tumult and heartbreak and victory and triumph, all in my own backyard, but a really different backyard than I'd always thought it was. Yes, ma'am, armchair adventure is my favorite kind too.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Then said...

Actually I think it was the North and South trilogy (Heaven and Hell was the second book, it occurs to me).

1:24 PM  
Blogger Then said...

Ora, I forgot to answer your question about the GP Memorial walk in Raleigh, NC, on September 17 to benefit Ovarian Cancer research. There will be a handful of local romance authors selling their books, all proceeds going to OC research. I'll see if I can find that list of authors and post it on my website. Avon is donating several dozen books to the event, and we'll be asking folks to donate whatever they'd like for those, with the proceeds also going to the walk. :)

1:28 PM  
Blogger Diane D - Florida said...

Hi Katharine, I adore all your books. I can't wait to read "In the Arms of a Marquess". I was disappointed that I couldn't find it today at Target.

I was excited to see that the kidnapping of Viola is going to be addressed in a later book. I'm happy that you have so many new books lined up for us all to read and enjoy.

dpd333 AT aol dot com

4:01 PM  
Blogger Then said...

Hi, Diane. Thank you! Hm... I don't think Target is carrying this book. You should be able to find it at Walmart, B&N, Books A Million, and many Krogers and other grocery stores. I hope you can find it without more trouble! And thanks for your lovely wishes. I'm really excited for the new series. :)

4:45 PM  
Blogger Eli Yanti said...

i like the way how the author writing their book,they will jump into the book,begin their aventure,talking with the hero/heroine and other thing to finish to write a book and now i really can't hardly wait to read this book.i like reading a book which the hero is half of two country,seem like he have a misterious character :-)

5:58 PM  
Blogger Then said...

Thanks, Eli. The hero of IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS is definitely a man of mystery. I love writing heroes with secret identities. :)

7:20 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks for joining us, Katherine! Your book sounds wonderful. Years ago my mom and I co-wrote a book with a half-Indian, half-British hero. The book took place in the Peninsula and England, but the research into his past in India was fascinating.

I think as a child my imagination was mostly fired up by reading about England and Scotland.

11:33 PM  
Blogger catinbody said...

Your romance history sounds so familiar--they're the same authors I first discovered, but different titles. When I was a senior in high school, my family moved from LA to Bowie, Maryland, which was a very small suburb at the time. I didn't have a car, but found a little second-hand store within walking distance that had paperbacks for a quarter. While waiting to move to college the summer after graduation I read Trade Winds by M.M. Kaye and John Jakes's Kent Family novels (The Bastard, etc.). I memorized the Tom O'Bedlam poem that M.M. Kaye included: "With a host of furious fancies whereof I am comander, with a burning spear and a horse of air, to the wilderness I wander...." It totally captivated my imagination, too. : )

6:46 PM  

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