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


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Guest Blogger: Kimberly Killion Fiction vs. Fact: Did a woman’s virginity raise her worth on the slave market?

Fiction vs. Fact: Did a woman’s virginity raise her worth on the slave market?

This is the question I posed to Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, who writes sexy Medieval romances for Zebra Books.

After reading HIGHLAND DRAGON, I immediately emailed Kimberly about the book. She had me held captive literally from the first sentence. No kidding, I was sitting in Starbucks with a girlfriend, and I kept tapping her arm and reading to her. She has such a vivid and intense way of writing. I really felt like I was there, experiencing everything that Calin and Akira experienced. The characters are so well-crafted they appear to be real people, with real emotions. Not to mention Calin is a hot-blooded Highlander—you can’t beat that! Verra, verra nice… I cried, laughed, held my breath, chewed off my nails, sighed…the whole nine yards. I told Kimberly this, and I’ll tell you all too, I haven’t read a book this good in a long time. She rivals with some of my old favs, Julie Garwood and Jude Devereux to name a couple. And OF COURSE, she has a great bit of knowledge on history and weaved all the details and facts into the story in a way that it just flowed off the page. I like history with my romance, I like travelling back in time.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

A love born of fire… A desire that defies all limits… and a love that was meant to be…

Scotland 1502. Akira Neish has been raised as a peasant, her belly often empty and her family subject to the cruel whims of her clan's laird. To the clan’s children, the horned shaped birthmark she bears means she is a witch. But she is neither peasant nor witch—and now the man who knows the truth has returned to claim her for his own.

Calin MacLeod has kept Akira's secrets and to avenge his father, the sensual young laird must marry her. He is more than a match for the fiery nature of the woman he adores. Yet the passion they share—and truths that can no longer remain hidden—could rip all of Scotland apart...

There was one scene in particular that intrigued me was the “auction scene”. The heroine, a captive, is led onto a dais to stand before the bidders. The auctioneer asks, “Is she a virgin?” She replies, “Aye, I am a virgin. And I intend to stay that way.” Well…short of me recapping, here’s what happened next…


EXCERPT of HIGHLAND DRAGON by Kimberly Killion

The auctioneer stiffened his grip on his gavel. He flashed a wicked smile at a woman standing behind him. “Nattie, fetch the oils.”

The crude spectators roared even louder and, though it seemed impossible, the narrow space of the tent tripled in attendance, as if the bastards outside could smell a virgin. The shrill sound of heckling amplified with every passing second. Two more guards wormed their way through the crowd collecting added compensation.

A flush of uneasiness crept over Kendrick’s face. “What’s amiss?”

“These men pay extra to witness the sale of a virgin. The coin goes to the chieftain who turns a blind eye to such an atrocity. I fear my bride is not only going to cost me far more than I intended to pay, but she’s to provide the entertainment as weel.” The dark tone of his voice matched the outrage of his thoughts. “I suspect your sister has nay idea what her pride is about to cost her.”

Calin offered a silent prayer for Saint Boniface to aid him, then hollered, “Twenty groats.”

“Twenty groats I am offered,” cried the auctioneer. “Who’ll offer more?”

“Thirty-fi’,” proffered another, tripping over a foreign language.



The bids escalated at a startling pace, quickly reaching three hundred. Calin intended to win, even if it cost him every coin he’d brought. The fires of Hades would be doused before he let another man touch his woman. He’d waited far too long to secure the alliance and avenge his father’s blood.

“I bid five hundred groats,” Calin hollered.

Curious whispers hissed through the crowd as hundreds of eyes studied him. The bid shocked the crowd and Kendrick as well. “Have ye that much siller with ye, mon?”

“Aye,” Calin answered briefly then awaited any challenge, his heart hammering in his chest. He’d never been one to flaunt or squander the MacLeod coin, but the survival of Clan MacLeod depended on his retrieval of this woman. His woman.

“Who’ll give me more than five hundred groats?” the auctioneer shouted, but no response came. The smack of his gavel ended the bidding. “Sold!”

Calin’s men waited with the haversacks of siller. With the dip of his chin, he ordered his seneschal to complete the bill of sale with the bailiff. He parted the crowd to stand at the edge of the raised dais as all the other buyers before him had done, but instead of tossing Akira over his shoulder, the guards backed her to the furthest edge of the platform.

A blue-flame of energy surged within him—a possessive desire to protect, to claim, to kill. Fingers balled into fists primed for battle.

“Bring out the bed. Bring out the bed,” the crowd chanted.

The auctioneer gave orders for preparations to begin. The guards pulled back moth-eaten drapes revealing a rusty frame holding a straw-filled mattress. The woman, whom the auctioneer referred to as Nattie, reappeared with a steaming pail of oil.

Calin held the auctioneer’s stare as he spoke with contempt. “My seneschal has finalized the sale. I demand ye relinquish this woman unto me!”

“She’ll be delivered accordingly, but as clearly defined in the precepts of your bill of sale, nay woman leaves Tigh Diabhail with her maidenhead intact.”


The scene was written with such realism that I emailed Kimberly and asked, So, is it true a woman’s virginity raised her worth on the slave market in the Highlands?

Kimberly: I have no idea. I made up the auction scene. After all, this is fiction, right? If Shana Ab can have her dragons, then I can have my auction, right? Ok…I’m not exactly comparing apples to apples. Shana Ab’s Smoke Thief was obviously paranormal and actually HAD dragons in her book, where the only “dragon” in HIGHLAND DRAGON is the feisty inner spirit of the heroine.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t do my research on the auction scene. I simply “altered” it. What I do know is that in the 16th Century, a Romani child sold for the equivalent of 48. By the 19th Century, slaves were sold by weight, at the rate of one gold piece per pound. Treatment of the slaves included flogging, shredding the soles of the feet with a whip, cutting off of the lips, burning with lye, and wearing a three-cornered spiked iron collar called a cangue. Gypsies have also been enslaved at different times in other parts of the world. In Renaissance England King Edward VI passed a law stating that Gypsies be "branded with a V on their breast, and then enslaved for two years," and if they escaped and were recaptured, they were then branded with an S and made slaves for life. During the same period in Spain, according to a decree issued in 1538, Gypsies were enslaved for perpetuity to individuals as a punishment for escaping. Spain had already begun shipping Gypsies to the Americas in the 15th century; three were transported by Columbus to the Caribbean on his third voyage in 1498. In the 16th century, Portugal shipped Gypsies as an unwilling labor force to its colonies in Maranho (now Brazil), Angola and even India, the Romas' country of origin which they had left five centuries earlier. They were made Slaves of the Crown in 18th century Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, while in Scotland during the same period they were employed "in a state of slavery" in the coal mines. England and Scotland had shipped Roma to Virginia and the Caribbean as slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Eliza: I did some looking around too and it was pretty difficult to find specific information on sex slave auctions, even though you know they happened. But I suppose since it was done mostly underground its hard to get the real deal hard facts about it. The topic is just fascinating, albeit gruesome… Auctions were open to the public and private. Flyers would be posted listing who was available for purchase. Private viewings were even held before the auction so buyers could preview the merchandise. I found out that virgins and blondes were highly sought after. Women were stripped or wore barely there chemises so their bodies could be viewed.

Even in prude Victorian Britain, a 13 year old girl was purchased for 5 pounds, by the editor of The Pall Mall Gazette—in fact trafficking of women apparently rose to its peak at that time. I also came across the issue of bridenapping too. Women bought and forced into marriage.

So, how did you come up with the name of your seedy venue? How about what price to start the bidding? And was Calin not afraid he'd be recognized?

Kimberly: I like to torture myself on occasion and this includes thumbing through an English to Gaelic dictionary. I found the translation for Devil and House which produced this line in the book: “Tigh Diabhail was hell’s den and appropriately named the Devil’s House.” So, in short, the auction place is the Devil’s House in Gaelic. As for the price, I estimated what chattel were going for, horses, cattle, general livestock, and took it from there…And Tigh Diabhail was located in the outer Isles and Calin was from closer inland. This wasn’t a place he often frequented, so I didn’t worry about recognition. In a place like this, the bidders are paying attention to the man beside them, they are more concerned with the “flesh” on the auction block.

Eliza: LOL, I like to torture myself too. Ah, the lengths we go to for authenticity. I love the name and how you came up with it. Just fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing! If you have read a Kimberly Killion book yet, I highly recommend you do. You’re in for an awesome adventure!

Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, writes sexy Medieval romances for Zebra Books. Her debut book, HER ONE DESIRE, was a RITA® nominee, and her second book, HIGHLAND DRAGON, went into a second printing before release. RT Book Reviews dubbed Killion as an author who writes “captivating romance with excellent pacing and characters who are honorable, intelligent and full of humanity.” Aside from writing, Killion teaches graphic/web design and serves as the President of the Missouri Romance Writers of America. She lives in Illinois with her husband, two children, a dog, three cats, and two dozen chickens. Please visit Kimberly’s website at: www.kimberlykillion.com for news, reviews, and more.


Julie Robinson said...

Kimberly, This book sounds fantastic! Love the excerpt, blurb, and cover. Also, all the historical research is absolutely fascinating. I love reading historical romances where I come away with a feeling that I've been there in the time period and learned a bit about it along the way.

Thanks Eliza for introducing me to a new author.

Lori Brighton said...

It would def. make sense that virgins would be worth more. That happens now, why wouldn't it back then?

And Kim is an awesome writer! I totally agree!

Chicks of Characterization said...

Oh wow, this books sounds FANTASTIC!!! Another to add to my Christmas list!

Good luck, kimberly!


Emma Lai said...

Fascinating topic, ladies! Now I'm curious about Gypsies. Aargh! Like I need something else to distract me. Good luck with HIGHLAND DRAGON. It sounds fabulous!

Kimberly Killion said...

Hello all and thank you to Eliza for getting me jazzed about this topic! :)

Thanks, Julie! Glad you liked the excerpt and, yes, there is a lot of reserach that goes on behind the scenes of writing a historical, but I really do enjoy that part of it.

Hey, Lori!! You are too sweet and too godd to me. :)

Chello Chicks!
Speaking of chicks...our 6 month old chickens FINALLY laid an egg today. 1 egg. *shakes head*

Emma, I found a lot of info regarding the sale of gypsies in Romania I believe during this time period. I would have to google it again though.

Eliza Knight said...

Thank YOU Kim for blogging with me :)

Julie, I'm happy to!

Lori I agree...and so sad that it still happens!

Andrea it is definitely worth it!

LOL Emma, happens to me all the time!

Anonymous said...

Isn't this actually rather horrific? Hello?! Feminism?! A woman being auctioned and the 'hero' bidding highest for her virginity? Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Eliza Knight said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment, if that were the case, it would be horrific, yes. The hero actually bids on her for two reasons, one to save her from all the nasties who would try to steal her virginity, and two because he is her betrothed. I'm not going to say anything further because I don't want to give it away, but he is quite heroic, even to the modern feminist :)

Mary McCall said...

Kimberly, I absolutely loved this scene in the book. You are a gifted writer with a true knack for suspending disbelief. Looking forward to more from you!

librarypat said...

Wonderful post. Have heard about this book, but had the impression it was a paranormal because of both the title and cover. Am glad to hear it is a historical. Like the excerpt. Will be looking for it next time I get to the book store.

Nicole North said...

I know I'm a bit late. But this is fascinating! I will definitely have to get your book, Kim. Your first one is on my TBR stack. I am curious as to how a person came to be enslaved in Scotland at the time? Did a parent or guardian sell them? Would committing a crime get them into this horrible spot? Other reasons? I have never researched slavery but will have to now. Thanks for the info!

Kimberly Killion said...

Hi again! I got swamped at work and home and well you know...

Anonymous said...
A woman being auctioned and the 'hero' bidding highest for her virginity?

Anon, so sorry the excerpt boiled your blood, but the hero wasn't bidding on her virginity, he was in fact saving her from the auction house. The heroine in this book can definitely hold her own. LOL She is a spit fire and Calin grovels daily to woo her. :)
Hope you will check out the excerpt on my website to read more...

Thank Eliza for defending that scene. (((HUGS)))

Thank you Mary.
I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. Suspending disbelief is one of the tricks that is very hard for the average "Jane". I'm soooo glad I'm writing fiction. :)

Hello librarypat. Glad you stopped by. I've received that "paranormal" comment before on this book, but rest assured it is a straight Scottish Historical. I hope you check it out...

Nicole...hmmm...I'm afraid I will have to disappoint you. I'm a fraud when it comes to research. I did a ton of reading on Scotland and researched different languages, as for slavery, I really have no idea. In Highland Dragon, I set the auction scene in a remote place on the Isles. It happened to be where the King at the time had stored battle refinery, but in truth, I wrote this book in 2005 and am drawing a blank on anything further.

And again, thank you, Eliza for having me on History Undressed!

Eliza Knight said...

You're welcome Kim! I was glad to host you, and hope you come back soon!