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


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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Historical Romance Myths Busted!

Come visit me at Seduced By History where I'm guest blogging and busting mythgs in historical romances!


Friday, May 29, 2009

Guest Blogger - Francesca Hawley on Medieval Sexuality

Today on History Undressed, I am exited to host Francesca Hawley who'll delight us with some titillating knowledge on medieval sexuality. Today is also the release day for her newest book, Seeking Truth, which I can't wait to get my hands on!

Take it away Francesca...
When I began to write Seeking Truth, a medieval paranormal erotic romance which releases today from Ellora’s Cave, I knew one thing for certain about my hero, Baron Eaduin Kempe. I knew he was a sexually dominant and sexually experienced man. Eaduin liked to bind his lovers and pleasure them almost beyond their ability to endure before finally giving them release and taking his own. Controlling their arousal gave him pleasure. This was certain. What I did not know was how his desires fit into the rules – both religious and secular – of life in England in 1146. But to write the book, I needed to know.

Being a landed Baron, there were few who could tell Eaduin “no” and live to tell the tale. Barons held great power in England during this time. It was baronial support – or lack of it – which plunged England into nineteen years of Civil War during the reign of King Stephen and his battle with Empress Maud. Years later, it was the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 to codify the rights of the nobles and barons. However, a man like Eaduin who can do what he wants with impunity is more likely to be a villain than a hero. Since I’d already had this fight with Eaduin and lost, I knew he was hero material. Even though he could, he never took unwilling lovers and rape was repugnant to him. Check. Got it.

So I figured I’d ask my opinionated hero what he did and what he liked so I could research what society’s view would be. Eaduin shared that he expected to go to hell, but if he was fortunate he’d spend eternity in purgatory for his lusts. He told me that while he revered God, believed in Christ as his savior, and obeyed the Church, he wished the institution would keep its nose out of his bedroom. This told me he held a more secular view of medieval life.

At this point, I went searching for books to find out about sexuality in medieval times. I didn’t expect to find much. After all, documenting what went on in a noble’s bed between a husband and wife would be a fairly private thing, except when the entire castle bedded down in the great hall together, but that’s another issue altogether. I was pleasantly surprised to find sexuality and marriage to be topics visited by scholars. Prior to marrying my heroine, Vérité, Eaduin had taken a number of lovers from the lower classes and his foster mother had been his father’s mistress.

I requested many books through interlibrary loan at my local library. Those that I found particularly useful, I purchased for my own library. The following books fall in the latter category.

To find out more about medieval common women, I discovered an excellent book by Ruth Mazo Karras called Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England. Although this book covers the mid 1300s through the 1400s, I found it useful to discover what attitudes were towards women who were kept or paid for their sexual services. I found Karras’ assertions that popular views of prostitutes were heavily influenced by the church’s overall hostility to sexuality and widespread misogyny to be very credible. Medieval people were intensely influenced by the church as an institution and their local clergy. Chapters cover how prostitutes were viewed by law, how brothel businesses were run, why a woman might become a prostitute, and more. I highly recommend this book for research.

Ruth Mazo Karras is the author of the second book I looked at, as well. Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others, was an excellent read and a goldmine of research. I happened to watch the series “The History of Sex” on the History Channel. As I watched the episode about the Middle Ages, I recognized a name. Ruth Mazo Karras was one of the scholars they interviewed. She was funny and insightful, so I knew her book was going to be excellent. Since this book covered 500-1500, my time period was discussed and I was thrilled. While the book is very definitely an academic one, it is readable and interesting. The book discusses the sexuality of chastity – including the lives of priests, monks, and nuns. Karras’ research covers how sex within marriage is viewed and how both men and women outside of marriage viewed sex. She also discusses attitudes with regards to same-sex relationships. This book was incredibly helpful.

Though a much drier and more academic read, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe by James A. Brundage, was an exception resource. This book discusses law and sex from ancient times through the late 1500s. What I found most helpful, was the way Brundage delves into Canon law with regard to marriage, sexuality and sin. The thing that made me buy this book was that there were almost two hundred pages worth of material which covered the 1100s. It was amazing to me what was considered sinful. I was also astonished that someone (members of the clergy) spent so much time contemplating all the possible permutations of sexuality so they could mete out what they deemed to be appropriate punishment. Just wow.

Another book dealing with medieval Canon law is Power Over the Body, Equality in the Family by Charles J. Reid Jr. This book is more directly about the rights of men, women and children as specified in Canon law. I really found this helpful with plot details. I didn’t have a clandestine marriage, but I needed to know whether a father could contest a marriage if he wanted to or what even constituted a legal marriage. The answer to this was pretty simple – consent. It seems that a woman could refuse marriage, but parents and a potential husband could, and did, try to change her mind by fair means or foul. This book also made its way into my personal library because I found it so useful.

Finally, I’d like to recommend Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies. This book spans the early middle ages from 500 to the late middle ages to 1500. This book addresses itself to aristocrats and peasants alike. While the research here is obvious, it is an easier read than the two books regarding Canon law. This book is mostly an overview, but a definitely helpful one.

All About Francesca Hawley

I earned a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science in 2003 and work as a librarian in central Iowa. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America, including multiple special interest chapters. My first paranormal erotic novel was published by Ellora's Cave in January 2009. I have been writing seriously for about five years, but writing was always a part of my life. Even in my teens I wrote romances, spending my lunch hours with pen, paper, and characters. I love to weave new tales by embroidering and knitting intriguing narratives for the amusement of myself, my friends, and my readers.

Seeking Truth
Publisher: Ellora's Cave Publishing
ISBN: 9781419922190


Baron Eaduin Kempe, a man of intense passions, seeks a healer at a nearby abbey. When the abbess introduces convent-raised Lady Vérité de Sauigni, he knows he’s hellbound for desiring her. He wants to tie her to his bed until she sobs with the pleasure of his touch.

Eaduin offers Vérité marriage in exchange for easing the pain of his dying foster mother. Years ago, Vérité secretly watched Baron Eaduin arouse a lover and has dreamed of his touch ever since. She desires him enough to risk exchanging the imprisonment of convent life for that of marriage. On their wedding night, Eaduin craves dominance and Vérité submits with enthusiasm. Each heated encounter thereafter binds them closer together.

When Vérité’s father accuses her of witchcraft because she won’t use her psychic gift of seeing truth to aid him, she begs Eaduin to kill her so she doesn’t suffer. Instead, Eaduin challenges her father to trial by combat, determined to save the woman who owns both his passion and his heart.

Read an Excerpt!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Guest Blogger - Delle Jacobs on Lunacy Laws

Today on History Undressed we have guest blogger, Delle Jacobs talking to us about lunacy laws! Enjoy!


I was just a little girl when I became aware that there was something secretive and shameful about the house next door, with its bare siding weathered gray and cracking. When we climbed the cherry tree, we could see in the windows through old lace curtains to unfashionable Victorian furniture, but there was never a light inside, for no one was ever there. Our parents didn't know we heard their whispers of an old woman who was in an asylum after a "breakdown" when her husband died.

When I began writing SINS OF THE HEART, I knew I had a heroine who was in hiding from her evil brother, and I knew she was terrified of him, but finding out why was a difficult task. Then I realized one of my own greatest fears traced back to the spooky old house next door and the mysterious old woman who was locked up and could never go home. I had learned a lot about mental illness in my many years in social work with mentally troubled families, and the more I learned, the more I understood how very abusive to patients the system can be. In England in the early Nineteenth Century, it might be hard to have a man locked away, but the same didn't apply to women. All that was needed was the consent of her husband or guardian. I began to see why Juliette was on the run. She refused to bow to her brother's will and marry a man who had harmed her. And worse, she had an unknown inheritance and her brother wanted it.

In England in the post-Elizabethan Era, attitudes toward mental illness had begun a shift. Unlike on the Continent, the change to Protestantism meant mental illness was less and less seen as caused by demonic possession, but treatment didn't improve otherwise, being pretty much the same as for other illnesses- bleeding, cupping, burning, ineffective or dangerous tonics.

Only one hospital existed, Bethlem in London, which had begun taking some mentally ill patient in 1357. By the early Sixteenth Century, 31 patients were housed in dreadful conditions, and by the Seventeenth Century the place was infamous for its ill-treatment of patients. Violent or dangerous patients were manacled or chained but others were allowed to leave and some were licensed to beg. The wealthy often paid a few coins to come and stare at the patients- nearly 100,000 visited in 1814.

Most lunatics had always been kept in their own communities, some cared for by people who specialized in managing "madmen, idiots, and the infirm". But the idea of madhouses was catching on. Private asylums sprang up, aiming for the wealthier patient who could pay for his own care, a situation that was ripe for abuse. The 1774 Act For Regulating Private Madhouses sought to alleviate this problem, but it did not apply to public hospitals like Bethlem.

There were safeguards, some of which were specifically aimed at preventing the sane from being detained against their will. According to Nancy Mayer, a student of Regency Law, it was not easy to have a person declared incompetent, and often took years to get through the Chancery Court, especially in the case of a person with wealth and title.

But married women and minors were at the mercy of the very people who were supposed to protect them. It was assumed that any reasonable person would be concerned with the welfare of his charges, but not all men are reasonable. A young girl could be locked in her room, or beaten or half-starved into compliance with her guardian's wishes. Hysteria, considered a female disease which was caused by a "traveling uterus" that could harm other organs, could easily be the grounds for keeping a girl in a cell in an asylum. True, when she came of age, she could no longer be kept. But we all know how any teenage girl would view an incarceration of several years, even in gentle circumstances. And as a child, Juliette had been one of those visitors to Bedlam. She had seen what it had done to the patients. She had been told if she didn't learn better behavior that cold be her fate. She knew she had to run or die.

What do you think you would have done if you had lived then and faced being locked up, yet knew you were completely sane? How do you think you wold have handled it?

Delle Jacobs lives in a fantasy world of endless green forests, silvery rivers that cascade between shining, snow-capped mountains, not far from both a high desert scabland and a sandy-beached, marine blue ocean. It’s called Washington State. She shares it with three generations of adult males, the requisite two black writer’s cats, and all sorts of mossy-backed folk who don’t mind the rain that makes their land so magical.

A three time winner of the Golden Heart as well as many other awards for her books, Delle fills her historical and fantasy romance with that same sort of magic. Besides writing, her other favorite addiction is Photoshopping covers for ebooks. Visit Delle at www.dellejacobs.com

Friday, May 15, 2009

Guest Blogger Anna Kathryn Lanier on Frontier Women: Keturah Belknap

Today I'd like to welcome Anna Kathryn Lanier to History Undressed! Today she's talking about the American Frontier Women, Keturah Belknap in particular. This is a fascinating topic! Thanks for being here!

First, thanks, Eliza for having me here today. I've enjoyed reading your blog and I'm pleased to be a guest on History Undressed.(change the name if I have it wrong...lol)

One day, I hope to write a story that involves a wagon train. To do research for it, I have acquired several books that retell diaries and letters of real frontier women. One book is “Covered Wagon Women” by Kenneth L. Holmes. In the book, Holmes retells the story of a dozen pioneer women, including Keturah Belknap, who made not one but two wagon trips to new homes. Today, I will discuss Keturah's trip to Iowa and her life there.

Two weeks after she married George Belknap in Ohio in October 1839, they “gathered up” their possessions and headed in search of prairie land. Her in-laws accompanied the newlyweds. Finding only timber land, they passed through Indiana, Illinois and crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. The journey took four weeks and unlike some pioneers, the Belknaps seemed well prepared for it.

They took with them flour and meat, a dutch oven, skillet, teakettle and coffee pot. When they wanted fresh vegetables or horse feed they stopped at farms and buy it. It was planned to winter in Rushville, Iowa, but the Belknaps heard of a homestead for sale and continued on toward it. During this trip, they encountered sleet and snow storms. Keturah writes about how frozen she became while driving the wagon as her husband herded the cattle.

The homestead they purchased had a house on it, a good thing as they arrived in November. However, the couple and George's parents, who shared the small house, still needed to survive the winter. They bought “a dollar worth of coffee and the same of sugar that lasted all winter.” Her husband cut timber into timber in the freezing snow to earn grocery money.

Keturah spent the winter “spinning flax and tow* to make summer clothes.” In the spring they sheared the few sheep they had, then washed and picked the wool and sent it to be carded. Once carded, the wool needed to be spun, colored and woven. Keturah would spin and her mother-in-law would weave it, as Keturah didn't know how to weave.

To help earn money for their mortgage, the family sold butter (12½¢ a pound), eggs (6¢ a dozen), pork (5¢ a pound) and corn (12½ ¢ a bushel).

For the first few years, Keturah and George continued to share a house with her in-laws for three years. They saved money to purchase materials for their own home, which was finally completed in 1842. Family and friends built the 24x16 foot house, but George made the siding himself from nearby timber.

Interestingly, Keturah explains in her diary, when she describes making a Christmas dinner for twelve, that she has never cooked on a stove. Instead, she bakes in the hearth and cooks in a dutch oven over the open fire.

The Belknaps stayed in Iowa until 1848, when they left for Oregon. During their time in Iowa, Keturah gave birth to three children, two daughters and a son. Unfortunately, both daughters, Hannah and Martha, died as toddlers and the deaths affected her greatly. Her son, Jesse and his brother, Lorenzo, who was born on the Oregon trail, survived to adulthood.

If you'd like to read more about Keturah and her journey to Oregon, please check out my blog today. I'm talking about the Belknap's trip on my weekly feature The Friday Record. http://annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com/

Also, you can visit me at http://www.aklanier.com/ for information on my stories.

Thanks again for having me, Eliza.

*Tow: the fiber of flax, hemp, or jute prepared for spinning by scutching; the shorter, less desirable flax fibers separated from line fibers in hackling. http://www.dictionary.com/

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Noble's Life in Medieval Times Workshop

Dates: June 1, 2009 – June 31, 2009
Class: A Noble’s Life in Medieval Times
Instructor: Eliza Knight

Register: www.elizaknight.com/noblelife.aspx

Class Description:

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

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

This workshop will teach you how people, particularly nobles, lived in medieval times, in order for you to be truer to the era you write about. This is an open discussion workshop, questions and comments are welcome and encouraged. There are five lessons, each of which are broken down daily. This class provides photos, video links, research links, exercises and opportunities to share your work for critique. The lessons will be presented as follows:

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

Friday, May 8, 2009

Guest Blogger - Beth Trissel on The Battle of King's Mountain

I am happy to have guest author, Beth Trissel with us here today! And to top it off, today is the release of her book, Enemy of the King. I have had the pleasure of reading this novel, and it is FANTASTIC! Today Beth is going to tell us about the battle of King's Mountain. Enjoy!

Take it away Beth...
Years ago as I was researching my early American Scots-Irish forebears I often came across references to a battle fought during the Revolution called King’s Mountain. The name alone drew me. I vowed to go back later and research it more in depth and uncovered fascinating fodder for the imagination.

I learned about the gallant, ill-fated British Major Patrick Ferguson who lost his life and Loyalist army atop that Carolina Mountain called King’s back in the fall of 1780. Ferguson is buried there beneath a stone cairn, possibly along with his mistress who also fell that day. He had two, both called Virginia. But it’s believed one mistress made her escape on a horse by betraying his whereabouts to the advancing Patriots.

Speaking of which, I discovered the hardy, sometimes downright mean Overmountain men of Scots heritage didn’t take kindly to Ferguson’s warning that they desist from rebellion or he’d bring fire and sword upon them and hang all their leaders––all these enemies of the King!

‘Book title,’ I said to self. And Enemy of the King sounds much cooler than The Patriot. So I began what came to be my version of that famous movie, though I started my novel before it even came out. I’ve invested years of research into the high drama and romance of the Revolution. I don’t regret a moment and am seeking like-minded persons to share in this passion with me. That has an unfortunate e-Harmony ring to it.

But I digress, (often). Needless to say, the Battle of King’s Mountain, a mega conflict that altered the course of a nation, plays a prominent role in this fast-paced Historical Romance. And, being drawn to mysterious old homes and the notion that those who’ve gone before us are not always gone, I included a paranormal element.

So, step into the elegant parlor of Pleasant Grove, an eighteenth century Georgian plantation built high on the bluff above the Santee River. Admire the elegant lines of this gracious brick home and its exquisite décor. Stroll out into the expansive garden between fragrant borders of lavender and rosemary. Bask beneath the moss-hung branches of an enormous live oak, then saunter back indoors to dress for a candlelight dinner in the sumptuous dining room. But don’t plan on a lengthy stay, you’re about to be snatched away for a wild ride into Carolina back country.

Jeremiah Jordan is a Patriot and Meriwether Steele a Tory. She risks a traitor’s death if she fights for the one she loves.


Enemy of the King is coming to the Wild Rose Press May 8th.

About Beth:
I’m a historical/light paranormal romance author with the Wild Rose Press. I have four releases out with more to follow. My fascination with Colonial America, particularly stirring tales of the frontier and the Shawnee Indians, is an early and abiding one. My English, Scot-Irish ancestors had interactions with this tribe, including family members taken captive. These accounts inspired my passion. Intrigued with all things Celtic, much of my writing features these early Scot-Irish forebears who settled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and surrounding mountains, spreading into Tennessee and the Carolinas.

This absorption with Colonial America also extends to the high drama of the Revolution. My ancestors fought and loved on both sides of that sweeping conflict. My research into the Southern face of the war was partly inspired by my great-great-great grandfather, Sam Houston, uncle of the famous Sam, who kept a journal of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, 1781, that is used by historians today.
Moreover, I am ever intrigued by ghost stories, and Virginia has more tales than any other state. I find myself asking if the folk who’ve gone before us are truly gone, or do some still have unfinished business in this realm? And what of the young lovers whose time was tragically cut short, do they somehow find a way? Love conquers all, so I answer ‘yes.’

I am a member of Romance Writers of America, Virginia Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, the Golden Network, For the Heart Romance Writers... Married to my high school sweetheart, I live on a farm in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley with children and multiple animals. The beauty of the valley and uniqueness of rural life has led me to write a collection of atmospheric personal essays compiled into a work of nonfiction. Virginia is my inspiration.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

*Gasp* "I saw your ankle!" Improprieties in Regency England

Every society has what it says is socially acceptable and then of course they have their improprieties too.

Today I’m going to talk about the Regency era in England, and what was considered improper!

Titles, addresses and peerage, oh my! Okay, this wasn’t just from the Regency era, but I must say, while writing, I am obsessive about making sure I get all these things correctly. Such as, you don’t address the Duke of Suffolk as, my lord, but your grace. And the daughter of Richard Jones, Baron Hollingsworth is not, my lady, but Miss Jones. Click here to visit my favorite website for figuring these out.

When you go to a dinner party, soup will be served first. Do not by any means eat your soup from the tip of your spoon, to do so is a major social blunder. Soup is consumed from the side.

Calling Cards. Don’t even bother leaving your bed chamber if you do not possess your own calling cards. Cards were made of excellent quality paper and engraved with your name. For a man they would have his address, but a woman’s would have her name, and her husband’s name if she was married. But remember don’t decorate your card, keep it simple. Decorations on a card were considered bad taste. Folks kept their precious calling cards in nice little decorated cases. When ladies arrived in town, they would often leave their cards with their friends to let them know they’d arrived. Cards were left in a salver by the front door—in easy view of incoming guests who would perhaps snoop to see who is calling. The lady could then call on you in person or send you her card in return. Under no circumstances would a young unmarried lady leave her card with a bachelor. Scandal!!!

If you encounter a lady you are little acquainted with, and you are a man, you must first wait to be acknowledged by her before you tip you hat and offer a greeting. I rather like this rule and wish it still stood today. Do not speak to the lady unless spoken to first gentlemen!

A gentleman does not smoke in the presence of ladies.

When enjoying society balls and other functions, a lady never dances with one man more than three times. Not unless you are engaged, or want everyone to think you are.

A lady never wears pearls or diamonds in the morning.

A young lady did not ride along St. James Street in an open carriage, and she better not be caught walking! It was simply not done, and if you dared you would be cast as an improper imp. Why? St. James Street was where the popular gentleman’s clubs presided, and any young lady could be abused by the men attending the clubs. And when I say abused, I mean stared at. Maybe a smile even…

Both men and women must wear gloves at all times when venturing into public. When a man grasps her hand to kiss her respectfully on the wrist, you certainly wouldn’t want there to be skin on skin contact.

Everyone was right and proper. If a woman lifted her dress a little and showed her ankle, it was considered very provocative. Hmm…if an ankle was bad, then why was it okay to enhance and show off your décolletage?

These are certainly not all the rules of society, but some of my favorites. Care to share any more?


Friday, May 1, 2009

Guest Blogger: Shereen Vedam on Sculpting with English Alabaster

When I came up with the concept of writing a regency short story, I had no interest in alabaster or knowledge on the subject of sculpting. Such minor technicalities, however, never stops a writer from plunging into the unknown, for that’s where our true adventures lie.

For a short story, unlike a novel, one likes a minimum of complications. Unfortunately, my characters don’t care for limitations. So my heroine, Pauline, came to life already carrying heavy expectations for herself, her family and her society. She was a young lady who had turned to her art because she’d lost faith in love.

Her hero arrived next, a man grieving for the loss of his beloved brother in the

Peninsular War and claiming that his nickname was ‘Stone.’ And the medium for Pauline’s work was conceived.

With the artist being a woman, I searched for a medium that would be less strenuous to sculpt than marble or limestone. So, in To Capture Love, Pauline works with Alabaster because research suggested that was one of the softest stones to carve.

English alabaster is easy to shape because it is composed of gypsum. Due to its softness, threat of vandalism discourages use of this type of stone for outdoor statuary, but Pauline’s commission was to be displayed in the British Museum on Montague Street in London.

Since Alabaster has a beautiful translucent quality, it was perfect for her requirements. Mined locally, this stone could be found in midland quarries, from Derbyshire to Staffordshire, and came in shades that ranged from honey orange, greens, creamy whites, gold to raspberry.

Now that she had her medium, the only thing Pauline lacked was inspiration. And Stone, our grieving hero, a man whom she once loved in her quiet reclusive way, becomes her perfect muse. When he lets his jealousy of her many admirers frustrate him enough to try to catch her attention, he opens her eyes to the true reality of war – from the heroism of the young brash soldiers who played and fought in it, to the devastation wrecked on the Spanish countryside and local populace as a result of that conflict between nations.

Finally, with enough information to craft her work, Pauline retreats to passionately carve her alabaster sculpture. She captures the essence of a terrible war and the resultant loss in lives. The effect her creation has on its English audience is as shocking as its effect on her client, Matthew ‘Stone’ Livingston, the Earl of Ashford.

Shereen Vedam writes regency and fantasy romances. She has several short stories published through The Wild Rose Press. Her website is at: www.shereenvedam.com