Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
***All photos accompanying posts are either owned by the author of said post or are in the public domain -- NOT the property of History Undressed. If you'd like to obtain permission to use a picture from a post, please contact the author of the post.***

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest Author, Jack Caldwell - LISTEN TO YOUR MUSE—AND YOUR WIFE

Today on History Undressed, I would like to welcome Jack Caldwell, author of Pemberly Ranch, which I just adored!  Click here for my review.  I hope you enjoy his post today as much as I did, and don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Pemberly Ranch -- 2 winners, US and CANADA only.

Enjoy!

LISTEN TO YOUR MUSE—AND YOUR WIFE
by Jack Caldwell


One day, my lovely wife and chief editor, Barbara, and I were talking about our backgrounds. I am a native of the state of Louisiana, born and bred in the swamps, of English / Scottish/ Irish/ French/ German/ Swedish heritage (I’m a mutt), while she is German/ Polish whose parents grew up around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We were talking about how chance brought us together. As we are both world travelers and interested in both current events and history, it occurred to us that we were lucky to have found each other. As I thought about it, I realized that had we been living anywhere else, we wouldn’t have.

Let me explain. As I said, we are world travelers. We both have been struck how ancient animosities keep cropping up to disturb the peace. It’s as if many people in the world are prisoners of their past; they are held hostage to their history. But in America, we are not.

The US Civil War was the greatest cataclysm ever to occur on the North American continent. Six hundred thousand soldiers and countless civilians died the in conflict. I had ancestors who fought on either side. I was born and raised in the Deep South, while Barbara’s people came from the Upper Midwest. By rights, we should hate each other for what happened almost 150 years ago. But we don’t. In fact, it would be considered strange to the point of insanity in this country if we did. In comparison to the rest of the world, America has generally “gotten over” their civil war.

I pointed this out to Barbara, and she agreed. She remarked what a great country this was—that we can overcome our prejudices. That struck a chord with me.

As you might guess, I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen’s work, and have been writing Austen fan fiction for several years. Barbara’s comment triggered my muse, and I replied, “Yeah—talk about pride and prejudice! Think how much more Lizzy and Darcy would have to overcome if they lived here!”

“You should write that,” she said. Well, that’s all the encouragement my muse needed.

Pemberley Ranch is the story of Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War, a little-told tale in our nation today. Basically, it’s Pride & Prejudice on steroids—Elizabeth (Beth) is a Yankee farmer’s daughter recently relocated to Texas, and Darcy (Will) is a Confederate veteran and owner of the largest ranch in the county. And did I mention that Beth’s only brother was a casualty of the war? She would hate Southerners, right? Meanwhile, Yankee carpetbaggers are busy stealing land from the locals. Will would have a problem with that. How does our couple overcome those obstacles?

Really, it is the story of post-Civil War America. Because we did overcome all that. Just how Beth and Will overcome all that—well, you’ll just have to read Pemberley Ranch.

There is a moral to this posting: Thanks to my wife, I came up with the idea of Pemberley Ranch. It’s my first published novel. All because I listened to my wife.

Remember that, guys.

It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.


PEMBERLEY RANCH BY JACK CALDWELL – IN STORES DECEMBER 2010

When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…

“It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind—with that kind of romance and excitement.” —Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

About the Author

Jack Caldwell, a native of Louisiana living in Wisconsin, is an economic developer by trade. Mr. Caldwell has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. Pemberley Ranch is his first published work. He lives with his wife and three sons in the Minnesota. For more information, please visit http://webpages.charter.net/jvcla25/ and on http://www.austenauthors.com/, where he regularly contributes.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell

Congratulations Mr. Caldwell!  I have not had a book grip me as Pemberley Ranch did since I read Ken Follett's World Without End.  When I say this, I mean that I couldn't STOP reading... and when I was forced to put the book down to work or take care of my family, all I could do was think about getting back to it.  Pemberley Ranch, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, with an American south twist, is a definite recommended read!

Book Info...

When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.


In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…

Product ISBN: 9781402241284

Price: $14.99
Publication Date: December 2010



My Review...

There are a number of reasons why I enjoyed this book so much.  The setting is fascinating, unique and fresh--and by the way, I loved the maps in the beginning!  Never before has the dashing Mr. Darcy come to be a cowboy, at least that I've read.  But it isn't just that he's a cowboy, we also have the element of the Civil War, North vs. South.  Mr. Caldwell breaks open an entire new can of worms to toss at a famous and favorite couple of literary fans -- Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.  And, Mr. Caldwell has truly made this his own story!  There are new and intriguing characters, new conflicts, new goals, new motivations, new emotions, and a sensuality/risqueness you don't often see in P&P continuations.  We have saloons--and whores, gun fights, cattle ranching, secret rendez-vous, railroads, murder, bank forclosures, cowboy hats and spurs, gingham and dungarees.



Mr. Caldwell's writing is tight and action packed, which makes for quick and exciting reading.  His research was extensive, and I learned more about the Civil War in his book--which I didn't even realize until the end--than I did in history class.  But don't get me wrong, the book isn't a history lesson, its fiction and action and drama.  The front cover has a quote from author, Sharon Lathan that says, "Pride and Prejudice meets Gone With the Wind." And how true her words are!  We have the southern belles, the outdoor picnics, large plantation homes, the issue of slavery, the different views of the north and south.  But it is also more than that, because we aren't in Georgia, we're in Texas, and things in Rosings, Texas are a lot different then they were in Georgia during and after the civil war. 

Additionally, I liked how a few familiar names from Austen's other works popped up in the book, like Miss Dashwood and Mr. Knightley.  They weren't main characters, but it was still neat.

You don't have to have read any of Ms. Austen's classic works, to enjoy Pemberley Ranch.  Mr. Caldwell has taken these characters and reinvented them.

Well done!  I look forward to reading more work by this author.

I would love to hear if anyone else was as impressed and enthralled with this book as I was.

About the Author...

Jack Caldwell, a native of Louisiana living in the upper Midwest, is an economic developer by trade. Mr. Caldwell has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Miss Austen for many years. Pemberley Ranch is his first published work. He is married with three sons.  Visit Mr. Caldwell at http://webpages.charter.net/jvcla25/


 
Mr. Caldwell will be visiting History Undressed on Wednesday, December 29th!  Don't forget to stop by!  Two commenters will win a copy of PEMBERLEY RANCH.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wishing You a Happy Holiday and Fabulous New Year!

We at History Undressed would like to wish all of our readers a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year!  Enjoy it wherever you are.  May 2011 bring you everything you hope for!

Here is a poem recorded by the famous Scots poet, Robert Burns, 1788, who says he only wrote part of it, and that the rest was an old song he wrote down when he heard it from an old man.  He passed the poem along to a friend in a letter.  The poem is sung traditionally on New Year's Eve in Scotland and the the British Isles, even making it to Canada and the USA--you'll recognize the song when you hear it.  Click this link to listen.  There are two versions you can listen to on the right side of the webpage.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne.


Cheers!
Eliza and Michelle

Book Review: The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley

A few weeks ago we had Susanna Kearsley guest blog on History Undressed about how she did the research for her book onsite in Cruden Bay, Scotland.

After having a chance to read her novel The Winter Sea, I have to say I think it shows!  There are such little touches in the book that you barely notice, like the rise of the dunes in front of the sea, or the specific scents, the color of the water, little touches here and there that made it come more alive than if the author had simply seen a picture.  I really connected with the main character, Carrie, in this book.  I don't know if its because we were similar in age and occupation, the fact that she travels all over to do research for her next project, or the way the author wrote a truly compelling story, and really it is all of that and more, I was drawn into this book and couldn't let go.

Back Cover...

History has all but forgotten...


In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

Published in December 2010
Available in Trade Paperback and E-book

My Review --  Warning there are spoiler alerts in this part of the post.  If you don't want to be spoiled, take my word for it, read no further, this is one book not to miss! 

There is so much to like about this book!  There is the element of time travel--although a new and unique way that I have never come across before and yet was intrigued by in this story: genetic memory.  The emotions and memories elicited from Slains and Cruden Bay to Carrie were both compelling and struck a spot within me as well.  She is a very easy character to like, and her ancestor who channels through her, Sophia, is also a heroine I was drawn to. 

A book with two heroines... it was well done.  I liked how at one moment we are with Carrie in the present, and then next we are two years in the past with Sophia.  Literally, it was two stories in one. 

I liked the added struggle of the two brothers and I'm happy she picked Graham, and that Stuie in the end was such a gentleman to let it go, and even say she'd picked the better of the two.  But I'm not sure that one brother was better than the other, just that one was more Carrie's type.  A historian!  They could talk for hours and hours and he helped her with her research, not to mention being handsome and physically fit and charming...  A dream come true!

One thing I will say, I was sad in the end that Sophia and own hero, Moray, did not take their child...  I understand the reasons for it, and in the end I did get the sense they were finally back together (Sophia and her child's line that is) but I wish she could have taken her baby.  As a mother, that always makes me sad when I read about it in historical books.  And how true it was.  Often mothers had to leave their children...

The historical research that went into this book was amazing, and if you'd like to read more about that visit, Ms. Kearsley's earlier post (link above).

Ms. Kearsley's The Winter Sea, was an emotionally poignant, gripping tale of adventure both in the past and the present with characters full of life, and conflicts that tug at the heart strings.  A definite read!

About the author...

After studying politics and international development at University, Susanna Kearsley worked as a museum curator before turning her hand to writing. Winner of the UK’s Catherine Cookson Fiction prize, Susanna Kearsley’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film. The Winter Sea was a finalist for both a RITA award and the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and is a nominee for Best Historical Fiction in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awareds. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario. For more information, please visit http://www.susannakearsley.com/.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guest Author, Victoria Gray - Yes, Dear Reader, There is a Santa Claus

I'd like to welcome back guest author, Victoria Gray!  Today, as part of History Undressed's holiday posts, she has written a wonderful article about Santa!  Happy Holidays!


Yes, Dear Reader, There is a Santa Claus
By Victoria Gray

I indulge in a love affair every year at Christmas time with an older man who has a bit of a weight problem and truly never heard of the Atkins diet, but he’s a flashy dresser with an even flashier means of transportation. He’s generous, possibly to a fault, and I don’t usually go for a big, ZZ-Top style beard, but he’s the exception. My home is filled with images of this man – his face is even on my Christmas ornaments. My husband doesn’t mind my interest. He’s not in the least bit jealous. In fact, my darling husband, a man who reminds me more than a little bit of Clark Griswold, searched EBay to find an old, somewhat cheesy plastic rendering of him that was first crafted in the sixties. So, who is this mystery man?

You guessed it – Santa Claus, that jolly resident of the North Pole who now attracts NORAD’s interest every Christmas Eve. Long before Santa’s sleigh was tracked on radar, Santa became an indelible part of American culture. A century before Macy’s Thanksgiving parade ushered in the Christmas season, the poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas introduced the image of Santa Claus that many Americans cherish. From the young toddler sitting on Santa’s lap to the homeowner competing with his neighbor to have the grandest light display in the neighborhood, the image of a jolly old man with a white beard, red suit, and reindeer at the ready brings to mind the joy and warmth of Christmas.

Amazingly, Santa’s image became a vital part of America’s Christmas tradition during the Civil War. Cartoonist Thomas Nast’s portrayal of Santa on the cover of the January 3, 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly depicted Santa seated on his sleigh, complete with hat and beard, presenting gifts to Union soldiers on the battlefield. Three decades later, an eight-year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, wrote a letter to the New York Sun that spawned one of the most famous editorials in history, Francis Church’s response. Church, a former Civil War correspondent who’d seen man’s inhumanity to man in vivid terms, responded with the immortal line, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. His touching, philosophical response viewed the existence of Santa in terms of love and goodness and giving.

One of my most enduring images of Santa emerged from the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street. The classic film charmed generations. Remade decades later, the premise was the same – Santa is real, if only in our hearts. What a lovely message to remember during the holiday season.

My new release, Angel in My Arms, is set during the winter months of 1864 and 1865. The Civil War is drawing to a close, but Union spy Amanda Emerson and the man she loves, Captain Steve Dunham, another Union operative, remain undercover in Richmond. Their love blossoms despite the ever-present danger and conflicts that threaten to tear them apart. In the following excerpt, it’s Christmas Eve - Amanda is separated from the man she loves, worried for his safety and wondering if she’ll ever see him again.

An excerpt, from Angel in My Arms:

Amanda sank into a chair and gazed into the crackling flames. Her heart ached. And there was only one cure for it.

A cure that would not come tonight. She’d outgrown childish Christmas wishes many years ago. She knew better than to hope for a miracle that would not come.

Kate padded across the floor, her footsteps soundless against the braided rug. “Joshua will be here to take me home shortly. I’ll return in the morning.”

“You belong with your family,” Amanda said. “Betsy and I will be fine. We’ve—”

A rap against the door cut through her words.

“Don’t tell me Captain Reed has returned,” Betsy muttered, eyeing Kate with a critical glare as she marched to the door with impatient strides.

She mumbled a few words to the unseen visitor and closed the door almost as quickly as she’d opened it.

“It seems I was wrong.” Betsy placed a wrapped package in Amanda’s hand. “You have an admirer.”

“Prescott?”

“I don’t know,” Betsy said with a reluctant smile. “The messenger didn’t say who’d sent him. Only that this was for Mandy.”


Mandy.


Amanda was sure her heart skipped a beat.

She unwrapped the package with slow, careful motions, intending to savor this moment, the pleasure of discovery.

Her lower lip quivered as she removed her gift. Ivory hair combs, exquisitely carved. Amanda examined her treasure with the wonder of a child on Christmas morning. She slid the combs into her hair.

A folded slip of paper lay within the box.

Amanda read the boldly scrawled message.

She’d been so very wrong.

Her wish had been granted.


Someday I’ll hold you again.

****

Steve shoved his hands in his coat pockets and braced himself against the cold. The warmth of his room at Lily’s Place beckoned him, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. Not just yet.

The boy he’d paid to deliver Amanda’s gift ran to him, reported the deed had been done, and rushed home, a silver coin clutched in his grimy hand.

Home. How many years had it been since he’d even had a home? Ten…no, eleven. He’d never been in one place long enough to put down roots, not since he left Boston.

With his collar turned up and his hat slung low to obscure his face, Steve skulked through the streets of a city where he didn’t belong. The truth broadsided him with the merciless force of a cannon ball. One week past his twenty-ninth birthday, he had no wife, no child, and a rented room in a brothel in which to lay his head.

A few weeks ago, he wouldn’t have given a damn. He’d never needed anything beyond a warm bed and a willing woman.

But nothing had been the same since he’d first laid eyes on Amanda.

Even in her prim and proper gray dress, she’d robbed him of breath. She hadn’t known that. Until he kissed her.

Longing speared his heart. He was in love with a woman he had no right to want. His partner’s sister. A beauty who could have her choice of men...men who would give her every comfort she deserved. Amanda deserved so much more than he could ever give.

But that didn’t change a damned thing.

He couldn’t stop himself from loving her.

****

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. To learn more about Angel in My Arms, please visit my website at www.victoriagrayromance.com or my blog, www.victoriagrayromance.blogspot.com .

Angel in My Arms is available from The Wild Rose Press (print - http://www.thewildrosepress.com/angel-in-my-arms-paperback-p-4328.html and e-book - http://www.thewildrosepress.com/angel-in-my-arms-p-4308.html), and other retailers including:


Digibooks Café (http://www.digibookscafe.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=107&products_id=1086),


All Romance E-Books (http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-angelinmyarms-484011-158.html),


Amazon.com (Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/Angel-In-My-Arms-ebook/dp/B004BLK63A/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1291012033&sr=1-1 and print - http://www.amazon.com/Angel-My-Arms-Victoria-Gray/dp/1601548435/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291012033&sr=1-1


Thanks for having me today. It’s been a pleasure. Here’s hoping Santa visits all of us on Christmas Eve…don’t forget the cookies…I hear oatmeal raisin cookies are his favorite!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Free Jane Austen Downloads and More!

Happy 235th Birthday Jane Austen!

To celebrate Miss Austen's birthday today, Sourcebooks is giving away freebies!  Here is the official press release info...

Sourcebooks, the world’s leading publisher of Jane Austen fiction, is offering a unique deal to readers who want to celebrate Jane by reading special editions of all six of Austen’s beloved novels in a 21st century format.

Special e-book editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Mansfield Park will be available for free for one day only. These celebratory editions include the full novels, plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers, originally created to accompany the books in 1898.

In addition to the Jane Austen classics, readers can also enjoy these bestselling Austen-inspired novels. The following bestselling e-books will be free on December 16th in honor of her birthday:

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

****

There have been some complications getting booksellers to post the free prices, so the special offer has been extended to include today AND tomorrow as well.  Books should be available from the following retailers:

iBooks, Google Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Sourcebooks.com.
HAPPY READING!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Guest Author, Susanna Kearsley: It Takes a Village... Doing On-Site Research for THE WINTER SEA

I am extremely excited to present our guest author to you today, Susanna Kearsley.  I am currently reading her book, THE WINTER SEA (review to be posted in the next week), and LOVING it!  She has a unique way of grabbing the reader and pulling her in.  I was fascinated to learn that Ms. Kearsley did her research on-site for this book, and to tell you the truth, it shows!  While reading, I truly feel as though I am there with the characters. 


It Takes a Village… Doing On-Site Research for The Winter Sea

by Susanna Kearsley



Author, Susanna Keasley
Photo by Ashleigh Bonang

Most of my research begins with a book – in this case, John S. Gibson’s account of the failed Franco-Jacobite Invasion attempt of 1708, called Playing the Scottish Card, which introduced me to an episode of history that I’d never even heard of, and inspired me to hunt down the original resources he had used to write his book. I started with the memoirs of the Jacobite Nathaniel Hooke, and went from there to letters, journals, ships’ logs, anything to help me reconstruct the past events and learn about the lives of those who’d been involved.

I love the reading; love to hold the old, old books and haunt the British Library’s hushed reading rooms, where I can lose all track of time reading the letters John Moray – my hero in The Winter Sea – wrote home to his mother and father, or those he wrote to Queen Mary of Modena in his neat and careful French.

Hooke Book and Moray Letter
But even more than that, I love to go to where the book is set – to walk where my characters actually walked, and to try to unearth the small details that help bring a story to life.

I’ve grown a lot more confident since I made my first research trip back in the early 1990s. Back then, I was too shy to tell anybody that I was a writer. Now, I tell everyone – bus drivers, bartenders, anyone – because I’ve learned two things about on-site research: One, that the best details can come from the least likely places, and two, that most people are wonderfully helpful.


Cruden Bay
 The Winter Sea is a perfect case in point. The day my plane touched down in Aberdeen, a heavy snow had closed the roads along the coast, so while I’d found a friendly bus driver prepared to set me down on the main road to Peterhead, it meant that I still had to walk a mile or so from there into Cruden Bay, through snow that nearly reached my knees, and in the dark. When I stopped at the first village pub to get out of the storm, they suggested I call for a taxi to take me the rest of the way up the road to my hotel. I took their advice.


St. Olaf Hotel
 The taxi driver, on hearing that I was a writer, shared some interesting bits of local history with me and gave me an introduction to the Doric language of the northeast, which came in handy since my landlord at the St Olaf Hotel still spoke the Doric. And my landlord, with his mother and his wife, not only made sure that my room had the same view of coast and castle as my heroine would have from her imaginary cottage, but did all they could to help me with my research.

Any time I had questions they answered them for me or found me the answers from people they knew in the village, or simply by asking the women and men in the public bar. One of these women, who came for her lunch almost every day, turned out to be the owner of the local taxi fleet, and she began to drive me round herself, on one occasion with the meter off, to find me the locations that I needed for specific scenes.

The Beach from Ward Hill
 Another of the regulars advised me where my heroine should have her cottage, on Ward Hill, and sure enough when I climbed up to look I found the rubblestone foundations of a cottage that had stood there once, and found the view exactly what I needed.

The local librarians, learning that I was a writer, spent hours finding newspaper clippings and reference books they knew would help me. The cook and the young woman serving my breakfast each day at the St. Olaf helped me. The shopkeepers helped me. The minister helped me. The staff at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel helped me. People I met on the beach walking dogs helped me. Everyone helped me.
Cruden Bay


And everyone told me I ought go see Margaret Aitken, their own local author, who’d written a few books of local and personal history. I did, and along with her husband and daughter she charmed me and answered my questions and offered me tea, even giving me photographs I could take home for my research.

Slains Castle, Cruden Bay

One thing I was able to do in The Winter Sea was show a little of how helpful people can be when a writer is gathering facts for a novel. It’s what makes my research trips so unforgettable – meeting these wonderful people who take such good care of me while I’m among them.

The reading I can do alone…but on location sometimes it can truly take a village, to do research for my books.

*****

THE WINTER SEA BY SUSANNA KEARSLEY – IN STORES DECEMBER 2010

History has all but forgotten…
In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

About the Author

After studying politics and international development at University, Susanna Kearsley worked as a museum curator before turning her hand to writing. Winner of the UK’s Catherine Cookson Fiction prize, Susanna Kearsley’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film. The Winter Sea was a finalist for both a RITA award and the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and is a nominee for Best Historical Fiction in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awareds. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario. For more information, please visit http://www.susannakearsley.com/.

Two lucky commenters will win a copy of THE WINTER SEA.  (US and Canada only)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review: Boleyn--Tudor Vampire, by Cinsearae S.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the pleasure of reading, Boleyn -- Tudor Vampire, by Cinsearae S.  Long live the queen!

Back Cover Blurb:

Just the slightest tweak in history makes all the difference in its outcome...


Tudor England. It is during the reign of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. As her time in power nears an end, Anne is greatly disheartened by the false accusations of adultery, high treason and incest she is arrested for, and the cold-heartedness of her father for his lack of defense in her honor. Upon her death, she vows revenge on those who have wronged her, and the simple change of her death sentence from beheading to hanging grants her the opportunity to execute her wish on those who betrayed her.

Unknown forces of inconceivable dark magic abounds. Anne discovers she has risen from her grave because of her denouncement of God just moments before her hanging, and resurrects two others from their untimely, wrongful deaths--her brother, George, and her favorite court musician and dear friend, Mark Smeaton. This unlikely trio will drive Whitehall Palace to madness, bringing those closest to Anne to their knees, begging for mercy and forgiveness.

Once Anne executes her justice among those who have failed her, the last and final question will be whether Anne will finally have peace, or find comfort in haunting England forever.

ISBN-13: 978-1451559491

Pub Date:  May 2010
Available in Print and Ebook format

My Review...

I first became aware of Ms. Santiago's writing several years ago when I did a spotlight on her writing for another review site.


Ms. Santiago's writing is fast-paced, entertaining and creative. The Tudor era is one of my favorites, and I've often thought that Anne Boleyn was an innocent victim of the times and tyrant. (Sorry Henry! I do love you, but... she didn't need to die, if you were going to get rid of her, you should have just set her aside like you did Katherine...IMHO)


Boleyn -- Tudor Vampire,  is a fun read!  Ms. Santiago changes history just a bit when instead of being beheaded, Anne Boleyn is hung for treason.  This sets the pace for the rest of the story.  Anne travels through Tudor England an enacts revenge on all those that hurt her, betrayed her and utlimately meant her death.  There were several times I laughed while reading this story, and several times I cringed--the details of the undead will at times turn your stomach.

If you're up for a quick (~150 pages) entertaining story with a bit of history and a bit of the undead, then I suggest you read Boleyn -- Tudor Vampire. 

About the Author...

Ms. Santiago has been writing, editing, and producing her own works through print-on-demand and conventional publishers. She is the creator of the all-new, dark paranormal romance series, "ABRAXAS". A digital artist and still-photographer, Ms. Santiago is also Editor/Publisher of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine--a top ten finalist in the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for 2008 and 2009, and winner for "Best Magazine Art"--having created this publication to give new and unpublished writers and artists of the genres a chance to shine and see their names in print. She also received the Author's Site of Excellence Award in December 2007 from P & E, and is a Cover Artist for Damnation Books.   Visit Ms. Santiago at http://bloodtouch.webs.com/

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guest Author, Angela Johnson - The Medieval Christmas Feast in England

Thanksgiving is over, and December is now upon us, which means its holiday season!  On History Undressed, we'll have a few special holiday related posts coming up, starting today with guest author Angela Johnson, whose written a fascinating article on medieval times, Christmas and feasting!  She's also included a delicious looking recipe for a medieval beverage that I will be trying!


The Medieval Christmas Feast in England
by Angela Johnson

Ever wonder how people celebrated Christmas in England during the Middle Ages? How did devoutly Catholic English society celebrate the birth of Christ six hundred years ago? As a history lover and writer of medieval romance, I began asking myself such questions as I realized Christmas was rapidly approaching. So I did some research and here are some of my findings.

St. Johns the Evangelist
The first recorded use of the word Christmas is from the twelfth century. It is derived from the Anglo Saxon word Christes Maesse, meaning the "Mass of Christ". Since the 4th century, the Roman Catholic Church has celebrated Christmas on December 25th. But in the Middle Ages, Christmas Day marked just the beginning of a cycle of feasts and Saint’s Days celebrations that lasted over a period of two weeks. This period was known variable as "Christmastide", or the "Twelve Days of Christmas", and it made up the Christmas season.

The various holy days celebrated during Christmastide were St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), St. John the Evangelist’s Day (December 27), Holy Innocent’s Day (December 28), St. Thomas a Becket’s Day (December 29), and ended on Twelfth Night, or the Epiphany (January 6).

As with Christmas Day, each of these holy days was celebrated with a feast. In the medieval period, this was a time eagerly anticipated by peasant and noble alike during the long dark days of winter. Like today it was a holiday which enabled people an opportunity to indulge in food and drink, hang decorations, entertain, and participate in singing, dancing, and playing games.

Christmas Feast: Food and Drink


The common peasant would not have the means to have a feast of their own, but royalty and nobility vied to see who could outdo the other in the size and scope of their Christmas season display and festivities. Even lesser magnates dispensed hospitality and good cheer to the greatest extent their resources would allow. In the Middle Ages, ninety-five percent of the populace was rural. It was custom in the countryside for barons and magnates to invite—in addition to their guests—servants and retainers of the manor, plus select other villagers, to partake of their feast.

The sumptuousness of the feast varied depending on the extent of the resources of the celebrant. The same was true whether it was a feast for a wedding, tournament, or Christmas day. Though the foods served at the feast were wide and varied, a number of dishes were traditional fare of a Medieval Christmas, like boar’s head, and roasted peacock and swan.
At many Christmas feasts, boar’s head was often brought into the dining hall to the sound of trumpets which commenced the first course of a 3-6 course meal, with each course having numerous dishes to choose from.
The tradition of the boar’s head processional was first introduced by the Vikings. They sacrificed the boar to pay tribute to their god, Frey, then brought its head to the table with an apple in its mouth and decked with garlands. This pagan custom gradually became Christianized. Eventually, the animals being slaughtered for the pagan gods were instead being sacrificed for the one true God.

Sometimes at Christmas feasts, several wild foul were also brought to the table with the same grand ceremony as the boar’s head. Peacock and swan, delicacies of the rich, were often made to look alive, as though they’d just been persuaded to sit upon the platter to be carried into the feasting-hall. This affect was achieved by the carcass being carefully skinned, feathers and all, then roasted, and then replaced back into its skin. The head and neck were stuffed to ensure they stood up so the bird looked as though it were still alive. Peacock was presented with their full tail and gilded head crest proudly displayed.

Other foods that would be more familiar to us today, but closely associated with Christmas, included mince pie and plum pudding. In medieval times, mince meat pie was known as Christmas pie. The original dish was a large and grand meat pie made of—beef, lamb, goose, chicken—as well as suet, dried fruit, and spices. It was usually oval in shape and easily transformed into a crib with a tiny pastry baby Jesus sculpted and set on top. It was eaten as a main dish of the Christmas feast until the 17th century when England’s Puritan-lead Parliament began to curtail Christmas celebrations. The name and shape of the pie gradually changed to avoid any association with the old traditions, and by the late 19th century, the meat and most of the spices had been removed. All that remained were the rich fruits, suet, and plenty of added sugar.


During medieval times, a wide variety of beverages were also available. One alcoholic beverage, though, was brewed especially for consumption during Christmas. It was known as wassail. This was a brew of ale, apples, spices, and later on, sugar (when it was available). It was often served in a special "wassail bowl", or container made of wood, and decorated with ribbons. The drink was passed around from guest to guest with the person offering the drink expressing his/her well wishes in the form of a toast --- “wassail” or “wes hal”, which means “Be thou hale”, “be in health” or “be well”. The recipient was expected to reply with “drink hail”, meaning “drink in good health”. The drink was very popular and often drunk to excess.  (Recipe included below this article...)


Christmas Feast: Entertainment


A medieval Christmas feast would certainly not be complete without several forms of entertainment. Guests at feasts were treated to singing, dancing, various games, and mummers’ plays. Christmas music in the form of hymns and carols were very popular. Hymns were of a religious nature. They were written and sung in Latin by the clergy. Carols were often composed by lay persons. They were written and sung in the vernacular, and brought a new element to the celebration of Christmas. Some were bawdy and related little to the religious festival, while others narrated stories of the Nativity.
One popular type of entertainment at the medieval Christmas feasts was "mummers’ plays". These were plays enacted by masked actors. There were three types of mummer’s plays. One was the "Hero/Combat". Another was the "Wooing Ceremony". And the third was the "Sword Dance." All three deal with the themes of death and rebirth, but did so in a different way.



Medieval Feast: Decorations


Medieval people decorated their homes, manors, and halls with greenery for the Christmas season. Feast halls were draped with holly, ivy and mistletoe. Holly was thought to bring good luck to the home, and to protect it from lightning and witches. But more importantly, holly was connected to the Nativity with the evergreen leaves representing Jesus’ eternal life.
Ivy was also used in decorating medieval homes, though not as popular as holly. It was often used on the outside of households.
Mistletoe has ties to both pagan and Christian legend and was believed to have healing powers. Though the tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe had pagan origins, it acquired a Christian meaning in the medieval period when a new belief began to circulate that the wood of the cross on which Christ was crucified actually came from mistletoe, rather than the holly. Common people were particularly fond of mistletoe, especially at Christmas, as it provided them with a license to flirt freely with the opposite sex. Despite clerical disapproval, mistletoe became a firm part of the medieval Christmas tradition.

Amazingly, it seems that medieval people had to deal with many of the same Christmas issues we do now. Then, as today, many Church leaders lamented the secularization of Christmas celebrations to the detriment of the true purpose of Christmas—to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. They point out that the true meaning of Christmas can easily be forgotten, or overlooked, in the excitement of all the holiday festivities. I suppose several hundred years from now, those same points might still be raised each year at Christmas time, but hopefully, humanity will still be coming together to decorate, feast, entertain, and find meaning in life.

* * * * * *


Christmas Wassail
____________

Ingredients:

Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/3 pint of apple juice
1/6 tsp. of ground nutmeg
¼ tsp of ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
28g/1oz sugar
500ml/1 pint ale
1 tsp. Honey

1. Simmer the apple juice, lemon juice and zest, spices and sugar in a pan, until the sugar has dissolved but ensuring the liquid does not boil.

2. Add the ale and honey and then heat through, taking care not to boil wassail.

3. Serve warm with lemon slices floating on top.

Recipe makes 1 ½ pints or 6 small glasses



BIBLIOGRAPHY

Diehl, Daniel. Medieval Celebrations: How to Plan Holidays, Weddings, and Reenactments, with Recipes, Customs, Costumes, Decorations, Songs, Dances, and Games. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Jackson, Sophie. The Medieval Christmas. Stroud: Sutton, 2005.

******
About the Author

 
Angela Johnson fell in love with romance novels in high school. In college, she earned a degree in history. Today, she combines her two favorite passions—history and romance—into a writing career. Her second novel VOW OF DECEPTION is out now. Loving to research and spin sensual tales, Angela lives in Kansas, with Joe, her very own hero of twenty-three years. Please visit her at http://angelajohnsonauthor.com

Back Cover Blurb for VOW OF DECEPTION

Your first allegiance is to your heart…


As a knight, Sir Rand Montague’s allegiance is to King Edward I. But when the king orders Rand to escort Rosalyn Harcourt to court in order to wed her off to Sir Golan—a crass knight Rand abhors—he’s torn between duty and desire. For Rand has never forgotten the woman he spent one unforgettable night of passion with…

After suffering abuse at the hands of her deceased husband, Rose wishes to never wed again. But when Rand rescues her after Sir Golan attempts to compromise her, she agrees to marry Rand in name only. However, sharing such close quarters with Rand brings back memories of their torrid rendezvous—and tempts Rose to give in to an all-consuming desire…

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of VOW OF DECEPTION.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Noble's Life in Medieval Times Workshop

Eliza Knight will be presenting A Noble's Life in Medieval Times in an online workshop through Hearts Through History. The class will begin Monday, 12/5/10 and will be approximately three weeks long.  There is still time to register, and participants are able to register up until the day the workshop begins.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email Eliza at writer@elizaknight.com

Workshop Synopsis:

Life in medieval times was so much different than the way we live today. When readers sit down with their favorite medieval historical romance, they are taken away to another time and place.


For most readers, this is where they learn about medieval times, and it is the duty of the author to be as authentic as possible. That being said, you don’t want your book to be a history lecture either, but to just flavor it enough.

This workshop will teach you how people, particularly nobles, lived in medieval times, in order for you to be truer to the era you write about. This is an open discussion workshop, questions and comments are welcome and encouraged. The lessons will be presented as follows:

Lesson One: The Medieval Castle
Lesson Two: Medieval Entertainments
Lesson Three: Day in the Life of a Medieval Lord and Lady
Lesson Four: Medieval Medicine
Lesson Five: Medieval Clothes


Click here to register:  http://www.heartsthroughhistory.com/medieval.htm

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Edit Your Book in a Month Workshop

2010 is almost over!  If you've completed a novel, then now is the time to edit it.  Have that story completed and ready for submission in the new year!  The workshop begins on 12/1/10 and runs through 12/31/10. 

Eliza will present tips on editing, most common mistakes made in manuscripts, what editors and judges are looking for and show you how to evaluate the following:

Overused/Weak words
Weak verbs
Use of the 5 Senses
Tightening up those sentence
Hooks - beginning and ending
Point-Of-View
Show vs. Tell
Active vs. Passive
Goals, Motivation, Conflict
Dialogue
Story Development / Plot / Characterization / Setting
Inconsistencies (Ex: heroines eyes are blue in ch. 1 and brown in ch. 2)


With each new item presented, Eliza will show you how to use the information to edit your manuscript. Throughout the workshop participants will be able to post excerpts from their WIP for review and critique by Eliza and fellow classmates.

By the end of Edit Your Book in a Month, your WIP should be clean and ready for submission! The skills learned during this workshop can be used for your future manuscripts as well.

Click Here to Register

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: A Darcy Christmas

With the holidays quickly approaching I was excited to receive my copy of A Darcy Christmas: A Holiday Tribute to Jane Austen, by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan and Carolyn Eberhart.  This was a light-hearted, quick read, and quite enjoyable.

Back Cover...

Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Wish You a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Share in the magic of the season in these three warm and wonderful holiday novellas from bestselling authors.
Christmas Present
by Amanda Grange

A Darcy Christmas
by Sharon Lathan
Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol
by Carolyn Eberhart

Product ISBN: 9781402243394

Price: $14.99
Publication Date: October 2010

My Review...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I never tire of Elizabeth and *fanning self* Mr. Darcy--one of my all time favorite heroes.  Naturally, when I have the opportunity to read a book that continues the genius that is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice I will nearly always pick it up.

I am a junkie for reading holiday stories during the holiday season.  My radio station is permanently channeled to whatever local station is playing holiday music 24/7 and the Hallmark Christmas marathon is on every television in the house.  (Hmm... you may wonder how I get any work done with all that noise, but seriously, I love it!)

As am I, many of you during the holiday season are running around, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, preparing, cooking, traveling, finishing up last minute deadlines, etc... the list goes on, and so you find very little time to squeeze in some reading for enjoyment.

Poof!  The perfect solution: an anthology!  A Darcy Christmas will get you in the holiday spirit with debut author, Carolyn Eberhart's Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)/ A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) tribute titled, Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol.  Amanda Grange's Christmas Present, is a cheerful romp with all your favorite P&P characters--a fabulous rendition of Mrs. Bennett as well!  Sharon Lathan's A Darcy Christmas, for which this book gets its name, will have you smiling from ear to ear and remembering why you loved P&P in the first place.

This was a fabulous holiday anthology and I highly recommend reading it.  The stories are easy and quick reads, that you can squeeze in between hectic holiday running, or just curl up and read before a fire with your hot cocoa.

'Tis the season to read A Darcy Christmas!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Historical Romance Review: Devil's Desire by Laurie McBain

Laurie McBain was a best-selling author of historical romance in the late 70's and early 80's.  I humbly admit to not having read any of her books before, so when I was approached about reviewing one, that Sourcebooks was re-releasing this month, I was excited.  I love to read the mother's of historical romance as we know it today, and from what I'd heard, McBain was an author not to miss.

Back Cover...

They called him the devil…
With his seductive golden eyes and sin-black hair, it’s no wonder Lord Alex Trevegne has earned himself the sinister title—not to mention his reputation as one of the most notorious rakes in England.
And she’s the only one who can conquer him…
When fate throws Alex and Elysia into a scandalous situation, Alex suddenly finds it surprisingly difficult to tear himself away from her.

As an unexpected passion blossoms between them, Elysia begins to wonder if after a lifetime of heartache she’s finally found heaven in the arms of the devil.

Product ISBN: 9781402242410

Price: $9.99
Publication Date: November 2010

My Review...

What a fantastic read!  Devil's Desire is a Regency era novel with all that makes that genre exciting and appealing to readers.  A strong heroine, a rakish hero, a little mystery, sensuality, strong conflict and character growth.

Elysia is a heroine who has had a tortured past few years, and you truly sympathize with her when confronted with her evil aunt and her destitute situation.  But she rises up.  She is strong, she is smart and she is taking charge of her life.  Until she meets the hero, Alex Trevegne, a rake of the first order!  He's sleeping his way through the London elite and tossing women aside like used tissue.

And then he meets Elysia... she's a woman who won't bat her eyes at him, and has no interest in him whatsoever.  She's on a mission to get her life in order and to be in charge of her future.  But a villain gets in the way of things and messes up her goals as well as those of Alex.  Meddling miser!  In the end however, ironic as it is, the meddling of the villain ends up being a good thing.

I will admit to being put off a little with a forced sex scene, which seems to be more popular with older books, and the heroines relection on how she wasn't really forced was a bit irritating, but other than that, the book itself was very enjoyable, and subsequent love scenes were passionate and two sided.  I was also extremely ruffled with some of Alex's antics with his previous mistress... but I don't want to give too much away.

Definitely a book to read if you are a fan of Regency romance.  I also look forward to reading more of McBain's re-releases with Sourcebooks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Author, Elyse Mady on 18th Century Pleasure Gardens

Today on History Undressed, I am pleased to introduce to you another debut author, Elyse Mady.  Today she will be discussing gardens with us.  But not just any gardens--pleasure gardens.  Enjoy!

18th Century Pleasure Gardens

by Elyse Mady 

Just like today, entertainment was big business in the 18th century. From mechanical clockworks to public assembly rooms like the Pantheon, pleasure gardens like Marylebone and Vauxhall, concerts, plays, spectacles, fireworks, and readings and sermons for the high minded, there was always something to catch the attention of a English person with a few shillings to spare.


Fashions changed, new excitements arose, out-of-date ones languished. Yet while London’s pleasure sites were certainly the largest and most diverse, celebrated in books like ‘Evelina’ and ‘Cecilia’ and immortalized in biting drawings by Rowlandson, by the end of the Georgian era, almost every town of a respectable size could boast of being home to events of a similar nature, at least some of time.

But lest you think that whiling away a few free hours was all anyone had on their mind, behind the crowds of giddy revellers, battles of a political, cultural and social kind were being played out with a ferocious, if often unspoken, intensity. It was only after the Restoration in the 1660s that public leisure activities like pleasure gardens slowly came into their own. As a result of these new activities, Culture – its consumption, its control and its dissemination – became a battleground, albeit a polite one, during the long 18th century, as changing economic realities, new technologies, new lifestyles and the continuing urban intensification, changed how individuals across social strata viewed themselves and their participation in the cultural dialogue of the era.
The middle class not only wanted to participate in the cultural dialogue, as time went on and their purchasing power increased, they also began determining the types and varieties of public entertainment on offer, eschewing the restrictive and often exclusive privileges of the upper classes in favour of activities that were more reflective of their lifestyles and moral concerns.

But frankly, who wants to think politics when there are pleasures like New Spring Gardens, or to give them their more familiar name, Vauxhall Gardens, to enjoy? Who knows? It’s a fine summer night. There might be fireworks on display, and Mr. Hook’s music to enjoy, supper in the Rotunda and perhaps, if you’re very lucky or very naughty (or both!), you’ll head down the dark walks for an assignation of the amorous sort.

James Boswell wrote that:

Vauxhall Gardens is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious show, — gay exhibition, musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear; — for all of which only a shilling is paid.

The main walks were lit at night by hundreds and thousands of lights, suspended above revelers in the trees and from stands. Crowds of up to 60,000 people filled the gardens on occasion. In addition to the wide, central paths, there were countless ‘dark walks’ along which lovers and prostitutes alike strolled. There were concerts and music, often performed by leading stars. Songs and lyrics were composed on topical events: royal celebrations, naval battles, military success, and songbooks and concert programs with the lyrics and tunes were widely disseminated. Over time more fantastical features were built: new supper boxes, a music room, a Chinese pavilion, a gothic orchestra that accommodated fifty musicians, and ruins, arches, statues and a cascade.

A 1762 guide, “A Description of Vaux-hall Gardens, being a proper companion and guide for all who visit that place” describes the scene thus:

THESE beautiful gardens, so justly celebrated for the variety of pleasures and elegant entertainment they afford, during the spring and summer seasons, are situated on the south fide of the river Thames in the parish of Lambeth about two miles from London ; and are said to be the first gardens of the kind in England.

As they are commodiously situated near the Thames, that those who prefer going by water, can be brought within two hundred yards of this delightful place at a much easier expence than by land.


The season for opening these gardens commences about the beginning of May, and continues till August. Every evening (Sunday excepted) they are opened at five o'clock for the reception of company.

As you enter the great gate to which you are conducted by a short avenue from the road, you pay one shilling for admittance. The first scene that salutes the eye, is a noble gravel walk about nine hundred feet in length, planted on each side with a row of stately elm and other trees ; which form a fine vista terminated by a landscape of the country, a beautiful lawn of meadow ground, and a grand gothic obelisk, all which so forcibly strike the imagination, that a mind scarce tinctured with any sensibility of order and grandeur, cannot but feel inexpressible pleasure in viewing it.

Advancing a few steps within the garden, we behold to the right a quadrangle or square, which from the number of trees planted in it, 15 called the grove : in the middle of it, is a superb and magnificent orchestra of gothic construction curiously ornamented with carvings, niches, etc. the dome of which is surmounted with a plume of feathers, the crest of the prince of Wales. The whole edifice is of wood painted white and bloom colour. The ornaments are plaistic, a composition something like plaister of Paris, but only known to the ingenious architect who designed and built this beautiful object of
admiration.

 
In fine weather the musical entertainments are performed here by a select band of the best vocal and instrumental performers. At the upper extremity of this orchestra, a very fine organ is erected, and at the foot of it are the seats and desks for the musicians, placed in a semi-circular form, leaving a vacancy at the front for the vocal performers. The concert is opened with instrumental music at fix o'clock, which having continued about half an hour, the company are entertained with a song : and in this manner several other songs are performed with sonatas or concertos between each, till the close of the entertainment which is generally about ten o'clock.

Public gardens like Vauxhall, with their emphasis on diversion, spectacle and social intermingling played a significant role in influencing taste, introducing fashionable trends and developing new cultural precepts, both for the emerging middle class and the defending upper classes. They merged the classical with the commercial, and made the exotic accessible to the everyman. They were playgrounds after a fashion and Vauxhall, as the largest, longest lived of all the spectacular English pleasure gardens, was enjoyed by Londoners and immortalized by its authors and painters, for nearly 200 years, until finally closing its doors forever in 1859.

About the Author:

An enthusiastic and voracious reader of everything from 18th century novels to misplaced cereal boxes, Elyse has worked as a freelance magazine writer for the past several years.

Her first work of fiction, The Debutante’s Dilemma, was published by Carina Press in the fall of 2010. She is also working on a number of contemporary romance manuscripts as well as a full length historical novel set in the 1780s.

In addition to her writing commitments, Elyse also teaches film and literature at a local community college. In her free time she enjoys (well, enjoys might be too strong a word – perhaps pursues with dogged determination would be better) never ending renovations on their century cottage with her intrepid husband and two boys. She blogs at www.elysemady.wordpress.com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter as @ElyseMady.


One woman in search of passion

Miss Cecilia Hastings has achieved what every young lady hopes for during her first London season…in duplicate! She’s caught the eye of not one but two of England’s most eligible bachelors. Both Jeremy Battersley, Earl of Henley, and Richard Huxley, Duke of Wexford are handsome, wealthy and kind, the epitome of proper gentlemen. But Cecelia doesn’t want proper, she wants passion. So she issues a challenge to her suitors: a kiss, so that she may choose between them.

Two men in love with the same woman

Friends since childhood, and compatriots on the battlefields of Spain, falling for the same woman has set Jeremy and Richard at odds, and risks destroying their friendship forever. But a surprising invitation to a late-night garden tryst soon sets them on a course that neither of them could have anticipated. And these gentlemen quickly discover that love can take many forms…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Author, Stephanie Dray - Bad Girls of the Ancient World: Expanded Edition

Today on History Undressed, I'm thrilled to present to you a new author, Stephanie Dray.  I first met Stephanie earlier this year at a local writing chapter meeting.  I stared admiringly and somewhat covetously at the paper thin laptop she was using for an hour--mine is quite large--(my apologies to the speaker!) and then introduced myself. She is an up and coming author of historical fiction, her debut Lily of the Nile, a novel about Cleopatra's daughter, will release in January 2011.  In the meantime, she has presented me with a tantalizing and fun historical article.  Enjoy!

Bad Girls of the Ancient World: Expanded Edition
by Stephanie Dray
I recently co-authored a piece about bad girls in the ancient world with Jeannie Lin, author of historical fiction set in Tang Dynasty China. Together, Jeannie and I discussed how women who have been vilified in history share a few common traits whether they hail from western or eastern culture. These women were usually warriors, seductresses, or sorceresses. Sometimes, all three.

Today I’m taking on this subject solo to introduce you to the ancient bad girls of Western Civilization--those women who defied social convention and sometimes changed the world as a result. These women are fascinating and in the context of my forthcoming novel, Lily of the Nile, they also served to inspire my heroine, Cleopatra Selene.

The historic Selene was born into a dangerous political world, a civilization on the brink of change, and one that may have embraced a more egalitarian view of women if her parents had won their struggle with Octavian. Instead, the independence and power of Selene’s mother as a ruler became a pretext for war, and the misogyny of the Augustan Age took root.

It’s taken us more than two-thousand years to move away from the attitudes towards women that were fostered in Selene’s time, so let’s talk about those bad girls who inspire us and serve as everlasting examples of how ancient attitudes about women still influence us today.

Dido -- Queen of the Carthaginians

Dido
by Christophe Cochet
Though some have argued that Dido is only a mythological figure, it seems more likely that she was a real historical figure--a Princess of Tyre, granted the right to rule jointly with her brother. However, her brother wasn’t keen on sharing power so he murdered Dido’s wealthy husband with the intention of taking over the palace. What Dido did next set her apart from most other women of known history--she didn’t seek out shelter in another kingdom as a wealthy exile, nor did she try to re-marry a powerful king to help her recover the rulership of Tyre. Instead, Queen Dido led a group of settlers and government officials who remained loyal to her and founded the city of Carthage in North Africa.

She was a politician who not only shaped her own fate but created a new civilization. She was also, apparently, so highly religious that she is often equated with her goddess, the Carthaginian Tanit. And when she faced political domination by a neighboring country that wanted to force her into marriage, Dido stabbed herself to death and threw herself upon a funeral pyre.

But why did she come to be thought of as a bad girl in the ancient world?

Because the Romans and the Carthaginians would go on to battle each other in a series of wars for more than one hundred years, the Roman hostility towards a civilization founded by a powerful woman helped forge the Roman character and its attitude towards women. Virgil’s Aeneid, the quintessential propaganda epic of the Augustan Age, immortalizes Dido as a temptress who quite nearly dissuaded the upright Aeneas from his duty to found Rome. (Historically, it’s unlikely that Dido and Aeneas could have ever crossed paths, but a Roman historical fiction writer like Virgil couldn’t resist the temptation to imagine their failed love affair!)

For the Romans, Dido was a woman who should have submitted to her brother’s rule and never taken it upon herself to build a new city or refuse marriage to another man. And because the Romans defeated the Carthaginians, it’s their attitudes that we have inherited through history.

Sophonisba -- Carthaginian Princess and Patriot



Sophonisba
by Giovanni Francesco Caroto
  There are a number of stories about proud Carthaginian women who chose death as an alternative to being ruled by men, or by Rome. Sophonisba is another of them. The legend surrounding her is that she was a fiercely patriotic princess who was betrothed to Massinissa of Numidia. But when her intended groom allied with Rome and wouldn’t stay faithful to Carthage, she decided to marry the Numidian leader Syphax instead.

But Sophonisba’s jilted groom didn’t forget her. Perhaps as much from injured pride as for political reasons, Massinissa defeated Syphax and claimed Sophonisba as his bride. She married him, but tried to use his love for her to turn him against the Romans.

Sophonisba never took up arms against the Romans; she wasn’t a political enemy in the conventional sense. However, the Romans were threatened by women who used their sexuality for political gain. Marking her for an enemy, the Romans demanded that she be handed over and marched in a triumph through Rome as a captured slave. Sophonisba drank a cup of poison instead.

As a young North African queen and wife of Juba II who was himself a descendant of Massinissa, Selene must have heard this story; it’s difficult to imagine that it didn’t remind her of her own mother.

Olympias -- Mother of Alexander the Great

Olympias
from Promptuarii
Iconum Insigniorum
This Greek princess and supposed descendant of Achilles met her husband, Philip II of Macedon, while being initiated into the mysteries of an ancient cult. She was always suspected, ever after, of sorcery and congress with serpents. Though she was the fourth of Phillip’s wives, he claimed it was a love match, and she appears to have believed him until he started marrying other women. When Philip married a seventh time and drunkenly accused Olympias of infidelity, she packed up her things and left Macedon.

Fortuitously--and perhaps not coincidentally--her husband was assassinated shortly thereafter. Olympias was able to install her son Alexander on the throne and he would go on to become ruler of the known world. But Olympias didn’t simply fade into the woodwork; she was an active participant in Alexander’s political regime. After her son’s death, though she was in her fifties, Olympias commanded an army in the field to preserve the throne for her baby grandson. What’s more, she won. For a short time, she was the mistress of Macedonia, at the zenith of her power. Eventually, she was defeated by Cassander and executed, thought to be far too dangerous to leave alive, but she leaves behind the archetype of a fiercely protective mother.
As a descendant of Alexander’s Macedonian general, Ptolemy, Selene was a kinswoman to Olympias and probably learned about her exploits.

Cleopatra -- The Most Powerful Woman in the History of the World

Marble Bust of Cleopatra
Dating from 30-40 BC
As the consort of not one, but two Roman generals, Cleopatra earned a reputation as a seductress. Though she was a Hellenistic Queen, the Romans thought of her as foreign and exotic. Because she respected older Egyptian traditions, the Romans disdained her for worshipping all manner of strange gods. What’s more, her enemies believed she was capable of wielding magic. And if that weren’t bad enough, Cleopatra was also a warrior queen, capable of commanding her own warships.

She’s come down to us as a familiar and iconic image. Everyone has heard about the infamous Queen of the Nile, and there’s a good reason for it. She was, and remains, the most powerful woman in the history of the world. Though we’ve since had powerful queens, the geographic scope of their authority has been smaller. We’ve also had women serve as prime ministers of important countries, but their powers have been limited and sharply circumscribed. Cleopatra was not only the queen of Egypt in her own right, but in concert with her Roman husband, the biddable Marcus Antonius, she wielded unprecedented power. Until the Battle of Actium, she was poised to rule the entire world. But for some bad weather and a wildly successful propaganda campaign against her, the world might be a much different place today.

It’s difficult to wonder what lessons Cleopatra’s daughter Selene must have taken from her rise and fall. Selene herself was born in Ptolemaic Egypt, the best possible place to be born a woman in the ancient world. Raised in Alexandria, she would never have lacked for strong female role models.

Nonetheless, Cleopatra Selene was not a bad girl of history; she managed, somehow, to wield great political power and religious influence without ever falling afoul of the patriarchy. This may be because no sexual scandal touched her during her twenty-year marriage to Juba II or because she never took up arms on a battlefield.

Even so, she never forgot the important women in her life or in her legacy and neither should we.

*****


With her parents dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers…


In the aftermath of Alexandria’s tragic fall, Princess Selene is taken from Egypt, the only home she’s ever known. Along with her two surviving brothers, she’s put on display as a war trophy in Rome. Selene’s captors mock her royalty and drag her through the streets in chains, but on the brink of death, the children are spared as a favor to the emperor’s sister, who takes them to live as hostages in the so-called lamentable embassy of royal orphans.

Now trapped in a Roman court of intrigue that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, Selene can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her flesh. Nor can she stop the emperor from using her for his own political ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined honor her mother’s lost legacy. The magic of Egypt and Isis remain within her. But can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win or die?

*****

Stephanie graduated from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.


Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.  Visit Stephanie at http://www.stephaniedray.com/