History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

22 September 2011

History in Living Color

Thanks so much to the History Hoydens for hosting me today as I celebrate the recent release of my new Victorian historical, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS!

I’m the type of writer who enjoys a good challenge. Actually, the measure of the challenge’s difficulty depends on how 1) how much sleep I’ve had recently and 2) how much screaming my daughters have subjected me to that day. =)

For the story of ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, I wanted to focus on the developing relationship between the hero and heroine more than any exotic or unusual setting. With this in mind, I chose to write a large portion of the story with a country house party as the background. Although a country house party isn’t extraordinary for historical romances, I’d never written one before so it was exciting for me. Yet I also wanted to write of activities that could have occurred at a country house party that weren’t typical from my experience as a romance reader.

Therefore, I conducted a little research and found something which intrigued me: tableaux vivants. Or, in translation: living pictures.

We’ve probably all read romances featuring plays or dramatic readings. Well, tableaux vivants are still performances. Participants chose scenes from paintings or even scenes in history, costumed themselves appropriately, then stood before the audience as a scene or painting come to life. They did not speak and they did not move; they simply kept still.

In ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, our heroine—who is the hostess of the house party—sets up such a tableaux vivants activity for her guests. I’m sure the audience’s interpretation of various tableaux vivants would be thrilling indeed when the still portrayals were performed. However, instead of writing the scene of the actual tableaux vivants, I chose instead to write a scene which shows what I imagined to truly be the most exciting aspect—the choosing of which painting or historical scene to imitate and the decisions on how to costume the participants.

It’s one of my favorite scenes where the hero interacts with the other guests (let’s just say he was chosen to be the murdered Julius Caesar in someone else’s tableau vivant), and I hope you enjoy it, too. =)

Have you ever heard of or seen a tableau vivant before? What are some of your favorite activities at a house party to read about in historical romances?

One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.AshleyMarch.com



Blogger Beebs said...

Hi Ashley

As far as I can remember (memory is atrocious, so totally unreliable) any tableaux vivant I have read about have been at very disreputable house parties and were mainly for the gentlemen's pleasure and never for respectable ladies.

5:08 AM  
Blogger May said...

I don't think that I have read about Tableaux vivant before. It's the first time that I read about it. Normally, you hear about guests going hunting if they are guys, going shopping in town if they are ladies... and somehow the couple will find time to sneak around to be together or accidentally see each other...

5:23 AM  
Blogger ♣ Terri said...

The new book looks sounds great and I'd love to read it!

Wow, I've never heard of tableaux vivants before. You learn something new every day, huh?

My favorite activity to read about at a house party is gossip!

niteofblu at gmail dot com

5:49 AM  
Blogger Karen H said...

Does that mean 'games people play'? In one book I read recently (the title escapes me), the house party hostess had placed guest name tags in card holders next the the bedroom doors. Made it easy for those midnight visitors to be sure they got the right room. LOL Then there are the famous croquet games in Julia Quinn's books when the Bridgerton family gets together.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I had never heard of tableau vivant before so that was really interesting to read. I always love to read about archery or croquet games where the gentleman needs to help out a bit ;)

7:02 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

They did those in an episode of Gilmore Girls!

I like to find unusual stuff for my folks to do too, hence I buy books about rural customs and holidays every chance I get.

7:30 AM  
Blogger ClaudiaGC said...

I can't remember any tableaux vivant scenes but like Isobel Carr my first thought I had was of a Gilmore Girls episode where they did that. :) Aren't there often things like scavenger hunts or maybe musical performances?

claudigc at msn dot com

11:19 AM  
Blogger RFTC Blog said...

I've never seen this in person, but I do remember watching an episode of Gilmore Girls where this occurred. I found it very interesting.


1:34 PM  
Blogger LSUReader said...

I've never read of a tableau vivant before. I like house party scavenger hunts. But nothing beats a cut-throat game of croquet at a Bridgerton house party!

2:39 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Beebs!

This is interesting! Obviously, I didn't find anything about this in my research or I wouldn't have included it, lol. Thanks for letting me know! =)

2:41 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi May! Of course. =) The heroine pleads a headache to avoid going shopping and the hero has a reason to come back early from the hunting party. My favorites, though, are the late night rendezvous when everyone is "supposed" to be asleep. ;)

2:42 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi niteofblu! Thank you! =) And I agree--the gossip among the guests is one of the best things. Especially if there's an eccentric older lady among the guests who likes to stir things up. =)

2:43 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Karen! I think I've read of this happening before, especially in the Regency era. =) And I LOVE the "friendly" games of croquet in the Bridgerton series. I never want to learn to play that game unless I'm reading a JQ novel. =)

2:44 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Lol @ Lisa. Yes to the gentlemen helping out. Oh, and I love a good card game scene. Might have to figure out a whist scene for my online novella...

2:45 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Isobel! =) Where do you find your books for research? Do you order them online, or find them at used bookstores? So far my greatest luck has been at used bookstores, but wish I had a more reliable source...

2:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've heard of tableau vivants. Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters is an annual event, similar to tableaux vivant where people create 3D versions of famous paintings.

2:47 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi ClaudiaGC! Now I might have to get a Netflix DVD of the Gilmore Girls, just to find this episode you guys are talking about. =) Definitely on the musical performances...in Anne Mallory's THE BRIDE PRICE, there's a scavenger hunt of sorts, although it's part of the competition. I'd love to read a historical with one of these in it. Do you remember any books you've read with scavenger hunts included?

2:48 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Danielle! It looks like a lot of people watch The Gilmore Girls. Maybe I'm missing out. =) (Funny how a historical blog can get me a recommendation for a modern TV show, lol)

2:49 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi LSUReader! Yes! Actually, this makes me want to do a cut of all the croquet scenes of the Bridgertons, just to see how she writes them differently every time. I love how JQ draws readers in with such simple things.

2:50 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Georgia Lee! That sounds really, really fascinating. I'm going to have to look this event up, as it sounds like something right up my family's alley. Thank you for your comment! =)

2:51 PM  
Blogger T.M. Lunsford said...

I'm a total nerd, but I actually know/have participated in tableaux vivants. One of my classes in college, we had to perform tableaux in conjunction with the university's performance of Les Chansons de Bilitis.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Beebs said...

Hi Ashley

I think there was one in Stephanie Laurens' A Rogue's Proposal. Flick went to the villain's house where there was an orgy taking place. Of course Demon arrives and protects her.

I suppose someone decided to put a naughty spin on an otherwise respectable form of entertainment. lol

3:04 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Sadly, croquet isn't actually a period game for a Regency setting (which makes me sad when I think of how much I loved the mallet of death).

3:40 PM  
Blogger Di said...

I haven't seen a tableau vivant in person, but I think I saw one on a movie (but can't remember which one). At a house party I like it when the heroine shows off a skill that just astounds the hero & brings her to his attention. Like she's a wonderful rider, or archer, or painter, or musician, or as a healer.

4:22 PM  
Blogger marjana said...

I love reading about games thy play in house parties

7:01 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi T.M. Lunsford! Lol...I actually think this is awesome! But of course, you do know that I'm not going to leave you alone until you show pictures, right? =)

8:00 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Beebs! Oh, now I see. =) I might need to go and read that book now, lol.

8:01 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Isobel--I know I wanted to use cricket in this book, but found out it was played later in the century. That's one of those times when you really wish you could write a dozen pages of Author's Notes for taking authorial liberties. =)

8:03 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Di, this is a wonderful suggestion for me for when I write future house parties. =) Thank you!

8:03 PM  
Blogger SmoothieGirl said...

Hi Marjana! Have you read Sherry Thomas' latest book? There's a house party in that book (HIS AT NIGHT), and the game they play is great. =)

8:04 PM  
Blogger JenM said...

Hi Ashley. I have to say, I've never heard of a tableaux vivant before so that will be very interesting to read about. I love learning new things from my books. My favorite scenes at house parties are when the guests at a house party go on picnics, or walks and we get to see them outside. I also love it when they are either playing with or taking care of animals.
Jen at delux dot com

8:26 PM  
Blogger Karen D said...

Like some of the other commenters, my cultural reference for the tableaux vivant comes from the Gilmore Girls! The choosing and the costuming does seem like the most fun, especially to detail in a novel--what a way to bring out characterization. BTW, while croquet isn't period for the Regency there was an old game called Pall Mall which dates to the 16th or 17th century and came in and out of fashion.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

From what I've been able to discover, Pall Mall (after which the street in London is named because the king played it there) is out of fashion for the Regency. Sadly, we don't seem to have any complete sets of rules for it, and some of the set-ups are quite wild. There’s one with a hanging hoop! Historians think you were somehow supposed to pop the ball through the hoop, but they’ve no idea how, LOL!

My characters tend to go hunting or shooting (or have shooting contests). I’ve also written a cricket match, and in my current WIP, boat races on the Thames. There are LOTS of things for people to do, it just depends on what kind of people you write about. I love Ashley’s addition to the selection of events though, as I’ve never seen it done before in a book.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Wonderful post, Ashley! I've never seen the set-up before. What a great idea....congrats on the new release!

7:47 AM  
Blogger TiDubb said...

I have been learning alot whilst tagging along on this blog tour. Thanks for the new info. I have never heard of a tableau vivant.


5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were on vacation and I am catching up on all I missed. I had heard of tableau vivants, but not had them described. Sounds interesting. Can't imagine they would be very popular today.
The plays they put on involving as many of the guests as they could would be fun.

1:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Web Site Counter
Kennedy Western University Online