Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest Author Sharon Lathan on Paris in the Early 1800's

Welcome guest author, Sharon Lathan to History Undressed!  I spent many a summer in my youth in France and I LOVE Paris AND this time period, so I'm especially excited for you all to read Ms. Lathan's post today! Please leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love. (1 winner, US/Canada only).


Paris in the Early 1800s
by Sharon Lathan



Whether you have been to Paris or not there are certain images that instantly flash in your mind when the ancient city is mentioned. So ingrained are these visions of what Paris IS that perhaps you might be surprised to learn that many of the iconic Paris sights either did not exist 200 years ago or were vastly different.



My latest novel - Miss Darcy Falls in Love - is set in 1820. At that time Napoleon Bonaparte was in exile on the island of Saint Helena and the Bourbon Restoration was underway with Louis XVIII on the throne. There was a measure of stability, but the long decades of war and revolution coupled with the major political upheavals ongoing meant that France was far from peaceful. Paris, as the capitol, showed the greatest evidence of the numerous trials. Scars were visible at every corner despite Napoleon and Louis’ attempts to reconstruct, and disorganization was constant. It would be many decades more before Paris truly became the glittering city it now is.



Nevertheless, in 1820 life for the Parisians was near perfection compared to the previous thirty-some years. Opera, theatre, arts, and social activities abounded. Yet, as I said, many of those places now top tourist traps were not available to Miss Darcy and her friends.



Eiffel Tower: Today it is the tallest building in Paris and one of the most visited monuments in Europe, but it was not built until 1889. The large flat open park called the Champ de Mars, where the Tower stands, had served as a site for executions during the Revolution and military training, but by 1820 was a popular park for festivals and other celebratory events.



Musée du Louvre: Originally a palace and fortress, the Louvre was transformed into a public museum during the French Revolution, the royal collections viewable for the first time. Located close to the Tuileries Palace, the Louvre Palace was structurally renovated several times during the 17th and 18th centuries, it’s general splendor as we now see it. However, in the early decades of the 19th century it was far smaller than it now is and held considerably less works of art. All through the century vast wings would be added on to house the flood of art arriving from all over the world until it eventually became a massive complex with the palace only one portion of the whole. So huge is the present day Louvre that it cannot be captured in one photo. When Georgiana and Sebastian tour the Louvre it is still a seat of royal power with the Tuileries standing, already supremely impressive as a museum, and undergoing constant construction.



Arc de Triomphe: The monument to honor those who fought and died for France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars was conceived in 1806. The foundations were laid in 1810 but construction halted during the Restoration, the final structure not completed until 1836. Therefore, my characters would not have seen this marvel. Instead they stroll through the Tuileries Gardens and pause at the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Built in 1808 by commission of Napoleon to commemorate his military victories, the lesser Arc was nevertheless an impressive sculpture and integral part of the axe historique (grand historic axis) of Paris. Pictured here you can see the Arc with the Louvre behind as it would have looked in 1820.



Notre Dame Cathedral: Completed in 1250, Notre Dame is the “World Ambassador of Gothic Cathedrals.” For seven hundred years it has stood on the site of ancient sacred ground, revered and generally well cared for except during the years of the Revolution. Churches in France were universally rededicated to the “cult of Reason” and Notre Dame suffered severe defacement, destruction, and desecration. Until the mid-19th century the cathedral was ignored as a house of worship, used instead as a storage facility and place for public gatherings. It is unlikely that Miss Darcy, or anyone visiting Paris in 1820, would have taken the time to visit the ruined Notre Dame.



Other famous attractions not in Paris at the time of my novel include Cleopatra’s Needle (1833), Elephant of the Bastille (the fountain and model elephant were present by 1814, but the elephant not completed until 1833 and has since been removed), the Sacré-Coeur (1873), the Moulin Rouge (1889), or the Opéra de Paris Garnier.



Do not feel sorry for my characters though! They did visit the Louvre and walked the Tuileries Gardens. They also toured the Panthéon, rode down the Champs-Ėlysées, saw the exotic animals and plants in the Jardin des Plantes zoo and botanical gardens, and socialized along the pathways of the Place de la Concorde. Did I mention the opera houses, salons, ballrooms, and palatial chateaûs? Paris of 1820 may have been in moderate chaos and a paler version of what it now is, but the City of Light was phenomenal nonetheless. And the perfect place to immerse in music and fall in love.


Synopsis of Miss Darcy Falls in Love--



Noble young ladies were expected to play an instrument, but Georgiana Darcy is an accomplished musician who hungers to pursue her talents. She embarks upon a tour of Europe, ending in Paris where two very different men will ignite her heart in entirely different ways and begin a bitter rivalry to win her. But only one holds the key to her happiness.



Set in post-Napoleonic Empire France, Miss Darcy Falls in Love is a riveting love story that enters a world of passion where gentlemen know exactly how to please and a young woman learns to direct her destiny and understand her heart.





Sharon’s Bio--
 

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her previously published novels are: Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, Loving Mr. Darcy, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, A Darcy Christmas, and The Trouble With Mr. Darcy. Miss Darcy Falls in Love is Georgiana’s tale of love and adventure while in France. Complete with a happy ending. In addition to her writing, Sharon works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides with her family in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. Visit Sharon on her website: www.sharonlathan.net and on Austen Authors, her group blog with 20 novelist of Austen literature: www.austenauthors.com


Friday, November 25, 2011

Regency Weddings @ Romancing the Past Today

Visit me today at Romancing the Past for a post on Regency Weddings...

Just a taste...

During the Regency, weddings became mostly private affairs, and if held at church (and not in the family drawin room) was not attended by that many. The lovely bride would be attended by her younger unmarried sisters or cousins, perhaps a dear family friend. The groom would also have a best man--brother, dear friend, cousin. There was also the required witnesses, who on occaision were those very same attendents....

Continue reading at Romancing the Past

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Historical Romance Review: Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen

This may be the BEST of Ms. Galen's books that I've read yet. I enjoyed this book immensely, so much so I'm going to give it a recommended read, like ASAP!




MY REVIEW:

From the opening line... "The spy called Saint hunkered down in the bottom of the wardrobe she'd occupied for the last four hours and attempted to stifle a yawn."  ...I was hooked. Ms. Galen, you had me at "The spy called Saint..." There is nothing more enjoyable then opening a book and immediately being thrust into a tense scene.

I admit that when this book first graced my desk, I was intrigued. I loved the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt--a married couple with no idea that each of them are assassins until, suddenly, one day they are hired to off each other.  This book reminded me of it in title, and a little bit in essence.

I enjoyed watching Lord and Lady Smythe battle it out. I loved the reveal of who they were to each other, and watching them not only grow as spies but as a couple. They'd been through a lot in the previous years before this tale begins, and much pain had been endured. Now they will learn to be a team, discover who they really are, not just that they are spies, but who they are inside. Watching them grow and change and fall in love was a treat in an of itself, besides the bad-ass action scenes!  LOVE Sophia and Adrian is hot as hell. The way the two of these converse is entertaining, witty and just downright fab!

I am also distinctly reminded while reading how much Ms. Galen is intune with the Regency era. The language, the clothes, the politics, the etiquette, the every day life. We are immersed in the setting, and it doesn't detract from the story--only heightens it. I WANT to list my favorite scenes because they are just too awesome, but I don't want to give anything away... soooo I will just say these few words and when you're reading you'll know what I mean... fighting in darkness, carriages--pretty much every carriage scene, naked jumping, gardens...

Ms. Galen has a tremendous talent of writing action packed, adventure filled, sensual romances, that leave a reader wishing the book went on forever. Well done! I highly recommend LORD AND LADY SPY!

Enjoy!

ABOUT THE BOOK:

No man can outsmart him...
Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England's most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn't the only one with secrets...

But one woman almost certainly can...
Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he's not who she thinks he is after all...

Shana Galen's brilliant Regency world features two noble spies who cross swords and meet their match in a fast-paced, witty love story full of excitement and heart.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Grace Burrowes, Author of The Virtuoso and Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish

Welcome to History Undressed, today's guest author, Grace Burrowes! Writer of Regency romance, she has a lovely blog for us today. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her newest release, THE VIRTUOSO. (2 winners/ US & Canada only)


*~*~*~*~*

An author who’s going to make her Regency hero a piano virtuoso had first best determine whether such a thing existed at the time his story takes place. Fortunately for me and for Lord Valentine in The Virtuoso, it did—but only barely.



Most people are familiar with the term “wunderkind,” or wonder child, as it applied to Mozart (1756-1791) and his sister Nannerl. Their doting if profit-minded papa paraded them all over Europe in the years 1762-1773, including two trips to London (1764 and 1765). The English therefore had at least one precedent for a piano virtuoso. I was surprised to find that the first English piano virtuoso, and the first musician referred to generally as such, was none other than dear old Muzio Clementi (1752-1832).



Clementi’s sonatinas remain in our repertoire as teaching studies. They’re pretty, not too long, not too complicated, and they make nice party pieces—they also show only the confectionary end of Clementi’s abilities. In Lord Valentine’s day, Clementi, who was raised and educated in England from the age of fourteen on, would have been the grand old fellow of concert, composition, and music publishing fame. Clementi also built pianos and some of his technological advances are still in use in our modern instruments.



I have a degree in music history and my instrument was piano, and yet I did not know that Clementi was credited with influencing Chopin, Lizst and a host of other romantic figures. I also did not know enough about the technical evolution of the piano.



The first pianos probably date from about 1700 and were built in Italy. By Mozart’s time, they were still smallish instruments, with five octave keyboards, and only a simple sustaining pedal. By Lord Valentine’s day, small pianos for cottage use were being built along the earlier, more modest dimensions, but so too were concert versions and salon versions with six octaves and even a few—Beethoven had one—reaching to a seventh octave.



There would be something un-heroic about a big, handsome fellow in fancy evening attire sitting down to impress the ladies by playing at an itty-bitty piano capable of only itty-bitty sound. I was much relieved to know that grands and imposing square pianos were the norm in better households during the Regency, and that Lord Val would soon have at his disposal pianos with ranges very near to what we play on today.



Then too, for a virtuoso to tour profitably, there had to be large venues for him to play in (the English frowned on women performing for money, while the Continent took a more liberal view).  During the Regency, the primary concert venue, His Majesty’s Threatre at Haymarket, was renovated to increase its capacity from 1200 seats to 2500.



So much to my relief, Lord Valentine arrived to his story at a point in musical evolution when both worthy instruments and worthy venues were on hand to showcase his talent… My only task was then to provide him a worthy lady to appreciate some of his other attributes—and his music too, of course.



The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes – In Stores November 2011

A genius with a terrible loss…

Gifted pianist Valentine Windham, youngest son of the Duke of Moreland, has little interest in his father’s obsession to see his sons married, and instead pours passion into his music. But when Val loses his music, he flees to the country, alone and tormented by what has been robbed from him.



A widow with a heartbreaking secret…

Grieving Ellen Markham has hidden herself away, looking for safety in solitude. Her curious new neighbor offers a kindred lonely soul whose desperation is matched only by his desire, but Ellen’s devastating secret could be the one thing that destroys them both.



Together they’ll find there’s no rescue from the past, but sometimes losing everything can help you find what you need most.



Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes – In Stores NOW!

A luminous holiday tale of romance, passion, and dreams come true from rising star Grace Burrowes, whose award-winning Regency romances are capturing hearts worldwide.



All she wants is peace and anonymity…

Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and complete disaster.



But Sophie’s holiday is about to heat up…

With his estate in ruins, Vim Charpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his spirits—but when Sophie’s brothers whisk her away, Vim’s most painful holiday memories are reawakened.



It seems Sophie’s been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true…



About the Author

Grace Burrowes is the pen name for a prolific and award-winning author of historical romances. The Heir, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and was selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2010. Both The Heir and its follow-up, The Solider, are New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. She is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in a restored log cabin in western Maryland without a TV, DVD or radio because she's too busy working on her next books. For more information, please visit http://www.graceburrowes.com/.





              

                  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Political Intrigue during the Medieval Age by Terry Spear

Welcome to History Undressed, guest author Terry Spear! Terry is the award-winning author of fantasy and medieval romance. Leave a comment to win a copy of Ms. Spear's medieval romance novel, Winning the Highlander's Heart.

Political Intrigue during the Medieval Age
By Terry Spear

The medieval period was from about 500 AD to 1500 AD, so quite a bit of time and change.

When we talk about one period of time, it can be very different from another in terms of lifestyle, clothes, and what was available to the populace. Also, the change in the political arena made for a lot of difference in medieval times.

So when we say we’re writing about a medieval romance in a particular time, it can be way different from one much later. And it depended on the location. Some areas were still more in the Dark Ages, when others had moved ahead.

I chose to write about King Henry I’s time period, 1100 AD, because I found him a fascinating king and the emerging scenario with his taking a wife who was the daughter of the Scottish king and the Saxon princess, who had been the niece of the Saxon king killed and replaced by Henry’s father, William the Conqueror of Normandy. She was an interesting person as well, again educated, and her mother had placed her in her aunt’s convent, to ensure unscrupulous men would not have their way with her.

Now, Henry was the first of the kings who was really educated as he was meant to be a bishop, not king, since he was the third son of William. But the older brother, William Rufus, who was serving as king after their father died, met his own death in a hunting accident under rather suspicious circumstances while Henry was in attendance. The next oldest brother was away fighting the Crusades, so what could Henry do? But take over the treasury and become king.

It’s important to learn as much about the clothing, food that was served during this period of time, as well as the accommodations. Although because I write romance, I don’t get into some of the smellier details.

But what I found the most fun while creating the story was including some of the political intrigue.

When William conquered Saxon England, the ruling king died and the Saxon princess and prince fled to Scotland where they were given protection. But the Scottish king fell in love with the Saxon princess. Now doesn’t that sound like a fairy-tale romance? It was. When he died years later, she did also, of grief.

The thing of it is, the Saxon princess’s father had been king, but his brother murdered him and took over the kingdom, and then he took in his brother’s son and daughter, since he had no children of his own. Like I said, lots and lots of intrigue.

The Saxon prince united with Henry’s older brother, who vows to take over England and rule as he should have. I did include some of that in the story as well. One of the knights who they meet on the road is actually a knight that Henry used to lead his men to fight his brother.

In one case, Lady Anice and Malcolm MacNeill stay at a real castle that was still owned by a Saxon. He had pledged his loyalty to William the Conqueror, figuring probably that he would be the winner and didn’t want to lose his lands.

William had offered his relation to him, after he had her husband (a Norman baron) executed because he had plotted against William. So then he offers her as the wife to the Saxon lord in payment for his loyalty. She refuses and he sends her to one of the islands to live in poverty. But her daughter doesn’t want this kind of life and offers herself to marry the Saxon lord.

So that was included in the story as well. Don’t you just love all this real life intrigue?

It’s so much fun to use real history that is just as fascinating as making it up!

One of the things I found also interesting was that although women wore wimples and covered their hair (because it was too enticing for men not to be covered), but during the time that Henry’s wife ruled by his side, women didn’t have to wear the covering. And they often braided their hair with extensions to make it even longer!

While she was at the convent, she’d been beaten by her aunt for throwing down her hair cover and when she left there to marry Henry, she vowed not to wear it again. It became fashionable then for many of the ladies to wear their hair uncovered.

Another thing I found fascinating was that the food wasn’t bland or dreary to eat, not in a royal household, but was decorated to a fairly well. And fruits and vegetables were considered bad for you if it wasn’t cooked first.

Castles were defenses, foremost. They didn’t have huge windows, but merely arrow slots where they could shoot an approaching enemy. I visited several castles in Scotland and in one of the tower rooms, they had not only the arrow slot windows, but they’d created round ones for updated weapons--guns. Men who would be holed up in the tower for a long time, watching the grounds, would use another hole nearer the base of the floor to relieve themselves.

Yep, no toilet! Where would it go? Down the wall of the tower to the ground below. :)

Also while I visited the Scottish castles, the stairs were narrow, to prevent more than one attacker access and they always curved to the right so that the defender would have the advantage where  he could swing his sword and unless the attacker was left-handed, he could not as well.

You’ve heard that knights were supposed to be chivalrous, right? At first, they weren’t. Some would steal from those who couldn’t fight back just because the knights were so well armored. Then the rule of chivalry came into effect, and though it didn’t mean everyone would abide by the rules, things got better. But one of the funny happenings I uncovered with regard to knights—was that their armored feet—the sabaton--were armored plates riveted on the boots. For a period, the fashion was to make them longer and longer, kind of like women’s pointy dress shoes. The knights would wiggle their long shiny armor plated toes at the ladies in a sexual way, making them blush and giggle.

The church, wet blanket that it could be, declared that the shoes were indecent and could not be that long. Not sure what they said about the cod pieces as the men’s tunics rose ever higher and the men’s cod pieces grew ever bigger.

So that’s a glimpse of medieval history undressed—a little bit of political intrigue can go a long way!

Would you have been offended if a knight had wiggled the toe of his armored boot at you?

Terry Spear

“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality.”

Author bio: Award-winning author Terry Spear is the author of urban fantasy romances and medieval Highland romances. She received Publishers Weekly's Best Book of the Year in 2008 for Heart of the Wolf. A retired officer of the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry is a librarian by day. She lives in Crawford, Texas.

CONTEST: Comment to win!

A copy of Winning the Highlander's Heart will be given to one US winner, the cover of a knight, not the Highland figure.


Escaping from King Henry’s advances, the Scottish Lady Anice falls into the hands of Highlander Laird Malcolm MacNeill, and murder and mayhem follow when she discovers some of her key staff are missing and she's targeted next.




*~*~*~*~*~*




The Accidental Highland Hero

Lady Eilis Dunbarton’s life undergoes a drastic change with the death of her cousin, Agnes. Now she’s faced with the disagreeable prospect of marrying the man who was to be her cousin’s husband. Not by a change of contract, though. Instead, by deceit—pretending to be her cousin. But if her husband-to-be discovers she’s not really Agnes, her life is forfeit. So what choice does Eilis have but to flee? When Laird James MacNeill’s clan rescues a half-drowned lass from the sea, there is speculation she is of the enemy clan, especially since she doesn’t remember her own name. James is immediately enticed with the lady, but his focus must remain on finding the proper bride. For if he does not wed soon, he must give up his holdings to one of his younger brothers. Focus slips away with each day Eilis is close, and James finds himself contemplating the thought of taking her to wife without knowing her true identity. But how dangerous would the end result be? And what will happen if Eilis’s husband-to-be comes looking for her only to find her in the arms of another man?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Video of the Week!

This week's video is another BBC Horrible Histories song... and some of you may find it offensive, but I found it to be quite humorous.

In celebration of my alter-ego, Annabelle Weston, (which is contrived of myself and a WP), having just released a historical western romance, WICKED WOMAN, I thought it highly appropriate to play this cowboy song!





*~*~*~*~*

WICKED WOMAN is available now at: Amazon / Barnes and NobleAll Romance Ebooks


There are some things a man can’t walk away from. Nathan Bender is on a quest for vengeance. What he finds is sexy saloon-dolly O’Dell Murphy. She holds the information he needs—and becomes a temptation he can’t resist.

O’Dell longs for a respectable life outside the saloon. When the man Nathan is searching for steals O’Dell’s savings, she has no choice but to go after him.

Torn between passion and revenge, Nathan reluctantly accompanies O’Dell through the Sonoran Desert. There are some things a man can’t walk away from—and Nathan is finding it’s not revenge that binds him. It’s O’Dell, and the wicked, sinful pleasure she provides.

Reader Advisory: This book contains violence and a brief depiction of rape.
Click here to read an excerpt.

NEWS coming soon... WICKED WOMAN is going to be the first in a series... Leave a comment to win a copy of the ebook!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Staff of Life by Ruth A. Casie

Today on History Undressed I'd like to welcome my dear friend, Ruth A. Casie!  Her debut novel, Knight of Runes (which I highly recommend!) just released this week with Carina Press.

The Staff of Life
by Ruth A. Casie

This is where it all started, the 1963 movie, Tom Jones. Albert Finney (Tom Jones) licks his chicken bones and Joyce Redman (Mrs Waters) looks like she's making love to an apple. It showed that playing with your food could be fun and anything edible will do! But what was a banquet really like?

The extravagant feasts and banquets of the Middle Ages are legendary. However, while menus for the wealthy were extensive, only small portions were taken. Hosts were expected to offer extensive choices.  With more extensive travel, a change in society emerged, possibly prompted by the Crusades, that led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects and elegant manners. This change extended to food preparation and presentation and resulted in fabulous food arrangements with exotic colors and flavorings. Banquets prepared during the Middle Ages were fit for a king.

Staffing and Presenting the Banquet

The kitchen squires where responsible for provisioning the kitchen. Assisted by the cooks, they chose, purchased, and paid for the goods.

The food was plated on the serving dishes and staged in the kitchen until it was time to bring to the tables in the Great Hall.

The Noble of the castle, and his distinguished guests, sat at a great table that was set on a raised platform, a dais, at one of the hall.

Buffets were tables with a series of wooden stepped shelves. The number of shelves indicated the host’s rank. The more shelves the higher the rank. The 'Stepped Buffets' were covered with rich drapes and used at banquets and feasts. The Nobles impressed their guests by using their finest gold or silver plates as service plates on the buffet.

The banquet feast consisted of three, four, five, and even six courses. At times the presentations of the main courses were made into a theatrical representation with colored jellies of swans or peacocks or pheasants with their feathers. Served as a specialty the beak and feet of these birds were gilt and placed in the middle of the table as a centerpiece.

French Medieval Banquets

The French cooking historian described a great feast given in 1455 by the Count of Anjou, third son of King Louis II of Sicily. This description demonstrates just how theatrical the presentation was:

“On the table was placed a center-piece, which represented a green lawn, surrounded with large peacocks' feathers and green branches, to which were tied violets and other sweet-smelling flowers.

In the middle of this lawn a fortress was placed, covered with silver.

The fortress was hollow, and formed a sort of cage, in which several live birds were shut up, their tufts and feet being gilt.

On its tower, which was gilt, three banners were placed.

The first course consisted of a civet of hare, a quarter of stag which had been a night in salt, a stuffed chicken, and a loin of veal.

The two last dishes were covered with a German sauce, with gilt sugar-plums, and pomegranate seeds.

At each end, outside the green lawn, was an enormous pie, surmounted with smaller pies, which formed a crown. The crust of the large pies were silvered all round and gilt at the top.

Each pie contained a whole roe-deer, a gosling, three capons, six chickens, ten pigeons, one young rabbit, and, no doubt to serve as seasoning or stuffing, a minced loin of veal, two pounds of fat, and twenty-six hard-boiled eggs, covered with saffron and flavored with cloves.

For the three following courses, there was a roe-deer, a pig, a sturgeon cooked in parsley and vinegar, and covered with powdered ginger.

The feast continued with a kid goat, two goslings, twelve chickens, as many pigeons, six young rabbits, two herons, a leveret, a fat capon stuffed, four chickens covered with yolks of eggs and sprinkled with spice, a wild boar, some wafers and stars and a jelly, part white and part red represented the crests of the honored guests, cream covered with fennel seeds and preserved in sugar, a white cream, cheese in slices, and strawberries, and, lastly, plums stewed in rose-water

Besides these four courses, there was a fifth, entirely of wines then in vogue, and of preserves. These consisted of fruits and various sweet pastries.”

I researched medieval banquets when I wrote Knight of Runes.  Eating is fundamental and enjoyable. While Arik and Rebeka don’t get it on quite like Tom and Mrs. Waters there is definitely an air of playfulness in the scene.  The trouble every time I read that scene is I really get hungry. I’ll let you figure out for what!

Win a free $5 Amazon gift card by leaving a comment with your email address. One person will be randomly selected at the end of the day.

Author Bio

Ruth A. Casie was born in Brooklyn, New York. For twenty-five years she’s been writing for corporate America. Encouraged by her family and friends this ballroom dancing, Sudoku playing, aspiring gourmet cook has given way to her inner muse and let her creative juices flow. Discover strong men and empowered women as they face unexpected challenges. Watch their stories unfold as they encounter magic, danger, and passion. Join them as they race across the pages to places where love and time know no bounds.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
England, 1605

When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he's intrigued.

Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she's travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return to her own time. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what's killing Arik's land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.

As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik's household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.
Title: Knight of Runes
ISBN: 978-14268-9258-5
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: November 14, 2011
Genre: Historical Fantasy time-travel
Ruth’s web site: www.ruthacasie.com
Ruth’s blog: ruthacasie.blogspot.com
Ruth’s Twitter: Twitter.com/RuthACasie

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What NOT to Wear in the 14th Century by Amanda Forester

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author, Amanda Forester. Ms. Forester last visited us in March of 2010 with her post, Color Me Medieval. I'm glad to have her back today, and with another exciting Scottish historical romance out!


What Not to Wear in the 14th Century
by Amanda Forester



One of the most interesting, or at least the most time consuming, aspects of writing historical fiction is conducting all the research.  Clothing is one of the biggest questions I need to figure out before my characters can step forth on their journey.  In my newest release, The Highlander's Heart, the heroine is an English countess.  The date is 1355.  The question: what would she wear?



In the first scene Isabelle (Countess of Tynsdale) is separated, or I should say separates herself, from her traveling companions (and the guards who are taking her back to be killed).  As I wrote the scene I had to try to picture what she might be wearing.  We're in medieval England, so obviously she will be wearing some sort of gown, but what fabric? 



Sumptuary laws can be a help.  In the 14th century, the rise of a prosperous merchant class became a bother for the nobility.  The upstart commoners were gaining as much wealth as the established aristocracy and could start dressing the part (oh, the horror).  Can you imagine the daughter of a merchant wearing a similar gown as the daughter of an earl?  Certainly not!  Sumptuary laws strictly governed what people of different classes could wear so the privilege and rank of the aristocracy could be maintained, and the prosperous bourgeoisie could be kept in their place.  In particular, women were not to wear clothing above the rank of their fathers or husbands.  Certain fabrics, such as velvet, silk, ermine, or sable fur were prohibited to "commoners".  Since my heroine is a countess, it would be likely her clothing would reflect her rank, thus I dressed her in a rich wine-colored velvet. 



But wait, I am getting ahead of myself.  What about underclothes?  Under her gown, a medieval lady would have worn a linen or silk chemise, which was a loose fitting smock-like dress.  She would have worn hose, though usually only to the knee, and leather shoes, which in the 14th century would have had a pointed toe.  These shoes were generally for castle use; if going outdoors, one would put on wooden patens to avoid getting wet feet.



Over the chemise, a lady would wear her gown called a kirtle.  In the 14th century, the previous fashion of straight seams and draped garments were giving way to curved seams and more careful tailoring.  Since Lady Isabelle is noble, I expect her clothes would have had the benefit of time and money, so likley her gown would have fit her quite well.  Since she would have had ladies to dress her, she would probably have been laced into her gown in a way not possible if you were dressing yourself.  Her sleeves would have been form fitting and long, perhaps to her knuckles.  These long sleeves would have been laced or buttoned in place.  The neckline of this era was becoming wider and lower, and may even have revealed a little cleavage. 



Over the kirtle, a medieval lady may have worn a variety of different kinds of overgowns.  Some may have had loose fitting sleeves, while others were sleeveless (called surcoats), which may have been worn loose or laced. Later in the 14th century, surcoats became shorter, ending at the waistline, and were often form fitting to reveal a small waist.  A belt was commonly worn, hanging low on the hips.  These belts, or girdles, could be quite ornate.  Sumptuary laws forbade commoners from wearing a silver girdle, so clearly the nobility were using their belts to show their rank.  These belt could be quite fine and even encrusted with jewels.



On her head a lady would wear some sort of covering.  Being married, Isabelle's veil would be more modest, possibly including a gorget, which wrapped around the chin and covered the neck.  Being a lady, she would most likely wear a veil made of silk.  Unfortunately for Isabelle, she loses her veil during her escape, and so when she meets the hero, Laird David Campbell, he assumes she is not of high social standing or moral character.  No true lady would be traveling alone with her hair flowing loose.  Thus begins the story of David and Isabelle!



I have always loved the long flowing gowns and rich colors and fabrics of medieval times.  What would you have enjoyed wearing if you were living in the 14th century?  Comment on the blog for a chance to win a copy of THE HIGHLANDER'S HEART. (US & CANADA ONLY)

THE HIGHLANDER'S HEART

Lady Isabelle escapes her murderous English husband only to be abducted by a Highland warrior and held for ransom.  Her determination to break free from captivity is exceeded only by the passion growing between her and the Highland Laird.  David Campbell plans to hold Isabelle for ransom as an easy way to line his pockets and return her back where she belongs, but he is unprepared for a feisty English lass with a penchant for finding trouble.  Caught between rival clans bent on claiming the throne of Scotland, Campbell must choose a side, and a bride.  Standing on the brink of war, Isabelle may be his only hope to save his clan, and his heart

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Monday, November 14, 2011

New Book -- Time Travel Poll

Hello all!  I'm working on a new Highlander time-travel romance novel--in the plotting stages. But before I could continue, I wanted to know what readers want as far as the time-traveling element, in a story. My hero is a hot Highland warrior from the past, and the heroine is from present day.

When you're reading time-travel, do you prefer the hero to travel from the past to the future, the heroine to travel to the past, or a mix of both? 

If you'd be so kind as to fill out the poll on the right side of this blog, I would be grateful!

Cheers,
Eliza

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

The Readers and Writers of History Undressed would like to extend our deepest gratitude to those who serve.  We would not be where we are today without you!

Happy Veteran's Day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

March's Madness by Emery Lee

Today I'd like to welcome guest author, Emery Lee back to History Undressed. She previously visited us in April 2010 with the release of her debut novel, The Highest Stakes. She is back with us now to talk about March's Madness and her new release, Fortune's Son. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Ms. Lee's novel, Fortune's Son. (1 winner, US and Canada only)


MARCH’S MADNESS
by Emery Lee



To those who have my read my novels to date, my love (read obsession) with the Georgian era is clearly evident. For those of you who have not, I invite you to open the pages and immerse yourself in a fascinating paradox that is nowhere better represented than in the lives of Georgian aristocrats - many of whom adopted an outward veneer to hide the sin within.



In my first novel, THE HIGHEST STAKES, I delved deeply into the obsessive world of horseracing and arranged marriages, where nothing was sacred and an individual’s happiness (particularly if one happened to be female) was easily laid aside to advance a family’s political or social agenda.



In FORTUNE’S SON I further explore the gaming world and it often served as more than a mere diversion,  but as a last resort for those with reduced circumstances whose social position did not allow any manner of gaining a more honest income.  Compelled to wager, many faced financial devastation and social ruin, while occasionally (and incomprehensibly), Fortune seemed to smile on particular individuals for no particular reason.  One such colorful example (whom I delighted in bringing to life as a secondary character in FORTUNE’S SON) was William Douglas - third Earl March and Ruglen,  later  the Fourth Duke of Queensbury, nicknamed “Old Q”.



Although many young, aristocrats lacking more worthy pursuits, squandered their days at race tracks, cockpits, or over the green baize tables, Lord March’s exploits and love of a wager are legendary even for the gaming Georgians.  His most infamous wager has come to be known over the ages as Lord March’s “race against time” and plays a significant role in FORTUNE’S SON.



(Excerpt from FORTUNE’S SON chapter 39)

March signaled a lackey for a new pack of cards to replace those he’d swept off the table to join the mounds scattered about the floor.  “One can do very well on credit,” said March. “By way of example, I have no fewer than three carriage makers, and four cartwrights, currently engineering a contraption for my upcoming wager with Taaffe and Sprowle.”

“Are you still about that madness, March?” George Selwyn asked.

“What madness is this?” Philip inquired, laying down fifty guineas, and hoping his careless manner belied the near-emptiness of his pockets. March and Selwyn matched his stakes, and he absently dealt the first two cards, face-up to his immediate left.

“A bloody chariot race,” said George. “As a fellow turf man, you’ll doubtless find the fellow’s scheme most diverting.”

 “I daresay Hastings has had his fill of racing wagers.” Lord March’s jibe at Philip’s  recent loss hit home.

“Not at all, my lord,” Philip replied coolly. “When one plays, one must expect eventually to pay.”

Lord March regarded Philip speculatively. “I never begrudge a man who wins from me fairly.”

“Then I remind you ’tis now past noon, and our friend Hastings is alive, hale, and in present company,” said George, referring to their earlier wager.

Lord March carelessly unfolded a fifty-pound bank note from a wad of bills in his pocket, and handed it to George, whilst continuing his narrative. “The chariot wager was made some six-month past when Count Taaffe, that damnable upstart Irishman, boasted of having the fastest chaise and four in the country. When challenged to prove the claim, he asserted he’d clocked them at twelve miles in an hour. ‘Twelve miles?’ says I. ‘Why I’ll lay you a thousand guineas, I can produce a chaise and team half again as fast.’ Believing me out of my head, Taaffe readily accepted my wage.”

Philip replied with a chuckle, “You are out of your head, March! Eighteen miles in an hour? An impossible feat. The fastest coach pulled by a team of six doesn’t exceed ten miles per hour.”

March broke into a slow, sly smile. “A carriage is quite an ambiguous thing is it not?” March said. “Since the terms of the wager did not specify a body be fitted to the carriage, our passenger will be slung on leather straps between the two hind wheels. While united the back carriage to the fore in the usual manner, to reduce weight, we used cords and springs, and the pole and bars are of thin wood reinforced with supporting wire. As to the harness, an optimal lightness was achieved by constructing the traces from silk, and the breechings, of whalebone.”

“Silk and whalebone? Do you wish to harness your horses or to corset them?” Philip chuckled. “And you think to drive this deathtrap at eighteen miles per hour?”

“A ridiculous notion, Hastings! You think I’d take such a risk when I employ any number of competent grooms to drive the contraption?”

“Dare I ask how many have perished in the trials?”

“Why none have suffered worse than a few broken limbs,” March replied indignantly, but then confessed that he had lost half a dozen horses, explaining, “They were only second-rate runners. For the true trials I require nothing less than four plate winners.”

Philip was astounded. “You would risk four plate-winning horses for a thousand guineas? Mayhap your mind is disordered after all.”

Lord March answered heatedly. “It’s the principle of the thing, Hastings! Besides, the odds are posted at four to one against me, which means I stand to gain a huge sum in secondary wagers, but the money has become inconsequential. Hell, I’m seven hundred pounds invested already and as like to treble that amount before all is said and done. But I’ll see it through, by God.”

“That would answer,” Philip replied. “My hat is off to you, March. You are truly one calculating devil. But if you lose any more horses in the training runs, how do you propose to win?”

“I only need four to race, Hastings. I propose to retain a stable of six plate winners as a contingency. I’m saving the best of the lot for last, and won’t set the date until I deem the equipage fit, and the horses fitter.” March’s lips curved up at the corners. “After all, I race only to win.” - ( End of excerpt)

LORD MARCH’S FAMOUS RACING CHAISE

 

True to form until the very end, gambling, horses, and women continued to be Old Q’s  life passions until his death at the ripe old age of eighty five.

*~*~*~*

Emery Lee is a true romantic and  self-professed “Georgian Junkie.”  She is also the moderator for Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers. 


Monday, November 7, 2011

Guest Blogger Christina Courtenay on Men in Kilts

Today I'd like to welcome Christina Courtenay to History Undressed! She's written an article today that is near and dear to many hearts :) -- Men in Kilts!


Men in Kilts
by Christina Courtenay

What is it about men in kilts that fascinates romance readers so? I’m not sure, but I have to confess I’m one of the fans of this genre. I’ve loved romance stories set in Scotland since I first discovered there was such a thing, and whether they have a bare-chested hero in a kilt on the cover or not, I can’t get enough of them. I was therefore really keen to write a novel set in the Highlands myself. Imagine my chagrin then, when I found that my hero couldn’t wear a kilt at all!


My story, Highland Storms, is set in 1754, eight years after the battle of Culloden, which as we all know, the Jacobites lost. As a consequence of the failed rebellion, the victorious English tried to virtually eradicate all Highland culture and this included their clothing. The New Disarming Act of 12th August 1746 banned them from wearing any type of Highland dress (as well as possessing weapons) and this meant no tartan/plaids of any kind and no kilts. This didn’t stop me doing some research into Highland dress, however, and I was surprised to find that what we now refer to as kilts are very different to what most of the men wore before the Jacobite uprising. I thought I’d share some of my findings with you.
The kilts in those days were not the tiny versions we have now, although something similar did exist – they were called feileadh beag (little wrap or Philabeg in English). However, most Highlanders wore the old type of kilt, usually called a “great wrap”, “tartan wrap” or“belted plaid” back then. They were a much larger and rougher version and wouldn’t have looked as neat and tidy as the ready-made ones available to us.

A plaid by itself could be just a length of woollen fabric worn over the body like a mantle, but a “belted plaid” was different. It was made of a piece of material from about three to five yards long and two loom breadths wide, which equals around 50 inches. This was set in folds and fastened around the waist to make a sort of skirt that reached half way down the thigh. The rest was brought over the shoulders and fastened at the front, below the neck, usually with a bodkin, pin or sharp piece of stick. It could also be brought up over the head to protect the wearer during bad weather. It was a wonderful outfit for any soldier (especially the guerilla type, sleeping rough in the mountains) or anyone else travelling through the Highlands, as it served as bedding by night and clothes in the day time.
Made of wool, it must have smelled pretty bad (as did a lot of things in those days!) – the Englishman Edmund Burt, who lived in the Highlands for a while during the early 18th century, reported to a friend that “… one thing I should have told you [which] was intolerable … the number of Highlanders that attended at table, whose feet and linen, or woolen, I don’t know which, were more than a match for the odour of the dishes.” Of course, if you make wool wet, it smells more than usual (anyone who has a dog will know what I mean). However, wetting it also has a benefit in that the moisture makes the wool thicker and thereby keeps you warmer. In contact with body heat, it makes a sort of steam, which meant Highlanders could even sleep in snow if they had to and still stay fairly warm. And Highlanders, from what I understand, were used to being wet – it didn’t bother them.

These plaids or tartans could be of many colors, but for warfare the Highlanders seem to have favored plainer ones, mostly brown. That way, they were camouflaged when they lay down in the heather and this apparently annoyed the English no end! In fact, the belted plaid was the garment the English objected to the most because they said it was ‘… calculated for the encouragement of an idle life in lying about upon the heather in the daytime instead of following some lawful employment … [it] serves to cover them in the night when they lie in wait among the mountains to commit robberies, composed of such colours as ... nearly resemble the heath on which they lie so you don’t see them until you’re very close, [and it] renders them ready at a moment’s notice to join in any rebellion’. Well, it seems very sensible to me so why wouldn’t they have worn it?

Natural dyes, like those made from nettles, lichen, leaves, heather and roots etc, were used for the wool. Only rich people imported dye like red or blue and it’s amazing the range of colors you can get by just using what nature provides. One of my aunts has experimented with colors made of different types of moss, for example, and although they are muted, they’re still very pretty.

The belted plaid was most convenient for those travelling in the mountains, as wearing breeches would not have given them the same freedom of movement. And apparently they really didn’t wear anything underneath their belted plaid except a shirt - Mr Burt also reports to his friend that an Englishwoman he knew had been offended by the sight before her when a Highland guide climbed a hill ahead of her!

The “little wrap” evolved when the men needed a less cumbersome garment. It consisted of only one width of material, pleated and belted round the waist, without the extra bit that was flung over the shoulders. This was preferable for certain occupations where the large belted plaid would just have been in the way.

Women didn’t wear belted plaids, of course, but they did have a very similar garment – the arisaid. This was more like a blanket or mantle used to keep them warm and dry in cold or wet weather. They put it on by pleating about two thirds of it round the waist and fixing it in place with a belt, leaving a gap at the front. The left-over piece, you pulled up behind you and round the shoulders, fastening it with a crude pin. Just like the belted plaid, it could be pulled up over the head. The arisaidswere often chequered before the Jacobite uprising, but afterwards, when they were still allowed, they were mostly plain, sometimes with a stripe at the edge. They sound very useful, especially in a place like the Highlands which is so often wet and cold!


Many thanks for having me as your guest, Eliza!


(Quote from “Burt’s Letters from the North of Scotland”, ISBN 978-1-874744-90-0)

Highland Storms
Who can you trust?
Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.

But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.
And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …
Highland Storms, ISBN: 978-1-906931-71-1, published by Choc Lit 1st November 2011, available now from Amazon






Christina Courtenay lives in London, UK, and is married with two children. Although born in England she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, the family moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East.
Christina is Vice Chairman of the UK's Romantic Novelists’ Association. She won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for a historical short story in 2001 and the Katie Fforde Bursary for a promising new writer in 2006. Highland Storms is Christina’s third Choc Lit novel. Her debut, Trade Winds and prequel to Highland Storms, was short listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Pure Passion Award of Best Historical Fiction 2011. Her second novel, The Scarlet Kimono won Best Historical Fiction price for the Big Red Read and was shortlisted for the inaugural Festival of Romance Readers Award for Best Historical Read 2011.
As well as her novels, Christina has published four Regency novellas.
Follow Christina on Facebook and Twitter www.twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay