Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Guest Author Diva Jefferson

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to welcome a new guest author, Diva Jefferson. Diva writes Irish historical romance and has shared a bit of history behind her book, TO LOVE AN IRISHMAN.  Enjoy!

Imagine your life in a luscious, green world full of ancient stories, magic, and mystery. You have a unique language only to your people, a diverse religion, and a divine unity with your neighbors. Then you realize the wonderful sphere around you is torn asunder. Soon Penal Laws prevent you from practicing your religion, speaking your language, and owning your own land.
          In the early 1800s (before the Great Famine in the 1840s), Ireland was a place full of opportunity for only a privileged few, and a large holder of oppression. English rulers dictated their countrymen to move onto greener pastures, and gave them wide expanses of Irish land to do with what they will. This was called land tenure. Land was a source of income, a source of political power, and a great source of food, fuel, space, and sport. These landowners, or land agents, took over their designated properties, forcing the Irish people from their homes, sometimes paying them to emigrate. Those who had nowhere to go were carted to workhouses or worked in the quarries. Workhouses or they were called ‘Houses of Industry’ before 1838, were disease-infested, prison-like places of work where people without means to provide for themselves lived. Here, men broke stones and women knitted for low wages. It was definitely not a great way spend a life.
          Those who managed to keep their land were subject to very high taxes (and rents) based solely on their holdings. The amount of that tax, or ‘tithe’, funded the Church of Ireland, the county government, workhouses, dispensaries (medical facilities), Trinity College, and endowed schools. Many threats of eviction were held over the people’s heads and livestock were seized if rents were unpaid. Rents were usually collected twice a year, generally in hotels. Anyone who became evicted and indebted to their land agents was publicly humiliated. This is a reason why so many Irish chose to become clergymen because they were excluded from this taxing.
Others who escaped workhouses became farmers. Tenant farmers, paid taxes and lived on the land. They were sometimes referred to as ‘managers’. Farm laborers were paid no more than eight pence a day and given small plots of land with which to feed their families.
          Family farms were the most popular type, and they were twenty-five acres or more. Most Irish farms grew potatoes, but cabbage, onions, wheat, barley, oats, and flax were also commonly grown as well as raising livestock. A half-acre could feed a whole family for a year. All other produce and livestock would be sold at market places in large cities or shipped to the Americas and the British Isles.
          Life on a farm is hard work done every day. Learn more about farming equipment and techniques in my book To Love An Irishman.


She is left with an offer she cannot refuse...

Upon his death in 1823, English nobleman, Lord Peyton leaves his daughter Lady Aveline with two choices—stay single and inherit only a small farm in Ireland, where she might just be able to eke out a living, or get married and live in luxury, inheriting all his wealth and property. Fiercely independent, Aveline heads for Ireland only to run afoul of her father’s farm manager, the devastatingly handsome Ciaran O’'Devlin. Alone in a strange country, Aveline yearns for love and friendship, but Ciaran offers only criticism and disdain. Confused and angered by strange visions and her growing attraction to Ciaran, Aveline is determined to make the farm prosper—despite the insufferable Irishman.

He has a secret he cannot reveal...

Ciaran mistrusts Aveline’s intentions and refuses to admit that a willful, English woman now owns the farm that should have been his. Although he insists Aveline should go back to England, he cannot deny their budding passion. Yet, he knows—even if she doesn’t—that nothing will come of it. Not only can’t a poor Irishman marry an English noblewoman, but when Aveline learns of his past, she’ll want nothing more to do with him. Ciaran has always known that each decision carries a consequence, but it’s only when he stands to lose Aveline that he realizes what a heavy price his past decisions may have.


Aveline couldn’t tear her eyes away. The man was gorgeous—and most unfriendly...

One of the men stood out from the others. His clothing was obviously expensive, despite its poor condition. Aveline stood quietly and observed him through the crack of the door, wondering who he was.
He discarded his brown swallowtail coat and threw it over the stall wall, leaving only a green cotton waistcoat and a worn, white linen shirt covering his upper torso. The shirt hung open, exposing the man’s broad chest, dusted with dark hair. The waistcoat, also unbuttoned, trailed down toward brown corduroy trousers that fit snugly around his muscled thighs. His clothes were unmarked by patches, though stains from dirt surrounded both knees. He wore brown stockings with black leather brogues.
She wanted to stand in the doorway and watch him sing for the rest of the day. His voice was wonderful and its warm tone washed through her. But she knew the longer she remained the more likely it was she’d be seen. As an eavesdropper, she had seen and learned more information than her father would ever have allowed. That is why she loved doing it.
The time grew late and she decided to leave. She’d introduce herself when she wouldn’t be an interruption. Her success on the farm revolved around their good opinion of her. Easing away, she stumbled and grabbed a hold of the door, causing it to creak. Suddenly, the Irishman looked directly at her. The grin she’d seen on his face just moments before turned to a scowl.
She did not stick around to see what he did next, but ran in the direction of the farmhouse. He caught her arm in three quick strides, grabbed her wrist, and spoke to her in Gaelic as she turned around, gasping for breath. His language was beautiful. She just wished she understood what he was trying to say.

Excerpt from To Love An Irishman written by Diva Jefferson. Please feel free to contact the author on her website: www.divajefferson.com.


Diva Jefferson was born in sunny Orlando, FL. Later, she moved to North Carolina (her love) and then onto South Carolina where she currently resides. She lives with her amazing cat named Muffin and her fiance, Connor. Life is a journey worth making. Diva has a colorful relationship with the romance genre. She's been writing for ten years. She wouldn't trade it for the world. She is member of the National Romance Writers of America, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers and the South Carolina Writer's Workshop. Visit Diva at: http://www.divajefferson.com/


Mona Karel said...

Hi Diva
Great insight into the Irish history. It's amazing how much beauty has come forward. They rose above their oppression instead of letting it define them. Half an acre to feed a family?? I need to check into that, bet I could get a lot out of a small patch if I planned it out.

Diva J. said...

Mona, you are so right. They are definitely a wonderful culture. And yes, half an acre. Of course, back then families were much bigger. So I'm sure you could make a fine go of it. Good luck!

Take care,
Diva J.

Empi said...

Very interesting history indeed. It's really sad the sins that were perpetuated against people in the past. And I love the excerpt. There's something about someone speaking another language that just gets to me :-). Congrats on your release and happy sales

textilehistorIE said...

I would love to know where you found references to knitting in the workhouse?
Your book looks like a great read!
Thanks :)