History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

26 March 2015

Letter Home from Waterloo

This is absolutely brilliant and not to be missed (this kind of stuff is why I troll The Daily Mail and know more than I every wished to about a certain family whose name begins with "K"). A letter home after the battle of Waterloo has been found and is set to be auctioned. It is from a corporal in the Household Heavy Brigade. It reads in part:

"We had very hard fighting and with men of no despicable size or appearance. I received a cut on my bridle hand, had a sword run through my jacket in the shoulder. We drove them under their own cannon into their own lines and stay'd their (sic) too long, for the infantry began to play upon us. I had my horse shot in a charge against a solid column of infantry...he received another ball, he tumbled over another horse... about 20 yards from the face of the column of 15 hundred or 2 thousand men. I struggled to get clear, they saw me and sent some musket shot at me but they struck the horses. My poor horse had a great many balls in him. I got my legs clear looked over his neck, and saw more approaching to bayonet me. I mustered all my strength and run off faster than I ever went to school in my life, their flankers fired after me ... This was a Glorious Charge we returned and was Huzza'd by the infantry which they had threatened with destruction. Our swords reeked with French Blood."

I love this kind of stuff and am always happy when I stumble across it, it makes everything so vivid. And military stuff like this always makes me think of Heyer's brilliant An Infamous Army...I really need to reread that.

08 March 2015

The Perfect Girl is Gone

Growing up I loved fairytale. The only Disney princesses in my childhood were Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (which definitely dates me). I liked all of them, had books and records with their stories (dating myself again) and was particularly attached to my Aurora and Phillip paper dolls. But from a young age I also always liked flawed heroines like Emma Woodhouse or Barbara Childe or villainesses  like Achren in Llyod Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain or Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers. As I said in my a blog on my website, "for one thing (as I noticed as a child) they usually get to wear the best clothes :-) (only compare Emma with Fanny Price or Becky Sharp with Amelia or Milady with Constance). But more seriously, I think it’s in large part that they often are characters who break rules and defy conventions." As a child, I liked them because they *did* things instead of waiting around to be rescued. Conventional heroines tend to be too perfect. Which tends also to go with a lack of inner conflict.

When I started writing, my favorite of my heroines tended to be those who pushed convention the most. Until I got to Suzanne in my current series, definitely flawed and conflicted, definitely a rule breaker, and definitely not the sort to wait around to be rescued.

Fast forward a few decades to the holiday season of 2013 when I heard about a new Disney movie that was supposed to have heroines outside the traditional mold. It seemed like a good time to take my daughter Mélanie, then two, to her first movie in a theater. We settled into seats with peppermint hot chocolate, and there was Anna, who is sweet but also human enough to make mistakes and brave enough to try to fix them and who saves herself by committing an act of love instead of being the passive recipient of a true love’s kiss. Anna is an interesting heroine in her own right. But she isn’t the one who sings that song, the song little girls are singing on countless playgrounds. Elsa apparently was originally going to be a villain in the mold of Maleficent or Ursula or Snow White’s stepmother. Her character evolved as the movie was being made. In fact when "Let It Go" was first written, they weren’t sure whether Elsa would be singing it as a heroine or a villainess. But instead of a wicked queen she ended up a Disney princess who is also a tortured heroine, struggling with her powers and her identify, trying to be perfect, facing the fact that she has to be herself.

Mélanie likes both Anna and Elsa for Halloween she wanted to be Anna and wanted me to be Elsa (picture above), but we saw far more Elsas than Annas out trick or treating. The Elsa toys are by far the hardest to find it stock. Mélanie sings all the songs from Frozen but she particularly loves to belt out “Let it Go.” “The perfect girl is gone” is a long way from “Someday my prince will come” or “Someday I’ll be part of your world" (Ariel is probably Mélanie's other favorite Disney princess). No matter how ubiquitous the song has become, i don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing my daughter sing “Let if Go.” Or of hearing it on our CD, or our video, or her singing Elsa doll or her Frozen karaoke microphone…I'd much rather have my daughter strive to be herself than to be perfect.

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