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


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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guest Author Lydia Dare on Legends

Please join me today in welcoming debut author Lydia Dare! Yesterday, I had the pleasure of posting my review of her novel, A Certain Wolfish Charm. Today, she's visiting with us to discuss the always fascinating topic of legends... Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her novel, A Certain Wolfish Charm. (2 winners, US and Canada Only)

Research is a funny thing, especially when dealing with history. I’m never quite sure what I’m going to find – which is actually why one researches, but I digress. Since my novels merge the genres of Regency and Paranormal romance, the type of research I have to do has changed. In fact, my Google searches would probably scare someone if they ever sat down at my computer and went through my browser history.

Legends of werewolves, vampires, and other creatures have been passed down for centuries, and they so resonated with those who heard them, they’re still talked about today. And since we readily accept vampires and werewolves in a contemporary setting, logic would only dictate that they existed in the past as well. At least that is the basis on which I build my world.

Still, I wanted to use local legends where I could, and that ended up being a bit more difficult than I’d initially anticipated. The last three books in this series (so far) are set in Scotland in 1817 and the heroes are honorable, gentlemanly vampires. Eastern European vampire lore was well established by this time, but finding something of Scottish legend was an exercise in futility, even for the most dedicated researcher. Apparently the Scots had enough legends of their own, and they didn’t feel the need to pilfer any from their continental counterparts. The only solid creature I could find was the Baobhan Sith, who were beautiful, seductive, fairy-like women. After nightfall they would entice men to dance with them and then drain them of their blood.

Thinking about the origins of this legend makes me giggle. I can just see some ancient Scot trying to explain to his wife why he didn’t return until the morning. He couldn’t tell her he’d been out all night drinking whisky. And he couldn’t tell her who he actually spent the evening with. So the Baobhan Sith was born. “It’s no’ my fault. I was on my way home, bringin’ ye the flowers I ken ye love, and the fog came up and this creature appeared and I couldna move. And then it started dancin’ and before I could run, it had drained me of most of my blood. I only barely got away, but I lost yer flowers in my escape.”

I am teasing of course. It was probably the other way around. Scottish women must have created the myth to keep their husbands and sons at home, and sober, where they should be. “Doona go out at night. The Baobhan Sith will get ye.”

Needless to say, that bit of research will go un-used by me. I can’t envision my vampire hero dancing like a seductive fairy to capture my heroine’s blood and then her heart. But the image does make me laugh. For some reason the movie trailer for Tooth Fairy with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson just popped into my head. That’s so not the image I want to base my hero upon. I chose to stick to the more commonly-known vampire myth we all know and love with a few twists of my own thrown in for good measure.

What about you? Have you ever wondered about the origins of any myths or legends? And if so, what did you come up with? Did anything truly surprise you?

Lydia Dare is an active member of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, where she sits on the board of directors. She lives in a house filled with boys and an animal or tow (or 10) near Raleigh, North Carolina. Visit Lydia: http://www.lydiadare.com/

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare

I admit that Lydia Dare’s debut, A Certain Wolfish Charm (releasing April 6, 2010) is the very first Lycan (werewolf) book I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. Part of what makes this book so much fun is the setting. Ms. Dare takes the prim and proper Regency era and turns it on its ear with a rake-hell hero, Simon, Duke of Blackmoor (perfect name by the way) who is not only a hot, intense and intriguing man, but also a werewolf. Our heroine, Lily, is a feisty, smart and independent woman, whose last thought is of marriage, when she finds herself as the new Duchess of Blackmoor. Together they embark on a journey in which they discover each other, and ultimately themselves.

The book was sensual, emotionally riveting, and well-written. The characters jumped off the pages.

As always with my love of history, I find it quite enjoyable when an author takes us back in time. Ms. Dare did so not only with her setting, characters, wardrobe and entertainment, but ensconcing us in real Regency life. I speak in particular of our characters visiting Drury Lane for a Shakespeare play (my favorite playwright!). Well done!

The secondary characters were also intriguing and fun. And I secretly admit to laughing each time Lily’s nephew was referred to as a pup. There were actually many parts in this book that had me laughing. I’m definitely a Dare fan.

I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series! Tall, Dark and Wolfish (May 2010) and The Wolf Next Door (June 2010).

Here’s the back-cover blurb for, A Certain Wolfish Charm

He gets crankier and crankier as the moon gets full… A woman whose charm is stronger than the moon…

The rules of Regency Society can be beastly--especially when you’re a werewolf. Simon Westfield, the Duke of Blackmoor, has spent his entire life creating scandal and mayhem. It doesn’t help his wolfish temper that since he’s rich, powerful, and sinfully handsome, the town is willing to overlook his outrageous behavior. Lily Rutledge has a wild streak of her own and when she turns to Simon for help he falls for her immediately. Simon finds himself drawn to the fearless Lily more powerfully than the moon…

Available 4/6/10 from Sourcebooks!
ISBN: 9781402236945

Available for Pre-Order at Amazon!

About the author…

Lydia Dare is an active member of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, where she sits on the board of directors. She lives in a house filled with boys and an animal or tow (or 10) near Raleigh, North Carolina. Visit Lydia: http://www.lydiadare.com/

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Lydia’s blog post and a chance for two people to win a copy of the book!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guest Author: Amanda Forester, Color Me Medieval

Please join me in welcoming debut historical romance author, Amanda Forester to History Undressed today! Her novel, The Highlander's Sword released earlier this month with Sourcebooks.

Thank you for inviting me to join you today. I had great fun doing the research for my debut book The Highlander’s Sword. I have always been drawn to medieval times for its turbulent mystique, full of courageous and honorable knights. So romantic! Yet I also thought of the medieval period as being a dark and gloomy time. What I did not picture about the medieval period was a vibrancy of color. And yet as I did my research, I found that the 14th century was actually full of brilliant color.

First let’s start with clothing. While peasants were forced to be content with their own home-spun wool garments, members of the gentry and nobility were drawn to bright vivid color. The cost of procuring those hues was often prohibitive to those in the lower classes, and even if a merchant came into enough capital to afford such raiment there were explicit rules on what people of different classes could wear, down to the length of the coat and the color of the garment. Using my beautiful cover as an example, the red plaid is good, but a “real” knight of this era might have chosen a more colorful tunic than plain white (and I doubt the Scots commonly waxed their chests – though I’m willing to be wrong on this!).

Despite their armor, knights found many ways to enliven their attire with color. At first, the need was purely practical and arose from the need to identify friend from foe on the battlefield. Thus, the art of heraldry was born. Knights began to decorate their shields with charges or iconic devices that denoted their heritage. Vivid colors and ornate decorations were in fashion, and knights proudly displayed their heritage with identifying insignia. When these insignia were sewn onto surcoats or tunics the term “coat of arms” came into usage. King Richard I was the first king to create a heraldic device. His choice of three lions is still the Royal Arms of England.

Heraldic devices, flags, and pennants became an essential part of the pageantry of tournaments in which knights faced each other in staged combat. These tournaments were awash with color from elaborately decorated helms, to the draping of their horses in richly decorated comparisons, which were flowing horse coverings.

Color was not relegated to the pageantry of tournaments. People of the medieval times loved color so much they put it on everything. The grey stone castle is an iconic image for this era, but back then a grey castle would have seemed drab indeed. If the lord could afford it, many castles were actually painted! The inside was no less brilliant with colorful tapestries lining the walls in bright colors. These scenes were often to remember glorious battles or the joys of the hunt (a sport enjoyed by both knights and ladies).

The wildest example of the love for color during these times was in their food. Yes, food. Imagine pies with dyed heraldic designs on top, or an entire roast pig foiled and painted with a blue and yellow checker board design. The best was a dessert served after each course called a ‘subtlety’, which was marzipan (a paste made of sugar and almonds) richly colored and formed into shapes like people, animals, or even a model of the castle. I considered adding some color to my feast scenes in the book, but I thought readers wouldn’t believe it!

What are your mental images of medieval times?

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of The Highlander's Sword. (2 Winners, US and Canada only)


A quiet, flame-haired beauty with secrets of her own...

Lady Aila Graham is destined for the convent, until her brother's death leaves her an heiress. Soon she is caught between hastily arranged marriage with a Highland warrior, the Abbot's insistence that she take her vows, the Scottish Laird who kidnaps her, and the traitor from within who betrays them all.

She's nothing he expected and everything he really needs...

Padyn MacLaren, a battled-hardened knight, returns home to the Highlands after years of fighting the English in France. MacLaren bears the physical scars of battle, but it is the deeper wounds of betrayal that have rocked his faith. Arriving with only a band of war-weary knights, MacLaren finds his land pillaged and his clan scattered. Determined to restore his clan, he sees Aila's fortune as the answer to his problems...but maybe it's the woman herself.


Amanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked for many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance novels was way more fun. She lives in the Pacific Northwest outside Tacoma, Washington with her husband, two energetic children, and one lazy dog. You can visit her at http://www.amandaforester.com/.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Guest Author: Leslie Carroll on Victoria's Secret

A special welcome to guest author Leslie Carroll! Leslie is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary fiction as well as historical non-fiction books: Royal Affairs and her latest release, Notorious Royal Marriages. Welcome Leslie! I'm so excited to have you here today, especially since I love your books! Hope you all enjoy Leslie's article today... she's divulging Victoria's Secret...

Most people think of Queen Victoria—the monarch whose name epitomized an era of prudery, priggishness and propriety—as a dour and straitlaced woman. After all, she did respond to a dinner table joke with the acerbic quip, “We are not amused.”

On May 18, 1836, six days shy of her seventeenth birthday, Victoria was introduced to her two Coburg cousins, Albert and his older brother Ernest. Victoria’s immediate reaction to her sixteen-year-old cousin was overwhelmingly positive. According to her diary entry, “. . . Albert . . . is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same color as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth; but the charm of his countenance is his expression, which is most delightful; c’est √† la fois [it’s simultaneously] full of goodness and sweetness, and very clever and intelligent.”

However, Albert privately nursed some reservations regarding Victoria’s suitability as a future spouse. His mother had wed his significantly older father at the age of sixteen, but had run off with a handsome army lieutenant when Albert was just five years old. The incident soured his views on females and sex and undoubtedly helped to form Albert’s zero-tolerance policy regarding scandalous women and the men who enabled them. Victoria was ebullient and vivacious; she enjoyed late nights and parties and also delighted in the trivialities and fripperies of court life and etiquette.

Nevertheless, the visit progressed swimmingly. On June 7, Victoria wrote to her mother’s brother Leopold, King of the Belgians, with characteristic effusiveness, “I must thank you, my beloved Uncle, for the prospect of great happiness you have contributed to give me, in the person of dear Albert. Allow me . . . to tell you how delighted I am with him, and how much I like him in every way. He possesses every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable, too. He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see.” The stage had been set for a genuine love match, that rarest of occurrences in the history of royal marriages.

On June 20, 1837, the eighteen-year-old Victoria acceded to the throne on the death of her uncle, William IV. The queen’s modest yet regal demeanor quickly won her the praise of her ministers as well as her subjects. And, almost immediately, those ministers began pressuring her to marry. But Victoria felt unready to wed right away—if at all. “I said I dreaded the thought of marrying; that I was so accustomed to have my own way, that I thought it was 10 to 1 that I shouldn’t agree with anybody,” Victoria wrote in her journal on April 18, 1839. “Oh, but you would have it still,” the PM, Lord Melbourne, hastily assured the young sovereign.

But Melbourne, nearly sixty years old and as much a father figure for Victoria as he was a parliamentarian, argued against the notion of wedding one of her cousins, adding, “Those Coburgs are not very popular abroad; the Russians hate them.”

Her little feet grown even colder at the idea of marriage, Victoria wrote to her uncle Leopold that July, expressing her uneasiness at being older (by a few months) than Albert. Besides, she scarcely knew him and was also worried that they might not suit one another as lovers: “. . . one can never answer beforehand for feelings, and I may not have the feeling for him which is requisite to ensure happiness. I may like him as a friend, and as a cousin, and as a brother, but not more; and should this be the case (which is not likely), I am very anxious that it should be understood that I am not guilty of any breach of promise, for I never gave any. . . .”

So in October 1839 Albert set out once more for England and a second look-see. And upon meeting him again, the reluctant queen became thunderstruck. Her October 10 journal entry records, “. . . It was with some emotion that I beheld Albert—who is beautiful.” The following day her diary was full of praise for his waltzing and his horsemanship. On October 13, she admitted in her journal that she had changed her mind about postponing marriage for a few years. Melbourne counseled her not to wait too long; if they presented Parliament with a royal engagement there was little the legislative body could do to find a way of thwarting it if they so chose. And he urged her to inform Albert of her decision without delay.

No one could propose to a regnant queen of England. So the twenty-year-old Victoria was impelled to take the initiative and offer her hand, or ask for Albert’s, in marriage. It was one of the few times she took the reins in their relationship. Her diary entry of October 15, 1839, memorializes the proposal:

“At about ½ p. 12 [half past twelve] I sent for Albert; he came to the Closet where I was alone, and after a few minutes I said to him that I thought he must be aware why I wished [him] to come here, and that it would make me happy if he would consent to what I wished [to marry me]; we embraced each other over and over again, and he was so kind, so affectionate; Oh! To feel I was, and am, loved by such an Angel as Albert was too great a delight to describe! He is perfection; perfection in every way—in beauty—in everything! I told him I was quite unworthy of him and kissed his dear hand—he said he would be very happy [to share his life with her] and was so kind and seemed so happy, that I really felt it was the happiest, brightest moment in my life. . . . Oh! how I adore and love him, I cannot say!! How I will strive to make him feel as little as possible the great sacrifice he has made . . .”

That evening, before the queen went to bed, she was handed a letter that read, “Dearest greatly beloved Victoria, How is it that I have deserved so much love, so much affection? . . . I believe that Heaven has sent me an angel whose brightness shall illumine my life. . . . In body and soul ever your slave, your loyal ALBERT.” After reading this tender and effusive declaration, Victoria burst into tears.

According to Victoria’s diary, during Albert’s visit the two of them kissed and snuggled and held hands at every available opportunity. Albert accompanied her to a parade review in Hyde Park, where Victoria may have taken more notice of her fianc√©’s physique than the military marches, observing that Albert was wearing a pair of white cashmere breeches with “nothing under them.”

On February 10, 1840, three years after becoming queen, Victoria married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in the Chapel Royal, St. James’s.

It’s difficult to imagine how she found the time to write a journal entry on her wedding day, but Victoria’s firsthand description of events could scarcely be matched by another. According to the diary, before breakfast her mother brought her a nosegay of orange blossoms and a wreath of orange blossoms was placed atop her hairdo; the wreath would set the bridal fashion for decades, as would the color of her dress. “I wore a white satin gown with a very deep flounce of Honiton lace, imitation of old. I wore my Turkish diamond necklace and earrings, and Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch.” Albert wore the uniform of a British Field Marshal, decorated with the Order of the Garter.

“When I arrived at St. James’s, I went into the dressing-room where my 12 young Train-bearers were, dressed all in white with white roses, which had a beautiful effect. Here I waited a little till dearest Albert’s Procession had moved into the Chapel.” His procession, and hers, were both lavish and colorful. But there was a near comical moment when it was clear that Victoria’s bridal train wasn’t long enough to allow all twelve of her bridesmaids to walk normally; like the women’s chorus in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, they had to trip forward with precarious, mincing steps, taking care not to bump into each other.

Witnessed by three hundred guests, “The Ceremony was very imposing, and fine and simple, and I think ought to make an everlasting impression on every one who promises at the Altar to keep what he or she promises . . .,” Victoria wrote. Afterward, she returned to Buckingham Palace alone with Albert, where they had a half hour of conversation to themselves before it was time to set out for Windsor. Victoria changed out of her formal wedding ensemble into a simpler version of the same, “a white silk gown trimmed with swansdown and a bonnet with orange flowers.”

After they reached Windsor and acclimated themselves to their suite of rooms, Albert “took me on his knee, and kissed me. . . . We had dinner in our sitting room; but I had such a sick headache that I could eat nothing and was obliged to lie down in the middle blue room for the remainder of the evening, on the sofa, but, ill or not, I never, never spent such an evening. . . . He called me names of tenderness, I have never yet heard used to me before—was bliss beyond belief! Oh! This was the happiest day of my life!—May God help me to do my duty as I ought and be worthy of such blessings.”

With such effusive joy and vitality, it’s doubtful—despite the raging headache—that Victoria was gritting her teeth and thinking of England as she and Albert consummated their marriage.

On February 11, 1840, the morning after the wedding night, Victoria awoke in a state of bliss, but she still had time to memorialize her feelings in her journal. “When day dawned (for we did not sleep much) and I beheld that beautiful angelic face by my side, it was more than I can express! He does look so beautiful in his shirt only, with his beautiful throat seen. . . .” Later that day she wrote to her uncle Leopold, gushing, “Really, I do not think it possible for any one in the world to be happier, or as happy as I am. . . . What I can do to make him happy will be my greatest delight. . . .”

Victoria’s afterglow remains just as bright in her journal entry of February 12. “Already the 2nd day since our marriage; his love and gentleness is beyond everything, and to kiss that dear soft cheek, to press my lips to his, is heavenly bliss. . . .”

The following day, the woman who after Albert’s death stubbornly refused to acknowledge that women had such vulgar appendages as “legs” wrote with a hint of the erotic, “My dearest Albert put on my stockings for me. I went in and saw him shave; a great delight for me.”

Which only goes to show that the real Victoria (at least as a young bride) was far sexier than any lingerie company could have imagined!

Visit Leslie at http://www.lesliecarroll.com/