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.

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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.