History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

23 November 2012

A Moment of Gratitude

All the Thanksgiving posts about things for which we are grateful got me thinking about the books that have made an impact on me in various ways over the years.  Some of these go way back; others are more recent. They all have one thing in common: they opened up new worlds and new eras for me.

In the spirit of thanksgiving, here are some of the books for which I am deeply grateful:

E.L. Konigsberg's A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. Someone-- possibly my parents-- gave this to me when I was six. I hadn't realized until then that there was such a thing as historical fiction (before that, I was all about fairy tales), but that was all it took to get me hooked. Eleanor of Aquitaine was my heroine-- until I encountered Queen Victoria.

Jean Plaidy's Victoria Victorious. The reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine ended when my father gave me Victoria Victorious when I was eight. That launched a fascination with all things Victorian (we will not discuss the hookskirt I tried to construct using a hoola-hoop.) Strangely, all of that is now coming back, twenty five years later, as I work on my first Victorian-set novel. Isn't it amazing how this stuff sticks in the back of your head?

I owe Jean Plaidy a great deal, not just for Victoria Victorious, but for the entirety of her wonderful Queens of England series, which introduced me to Caroline of Ansbach and Prinny's secret wife and put me on nodding terms with most of the major characters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Theo Aronson's The Golden Bees. When I was ten, a mini-series about Napoleon and Josephine piqued my interest in the Bonapartes. Never at a loss, my father handed me this heavy tome (I can still remember the worn blue cardboard cover, sans dust jacket), which followed the Bonapartes from their early days through to the dwindling branches in the late nineteenth century. This sparked a fascination with the Bonapartes that led me to write a novel in high school about Napoleon's stepdaughter, Hortense de Beauharnais, and later the Pink Carnation series. Napoleon's crazy family continues to fascinate and amuse me, all these years later.

Far more recently, there was Frances Osborne's The Bolter, casually given to me as a gift by a friend, which so intrigued me that I detoured from my usual program of Napoleonic spies to write a novel set around England around World War I and Kenya's Happy Valley crowd in the 1920s. (The Ashford Affair, coming to a bookstore near you on April 9, 2013!).

I could go on and on. There's M.M. Kaye's Shadow of the Moon, which introduced me to nineteenth century India and Antonia Fraser's Mary Queen of Scots which launched a fascination with the doomed queen's mother, Marie de Guise, that eventually led to a summer researching in Scotland, a very long scholarly paper, and the beginnings of a Marie de Guise based historical novel.

For which books are you most grateful?


Blogger Joanne said...

So many books come to mind, but Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber set into motion a lifetime of interest in all things related to Charles II.

Please don't tell me I have to wait until April of 2014 for The Ashford Affair!! Do you mean 2013? (Was that a tryptophan-induced typo?) And I am most grateful to you for your wonderful Pink Carnation series!

1:06 PM  
Blogger Lauren Willig said...

Ooops! I meant 2013. That was, indeed, a turkey-induced typo.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

What a great topic! I too read "A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver" as a young child - actually, my mom read it to me. I think it was also one of my earliest historical novels and a great example of how history can bring fiction to life (I also saw "A Lion in Winter" when I was pretty young). In addition, I'm grateful for
"Pride and Prejudice", "The Scarlet Pimpernel," and "Gaudy Night" and "Busman's Honeymoon" all of which have helped shape the books I'm writing today.

3:43 PM  

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