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


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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Historical Book Review and Interview! D.L. Bogdan's SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT

Today on History Undressed I’m posting my review of a phenomenal book, Secrets of the Tudor Court, by D.L. Bogdan, AND an interview I did with the author.

Back cover blurb…

When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King's fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him. . .

Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she's been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life--and the course of history.

Available now from Kensington Books!


Trade Paperback

List Price: $15.00

My Review…

From the very first sentence of SECRETS OF THE TUDOR COURT, I was hooked. And not your average hooked, I mean, eyes popped wide, mouth open, oblivious to my surroundings. My children had to pry the book away from my hands when it came time to make dinner.

Bogdan has a knack for writing vivid, realistic, intense scenes. Her research was impeccable, and the heroine a unique character in Tudor history I didn’t know much about--Mary Howard, daughter to the great Duke of Norfolk, the man behind Mary Boleyn and Anne Boleyn, their viciously proud and fortune seeking uncle. Henry VIII’s court came to life, and readers will feel like they’ve stepped back in time to endure the pain, commiserate the despair and rejoice in the character’s happiness.

I HEARTILY recommend you read this book! It is on my keeper shelf, and I plan on reading it again and again (and secretly hope they make a movie too!)

Interview with the author…

Eliza: LOVED the book! Wow! I haven't read one this good in a long time, I was very impressed!

D.L.: I am SO happy you enjoyed my book! This is such an intimidating process with a debut novel that hearing good news just tickles me pink!

Eliza: What made you decide to choose Mary Howard?

D.L.: I chose Mary Howard because I wanted to find a unique, little known view-point that provides a different window to the history of a familiar, fascinating story. I love the era and the personas therein. We'd already heard stories of the main cast (Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Princess Elizabeth, etc.) so I was hoping I could shed a new, or at least different light on it.

Eliza: You wrote Secrets of the Tudor Court in first person, which I first must say congratulations! Writing first person is by far the hardest thing to do, and you managed it brilliantly! At times this book is very intense and vivid, I actually winced, how did you feel when writing scenes like that? (Specifically the scenes where her father was beating her.) How connected were you with the character?

D.L.: Yes, certain scenes were quite vivid indeed! I really wanted to illustrate abuse and how it affects a family. I was hoping despite the difference in eras, I could make a connection between that and the contemporary audience.

Eliza: How did you conduct research for your novel? Anything particularly fascinating that you discovered? Do you have plans to write another book in this era? Based on historical figures?

D.L.: I researched the novel through reading, reading, and more reading! I also traveled to England when I was younger, and as odd as this sounds, I took a lot of notes, not knowing if I'd ever use them. The work that helped me best with the Norfolk family was Dr. David Head's THE EBBS AND FLOWS OF FORTUNE, the life of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. I contacted the author and we had a wonderful banter back and forth for the duration of writing this and the second novel that will follow it! . . .

. . . which leads me to your next question! Yes, there is another book that will be released 6-9 months after this one, which is about Norfolk, his wife, and mistress and is told from all 3 perspectives. It is actually my personal favorite of the two works. It is tentatively titled THE NORFOLK SIGNET, but that may change!

I just want to thank anyone who is interested in this era and hope everyone enjoys the book. It was the thrill of a lifetime in writing it; honestly, it flowed like magic and I am hoping to experience that again with a new work. So hopefully this won't be the last you've heard from me!

Eliza: I certainly hope it isn’t the last! You’re one of my new favorite authors, and I can’t WAIT to read the next one!

About the Author…

D.L Bogan is a history major, aiming for a master's so that she might lecture one day. She is also a musician with classical voice training who has been playing keyboards and singing in bands since she was 18. She also enjoys reading, traveling, summer activities, spending time with family and friends, and researching her next novel! She makes her home in central Wisconsin.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Historical Romance Review: Uncertain Magic, by Laura Kinsale

I had the pleasure of reading New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kinsale’s enchanting re-issue of Uncertain Magic.

From the publisher…

First released in 1987 (Avon), Uncertain Magic is a fabulously rich romance showcasing Laura’s trademarks: a tortured hero, a unique heroine and luxurious storytelling.

From the back cover…

A man damned by suspicion and innuendo

Dreadful rumors swirl around the impoverished Irish lord known as “The Devil Earl.” But Faelan Savigar hides a dark secret, for even he doesn’t know what dreadful deeds he may be capable of…

A woman cursed by the gift of “sight”

Roderica Delamore fears no man will ever want a wife who can read his every thought and emotion, until she encounters Faelan. As the two find their way to each other against all odds, Roddy becomes determined to save Faelen from his terrifying and mysterious ailment. But will their love end up saving him…or destroying her? A breathtaking historical romance filled with poignancy, darkness, love, and an unexpected twist of Gaelic magic…

Available Now from Sourcebooks!
ISBN: 9781402237027
Trade Paperback, Historical Romance
My Review…

Readers will be swept away by Uncertain Magic. This enchanting tale takes us back in time and to a place filled with Gaelic magic: Ireland. Anyone who has ever visited the Emerald Isle can feel the power and energy that fairly radiates from its depths, and Kinsale captures the essence of that magical entity perfectly between the pages of her latest re-issue.

Uncertain Magic takes place in the late 18th century, and I do believe that the author has captured the time period well in her writing. The details of the setting, sensory, language, clothing, and historical happenings of the time were well researched and put forth in the story.

With a name like Faelan Savigar, you know you’re in for a dark, sexy, intriguing hero. And from the very beginning pages, my mouth was watering for the dark haired Irish lad. But he’s got a secret, and Kinsale keeps you second guessing, giving hints, until the very end! A true intrigue into this hero’s background. He’s also got the power to love, and love with all his heart. He’s funny, smart, witty, and boy does he have a few tricks up his sleeve!

Roderica Delamore, “Roddy” has a special talent, or “gift”, that I’d love to tap! She can sense others thoughts and emotions. But not just of people, animals too. She can hear your inner most thoughts and reactions, feel your pain, joy and confusion. Because of her special talent, she is afraid that no man will ever want her. Men and women alike fear her. Her eyes alone tell you she can read your soul and it frightens people. They don’t treat her the same, but like a freak--even when they don’t know what her talent is. Poor Roddy, just wants someone to love her for who she is and not what she can do. When she meets Faelan, there is something different about him. He doesn’t look at her the way others do. From him, she actually feels desired, loved… and you hope their secrets won’t destroy them both.

If you like a bit of magic mixed in with your romance, I suggest reading this book. It was a nice, quick read that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

About the Author…

Laura Kinsale, a former geologist, is the New York Times bestselling author of Flowers from the Storm, The Prince of Midnight, and Seize the Fire. She and her husband divide their time between Santa Fe and Dallas. For more information, please visit her brand new website, www.laurakinsale.com.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guest Author, Amelia Grey: To Search or Not to Search

Today I am pleased to welcome author of An Earl to Enchant, Amelia Grey!  You can read my review of her latest release by clicking here.  Amelia has written a fascinating article for us today on research, which for writers or historical fiction (romance or not) is extremely important!  Readers are not always aware of how much time and energy can go into finding one piece of pertinent information.

To Search or Not to Search

Good morning! Thank you for having me at History Undressed. I’m very happy to be here.

You know, one of the most confounding things about writing a book is the research. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes I just want to pull my hair out because I can’t find that one tiny bit of information that I’m looking for. I’ve published over twenty historicals from time periods ranging from the Revolutionary War to the Industrial Revolution, so I’ve certainly done my share of research in libraries and online. It took me a few books to realize that with every different time period I went to, I had to do weeks of research before writing the book. Finally, I caught on to what I was doing wrong, and I happily settled into the Regency time period. It’s been many years and nine books now since I completed the major research for the Regency, but I still find that with each book there is some bit of research eluding me and I must go searching.

With the first book, in my Rogues’ Dynasty Series, A Duke to Die For, I wanted my heroine to believe she was cursed. Quite frankly I didn’t know anything about curses. I was asking myself, what kind of powers does a person need to put a curse on someone and how would you know if someone put a curse on you? Anyway, there’s a ton of information out there and I read some very interesting stuff, but I finally decided that there are no hard and fast rules when you are writing about curses. Almost anything goes as long as you make it sound logically to the story you are telling.

In my second book in the Rogues’ Dynasty Series A Marquis to Marry, I wanted to write about a true, famous strand of pearls—The Talbot Pearls. I wanted them to be lost, found, and then stolen. In my author’ note at the end of the book I wanted to tell what actually became of the pearls, but no amount of research, including hiring a professional researcher, checking books, museums’ lists, and old account records of the Countess of Shrewsbury, led to the final resting place of the pearls. My researcher and I finally had to give up and assume the strands of pearls were probably sold or pawned and were eventually broken up to make smaller necklaces. But it was most disheartening not to be able to say for sure what became of the pearls.

And with the third book in the series, An Earl To Enchant, which is currently on sale at your favorite local or online bookstore, I wanted my heroine to have spent several years in India.

One of the most interesting things I discovered was that in India they don’t wear black for mourning and they don’t mourn for months which fit right in with my plot very well. Also young ladies wore brightly colored clothing while during the Regency it was frowned upon for an unmarried lady to dress in bold, vivid colors. And it took more than a day or two of researching for me to figure out the route my heroine would have taken from India to England which I found out would have most likely included a stop in Alexandria, Egypt.

So sometimes it can easy to find out what I need and sometimes very frustrating. Why don’t you tell me, does it frustrate you if an author doesn’t clear up missing facts in her author’s notes?

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Amelia's book!  (2 winners, US and Canada only)

The first chapter of my third book in the Rogues’ Dynasty Series An Earl To Enchant is available on my website. I invite you to stop by and give it a try. I’m always happy to hear from readers. Please e-mail me at ameliagrey@comcast.net or visit my website at ameliagrey.com.


He’s determined not to be a hero…
Lord Morgandale is as notorious as he is dashing, and he’s determined no woman will tie him down. But from the moment Arianna Sweet appears on his doorstep, he cannot resist the lure of her fascinating personality, exotic wardrobe, and tempting green eyes…

She has a deadly secret…

Arianna Sweet never imagined the significance of her father’s research until after his untimely death. Now she is in possession of his groundbreaking discovery, one that someone would kill for. She can’t tell Lord Morgandale her secret, but she knows she needs his help, desperately…

About the Author

Winner of the Booksellers Best Award and the Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter, Amelia Grey's books have been sold in Europe, Russia and China. Married for twenty-five years to her high school sweetheart, she has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and now calls Panama City Beach, Florida, home. For more information, please visit www.ameliagrey.com.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Historical Romance Review: An Earl to Enchant, by Amelia Grey

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Amelia Grey’s book, An Earl to Enchant, which is the 3rd story in THE ROGUES’ DYNASTY trilogy. It was preceded by A Duke to Die For (#1) and A Marquis to Marry (#2).

About the Book…


Lord Morgandale is as notorious as he is dashing, and he’s determined no woman will tie him down. But from the moment Arianna Sweet appears on his doorstep, exhausted after a grueling journey, he cannot resist the lure of the fascinating beauty, her exotic wardrobe, or tempting green eyes . . .


Arianna Sweet never imagined the significance of her father’s research until after his untimely death. Now she is in possession of his groundbreaking discovery, a discovery that someone would kill for. She can’t tell Lord Morgandale her secret, but she knows she needs his help, desperately.

Available Now from Sourcebooks

ISBN: 9781402217616

My Review…

An Earl to Enchant is a quick and enjoyable read. The characters are witty and entertaining. The only thing I would suggest is that you read the books in order. Reading the 3rd book in the series first left me a little confused when they mentioned happenings from the previous stories that I was not privy to.

Ms. Grey is a veritable talent in creating memorable characters, whose personalities leap off the pages.

Arianna is a feisty heroine. She’s smart, quick witted, funny and daring. Growing up in India, she’s embraced the Indian culture, including their zest for color, scents, and especially their dress and dancing. But beyond the talents she’s honed, which entice the Earl further, she’s trying to solve a mystery--and remain safe from the skeletons that haunted her in India and threaten to end her life in England.

Lord Morgandale, known as Morgan, is a rake of the first order! His plans for a week of secret debauchery are foiled when sweet Arianna, whom he likes to refer to as Arianna Tart, shows up on his doorstep. He doesn’t know why, but there is something about her…

The chemistry in An Earl to Enchant sizzles. (Keep a fan nearby!) Morgan and Arianna are perfect for each other, no matter how much they fight it with their own internal conflicts, and with outside forces who try to tear them apart. A true love story with a bit of mystery thrown in.

There was a rich blend of English and Indian culture, which I found unique. I haven’t read a lot of authors who broach Eastern cultures, and I enjoyed reading about it, and feel I may have learned a few things too. Ms. Grey has a knack for using the senses. I could almost smell Arianna’s unique perfume, and feel the silkiness of her sari as if it were on my own skin. (Let’s face it, what woman want to be the heroine for Lord Morgandale?)

I look forward to reading more of Ms. Grey’s work, and in fact plan to go and read the first two books in the series, as Blake and Race have captured my interest.

About the Author…

Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur's best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Visit Amelia at www.ameliagrey.com

Don’t forget! Ms. Grey will be guest blogging here on History Undressed this Wednesday, April 21st! Make sure to stop by for your chance to win a copy of the novel, two winners will be chosen! (US and Canada only).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guest Author Monica Fairview on the American Darcys

Welcome to History Undressed Monica Fairview!  Monica is the author of the delightful novel, The Darcy Cousins, reviewed here yesterday.  I posed a question to Monica and I'm very curious to see her answer...

Thank you for inviting me to join you here on History Undressed. It’s really a pleasure to join the ranks of all the fascinating writers you have showcased here.

You asked me: When people normally think of Austen, they don’t normally think of America. What made you choose to introduce Americans into the story?

The American branch of the Darcys was born as the result of a unexpected discovery I made about Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. As I was reading Pride and Prejudice, it occurred to me that we learn quite a lot about Darcy’s mother’s relations – Lady Anne’s – since we meet the infamous Lady Catherine and her daughter as well as Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s maternal cousin. But we know nothing at all about his father’s family. Did he have no Darcy uncles or aunts at all? The fact that Darcy shared guardianship of his sister with Colonel Fitzwilliam seems to reinforce the fact that there was no one alive on his father’s side. Why chose a guardian not much older than the18-year-old Darcy if there were any other alternatives?

The unhappy conclusion I reached, given the absence of any other family members, was that the Darcy stock must be either unhealthy or unlucky, particularly since Fitzwilliam Darcy’s father only survived until his son reached the age of eighteen. A sad thing to contemplate, since now all hopes rested on Mr. Darcy to carry the family name. His family – old and noble as it was – was under threat of extinction. Its fate depended on his siring a son with Elizabeth.

The prospect was decidedly gloomy.

That is when my writer’s imagination filled in the gap.

The Darcys were not nearing extinction. There was, in fact, another branch of the Darcy family still in existence. The reason we had not heard of them was that they did not live in England. An uncle – a rather rebellious, adventurous type – had gone to “the colonies” as a naval officer, and had decided to settle in Boston.

Having lived in Boston for some time myself, I was intrigued when I read somewhere that, at the turn of the nineteenth century, an America gentleman differed very little in speech or manners from an English gentleman. This surprised me, as I would have expected that following the boycott of everything British during and after the American Revolution, the Boston patriots, particularly the more established families in Boston, would have severed their ties completely with Britain. But a look at newspapers of the time revealed that Bostonians still reported the news from British newspapers – though it arrived two or three months late -- and that fashionable society in Boston still looked to England for their fashions and dose of “culture”.

Given that change in those days occurred much slower than it does now, particularly linguistic change, I could only suppose, then, that the “educated” speech and manners of the more “elite” settlers was maintained by those later labelled as the Boston Brahmins. Add to this the fact that Bostonians – and New England in general – had a complex reaction to the Anglo-American War of 1812 (New England did not support the war, and many merchants continued to trade with Britain despite the war) the reality of Boston’s relations with Britain, despite the earlier fervour of the Boston Tea Party, emerges as less clearly definable than I would have thought, particularly since trade connections were strong.

This sense was reinforced when I read England in 1815 As Seen By a Young Boston Merchant, a travel journal written by Joseph Ballard. Ballard remarks on some minor differences between the two cultures, but overall is remarkably unsurprised by anything about the behavior of the British. Still, it was impossible to think, manners apart, that an American republican could resemble his British aristocratic counterpart very closely.

One advantage of being a writer is that I can always put my theories to the test. It was clearly a story waiting to be told.

Why not thrust my American Darcy into the company of someone bred into the upper echelons of British society -- someone who was a stickler for correct behavior – and see what would happen?

This person was of course predetermined. I already knew I would be writing about Caroline Bingley from Pride and Prejudice, and I knew no one could raise her hackles as much as a gentleman who claimed to be a Darcy but was clearly (in her eyes) a far cry from being one. I chuckled at the thought of the battles that would ensue.

Once I invented Mr. Robert Darcy, a merchant from Boston (already an insult to the family name, which is far above trade), then I had to invent a family for him. With a father who rebelled against his British background, one could not expect the younger Darcys to be anything but rebels themselves. And Mr. Robert does not disappoint, nor does his sister Clarissa, who enters Lady Catherine’s den, Rosings Park, and makes it shake like a blancmange.

I will leave it to you to determine who will emerge as winner in The Other Mr Darcy and The Darcy Cousins.


A young lady in disgrace should at least strive to behave with decorum…

Dispatched from America to England under a cloud of scandal, Mr. Darcy’s incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning!

And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin, to the delight of a neighboring gentleman. Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her “keeper” Mrs. Jenkinson, simply…vanishes. But the trouble really starts when Clarissa and Georgiana both set out to win the heart of the same young man…


Literature professor Monica Fairview loves teaching students the joys of reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was write. The author of The Other Mr. Darcy and An Improper Suitor, the American-born Ms. Fairview currently resides in London. For more information, please visit www.monicafairview.com.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Monica's book!  (2 winners, US and Canada only).  Winners announced tomorrow!  Don't forget to check the winner's cube on the front rightside of the blog to see if you won previously!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Historical Book Review: The Darcy Cousins, by Monica Fairview

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and Pride and Prejudice, is one of my favorite books. So naturally, whenever a new continuation of Austen’s great works comes out, I simply have to have a look! Where will my favorite characters go this time? How will their lives change? What obstacles will be thrown in their way? I had the pleasure of reading Monica Fairview’s, The Darcy Cousins, and what an interesting turn she took!

Book description for, The Darcy Cousins

One might reasonably expect that a young lady dispatched in disgrace across the Atlantic to England would strive to behave with decorum, but Mr. Darcy's incorrigible American cousin, Clarissa Darcy, manages to provoke Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Collins, and the parishioners of Hunsford all in one morning! And there are more surprises in store for that bastion of tradition, Rosings Park, when the family gathers for their annual Easter visit. Georgiana Darcy, generally a shy model of propriety, decides to take a few lessons from her unconventional cousin. And Anne de Bourgh, encouraged to escape her "keeper," Mrs. Jenkinson, simply… vanishes!

In this tale of friendship, rebellion, and love, two young women entering society forge a strong connection. A connection that is sorely tested when they both set out to win the heart of a most dashing gentleman.

Available now from Sourcebooks!
ISBN: 9781402237003
Trade Paperback, Historical Fiction

My Review…

One always thinks of Darcy’s sister, Georgiana as a sweet little thing, just coming into her own. Perhaps, they think she is fragile given the horrible ordeal with the wastrel Mr. Wickham. Ms. Fairview, gives Georgiana some confidence, in the way of her cousin, Clarissa. Clarissa is an outrageous, overly confident, fun-loving (and a bit naughty) girl, who comes to visit the family. Together they will come out to society.

But Clarissa’s flamboyant behavior does not fit in with the tight-lipped, obsessed with propriety ton, and Georgiana’s been tasked with keeping her in line. While she does try to curb her cousin’s behavior somewhat, Georgiana begins to feel that she herself is stiff, boring and dull, and since Clarissa seems to get a lot of positive male attention, Georgiana thinks, perhaps she ought to emulate her cousin. And for those staunch fans of Elizabeth--some of the things Miss Georgiana does in light of finding herself, may have you clenching your fists!  But don't lament!  Just keep reading!

The twists and turns Ms. Fairview takes us on are a journey unto itself. She wrote a perfect Mr. Collins who irritated me to no end as he should! And Anne de Bourgh! What a fascinating angle!  Lady Catherine, still had me gnashing my teeth...  And it was very nice to see my all time favorite hero and heroine, Darcy and Elizabeth, still going strong!

I enjoyed this story for the moral it gives us in the end, and the lively new characters it brings out. In fact, I would recommend this story for younger readers as well.

We have a new hero, Mr. Gatley, who surely encompasses and emanates the “Darcy aura,” as I like to say. From the moment they meet, Georgiana and Gatley spar wits. It was very entertaining to see their story unfold.

Even though the title is The Darcy Cousins, this is really Georgiana’s story, and with a happy ending that left me smiling. A fun loving story, with characters who pop and come alive on the pages. A unique and engaging approach. If you love Pride and Prejudice continuations, I would recommend reading this book!

About the author…

As a literature professor, Monica Fairview enjoyed teaching students to love reading. But after years of postponing the urge, she finally realized what she really wanted was to write books herself. She lived in Illinois, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Colorado, Oregon and Boston as a student and professor, and now lives in London. Visit Monica: www.monicafairview.com

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Monica’s blog post and a chance for two people to win a copy of the book! (US and Canada only). Check the winner’s cube on the top right side of the blog for winners!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Guest Author Emory Lee

Please welcome guest author, Emory Lee to History Undressed!  Emory's debut novel, The Highest Stakes was reviewed here yesterday.  Today Emory will be telling us all about the making of her novel, and how she was able to capture the essence of history within its pages.

I guess I shall begin…at the beginning!

Once I chose the mid-18th century and the settings of England and Colonial Virginia for The Highest Stakes, it was extremely important to me to realistically re-create the world in which my characters lived, and to tell the tale in a voice that would be authentic to the period.

I began by building the world of Georgian England in my imagination. While listening to the musical compositions of Handel and Bach, I spent literally hundreds of hours pouring over history books, art works, letters, and diaries, as well as horse breeding and racing records.

In order to build the world in my mind, I sought out the works of celebrated portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds and the more satirical and telling art of William Hogarth, paying particular attention to his social commentaries, The Harlot’s Progress, the Rakes Progress, and Marriage a la Mode, which proved of great relevance to my tale of arranged marriage.

I moved on to the equestrian artists of the period, John Wootton, James Seymour, and the incomparable George Stubbs, by whose master hands the great horses of the era are saved for posterity.

In my endeavor to create an authentic voice, I perused the personal writings which have survived the past two-and-a-half centuries: the letters of Horace Walpole, George Selwyn, Lord Chesterfield, and the Duchess of Marlborough. I then moved on to the novels of Henry Fielding who wrote during my selected era, reading Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews, and Shamela, his spoof of contemporary author Samuel Richardson’s moral history entitled Pamela.

In my research for the military campaign in Flanders, culminating in the Battle of Dettingen, I used a number of personal sources. Among these was the account of Thomas Brown, a Yorkshireman and private in Bland's Hussars. At Dettingen, Brown had two horses killed under him, but saved his regiment’s standard from the French, despite suffering extensive wounds to include the loss of two fingers from his left hand, eight saber lacerations to his head, and neck, which incidentally removed his nose, along with two bullets in his back.

Miraculously, Brown survived the ordeal to become the last man knighted on the battlefield by the king. Although I chose not to permanently maim my character, Thomas Brown was in a sense a mode for Robert Devington, who was also a Yorkshireman.

As to the horses, prior to the formation of the Jockey Club circa 1751, the records of horses, breeders, and races of the earlier Georgian period are relatively scarce. The best surviving records during this period are primarily through Pond’s and Cheney’s Racing Calendars, but these journals are quite scarce, and nearly impossible to obtain. While I received a plethora of valuable information from Google Books, I am fortunate to have discovered the meticulously compiled records of Thoroughbred Heritage (www.tbheritage.com), and Thoroughbred Bloodlines (http://www.bloodlines.net/TB/) for which I am extremely thankful.

Some might consider The Highest Stakes, more a work of romance than historical fiction, my research for this novel was both extremely extensive and diverse, just as many historical romance novels are!

In the end, I hope I have succeeded in my endeavors to build a realistic world with historically accurate details for my readers to enjoy!


All thoroughbred horses in the world to this very day can trace their blood back to three specific Arabian stallions imported to England in the early part of the 18th century. Against this backdrop comes a painstakingly researched novel with breathtaking scenes of real races, real horses, glimpses of the men who cared for them, and the tensions of those who owned and controlled them.

In 18th century England and Colonial Virginia, when high-spirited stallions filled the stables of the lords of the land and fortunes were won and lost on the outcome of a race, a love story unfolds between a young woman for whom her uncle's horses are her only friends and the young man who teaches her everything about their care and racing. When she's forced into marriage, his only hope of winning her back is to race his horse to reclaim all that was stolen from him—his land, his dignity, and his love.

About the Author

Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. Combine the three and you have the essence of her debut novel: a tale of love, war, politics, and horseracing. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina. For more information, please visit http://authoremerylee.com/.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Emory's book.  (2 winners, US and Canada only).  Winners will be announced tomorrow.  Don't forget to check back to see if you won!  We are still waiting for winners of the previous two drawings to claim their prizes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Historical Novel Review: The Highest Stakes, by Emery Lee

I have always had a fascination with horses. When I was growing up I took horse riding lessons, and my father even purchases a farm where we housed a few thoroughbreds, a pony and a quarter horse. He bought a carriage and we went on carriage rides up and down the streets. I truly enjoyed the time spent there, and I’ll never forget, Penny, my copper colored horse. For me, horse riding, and Penny were a hobby, my pet. I didn’t know much about taking care of a horse, besides brushing her down and feeding her treats. Recently I had the pleasure of reading a wonderful book that took me back in time, an adventure right into the heart of horses, racing and history. Some of my favorite things!

The Highest Stakes, by Emery Lee, a historical fiction novel, releases this month from Sourcebooks Landmark, in Trade Paperback. (ISBN: 9781402236426)

Back Cover Blurb from the press release… In 18th century England and Colonial Virginia, when high-spirited stallions filled the stables of the lords and fortunes were won (and lost) on the outcome of a race, a love story unfolds between Charlotte, a young woman for whom her uncle’s horses are her only friends and Robert, the young man who teaches her everything about their care and racing. When she’s forced into marriage, his only hope of winning her back is to race his horse to reclaim all that was stolen from him--his land, his dignity, and his love.

My Review.... When I opened up Emery Lee’s debut novel, The Highest Stakes, it was eye opening, refreshing, adventurous, tantalizing. The story took so many twists and turns, it reminded me of the tortured characters in both Georgette Heyer’s novels, Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Just when you think things are going well for your hero Robert and heroine Charlotte, Lee up and strikes! Leading you on yet another merry chase for happily ever after. The author weaved a nail-biting, enchanting web. I was thoroughly entertained wit this book--which accompanied me to the gym, swim practices, gymnastics, and the bus stop! I didn’t leave home without it *smiles*

Although, I will admit, at times I found myself cheering for poor Philip, our illustrious rake/villain. Boy, did he go through the ringer too! And although he was a bit selfish, he did make a lot of sacrifices, and led a hard life, and I hoped in the end he would have had some appeasement. I do have a soft spot for the bad boys… and Philip was one of those I’d hope would reform, and in some ways I felt he did. Who knows maybe, Philip will get his own story?

Lee goes into a great detail about the care of horses, and her knowledge of horse racing and breeding was astounding! A lot of hard work and research went into this rich story, which I truly admire and appreciate. I also relished how she incorporated real life characters, horses from the past, races, political events, wars, the culture, into The Highest Stakes. For myself, when I read a historical novel, I truly rejoice when the author grabs the essence of the time and setting and paints it onto the pages of their books. Lee is definitely an author to watch!

About the Author…

Emery lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. Combine the three and you have the essence of her debut novel, a tale of love, war, politics, and horseracing. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives in upstate South Caroline with her husband, boys and two horses. For more information, please visit her website, www.authoremerylee.com

Don’t forget! Ms. Lee will be guest blogging here on History Undressed this Wednesday, April 7th! Make sure to stop by for your chance to win a copy of the novel, two winners will be chosen!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Victorian Lady's Toilette, by Kathleen Bittner-Roth

Today I am pleased to welcome romance writer, Kathleen Bittner-Roth to History Undressed.  She is an up and coming romance writer who I'm eager to see in print!  I've been eageraly anticipating her article today, so without further ado, I give you...


The Victorian Era fascinates me because so many changes took place during that time—the advancement of women's rights, the industrial revolution, electricity, telephones, medical advancements, even flush toilets (first in France, then England. They were way ahead of the U.S.).

One thing that always attracts my attention is how the Victorian woman appeared so well kept. My grandmother, who had a lovely complexion, taught me to wash my face once a week with sugar to slough off dead skin (a very light scrub on a wet face, adding more pressure as it melts). She also taught me to use a facial of crushed strawberries, to occasionally rinse the hair in lemon juice to add highlights, and her list went on. I asked her where she learned her little tricks and she said her mother instructed her. A little backtracking placed my great-grandmother, born around 1854, smack in the Victorian era. My grandmother, born around 1885 reaped the benefits of her mother's teachings.

Victorian women believed in lots of fresh air and exercise in the form of walking and riding, for the specific purpose of keeping the complexion fortified, from the inside as well as the outside. They believed in walking in weather that produced a fine mist or light rain without a parasol and with the face to the rain. These women were quite specific in how they cared for themselves and kept diaries filled with recipes. In one of the diaries of a Victorian noble woman I ran across, she wrote about her belief in personal care this way:

"As long as we are not ethereal spirits, as long as we have to live as mortals, we should submit ourselves to our condition, doing all that is in our power to ameliorate it. And indeed cleanliness already brings us a step nearer to the angels of light while slovenliness, on the other hand, keeps us down in the depths of our original mire."

Imagine your mother reciting that very thing to you as a child; or how about you reciting this to your small daughters over and over! Cleanliness, it seemed, was also a moral and spiritual issue.

Beyond my grandmother's recipes, I began collecting others I found from the Victorian period. They believed in cleanliness inside and out. Lemon juice and water drunk in the morning and at night was one way of keeping the internal organs flushed and clean.

The toothbrush, such as we use today, was not invented until 1938 (by DuPont), but Victorian women did clean their teeth with toothbrushes made from boars hair or horse hair (horse hair was preferred because it was softer—mostly used by the wealthy). Although one could purchase toothpowders, they were usually made at home, as were mouth rinses. Salt, although rough on the gums, was used to clean teeth on occasion, but thought to be better used on men. Marseilles soap, a delicate soap made from olive oil, sea water and ash, which had been around for 500-600 years, and still available today, was used in the mouth 2-3 times a week. You might get a chuckle out of the following recipe for a tooth cleaner:

1. Phosphate of dry chalk...2 ounces

2. Powdered myrrh...8 grains

3. Iris powder...1 ounce

4. Mix together and add:

5. Solution of cocaine...1 drop (yes, you read this right)

6. Eucalyptus oil...13 drops

7. Mix together and strain. Excellent for sensitive teeth and tender gums

In their baths, Victorian women used pumice stones after a good soak and sloughed their skin with dry salt mixed with glycerin (I've paid a good price for the same type of thing at spas today). They used flowers from the lime tree in their orangeries in footbaths.

Hair was washed in many things, from bicarbonate of soda to salted rainwater mixed with an infusion of colocynth. Rinses were lemon juice, herbal mixtures and even beer to bring out the luster and body. Hair was cut ¼ inch at the new moon during the first quarter. It was believed they would never have split ends, nor would the hair be robbed of any vitality using this method. My grandmother left the new moon stuff out, but was faithful to the ¼ inch a month. She possessed the most beautiful red hair, wound about on her head until she was 80 years old.

Victorian women used nail polish, something that was invented by the Chinese some 2,000 years ago. They called it nail lacquer, and sorry, I don't have a recipe for that.

Care of the face was a delicate matter. It meant washing in rainwater exclusively. There were those who believed in hot water only, while others believed in closing the pores with cold water

One concoction that was used universally was orange flower and rosewater mixed with olive oil. Many believed that was all one needed for the face to remain soft and supple. Another recipe was equal parts of brandy and milk. I found this recipe to refresh the face:

1. wineglassful of fresh lemon-juice

2. pint of rain-water

3. five drops of rose-water

4. This should be kept corked, and used from time to time will preserve the colour of the skin.

There were many ways of making rouge, the most dangerous contained lead, but by far the best were those invented by the Chinese, made from diluted beet juice.

Last, but certainly of vital importance to a Victorian lady, was her lips. Here is a recipe for pomade which could usually be found in her reticule or on her dressing table:

1. Pure beeswax...2 parts

2. Olive oil...11 parts

3. Tincture of benzoin or roses...3 drops

4. Melt wax over slow flame, add oil. Mix and remove from heat. When cool enough, add perfume. Put in miniature tins, allow to set.

Well, there you have it. These are only a few of the recipes I have collected from the Victorian Era, the period in which I write. What about you, do you have any old recipes you'd care to contribute?

Kathleen Bittner Roth is a prepublished author who writes Historical Romance in the Victorian time period. Her website is www.kathleenbittnerroth.com