Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Guest Blogger Marie-Claude Bourque on Voyagers

Voyageurs: Adventure, Freedom, Danger and Travel
By Marie-Claude Bourque


Coureur des Bois

Why do the words “Coureurs des Bois” make most French Canadian woman dream? “The life of the Coureur des Bois was one of adventure, freedom, danger and travel," said celebrated coureur des bois Pierre Esprit Radisson (1636-1710).

Doesn’t that say it all?

Coureurs des Bois, which means literally “wood-runners”, were itinerant, unlicensed fur traders of New France (Eastern Canada) that emerged in the early 17th century. Romanced by some and hated by others because of their illegal nature, these hardy pioneers, inured to hardship, were a strong and sturdy set, tireless and fearless, resourceful in emergencies.

With muscles of steel, they guided their frail canoes through the stormy waves of the big lake and ran the perilous rapids of fast moving streams. They were men who had accompanied the Native in their hunting expeditions, and made themselves acquainted with remote tracts and tribes; and who now became, as it were, peddlers of the wilderness.

Hard not to dream about them, so hard in fact that modern coureurs des bois, such as Nicolas Vanier and Frédéric Asselin make the perfect modern heroes.


By 1681, the French authorities realized the traders had to be controlled so that the fur industry might remain profitable to them. They therefore legitimized and limited the numbers of coureurs des bois by establishing a system that used permits. This legitimization created a "second-generation" coureur des bois: the voyageur, which literally means "traveler". This name change came as a result of a need for the legitimate fur traders to distance themselves from the unlicensed ones. Voyageurs held a permit or were allied with a Montreal merchant who had one.

For the most part, voyageurs were the crews hired to man the canoes that carried trade goods and supplies to "rendezvous posts" where goods and supplies were exchanged for furs. Some voyageurs stayed in the back country over the winter and transported the trade goods from the rendezvous posts to farther-away French outposts. These men were known as the hivernants (winterers). They also helped negotiate trade in native villages.

In the spring they would carry furs from these remote outposts back to the rendezvous posts. Voyageurs also served as guides for explorers. The majority of these canoe men were French Canadian and/or Métis. Many were from France and others were members of Native Aboriginal tribes Voyageurs played an important role in the European exploration of the continent and in establishing trading contacts with the Indians.

The voyageurs and coureurs des bois are legendary, especially in French Canada. They are folk heroes celebrated in folklore and music and I grew up with this romantic version of these rugged free men, able to travel so far, paddles for hours in the frigid rivers, transport canoes on their back over miles and lived with Natives, sometimes even taking a wife among them.

These to me represent the typical “unavailable” hero who stays with you just long enough for you to fall in love with them, until the call of the wild becomes stronger.

What a great past this is for my ANCIENT WHISPERS hero Gabriel LaJeunesse, an Acadian deported in 1755 who becomes immortal after a run in with a powerful sorcerer but flees the magic he hates, to lose himself in the wood, trekking back north to Canada. And there, he becomes one of those latest coureur des bois, a Voyageur, hiding his pain through the rough life of these legendary explorators, until he finally finds love in modern time.


Marie-Claude Bourque is an American Title V finalist with her entry ANCIENT WHISPERS, a dark paranormal romance filled with tortured sorcerers, dark sensuality and gothic rituals. You can find her at http://www.mcbourque.com/ and www.myspace.com/marieclaudebourque .

And you can also vote for your favorite of four entries in round 4 of the American Title V contest at: http://www.romantictimes.com/news_amtitle3.php

Sunday, February 15, 2009

History Undressed is Excessively Diverting!

I was pleasantly surprised and honored today to recieve a nomination for Jane Austen Today's Excessively Diverting blog award from my dear friend, Mozart - and believe me, this musical genius has a very entertaining blog himself - Prima La Musica!

"The aim of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen’s genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humor, wit, and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of the sparkling banter, witty repartee, and gentle reprove. This award was created by the blogging team of Jane Austen Today to acknowledge superior writing over the Internet and promote Jane Austen’s brilliance."

I am pleased to pass this prestigious award on to seven other blogs that are excessively diverting to me, and here they are in no particular order:

The Rules: Recipients, please claim your award by copying the HTML code of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award badge, posting it on your blog, listing the name of the person who nominated you, and linking to their blog. Then nominate seven (7) other blogs that you feel meet or exceed the standards set forth. Nominees may place the Excessively Diverting badge in their side bar and enjoy the appreciation of their fellow blogger for recognition of their talent.

Happy Reading and Writing!!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Historical Mama Writer: Elizabeth Gaskell

Recently I joined a group of authors, and we started the Mama Writers Community. In honor of all the writers in history who also happened to be mothers, every so often I will write a blog about one of them. Today’s blog is on Mama Writer, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell.

Elizabeth was a novelist and lived during the Regency and Victorian era. She was born Elizabeth Stevenson on September 29, 1810 in Chelsea, London, the last of eight children to her parents William and Elizabeth. She and her eldest brother John (the first born child) were the only children to survive infancy. Her mother died three months after giving birth to her, leaving her father bereft and at a loss of what to do. He sent Elizabeth to live with her mother’s sister, Hannah Lumb in Knutsford, Cheshire.

Although she didn’t see her father but every few years after he remarried and had two more children, her brother John visited her often until he joined the Merchant Navy with the East India Company Fleet, and went missing in 1827 during an expedition in India, never to be heard from again.

In 1832, she married William Gaskell who was a minister and had a literary career of his own, a perfect match. They settled in Manchester, where William became the minister of Cross Street Chapel as well as an instructor of Literature at Manchester Mechanic’s Institute—later known as the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

In 1833, they had a still born daughter, followed by five other children, only four of whom survived: Marianne (1834), Margaret Emily (1837), Florence Elizabeth (1842), William (1844-1845 died of scarlet fever), and Julia Bradford (1846).

After the publication of Elizabeth’s first novel, Mary Barton, (which she published anonymously in 1848) in 1850, they rented a villa in Plymouth Grove, where she lived with her family until her death. Her husband and two unmarried daughters continued to live in the house until two decades later when William passed, and the house remained in possession of their two daughters. During Elizabeth's life the house was visited by many literary greats during that time including, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher-Stowe and Charles Eliot Norton.

It was said her husband encouraged her to write her first novel as a distraction to the death of their baby, William. Her husband was a great support for her, helping with dialect, editing her manuscripts and acting as her literary agent. He supported her when critics abused her and when her biography of Charlotte Bronte garnered threats of law suits.

She is best known for her fiction novels Cranford, North and South, Ruth, Sylvia’s Lovers and Wives and Daughters. In addition to her novels, she did ghost writing, with the help of Charles Dickens who published her gothic stories in his magazine, Household Words.

Elizabeth is also known well for her biography of her friend, Charlotte Bronte. When Bronte died in 1855, her father approached Elizabeth asking her to write the biography, to which she agreed.

Elizabeth Gaskell died on November 12, 1865 in Hampshire.

Have you read any of Mrs. Gaskell’s work? I read Wives and Daughters when I was seventeen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been a fan ever since. Charlotte Bronte also happens to be the author of one of my favorite books, Jane Eyre, so I also felt some pull to read Gaskell’s work, and I'm glad that I did.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Regency Ship Captains

Goodmorning History Lovers!

Today I have the honor of guest blogging at Risky Regencies! I'm talking about the life of Regency ship captains. Come on by to read about their lives, learn about terms we use today that orginated as Naval terms and see some interesting pictures.

I'm also giving away a copy of HER CAPTAIN RETURNS to one lucky commenter!


Here's a sneak peek:

In light of my recent Regency release, Her Captain Returns, part of my Men of the Sea series, I thought I would take today to talk about Royal Navy Captains in the Regency era. Let us travel through the hero of my novella, Captain Ryder Montgomery’s training, and life at sea.

Ryder was born the second son of an earl, and from his earliest days, had a penchant for the sea. It was only natural for him to join the navy at the age of thirteen as a mid-shipman. He certainly did his share of scrubbing the deck and tying knots, but when he was a little older he was allowed to take care of the log line, and sometimes delegate sailing duties. By the age of twenty, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and by 23, was Captain of his own ship, HMS Conqueror.