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


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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Author Shana Galen: Treason and The Making of a Duchess

Today on History Undressed, we welcome author, Shana Galen.  Earlier, I posted my review of her novel, The Making of a Duchess.

I never think I’ll have to do any research when I begin a novel. I’ve published five novels set in Regency England and written several more. One would think I know all there is to know. And that’s what I love about being an author. Every time I write a book, I learn something new.

In The Making of a Duchess, Julien Harcourt, duc de Valére, is a French émigré living in London. He fled Revolutionary France at the age of 13 with his English mother. His father was sent to the guillotine, and Julien doesn’t know what happened to his twin younger brothers. He’s made it his life’s work to find them.

Julien is lucky. His mother is English, and her family is relatively well-to-do. When they fled France, he had somewhere to go and a way to survive. Other members of the French aristocracy were not so fortunate. Those who saw trouble coming may have been able to send funds to England, where their money would be secure. But others barely escaped with their lives. They were forced to take jobs as French tutors and the like in order to survive.

If you’ve read A Tale of Two Cities, you might remember this is how Charles Darnay makes his living. You might also remember Darnay is accused of treason. My hero Julien is suspected of treason as well. He’s made several trips back to France in search of his lost brothers, and his travel to an enemy nation has raised the eyebrows of the British Foreign Office. They send a woman, Sarah, to spy on him, and here’s where the book begins.

As I was writing, I researched the British legal system. I wanted to know what punishment Julien would be facing if found guilty of treason.

It wasn’t pleasant. Traitors were tried at the Old Bailey and then hung, drawn, and quartered. Remember that scene at the end of Braveheart where Mel Gibson as William Wallace is hung, drawn, and quartered? Well, you don’t see all of it, and that’s a good thing.

Traitors were hung until almost dead, cut down, and then disemboweled (that’s the drawn part). Their bodies were then cut into four quarters and put on display. Pretty gruesome and considered somewhat barbaric by Regency times.

So that’s the punishment Julien is facing. And if Sarah finds evidence of any treachery, he stands little chance of escaping such a punishment. The British might have a highly civilized legal system, but in my research I discovered, barristers were not above paying people to lie. That’s right. Men might make a living from giving false testimony. Charles Dickens writes a very humorous scene in A Tale of Two Cities, where the false witnesses against Charles Darnay are made to look fools by Stryver and Sydney Carton.

You’ll have to read the book to see how Julien escapes this very real danger. You can check out an excerpt on my website, www.shanagalen.com.

I mentioned one of my favorite books growing up was A Tale of Two Cities. Are there any books you’ve read that inspired you? I’ll be checking in later to read your answers.


A very dangerous attraction…

Julien Harcourt, duc de Valère, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she’s been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor…

And an even more dangerous secret…

Sarah Smith’s mission is to find out whether the Duc’s trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent…

Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions…

About the Author

Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She is a happily married wife and mother of one daughter and two spoiled cats. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of her book!  (US and Canada only)  Winners will be announced in the winners cube tomorrow.


Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

Wow, I have seen this book around the blog world but nothing beats hearing from the author herself! I'm really interested in this book, please enter me in the contest!

Shana said...

Thanks, aLmYbNeNr!

Tracey Devlyn said...


Thanks for the great post. I had no idea the H-D-Q punishment was still in use during the Regency. And I write Regency! Guess you're right--there's no end to learning.

I wish you the best on your upcoming release!


karenk said...

a fabulous posting...thanks for the chance to read this novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Shana said...

Thanks Tracey and KarenK! Tracey, I used to teach 10th grade and when we did A Tale of Two Cities I'd tell the kids all about H-D-Q. I think for some of them that was the best part of the book!

Jennifer said...

This book sounds like a great read! Please enter me in the contest.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a most interesting book. It was such a difficult time period to be trying to get information and find what happened to people. Truthful information was hard to come by and you never could be sure who could be trusted. We take our legal system for granted. Just what do you do when the witnesses lie? It is not always an easy thing to prove.
I, too, didn't realize that H-D-Q was still around then. The guillotine was bad enough.
Best of luck with the release of THE MAKING OF A DUCHESS.

Shana said...

Good points, librarypat. Witnesses DID lie. They were PAID to lie. It was a profession. Crazy, right?

Thanks to all of you for visiting with me.

Eliza Knight said...

Thank you for visiting Shana! Fascinating topic. I too didn't realize they used such horrid methods in the Regency. It all seems so medieval...

Shana said...

Thanks for having me, Eliza!

Michael Follon said...

'I researched the British legal system'

That must have been very difficult since there is NO such thing as the 'British legal system'.

'Scots law and legal system

74. ...By the time of the Union a well-defined and independent system of Scottish law had been established. This was recognised in the Union settlement, which provided for the preservationof the separate code of Scots law and the Scottish judiciary and legal system. Under Article XIX the two highest Scottish courts - the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary - were to continue, and were not to be subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts. These bodies have remained respectively the supreme civil and criminal courts in Scotland, while beneath them there is a completely separate Scottish system of jurisdiction and law courts, with a judiciary, advocates and solicitors, none of whom are interchangeable with their English counterparts...

76. ...Nevertheless the two systems remain separate, and - a unique constitutional phenomenon within a unitary state - stand to this day in the same juridical relationship to one another as they do individually to the system of any foreign country.'