Thursday, October 28, 2010

More snippets from the Historical Novel Society Conference 2010

One of the best things about these sort of events is the opportunity to network with other writers and readers. During lunch the hubbub of conversation was almost deafening, and a few people escaped the noisy dining room for the bar, myself included. There I got chatting with some women from Yorkshire who are all at various stages with their historical works-in-progress and with a history teacher who is writing a novel set in the Civil War. We exchanged notes over our pizza, quiche and bread rolls, and heard a little about the ideas behind our work.

Sometimes you can end up a little drunk on other people's unwritten stories and enthusiasm.

In the afternoon we were treated to "A History of Violence" with panellists Harry Sidebottom, Doug Jackson, Robert Low and Ben Kane. There was general agreement amongst the panel that violence was a thrill that the adrenaline-junkie male sought through his reading in this somewhat sanitised society, and that combat and war are subjects that are somehow "sexy" at some visceral level.
Members of the panel were keen to point out the particular stresses of combat with its "to the death" theme can make for a very human story. It was these tales that the panel thought they were telling - the stories of one individual against the big canvas of armed conflict. The panel were asked whether women writers were equally able to do this, to conjure up the vast battlefields and set pieces of conflict, and several mentioned Robyn Young (author of The Brethren Trilogy and the new Insurrection.)

In times past, life was altogether more violent and this difference can alienate readers. Difficult areas that challenge readers are (unsurprisingly) rape scenes, and those featuring violence to animals. One of the panel said he had had complaints about a scene involving dismembering a dog although readers were happy to accept the same if the victim was human. In early cultures, particularly slave cultures, rape was endemic, for example in ancient Rome. Rape in any case was less about sexuality and more about status - i.e. it was acceptable in Rome if you were the rapist, but to be the victim was seen as dropping status. After hearing the all male panel dicuss this, it was a contrast to hear from the softly-spoken writer for young adults, Ann Turnbull.

Ann Turnbull writes historical fiction for young adults - a booming market which she says used to be almost invisible. Her books are set in the seventeenth century and focus on the Civil War, the Plague Years and the Great Fire of London. I have to say that to write of these subjects was probably a smart move as all these are on the standard history curriculum, although for younger children, and that her books seem to be doing very well despite somebody saying earlier in the day that the 17th century was difficult to sell. Ann's talk entertained us with a powerpoint presentation of maps of old London, engravings of a 17th century printers workshop, and forbidden Quaker meetings. Originally a writer of books for younger children Ann was delighted when her publisher suggested she should try writing historicals for Young Adults. Each book is 70-80000 words long, so each takes considerable research. But there is no doubt that there is a market there now for historical fiction for young adults where there wasn't one before.

The final presentation was from Jean Fullerton, whose immensely popular London based books are impeccably researched. "Ground your Fiction in Fact" was the title of the session, as Jean is a firm believer in doing your homework, and goes to great lengths to make sure everything is as accurate as possible. She told us to look beneath the surface of the usual view and unearth the lesser known facts, for example that there were many black Victorians in London, but these images (shown to us on Powerpoint) are not ones we would usually associate with Victorian London. She has the advantage of living in the place she writes about and has used her local contacts and the local studies archives to uncover exactly what was on the streets she writes of, so she can feature real pubs and shops. She even researched what grades of coal were on sale during the period she was describing.When challenged that such detailed research might be wasteful as it hardly features in the book, and time could be better spent writing, Jean took the view that if the writer knows the detail, then this will convey to the reader even if not in the most obvious way. And I have to say I agree - the confidence that comes from knowing your stuff helps the writing process and gives a flavour of veracity.

Jean finished by saying we will never be able to get it all right - there will always be something we miss and kick ourselves over once it has gone to the printer, but that is inevitable. The main thing is to feel assured you have done the research the best way you are able.

In the gaps between the sessions I was able to network with other writers, both published and unpublished, and have the "writerly" conversations I am so often starved of at home, so my thanks go to the organisers and to all the speakers. I look forward to next time!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snippets from The Historical Novel Society Conference 2010

The venue for this year's conference was the Mechanics Institute in Manchester, a solid edifice with an imposing stone staircase and walls full of prints and ephemera from the history of the Trades Unions.

Unfortunately I couldn't be in two places at once so I had to make choices about which speakers I would listen to. The first was Mary Sharratt - seated in amongst us at a round table around which we all squashed ourselves - she was a very popular speaker and rightly so. Her talk on "The Daughters of Witching Hill", her new novel, was exemplary. She gave us plenty of historical detail about the religious and social background to the book - how the Reformation changed attitudes to Catholicism, how the 17th century beliefs in spirits and the power of the cunning woman were repressed during the rise of Puritanism.

Her extracts were well-chosen, and we all got to hear her read a little of the voices of the characters, during which you could hear a pin drop. She had photocopied some chapbooks and documents of the time which she referred to, and these added a note of veracity to what was a very well-planned and interesting session. And "The Daughters of Witching Hill" sounds like a great read.

Robert Low was next, talking about Reportage, Re-enactment and Fiction. A very imposing-looking man with a plaited beard, he looks as his readers might hope he would. His lively talk ranged across his experiences as a war reporter and re-enacter. As he pointed out, historical fiction is a genre with no awards, no specific shelf in a bookshop.

And for myself, probably my affinity with Viking, Roman or other so-called Sword and Sandals fiction is about the same as my affinity with Crime or Chick-Lit - i.e they are novels, but that's about as far as it goes. One end of the genre can feel miles away from another, separated by aeons in both time and writing style. So it always feels a little odd for us all to be lumped together in one genre.

But as a novelist Robert had some great things to say about the writer remaining invisible, listed with great good humour. My favourites were "Never open with the weather - the reader is looking for people","Try to leave out the parts readers skip", "If it sounds like writing, re-write it."
He said whatever the accuracy of our research in the end our "only obligation is to be persuasive," and I have to say this seemed a very good argument.

The Panel Discussion, "Where next for Historical Fiction?" chaired by Doug Jackson with Jim Gill (United Agents) Marcy Posner (Folio Literary Management) began by looking back to see where the current revival in interest in HF has come from, and traced it back to the rise of interest in historical non-fiction, particularly Simon Schama's History of Britain, and books such as "Longitude" - non-fiction narratives which then paved the way for fiction. Readers like the "added value" of entertainment plus education that some HF provides. However, we need to be wary that we don't become so concerned with being accurate that we forget to write a novel! Story is key.

The conversation ranged over the power of the cover (8 seconds to make your choice in Tesco) to the fact that contrary to most writers' opinions, interest in the Tudors shows no sign of waning. On the contrary, readers like to read books where they already have a smattering of knowledge. Periods the reader has scant knowledge of will fail to sell. The English Civil War, although it has a lot going for it in terms of dramaic action, is apparently a difficult period as readers do not understand the complex causes of the conflict and therefore have no "in" on the subject. (Shame, as that is my period!)

Marcy Posner said there was absolutely no market for WWII novels in the States.

She also said that since the rise of ebooks and self-publishing it was interesting that no less than five new independent bookshops have opened in New York, indicating that the public are wanting a more informed choice and a personal service. Good news for all of us whose books are somewhere in the mid-list.

Both Jim and Marcy agreed that the job of the novelist includes being "out and about", although there is no hard evidence to show (certainly in the States ) that readings and tours work to sell more books. Generally, facebook, tweeting, blogs etc do not necessarily increase your profile as there is so much "information static" drowning out the potential to connect with readers. This was contested by some members who thought that they had successfully used these media to sell their own books.

In the afternoon I listened to a Panel Discussion on "A History of Violence" and Ann Turnbull talking about "Love and Conflict in the 17th century." This was followed by Jean Fullerton's presentation "Ground your fiction in Fact." I also had a very entertaining lunch, and a discussion with two other writers about the benefits of the Kindle. More about these and the afternoon slot, in my next post.
You can also find this post on my own blog, but Anne suggested I should post it here too, and she's right - it probably is of more general interest.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Say what?

As we all know, historical authors agonize over the details.
We spend countless hours researching details for each book even though it sometimes feels like we’re the only ones who will care. For instance, questions that pop up on loops and forums have ranged from what’s the most common breed of sheep in 15th century Scotland to who was the most expensive tailor in Regency London. Both of which are small details that could be easily written around.
In trying to make my books as authentic as possible, I’ve learned how to make beer, medieval-style, counted the steps between a dozen cathedrals and castles, and peered inside too many garderobes to count get a sense of how they worked and figure out if someone could actually crawl up one to storm a castle.
But what other authors and I often agonize over—and what no amount of research will ever really give us—is the language our characters actually used.
During the 12th century, the time period I write, The Scottish/English borders were home to people descended from Saxon, Viking, Celts, and Normans (Vikings Round 2). Local dialects and accents were common (the traces of which can still be heard today) and few people outside the nobility traveled far from their place of birth. So it’s possible that someone from Carlisle had trouble understanding someone from Tyneside.
Fast-forward 800 years and we’re mostly reduced to gestures.
For instance, William of Ravenglas, the 12th century hero of ENTHRALLED didn’t inhale; he sucked in air. A century later he might have inbreathed. Just for the record, he could exhale in the 16th century, but wouldn’t inhale for nearly two hundred more years.
And as with any good hero, William definitely cysses Amilia, the heroine, but several hundred years will pass before he actually kisses her. And though he’s English, he won’t be snogging anyone until the 1950s. Of course, he could wreche havoc, upbrixle someone who was rude to a lady and still get off Skot-free if he became brath when the apology was slow to come.
I could go on, but you get the gist (my hero wouldn’t).
So as I sifted through revisions on Enthralled, which comes out today, I ended up having William inhale his breath and kiss his lady. When having to choose between the right word and the recognizable word, I picked the familiar one (as long as it wasn't jarringly modern). I want my readers to enjoy the story, not reach for the dictionary.
How about you? As a writer of historical novels, how do you solve the dilemma of readability vs. accuracy?
Keena Kincaid writes 12th century romances with paranormal elements. If transported back in time, according to the OED and the OED Historical Thesaurus, she would be little in the 12th century, but Henry VIII’s courtiers would have called her untall.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blackbeard Lives Again

It’s a beautiful day at sea. The sun is warm, the breeze whipping through the canvas sails. You hear the spotter’s cry and look over your shoulder. Fear slams you in the gut like a cannonball: You and your crew are being followed, and the menacing phantom behind you is flying no quarter.

This is no imaginary story. Over two hundred years ago, a two hundred ton wooden ship called The Queen Anne’s Revenge did just that. And her captain was the elusive Edward Teach. Pirates roamed the Caribbean and eastern seaboard of America during the Golden Age of Piracy, and the most famous of them all, Edward Teach, known as Blackbeard, has returned.

In 1996 Governor James Hunt of North Carolina announced that Blackbeard’s flagship had been discovered. A research firm searching Beaufort’s Inlet off the coast of North Carolina came across the heavily armed remains of a frigate in the presumed location of The Queen Anne. State underwater archeologists were called out and more than a decade later, the booty from Blackbeard’s most notorious prize has risen from the murky depths.

The Queen Anne was originally a French slave ship known as La Concorde. Easily captured by Blackbeard and his wily sloops off the coast of Martinique in 1717, the re-christened frigate became the flagship for the swelling party of pirates. They spent several months pillaging the Caribbean before turning toward the Carolinas. There, Blackbeard attempted to lay siege to the city of Charleston, and after a rather successful week, accepted a medicine chest in exchange for his prisoners.

Weeks later, around the 10th of June, 1818, The Queen Anne’s Revenge and her party ran aground attempting to enter Beaufort’s Inlet. Blackbeard and his crew had plenty of time to remove their valuables, and he escaped with a few of his faithful crew to Ocracoke Island along the outer banks. As The Queen Anne settled into her watery grave, her captain escaped death for almost six more months. Robert Maynard, a Royal Navy lieutenant, tracked him down, and the officer and pirate dueled to the death aboard the naval sloop, Jane. Blackbeard was beheaded, and his head hung from the Jane’s bowsprit in celebration. A fitting end to a fearless and troublesome buccaneer.

So what has The Queen Anne revealed? State archeologists working with the North Carolina Maritime Museum have spend the last ten years carefully dredging, sifting, cleaning and cataloguing artifacts. Because of the wreck’s location, it is agreed that it will eventually disappear due to storms and currents, thus the careful resurfacing of the precious cargo. The list is impressive. Items range from glass bottles, pewter dinnerware, and parts of small firearms, to cannons, an anchor, and ballast. Clues such as syringes hint that the men were treating themselves, probably for syphilis, a common companion. Evidence of cattle, fish, and pig bones speak of a varied diet aboard ship at the time of her demise.

What is it about pirates that fill us with excitement? Tropical islands? Buried treasure? Even before Robert Louis Stevenson penned TREASURE ISAND in 1883, man has always dreamed of adventure at sea. Disney’s 2003 film, “Pirates of the Caribbean” renewed public interest and affection for those scallywags, but the truth is, some of them were very dangerous men.

It’s believed that Blackbeard was a part of the Queen Anne’s War (1701) where he served as a privateer. This evidence shows that not all pirates started out as criminals. Many were drafted into the lifestyle by the point of the sword, having no choice when their ships were captured. It was these men, and those small boys, that often paid for piracy with their lives.

You can find out more about The Queen Anne’s recovery at

You can view astounding footage documented by Nautilus Productions at

After that, dive into a good book such as my pirate ship treasure hunt, BY HEART AND COMPASS, available at Desert Breeze Publishing and other online bookstores. You may just find the kind of pirate you’ve been looking for.

Danielle Thorne

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Danielle Thorne is the author of THE PRIVATEER, a 1729 historical about British privateering in the Caribbean and TURTLE SOUP, a sweet contemporary romance set between Atlanta and St. Thomas. Her shipwreck adventure, BY HEART AND COMPASS, is available now. Her first Jane Austen-inspired Regency, JOSETTE, has been contracted by Whimsical Publications for Winter 2010.

Danielle currently writes from south of Atlanta, Georgia. She was the 2009-2010 Co-Chair for the New Voices Competition for young writers, is active with online author groups such as Classic Romance Revival and EPIC, and moderates for The Sweetest Romance Authors at the Coffee Time Romance boards. Danielle reviews for online review sites and edits for two publishing houses and Romance Junkies. She lives with four sons and her husband, who is an air traffic controller. Together they enjoy travel and the outdoors, Marching Band competition, and BSA Scouting.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The world's oldest sport?

Last week on the Hearts through History RWA loop, a casual reference to the 1900 Olympics in Paris noted that tug-of-war was part of the competition.
1908 U.S. tug-of-war team

Talk about intriguing.

I had no idea that tug-of-war was once an Olympic sport. To be honest, I assumed it wasn't played anywhere but on playgrounds, college campuses and family picnic areas.

Curious about this bygone sport, I spent a few days researching tug-of-war, and its gold medal history, spending a lot of time on the official websites of the Olympic movement and the site of the Tug-of-War International Federation.

Yep, there's an international federation.

For those who might not know (I know you know, but my journalistic training demands I explain the sport) tug-of-war is played when opposing teams, somewhat equal in number and weight, grab hold of either end of a rope suspended over a hazard of some sort, i.e. water or mud (history suggests Vikings played tug-of-war over the campfire). At a signal, both teams tug on the rope, trying to pull the other team into the hazard.

A few facts about the 1900 Olympics:
  • Events were held in Paris as part of the 1900 World’s Fair and were so under-promoted that not all 997 athletes realized they were taking part in Olympic competitions. Overall, only 375 tickets were sold.
  • Organizers didn't hold an opening ceremony. Events began May 14 and ended Oct. 28.
  • Women competed for the first time in these games. The first women's competition? Croquet.
  • Mixed teams (not gender but nationality) completed in five sports, including tennis and tug-of-war.
  • Tug-of-war made its debut as an Olympic competition. Other sports:
    • Archery
    • Artistic gymnastics (which included pole vaulting)
    • Athletics: combined, field, road (cross-country) and track
    • Basque Pelota (think team racquet ball played across a net and you’ve got the general idea)
    • Cricket
    • Coquet
    • Cycling
    • Equestrian, jumping
    • Fencing
    • Football (soccer)
    • Golf
    • Polo
    • Rowing
    • Rugby
    • Sailing
    • Shooting
    • Swimming
    • Tennis
    • Tug-of-War
    • Water Polo
Only two teams competed in the tug-of-war competition on May 14. Winner was the best of three, and a Danish/Swiss team competed against a French team and won 2-0. This was Sweden’s first gold medal.

During the 2004 Olympics in Saint Louis, six teams competed, four from the host nation. U.S. teams won all three medals. At the time, clubs fielded tug-of-war teams, so there wasn’t a national team from any country. In the 1908 London games, British teams won the gold, silver and bronze. According to the BBC, the final match was between two English teams comprised of policemen, with the London police team beating Liverpool's police team.

Tug-of-War was dropped from the Olympic games after 1920. But the Olympics were hardly the beginning or the end of the sport, which dates back thousands of years. Egyptians played tug-of-war, as did the ancient Greeks, the Vikings and other sea-faring nations. It's still a popular sport in India, Europe and South Africa where the 2010 Tug-of-War Championships were held in Pretoria.

Coming up: the International Tug-of-War conference is scheduled for January 2011 in Taipei. If that’s too far to travel, The European tug-of-war championship will be played in September 2011.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Call Me Duchess by Maggie Dove

Hi Everyone,

I just received the cover for my forthcoming novel, Call Me Duchess. I wanted to share it with you and tell you a little bit about my book:

Grippingly suspenseful and romantic, CALL ME DUCHESS, is a stunning, young woman’s journey to find love in 1870 London while a dashingly handsome chaperone, a heinous villain, and her own lofty aspirations stand in her way. Left penniless by their father, Marguerite Wiggins and her sisters must find husbands during the London season or work as governesses by season’s end.
Determined to become the next Duchess of Wallingford, Marguerite is a woman in love who must make the difficult decision between following her heart or attaining her lifetime dreams and ambitions as a depraved rapist seeks to make her his next victim.

Historical Romance/Romantic Suspense, CALL ME DUCHESS is the second novel of the Windword Trilogy.
To be released by Eternal Press - January, 2011

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guest Sharon Lathan-- Regency: What’s Not To Like?

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Sharon Lathan and her latest book, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, which continues the saga of the lives of the well-loved Pride and Prejudice characters. Sharon talks about why she loves the Regency, but also why we should take Regency etiquette with a grain of salt.

Leave a comment and your email for a chance to win one of the two copies of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Sharon will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

Sharon selected the winners Maggie Dove and Meg Evenstar. Maggie, I've sent you an email. Meg, please contact me at to collect your prize. If I do not hear from you by October 24, I will award the books to alternates.

Welcome, Sharon!

Thanks for inviting me as a guest! This is a tremendous honor to be here today!

I was asked what I like best about the Regency and what I like the least. Hmm….

Not so easy to answer. There are many aspects to this roughly 10-year period of time spanning the end of the larger Georgian Era and the Edwardian to Victorian Eras that came next that are appealing to me as a writer and lover of history. This was a trend setting time, revolutionary in many respects, and the radical changes affected those later decades profoundly. Certainly the clothing comes to mind since I think it the most appealing out of the past centuries. I adore the romantic renaissance attitude of the Prince Regent and his contemporaries as shown in the elegance and beauty of the architecture, art, poetry, and music. I could write several essays on the neoclassical styles of the era that are incredibly pleasing to the eye and provide a perfect backdrop to writing romance.

For my story I can’t deny that the staggering number of modern technologies feeds my mind. I am fascinated by the discoveries in every field of science that began during this period falling in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. I use what I unearth frequently within my saga.

Yet, if I have to pick one thing I like the best I suppose I would say it is the “old fashioned” tone that I love. I yearn for the days of politeness when people truly cared about another person’s sensibilities. Manners, decorum, and etiquette were taken seriously. A lady was a lady and a gentleman a gentleman. There were rules and standards that decent people made every attempt to follow. Modesty, careful speech, protocol, decency, and social obligation were prized. Being honorable was held dear and to be accused otherwise was a shameful happening. There were real scandals! Improper activity was looked down upon and one who acted immorally or outside the bounds of propriety often suffered serious consequences.

Yes, call me old fashioned, but I wish we had more of that in our world these days.

Oddly, to answer the second question, what I like the least about the Regency is this same strictness! Partly I admit that this is my modern attitude showing through. I love Pride and Prejudice, but I sure want to reach into the text and rattle those two stubborn idiots for not simply talking about it!! Life would have been way easier if they had thrown out the rulebook and actually been forthcoming for once. Of course that would have made for a short novel, but you get my point.

So here is the rub: Should we base our assumptions on what is written in a novel? Or what we read in the etiquette books of the day? I once read an essay where it was pointed out that etiquette books are usually written to point out how things should be done because they probably aren’t being done that way! Interesting point, I thought. I can’t speak for the veracity of 1811’s The Mirror of Graces but I know if someone plopped an Emily Post on my lap I would be mortified to discover all the ways I am failing!

However, these high standards are taken as gospel truth without keeping in mind several facts. One, none of us lived way back when so we can’t really know if the majority lived as perfectly as many of us like to imagine they did. Two, humans have always been human with every single frailty and evil thought we have today so it is highly unlikely they followed the rules any better than we do. Three, honest history proves that underneath the glamorous Regency there was squalor, crime, and poverty on a massive level while within the upper classes extravagance, frivolity, and superficiality often ruled.

In conclusion, I adore the formality and properness of these bygone days and I do think it was a standard characteristic adhered to by most, even if falsely, far more than we see today. I love writing with that in mind! But I also love writing about real people who respond in real ways. Gritty, honest, human characters who cry, rage, show passion, laugh, swear, and even sin a bit now and again. Don’t ever tell me a person would “never” do such-and-such unless you can prove they can’t do it today!

If only everyone could be as happy as they are…
Darcy and Elizabeth are as much in love as ever—even more so as their relationship matures. Their passion inspires everyone around them, and as winter turns to spring, romance blossoms around them.

Confirmed bachelor Richard Fitzwilliam sets his sights on a seemingly unattainable, beautiful widow; Georgiana Darcy learns to flirt outrageously; the very flighty Kitty Bennet develops her first crush, and Caroline Bingley meets her match.

But the path of true love never does run smooth, and Elizabeth and Darcy are kept busy navigating their friends and loved ones through the inevitable separations, misunderstandings, misgivings, and lovers’ quarrels to reach their own happily ever afters…

About the Author
Sharon Lathan is the author of the bestselling Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, and My Dearest Mr. Darcy. In addition to her writing, she works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. For more information, please visit You can also find Sharon at Austen Authors –, and Casablanca Authors –

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Author - Christina Courtenay

A very big welcome to historical author Christina Courtenay to the H B&B's blog.

Christina is half English/half Swedish, but grew up mostly in Sweden. She is married with two grown-up daughters and currently she divides her time between London and Herefordshire.
She is also a committee member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, responsible for the Love Story of the Year Award.
For more information, please visit

Cristina has kindly posted a blog about her new book, Trade Winds, which also carries on the theme of our previous blog post by Freda Lightfoot about the staus of women in different eras.

Status of Women in 18th century Sweden by Christina Courtenay.

I was reading your recent blog posts and noticed that quite a few were about the status of women through the ages and the fact they had hardly any rights in the eyes of the law unless they were widows. This seemed very apt, since the heroine in my novel Trade Winds, Jessamijn van Sandt, is in exactly that situation. Being an only child, her father had trained her to take over the running of his merchant business and therefore educated her beyond what was normal for a girl in 18th century Sweden. However, when he dies, Jess finds that her mother has inherited everything and when the mother remarries, the company goes to her new husband, Jess’ father’s former business partner. She smells a rat, but there is absolutely nothing she can do about the situation unless she can prove the will false or that her step-father has cheated her.

When researching this novel, I too was intrigued to find just how little power a woman had over her life. I tried to come up with ways that Jess could redress the situation, but short of finding written proof that the business should have gone to her, she was powerless. She obviously needed help from a man, but her step-father thwarts her efforts to find a husband by scaring away any suitors, telling them she has no dowry even though she does. Her only recourse is to marry someone in secret, but even that could backfire, as I found out. If a girl married without consent from her parent or guardian, the marriage was legal, but the parent/guardian had the right to withhold her dowry and cut all ties with her.

Luckily for Jess, her new husband is resourceful, and all ends well, but in real life the scenario could have been very different. Although I’ve always loved history and often wish I lived in the past, the thought of being so helpless makes me feel grateful for our modern laws. We have a lot to thank the suffragettes for, that’s for sure!

Trade Winds is the story of handsome Scotsman Killian Kinross, who goes to Sweden in the hope of making his fortune. There he meets strong-willed Jess van Sandt, a merchant’s daughter who believes she’s being swindled out of her inheritance by her step-father. They join forces for mutual benefit and enter into a marriage of convenience, but then Killian is offered the chance of a lifetime with the Swedish East India Company. He sets sail for China, but the journey doesn’t turn out quite as he expected ...

Trade Winds, published by Choc Lit, (ISBN no. 978-1-906931-23-0) and is out now. ( )

Thank you for visiting the Historical Belles & Beaus Blog, Christina.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: IN THE ARMS OF MR. DARCY by Sharon Lathan

In the Arms of Mr. Darcy is the latest installment in Sharon Lathan's joyous celebration of married love, Regency style.

A year has passed since Darcy's and Elizabeth's wedding. The story opens with a Christmas party at Pemberley where they introduce their brand-new son, Alexander. Compared to their tumultuous courtship, Darcy's and Elizabeth's lives are now mainly happy, with, of course, a little sturm und drang along the way.

Darcy must deal with the business and emotional fallout of a death that occurred when a cotton mill he owns burns down. A nervous Elizabeth and Georgiana suffer through the gyrations required for their presentation at court. The Darcys enjoy a trip to the Peaks District, except when a falling boulder threatens Elizabeth and Alexander. Darcy, true hero that he is, whisks them to safety.

Although Elizabeth and Darcy revel in domestic bliss, other members of their family are not so lucky. Elizabeth's sister, Kitty, enjoys and suffers through her first fluttering of love. And Col. Fitzwilliam's tentative romance with a lady who caught his eye years ago resurfaces. I love Col. Fitzwilliam's story. I've added him right next to Mr. Darcy on my Favorite Heroes list.

If most of these events sound ordinary, it's because they are. Ms. Lathan's genius is to spin the everyday occurrences of married life into a page-turner. In a world full of strife, this book full of happiness is a treat for all.

Sharon Lathan will guest here on Wednesday, October 13. Leave a comment on her post for a chance to win one of two copies of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy. US and Canada residents only are eligible for the book giveaway.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!
ARC provided by Sourcebooks

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Guest Abigail Reynolds: Status of Women in Regency England

Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Abigail Reynolds, whose latest book is the Pride and Prejudice retelling, Mr. Darcy's Obsession. Enjoy her discussion on the status of the Regency women, which is far and away much different from that of modern women.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of the two copies of Mr. Darcy's Obsession which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Abigail will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.

Abigail selected the winners Toni V. S. and Caroline Clemmons. I've sent you both emails. If I do not hear from you by October 20, I will select alternates.

Welcome, Abigail!

Much as we like to romanticize the period, life could be very difficult for women in the Regency, even those in the upper classes. Women had almost no legal rights, especially married women. In fact, a wife didn’t even exist legally, because husband and wife were considered “one person” in law. A woman’s property became her husband’s upon marriage. If the husband gave a gift to his wife, it still actually belonged to him. This is why settlements were so important, serving as a legal document guaranteeing that the property the wife brought to the marriage would be hers after her husband’s death.

While a married woman couldn’t own property, a widow could: either her own property from before the marriage or property left to her by her husband. This gave widows an unusual degree of freedom, providing a disincentive to second marriages. Why put herself in the complete power of a man—to control her, to lock her up for life—when she could be independent?

In Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, Mrs. Bennet’s worst fear comes true when Mr. Bennet dies and Mr. Collins inherits Longbourn. Mr. Collins might have allowed the Bennet ladies to stay, or he could have put them up in a cottage with a small allowance. In my variation, he is still too offended at Elizabeth for refusing his proposal to waste money on relatives he hardly knows. They aren’t destitute, but it leaves Mrs. Bennet and her daughters at the mercy of her relatives, the Gardiners and the Phillipses, neither of whom had the space or resources to take in and support a family of six ladies. Mrs. Bennet’s settlement would not last long. Given this impossible situation, Jane chooses to marry an older shopkeeper, but able to help support her family, while Elizabeth goes to live with the Gardiners as an unofficial governess to their children.

In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy is marrying far beneath him when he chooses Elizabeth. This would be obvious to a reader of the period, but the chasm between them is less obvious to a modern reader. I love that chasm, though, because it shows just how much Darcy is willing to sacrifice for the woman he loves. In Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, I increased the difference in their status in order to demonstrate his incredible devotion to a modern reader. As always, Mr. Darcy’s ardent love triumphs over all adversity!

The more he tries to stay away from her, the more his obsession grows...

“[Reynolds] has creatively blended a classic love story with a saucy romance novel.” —Austenprose

“Developed so well that it made the age-old storyline new and fresh…Her writing gripped my attention and did not let go.”—The Romance Studio

“The style and wit of Ms. Austen are compellingly replicated…spellbinding. Kudos to Ms. Reynolds!” —A Reader’s Respite

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, Elizabeth is called away before Darcy proposes for the first time and Darcy decides to find a more suitable wife. But when Darcy encounters Elizabeth living in London after the death of her father, he can’t fight his desire to see and speak with her again…and again and again. But now that her circumstances have made her even more unsuitable, will Darcy be able to let go of all his long held pride to marry a woman who, though she is beneath his station, is the only woman capable of winning his heart?

About the Author
Abigail Reynolds is a physician and a lifelong Jane Austen enthusiast. She began writing the Pride and Prejudice Variations series in 2001, and encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking “What if…?” She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information, please visit or

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: MR. DARCY'S OBSESSION by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy's Obsession, the latest of Abigail Reynolds's Pride and Prejudice Variations, is a stunning tale of love lost and refound.

Two years have passed since Darcy last saw Elizabeth. Having convinced both himself and a reluctant Bingley of the Bennet sisters' unsuitability for marriage, Darcy encounters Elizabeth in London. Her father's death has cast her family into dire financial straits and Elizabeth labors as an unpaid nanny for her Uncle and Aunt Gardiner's children.

Even as he tries to stay away, Darcy rediscovers how much he enjoys Elizabeth's conversation and wit. Against his better judgment, he asks her to marry him in his trademark bungled proposal. An enraged Elizabeth refuses, and Darcy must convince her to agree.

Already disillusioned with his world of privileged excess that often mistreats the less fortunate, Darcy regrets the grave errors he made in losing Elizabeth--twice. A distraught Bingley, furious that he accepted Darcy's advice to spurn Jane, lashes out at him when he discovers Jane has married to survive.

This novel brings to the forefront what many romances gloss over--the importance of money. Elizabeth's uncle and aunt, hard-pressed to support her, urge her to accept the marriage proposal of her uncle's head clerk. Jane wed a kind shopkeeper old enough to be her father because he helps support her mother and sisters.

Ms. Reynolds paints vivid portraits of real people struggling with harsh economic reality to survive and find happiness. Jane and Bingley's story is especially heartbreaking. That we wonder how all will fare, even as we know the ending, is a testament to Ms. Reynolds's fine storytelling.

Abigail will guest here on October 7, and will give away two copies of Mr. Darcy's Obsession. The publisher can mail to US and Canada addresses only.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!
ARC provided by Sourcebooks

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Enigma of Lady Jane Grey

You can learn a lot from narrative paintings.
I became interested in Lady Jane Grey because I looked at lots of images of impending executions when researching The Lady's Slipper. I became fascinated in how people face an inevitable death as this happens to one of the characters in my book.

This gorgeous work by Delaroche shows the last moments of the seventeen year old Jane, clad only in a chemise, about to put her head on the block. Behind her the waiting women clutch her gown, and give way to their grief. It is hard to imagine how a seventeen year old girl today would be able to cope with an impending execution, but obviously tudor women were used to and perhaps somewhat immune to, the culture of rapid and violent deaths. Still, to face one's own execution for a crime of birth rather than of one's own fault must be doubly horrific. Many other artists have painted the innocent Lady Jane who was Queen for only nine days.

Lady Jane Grey was at one time considered as a bride for Edward VI of England, but he died early, before any marriage was consummated. Instead, it was arranged for her to marry Lord Dudley, the son of the Duke of Northumberland, who, against her wishes, proclaimed her Queen of England.

This was  to prevent Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII - a Roman Catholic, from assuming the throne, but the plan back-fired and Jane was tried for treason. She was sentenced to death, but was spared by Queen Mary, who was fond of her cousin, and did not blame her for the rebellion. The following year, another rebellion occurred which again had the object of placing Lady Jane on the throne. In spite of her personal innocence, Lady Jane was executed along with all of the other conspirators.

"Well, her death was an awful business, and Jane met it with great bravery – but, despite her tender years, she was a religious fanatic even by the impressive standards of the day. In the Tower, she wrote to a Protestant clergyman who had reverted to Catholicism, informing him that he was “now the deformed imp of the devil”, his soul “the stinking and filthy kennel of Satan” and compared the reception of the Blessed Sacrament to an act of satanic cannibalism. Gentle Jane, my foot: she could have given the Taliban lessons in bigotry."

This quotation from the Daily Telegraph shows a quite different view of Lady Jane - a religious fanatic intent on suppressing Catholicism.
How good a Queen would she have been, I wonder?

An excellent book I can recommend that will stay with you about this whole era is "The Sisters who would be Queen" by Leanda DeLisle. Do you know of others? I would be interested to hear of other recommendations for this period.