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


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Blogger, Laura Davies Tilley on Ethan Allen and Forming the Green Mountain Boys

Today on History Undressed I'd like to introduce you to a new guest blogger, and a fellow writing chapter mate, Laura Davies Tilley.  Ms. Tilley writes 18th century American romance. Today she has a fascinating post for us, which I think you will thoroughly enjoy!

Ethan Allen and Forming the Green Mountain Boys
by Laura Davies Tilley

Most people have heard of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, but few know the story behind their creation. (I’m talking about Ethan Allen before the furniture store!)

It all began on January 3, 1749. From then through August, 1764, Benning Wentworth, the Royal Governor of the Province of New Hampshire, sold more than one hundred thirty Grants of Charter for towns in the land that became Vermont. The land granted was called the New Hampshire Grants, or often simply the “Grants”.

After that fifteen-year period, the farmers who had bought those New Hampshire grants were finally seeing the rewards of all of their hard work in clearing and planting the land and building homes. Just when things finally seemed to be going well, up stepped New York and began issuing grants for the same lands New Hampshire had already sold.

Worse for the Grants settlers, New York demanded they re-purchase the land they had cleared, settled, and planted – for at least ten times the amount they had originally paid.

By 1765, Ethan Allen and most Grants settlers joined the rest of the colonists in protesting the Stamp Act. But New York was not swayed. When the Grants settlers could not afford the exorbitant amount New York demanded, New York sent surveyors with armed sheriffs to claim and re-sell the land out from under the people who had paid for and settled it.

Though New York sent armed sheriffs to escort its surveyors onto already settled Grants lands, New Hampshire gave no aid or support for the people who had paid New Hampshire and settled under its grants.

Ethan Allen, never one to sit still for an injustice, walked all the way to New Hampshire to request help from New Hampshire's Royal Governor. The new Governor, nephew of the prior Royal Governor Benning Wentworth (who had issued the land grants) clearly did not have his uncle’s sense of civic pride. He listened to Ethan Allen but did not send help.

So Ethan came up with another plan. In June 1770, he hired a Connecticut lawyer, Jared Ingersoll, to defend the Grants settlers against charges of ejectment in a New York court. The Chief Judge of the New York court, Robert Livingston, was a close friend of wealthy Yorkers (as the Grants settlers called New York’s rich and powerful) who had bought Grants claims from New York. Those prominent people included New York’s attorney general and lieutenant governor. In a show of true jurisprudence and impartiality, Livingston heard the case and excluded all evidence of the grants New Hampshire sold to the Grants settlers. Naturally, this prevented any proof that the Grants settlers owned their land, so this same judge decided in favor of the New Yorkers, ordering the Grants settlers ejected from their land.

When Ethan Allen returned to Bennington with this news, the Grants settlers took stock of the forces surrounding them. Not unreasonably, they decided that since they received no help from New Hampshire and could not receive justice from New York, they would have to defend themselves from the Yorkers.

On that hot summer day in Bennington, Ethan Allen called for a meeting at Stephen Fay's Green Mountain Tavern, commonly called the Catamount Tavern. The Catamount Tavern got its nickname because of a stuffed catamount (a type of wildcat; short for “cat-a-mountain”) poised high on a pole in front of the tavern, its mouth posed open, teeth bared, and snarling in the direction of New York. The Grants settlers evidently felt this symbolism made the tavern an appropriate meeting place.

At that meeting, the Grants holders decided to form a militia group headed by Ethan Allen (with the self-chosen title Colonel Commandant) to provide their own defense. Lieutenants included Seth Warner, Remember Baker (yes, that’s really his name!), and Robert Cochrane.

When New York's Governor Colden heard about this plan, he vowed to drive the ‘Bennington Mobb’ back into the Green Mountains. Ethan, naturally, soon heard of that taunt. His notorious sense of humor kicked in and he dubbed the group the “Green Mountain Boys.”

The Green Mountain Boys were definitely “irregulars.” They seldom drilled. (In fact, it’s rumored that only Seth Warner drilled his militia company). They gathered only if they received word of a problem. Even then, they were not required to answer the call, so they did only if they deemed their current farm responsibilities less important than the purpose calling them away. Then, when the Green Mountain Boys had completed that particular duty, they returned to their homes - usually after celebrating with large amounts of alcoholic libation.

Because they needed the skills for survival in the wilderness, the Green Mountain Boys were talented at stealth, tracking, trapping, and sharpshooting; most of the Grants settlers lived in poverty, so they could not waste bullets. They had to make every shot count. Little did the Yorkers know they were taking on guerilla warfare!

The Green Mountain Boys designed a flag: green with a blue field on the top left spattered with 13 white stars of various sizes. But it is said that the only uniform the Green Mountain Boys wore was a sprig of evergreen in their cap. However, it seems likely that most of them knew each other and did not need to wear that “uniform” often, either.

To sway public opinion to support the Green Mountain Boys and the cause of the Grants settlers, Ethan Allen published several newspaper articles in the Hartford, Connecticut Courant. He also printed his marketing on large pieces of paper referred to as “broadsides” and tacked them up on trees and other convenient posting places. Ethan signed these publications as AA Lover of Reason and Truth@. Although his father’s untimely death prevented him from following through on his longtime plan of attending Yale, Ethan clearly had an understanding of how to sway public opinion and peoples’ hearts. He called the struggle in the Grants a Astruggle of poor, honest men of the land@ against Aprinces of privilege.@ He also referred to it as the struggle by the colonies against wealthy landlords and English.

Because New York had attempted similar claims for land against other neighboring states, the plight of the Green Mountain Boys raised more support in those states than they might otherwise have gained.

The Green Mountain Boys met each Yorker challenge with ingenuity and wit. Ethan Allen specified that the Boys were to kill no one. In fact, in the over ten years from their creation until the time when fighting between New York and the Grants effectively ceased due to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, the Green Mountain Boys killed no one. The Boys, and especially Ethan Allen, cultivated a fearsome and challenging image because it helped their cause to be seen as fierce, and helped to back down Yorkers. But Ethan and the Boys considered it a point of pride that they killed no one.

Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys successfully protected the lands of the New Hampshire Grants settlers from the Yorkers. On January 15, 1777, the Grants settlers declared themselves an independent State. When they took a name, they first chose New Connecticut, but ultimately they adapted the French for “Green Mountain” into “Vermont”. The Green Mountains Boys had already joined the rest of the States in their fight for independence. Nonetheless, New York prevented the State of Vermont from joining the union of the other thirteen states until March 4, 1791, when Vermont became the fourteenth State in the United States of America.

Come back next time Laura Davies Tilley blogs to hear more about Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen also figures prominently in the historic romance Laura is currently writing, Wolf Hunt, set during the formation of the Green Mountain Boys. The Green Mountain Boys are also featured in her recently-completed historic novel set in Vermont slightly after this time, during a portion of the Revolutionary War, The Valiant Thirteen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Author Tara Kingston on Privateers Throughout History

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to welcome fellow Ellora's Cave author and friend, Tara Kingston. This month sees Tara's debut release and it is fantastic!  Hot, intruiguing and filled with adventure. Tara's written an article giving us a bit of history on privateers!

Privateers Throughout History
by Tara Kingston

Eye patches, earrings, and walking the plank…these images fill our thoughts when we hear the word pirate. I suspect the word privateer does not garner nearly the same reaction. Authorized by a government to attack enemy ships, privateers have served a purpose in warfare in addition to seizing cargo and vessels for profit. By disrupting trade and commandeering ships into military service, privateers aided their government while filling their own coffers.

Unlike a military ship that aimed to sink an enemy vessel, a privateer aimed to capture vessels and plunder their cargos. Privateers proved to be a significant force in naval warfare during the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Though not formally commissioned as warships, privateers sailed under the authorization granted in a letter of marque, a formal contract between the government and the privateer. A letter of marquee provided formal authorization for the privateer’s activities, spelling out the nationalities of ships the privateer was allowed to attack and the territory in which it could operate while ensuring the government would retain a share of the plundered goods.

Throughout history, privateers have made their mark. Privateers such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins aided Britain’s quest for naval superiority against the Spanish Armada in the sixteenth century, becoming national heroes in the process. Two centuries later, American privateers played a significant role in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and even the Civil War. In one famous incident, notorious privateer Jean Lafitte led his crew to help General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British Navy during the Battle of New Orleans in the latter days of the War of 1812.

My Ellora’s Cave debut, Claimed by the Captain, is the story of an American privateer bent on revenge against the swindler who destroyed his family and the woman who’s swept up in his quest for vengeance. Here’s a little about the story:

Jason Kane lost everything to one man’s treachery. Thirsting for vengeance, the ruthless privateer abducts Catherine Farrell, daughter of the swindler who destroyed his family. Intending to extract the debt owed him from his tempting prisoner, he plans a cold-blooded conquest. Aroused by his captive’s sensual beauty, he claims her with seductive persuasion. As he plunges her into a world of pleasure, her passionate surrender sparks a deep longing in his heart and soul.

Catherine Farrell lived the sheltered life of a prosperous merchant’s daughter until Captain Jason Kane made her a pawn in his quest for retribution. Claimed by the captain, she finds herself at the mercy of a man who will settle for nothing less than complete domination. His tender mastery awakens Catherine’s passions and stirs her heart. If only she can convince him that love is far more satisfying than sweet revenge.

You can find more information about the story at my website, http://www.tarakingston.com/ or at the Ellora’s Cave site. Hope you’ll stop by.

Leave a comment about this post and you’ll be entered to win a free e-copy of Claimed by the Captain. The winner will be announced next Monday, June 20.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Medieval Castle Cleaning

Every summer, on History Undressed, I like to dig up articles that have been posted 2 years ago or longer and revisit them, mainly because they are entertaining and informative. Today's post on cleaning in a medieval castle was written and posted in July 2008, and just so happens to also be an issue my medieval heroines face not only in my new release, A LADY'S CHARADE but in another medieval I am working on titled, A KNIGHT'S VICTORY. Without further ado, I give you, Cleaning a Medieval Castle...

This is by far the hardest blog I’ve had to write. Why? Because I simply haven’t been able to find as much information as I would have liked to. However, I will present to you what I’ve learned and hopefully it will enlighten you. If you have any additional information, please feel free to post it!

There has been much conflicting information about whether or not people in the middle ages were as clean as we were within out homes. I think its all hogwash. With what little tools they had to use comparatively and the way they lived, I believe they kept their homes to the best of their abilities.

Think about it, they didn’t have vacuums, steam cleaners, Swiffers, Lysol or Windex… We do, and there are definitely people out there that still don’t take advantage of all the advanced housecleaning tools and products. They still live in pigsties!

Where did the phrase “you live in a pigsty” come from?

Well the word pigsty, originated in the 1590’s as of course the word for a pigpen. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that it was used to describe someone’s living conditions as a dirty, messy or nasty place.

So how did they go about cleaning a medieval castle? Well, everyone had his or her own job to make sure that the place was in order, as well as someone to report to.

Obviously the lord and lady would be the head honchos, but underneath them you could have a steward, housekeeper, in some instances you may even have a chatelaine or castellan. A chatelaine is a mistress of the castle and a castellan is the governor of a castle. A husband and wife could be castellan and chatelaine together. These two would take the place of a lord or lady, let’s say they were not in attendance at the home or in some are instances if there was no lord, the lady may employ a governor, and vice versa.

A steward, also referred to as a seneschal was much more likely. His job was to take care of the estate and supervise the staff, as well as take care of the events in the great hall. The housekeeper would be in charge of the kitchen staff, the chambermaids, and cleaning of the estate.

Underneath the big dogs you might have various other workers, all the way down to the actual people who would do the cleaning, housemaids, scullions, and laundresses were the people who really cleaned quite a bit…

A housemaid would have quite a to do list from the time she woke in the morning. She would need to sweep the floors, generally downstairs until those who were sleeping had risen, then she would head upstairs. But even sweeping was a big deal. For instance, a lot of medieval castles had the floors strewn with rushes or straw. It was her job to see that these were cleaned up and replaced, but how often? It depended on the castle and who ran it. Some were changed monthly, some seasonally and some once a year. Whatever the case you can only imagine what was found underneath…

During the 15th century, the great scholar Erasmus wrote in a letter to a friend the following:
“The doors are, in general, laid with white clay, and are covered with rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for twenty years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned. Whenever the weather changes a vapour is exhaled, which I consider very detrimental to health. I may add that England is not only everywhere surrounded by sea, but is, in many places, swampy and marshy, intersected by salt rivers, to say nothing of salt provisions, in which the common people take so much delight I am confident the island would be much more salubrious if the use of rushes were abandoned, and if the rooms were built in such a way as to be exposed to the sky on two or three sides, and all the windows so built as to be opened or closed at once, and so completely closed as not to admit the foul air through chinks; for as it is beneficial to health to admit the air, so it is equally beneficial at times to exclude it."

Rush or straw woven mats were introduced to some to help with cleaning, so that these could be taken outside and beaten while the floors were swept, however some still preferred the strewn look. Herbs would be sprinkled throughout the rushes and mats to keep stench away. Some of the herbs used were lavender, chamomile, rose petals, daisies, cowslips, marjoram, basil, mint, violets, sage, and fennel.

In Thomas Tusser’s book Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, he gives lots of advice to housekeepers during the middle ages, here is what he says about getting rid of fleas in the rushes:

"While wormwood hath seed, get a bundle or twain,
to save against March, to make flea to refrain:
Where chamber is sweept, and wormwood is strown,
no flea, for his life, dare abide to be known.
What savour is best, if physic be true,
for places infected, than wormwood and rue?
It is as a comfort, for heart and the brain,

and therefore to have it, it is not in vain."

Sometimes the housemaid would even scrub the floors and walls with water and lye soap. (Lye soap is made from using the ashes of trees and shrubs, mixed with lard.) However this was only if they were made of stone or wood. If the wood happened to be covered over with plaster, she’d want to steer clear of using a water based cleaning method. Same goes for dirt floors.

After cleaning up the floor as much as she could a housemaid would then move onto the fireplaces. She clean out the ashes and soot and replace it with new logs for the day. Once upstairs she would clean out the basins and replace them with fresh water, as well as empty the chamber pots.

She would also sweep the floors and make the bed. If the bed needed cleaning she would collect up the linens to be given to the laundress. If the tapestries were in need of cleaning, she would have to take them down and outside to beat the dust and grime out of them. The maid would also be in charge of wiping down tables, benches, candlesticks, etc... pretty much any piece of furniture in any of the rooms. The housemaid would also be in charge of polishing any gold or silver in the house.

If she happened to finish her chores early, she could help out the cooks or laundresses. If the mattress itself needed cleaning, which it often did, because of lice, fleas and other nasty bedbugs, the maids would have to un-stuff it, have the mattress cleaned and then re-stuff it.

***It should also be noted that Parliament during the 14th century seemed to understand the need for cleanliness and its link to disease. Here is a proclamation they made in 1388:

"Item, that so much dung and filth of the garbage and entrails be cast and put into ditches, rivers, and other waters... so that the air there is grown greatly corrupt and infected, and many maladies and other intolerable diseases do daily happen... it is accorded and assented, that the proclamation be made as well in the city of London, as in other cities, boroughs, and towns through the realm of England, where it shall be needful that all they who do cast and lay all such annoyances, dung, garbages, entrails, and other ordure, in ditches, rivers, waters, and other places aforesaid, shall cause them utterly to be removed, avoided, and carried away, every one upon pain to lose and forfeit to our Lord the King the sum of 20 pounds..."

The laundress had a taxing job on the hands. Her hands were seeped in water day after day and would become dry and cracked. Her job was to clean and dry all the linens and garments within the household. The laundress also had the privilege, whether she liked it or not, to know about everyone’s bodily functions… Gagging… However nasty seeing the bloodstained sheets and then having to scrub them may have been, these ladies could rake in on the bribes from courtiers who would pay to know the cycles of queens, or even to see the sheets after a marriage is consummated.

Being a laundress was back breaking work. These ladies had to haul the water needed to do their cleaning from the well, moat or the closest river to where they did laundry, sometimes outside and sometimes in a designated room. After being heated, the water was dumped into a vat or into a bucking basket. Not only did they have to supply the water, they made the soap as well, using the method described above for lye soap. Lye soap was strong stuff, and could cut through the toughest grease spots, and other stains.

After getting the steamy water filled with lye soap, the laundress dumps the linens in and stirs with a wooden paddle, then literally beats the laundry until it’s clean.

Her job may have been a little easier than those who didn’t have access to such tools and took their laundry to the nearest river, soaked it and the beat it with and against rocks… That could take forever…

The next and last cleaning job I will discuss today is the job of a scullion or scullery maid. She or he was the lowest ranking among the servants, and may even be responsible for cleaning the chamber pots of other servants. They reported to the kitchen maid or cook. A scullion’s job was to clean the kitchen. This included, the floors, fireplace, pots and pans, and other dishes and utensils, disposing of the refuse. They were required to rise first and light all the fires and begin heating the water. Occasionally if they were down in servants, a scullion might serve the people in the hall and polish silver, gold and other expensive plate.

So what would you rather do?

In my newest medieval release, A LADY’S CHARADE, my heroine does a few things to clean up the hero’s castle more to her liking.

Here is an excerpt of when my hero, Alexander, returns home after being gone for a fortnight:

©Eliza Knight, 2011

He brushed past the steward and quickly made his way toward the stairs. He doubted that she would head to her room with all the duties she had to complete for the day, but he was going to take no chances. He had to get to the satchel before she did.

He stopped just shy of the second step, when his senses were struck with the realization that something was not quite right. Something was different. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it at first, but then his nose took over.

It was the smell.

It no longer smelled, or rather reeked, of sweaty men, rotten food and stale air. It smelled of flowers. It smelled clean. It smelled as if the keep had been aired out and a field of wild flowers had been dumped into its belly. How in the world had that happened in the dead of winter? And better yet, how in the world did that happen no matter what the season?

His mind was at a loss for a moment. He walked into the great hall and saw that there were bowls filled with dried flowers. The smells were intoxicatingly feminine.

Lady Anne. She must have finally badgered Harold enough to let her do something about the place. The woman was a nuisance, always trying to change the way he did things simply because a lady resided here.

Although he rather liked the smell, he would have to change it. He couldn’t let her think she had any place in ordering his staff, let alone him, around. He turned to tell Harold to get rid of the flowers, only to find that Harold was nowhere in sight.

Damn him.

His gaze was again drawn back to the great hall. The floor was swept clean of debris. Fresh rushes were strewn about. The table looked like it had been washed down, and the many tapestries that lined the hall’s walls looked fresh and vibrant.

Had Chloe been the one to alter the look and feel of his masculine great hall? For some bizarre reason, that notion seemed to please him. He shook his head at his foolish thoughts and turned to go up the stairs.


A LADY’S CHARADE is now available (in ebook) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. (If you do not have an e-reader, Amazon and B&N both have programs for reading ebooks on your computer.)

Book Blurb…

From across a field of battle, English knight, Alexander, Lord Hardwyck, spots the object of his desire—and his conquest, Scottish traitor Lady Chloe.

Her lies could be her undoing…

Abandoned across the border and disguised for her safety, Chloe realizes the man who besieged her home in Scotland has now become her savior in England. Her life in danger, she vows to keep her identity secret, lest she suffer his wrath, for he wants her dead.

Or love could claim them both and unravel two countries in the process…

Alexander suspects Chloe is not who she says she is and has declared war on the angelic vixen who's laid claim to his heart. A fierce battle of the minds it will be, for once the truth is revealed they will both have to choose between love and duty.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Battle of Agincourt & A New Release!

The European nations have often fought with one another for power and land, trying to siege each other’s thrones.

In 1415, (in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War) when Henry V ruled England, things were no different. Already battle seasoned and having taken an arrow through the eye, King Henry wanted what he felt was justly his—France.

Henry V was not afraid to participate in war. He was front row and center, leading his army in combat. (The French King did not.) Probably why his men were so eager to fight for him. And on the morning of October 25, 1415, with a disease ravaged, hungry, low on weapons and vastly outnumber army by nearly 3 to 1, Henry gave the cry for battle.

On a wide open field, between the woods of Tramecourt and the village of Agincourt (Azincourt) the French blocked the English’s way to Calais—the ultimate prize in Henry’s campaign for French domination.

Luck was on the side of the English, or God as Henry V would claim, stating that France was part of his “just rights and inheritances.” The English surprised the French in their intiation of attack, and oddly enough the sheer numbers of Frenchman were their undoing as it was hard to coordinate their rebuttal. They were not positioned correctly, and ultimately their unpreparedness led to their defeat.

Overwhelmed by the number of French troops, the English held out, and the French became weary. The English had the advantage on the terrain, and they held no quarter. It was a desperate and savage battle with much hand-to-hand combat. King Henry even stood watch over his brother who was wounded, without a care for his own safety—even taking an axe to his own head, which cut off one of the fleur-de-lis on his crown.

What followed was not very chivalric…King Henry ordered the killing of the wounded enemy and those who were unarmed. Only men of power were to be held prisoner. Pillaging also ensued…

In the end, roughly 4000-10,000 French were dead, and only 1600 English. The Battle of Agincourt was a massive loss for the French, devastating. Within their dead numbers were many nobles including three dukes—and among prisoners was the Duke D’Orleans and Jean le Mange—the Marshall of France.

The Battle of Agincourt was only the beginning—but not right away. The English had devastated the French enough that they were able to return home to England for over a year to prepare for another battle. By 1420, Henry V was named regent and heir to the French throne—which was further fool-proofed when he married Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France.

Ironically, Henry VIII, a descendant of Henry V wanted to emulate his predecessor, and continued the fight for French domination, holding Calais throughout his reign. In the end, his daughter, Mary I, lost France in a crushing blow to England.

In my newest medieval romance release, A LADY’S CHARADE, the Battle of Agincourt, while it doesn’t take precedence in the story, sets the stage.

Excerpt from Chapter Two of A LADY’S CHARADE on the famous battle… (should be noted in fiction, author takes creative license.)

©Eliza Knight, 2011

Calais, France
Mid-October, 1415

The air was crisp and ripe with the scents of battle. The metallic odor of blood wafted in the morning fog. The smell of the dead and the living intermingled to create an aroma that can only come after fierce warfare. Whoops and hollers echoed across the fields from the victorious men. Groans of pain drifted in the wind.

There are some days that remain the same, and some days that change the entire path of your life. Today would be one of those days.

Lord Alexander Drake, Baron of Hardwyck, walked briskly to the ornately decorated tents upon the hill. His heart beat erratically in his chest. The rush from such a fierce fight and jubilation at victory raced through his veins. The guards nodded and stepped aside. King Henry V sat in his high-backed wooden chair, a serene expression on his face.

“Your majesty, I came as soon as I received your message.” Alexander bowed low to his sovereign. He made sure to drop his gaze, as the good king did not like his vassals to look him in the eyes.

Discreetly Alexander sniffed himself. The stench was not as strong as he feared. At least he wouldn’t offend his leader too much.

“Lord Hardwyck. Stand. I am pleased you came so quickly.”

“It is my pleasure to serve you, majesty.” As he stood, Alexander attempted to wipe some of the blood from his hands.

“By the faith I owe to God and Saint George, you Lord Hardwyck, have made your king proud. However, before I can let you return to your holdings in England, I have one last conquest for you, which you will find benefits you greatly.”

“I am humbly at your service, majesty.” From the corner of his eye, Alexander could see his own father, the Earl of Northumberland, enter the tent and nod in approval to the king’s words.

Inwardly he groaned. Although the idea of another conquest excited him, he was disappointed he would not be returning home. His men were tired, he hadn’t seen his lands in months and he was in dire need of a warm, soft and willing wench. How long would this next conquest last?

It had to be nearly four months, since they left England to assist the king in regaining his lands and titles in France. Alexander was only too happy for the king they’d done well. They’d just won the battle of Agincourt. It was a bloody affair, one they weren’t sure at first they’d be able to win, having been outnumbered nearly three to one. Alexander was lucky to have only lost twenty of his men, and only too glad the dysentery epidemic seemed to pass right by his regiment.

“Baron Fergusson crossed the borders from the insufferable Scotland Lowlands and laid claim to South Hearth Castle,” King Henry claimed.

Alexander’s gaze shot to his father. South Hearth was one of his father’s holdings in the north of England, just on the border, and often a seat of great controversy between the Scots and themselves—the former believing the holding was on Scottish lands. He was also aware that Fergusson was the last Scottish chief to rule over South Hearth and its lands.

“Even with our latest treaty, the damnable Scots will act like savages. I have heard on good authority, he is planning a siege against several of our other holdings on the border of Scotland. He is a difficult man, a most treacherous man. I feel he will attempt an attack soon. That cannot happen. We must attack first. You will besiege South Hearth and return it to English rule.” King Henry took a deep breath. The king’s eyes bored into Alexander, causing him to shift with unease. “I wish to further foolproof the deed.”


A LADY’S CHARADE is now available (in ebook) from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. (If you do not have an e-reader, Amazon and B&N both have programs for reading ebooks on your computer.)

Book Blurb…

From across a field of battle, English knight, Alexander, Lord Hardwyck, spots the object of his desire—and his conquest, Scottish traitor Lady Chloe.

Her lies could be her undoing…

Abandoned across the border and disguised for her safety, Chloe realizes the man who besieged her home in Scotland has now become her savior in England. Her life in danger, she vows to keep her identity secret, lest she suffer his wrath, for he wants her dead.

Or love could claim them both and unravel two countries in the process…

Alexander suspects Chloe is not who she says she is and has declared war on the angelic vixen who's laid claim to his heart. A fierce battle of the minds it will be, for once the truth is revealed they will both have to choose between love and duty.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Historical Romance Review: Legacy by Jeanette Baker

Once again I must blame a fantastic author for my lack of sleep... This time, Jeanette Baker is the culprit and the book was, Legacy, originally published in 1996 by Pocket and reprinted by Sourcebooks this year.

I am a sucker for time-travels, and while this book wasn't your average time-travel, in that the heroine, Christina only actually traveled back in time once for a brief moment and the rest of the "traveling" were visions and dreams that played out as if she were watching the scenes, I was still thoroughly enthralled.

What made this book so fabulous, besides the writing, historical detail, believable and lively characters, sensuality and intriguing tension filled plot, was that we got to experience FOUR different time periods! For a history nerd like myself it was heavenly to get that many time periods in one sitting. What were they you ask? Besides present day, there was the 13th century, 16th century and 18th century.  FABULOUS!

Another thing I liked about this book was that it touched on an illness that doesn't get that much spotlight in fiction--diabetes. The main heroine, and the three she followed through time, all were afflicted with diabetes.

And what is a book without a gorgeous cover? Even though they say not to judge a book by its cover... we just can't help it.  I really love this cover--one of the best I've seen in a long time. It says a lot about the book with the castle in the background, the historical Scots female character and the romantic couple.

There is a lot of conjecture about the Stone of Destiny (aka Stone of Scone) and whether or not the one that sat in Westminster Abbey--and returned to Scotland in 1996--was ever truly the real thing. Rumors have traveled from ear to ear for the last seven centuries that the stone was switched with a fake when Edward I made his way to remove it from Scotland for England's coronation chair. The truth remains to be seen, and Legacy is a fantastic tale about what may have happened to the stone.

Without a doubt, I would highly recommend you add this book to your summer list! It is a definite keeper.

Book Info:

The last of the Murrays…

Christina Murray is elated to inherit her family’s ancestral home in Scotland. But upon her arrival she is confronted by her breathtakingly handsome new neighbor, Ian Douglas…and an ancient family curse that comes with the castle.

A violent legacy of passion…

Seduced by Ian’s easy Scottish charm by day, Christina dreams at night of three raven-haired beauties, ancestors who fell victim to the curse one generation after another: Katrine, the fiery Jacobite supporter who lost her heart to an Englishman; Jeanne, an accused witch; and Mairi, who shared a forbidden passion with the King of England.

Now it’s Christina’s turn to lie in that cursed bed… and loving Ian might just cost her life.

ISBN: 9781402255830
Published: February 2011
Available in Trade Paperback and Ebook

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Historical Fiction Review: The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato

I stayed up until I don't know what time to finish The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato... I refused to look at the clock as I had to get up at 5:30am, but I know some 80 pages before "the end" it was already after midnight.

From the publisher...

Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breathtaking horse race set in Siena....
It’s 1729, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that exists among the city’s districts. Each ward, represented by an animal symbol, puts forth a rider to claim the winner’s banner, but the contest turns citizens into tribes and men into beasts—and beautiful, headstrong, young Pia Tolomei is in love with a rider of an opposing ward, an outsider who threatens the shaky balance of intrigue and influence that rules the land.

St. Martin's Griffin, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-60958-0
Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Ebook

My Review:
While this book started off a bit confusing--and only because I have just recently begun reading Italian historicals, so I wasn't familiar with the setting or traditions--it was thoroughly and quickly made sense of bny the author's ability to weave history, tradition and the fascinating Palio into her writing. The book begins at a fast pace, with a lot of emotion and suspense. We are drawn in and find an immediate connection if not empathy for the heroine, Pia.

I really liked several things that this author did with the book, which made it more unique and also hooked me into reading page after page. One, she had the book done from three point-of-views: Pia-the heroine; Riccardo-the hero; and Violante-a secondary heroine. Each POV was done well, and the reader will find themselves connected and invested in each character.

The plot carries so many twists and turns, you will be kept on the edge of your seat. Who will win the Palio? Who are the Nine? What is going to happen to Violante? Will Pia be killed by her husband? Will she ever find happiness with Riccardo? What about the horse?

And speaking of the horse... I really grew to love Leocorno, and well... I can't tell you or else I'll spoil it.

In the end, I was VERY satisfied with the way things turned out (minus Leocorno *sad face*).

I highly recommend The Daughter of Siena! The rich history was well written and researched, and the story itself was intriguing and entertaining. An intricate mystery, a touch of adventure, and a love that withstands life's twists and turns. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Fiorato's work in the future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest Author Laura Kaye on Historical Architecture as a Character

Please join me in welcoming today's guest author Laura Kaye to History Undressed. Laura is a local writing chapter-mate of mine, and has had an extremely busy year with releases and new contracts! Today she is going to tantalize us with historical architecture.

Historical Architecture as a Character
by Laura Kaye

The city of Detroit’s roots extend back at least as far as 1701, when Antoine de la Monthe Cadillac founded Fort Ponchartrain, the French fort that the conquering British would later rename Fort Detroit following Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763. This said, Detroit is not one of the foremost cities that come to mind when you speak about notable historical sites and architecture. Though Detroit has over 200 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, plus dozens more than are eligible to be listed, the city has experienced such neglect and decline that other reputations have far overshadowed Detroit’s historical longevity or significance. Detroit’s historical assets are so endangered, the city’s preservation community nominated the entire downtown of Detroit to the annual list of the 11 Most Endangered Historical Sites nationally in 2005.

This neglect and decline was precisely what made Detroit such an ideal location for my new paranormal romance, Forever Freed. In Forever Freed’s world, the vampires establish the city (Antoine Laumet, who claimed for himself the Sieur de Cadillac title, above, is the antagonist), and surround themselves with the very best specimens of Detroit architecture. This is easy for them to do in the twentieth century, when the story is set, because following the decline of the automobile industry, destructive race riots and white flight, the city experienced massive population loss (from a 1955 high of nearly two million to a current population of about 800,000) and abandonment of buildings (about 1/3 of all Detroit buildings are abandoned).

In this way, the historical fabric of the city, as settings, truly took on the importance and quality of a character. It set the mood, the atmosphere, placed limits and dictates on plot, and shaped scenes. A major resource in helping me bring the historical settings to life was the fascinating Forgotten Detroit website http://www.forgottendetroit.com/index.html which offered the history, preservation status, and interior and exterior photographs of many endangered sites.

The first site I identified for Forever Freed was the vampire hero’s home. Lucien Demarco arrives in Detroit at his lowest point, after a failed search for his maker, who also slaughtered his human family. He takes up with a bad crowd, and surrounds himself with squalor. So his house had to reflect those feelings. The hulking Romanesque Revival First Unitarian Church on Edmund Place seemed the perfect fit. Dedicated in 1890 and abandoned in 1937, the church is a good example of the deterioration the city experienced after its early twentieth-century heyday.

The hero says about it, “The crumbling dark red sandstone, rusted ironwork, and numerous boarded windows were more than good enough for me. The house’s poor condition brought me no special attention given the surroundings. Once posh, the Brush Park neighborhood had decayed with the rest of the city during the twentieth century. Abandoned mansions stood guard over debris-filled vacant lots. Just across the street a Gothic-style church sat empty—even God had forsaken this place.”

Also of importance was Lucien’s secondary residence—the house from which he would initially stalk, and later fall in love with, the heroine and her young daughter. When I found an abandoned Victorian-era townhouse standing sentry over a newer 1980s-era townhouse development near Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center—both important landmarks for the heroine, I knew I’d found the right site.

The bad guys also made themselves at home in historical buildings. When Lucien first arrives in Detroit, the vampires had set up headquarters at Lee Plaza, an Art Deco high rise constructed in 1929. I simply fell in love with the interior details of this abandoned building, and imagined it as a place, before its deterioration, an egotistical, entitled vampire lord might ensconce himself.

Lucien’s reunion meeting with Antoine Laumet’s evil world, after a long and hard-earned separation, happens at the Belle Isle Boatclub, another endangered site. The 1902 building on the city’s island hosts this clandestine rendezvous, and the warm, carved wood paneling, as with these sea horses, once again shows how Laumet believes he is entitled to all of the city’s best addresses.

The final showdown to save Samantha and Ollie’s life happens at the Michigan Central Depot, a behemoth of a building constructed in the Beaux-Arts Classical style that was abandoned in 1988. When it was built in 1913, it was the world’s tallest railroad station. Its isolated, cavernous, eerily echoing spaces formed the perfect backdrop for kidnapping, a fight scene, and a final decree for all the protagonists’ fates.

To me, none of these scenes would be complete without the historical architecture framing them. The more I got into the story, the more important and organic these details became.

I’m a historian by training, and I’ve worked in and with the historic preservation community. What I’ve learned is, unfortunately, the fate of Detroit’s historical architecture – while extreme among former industrial cities – is not unique. The 2010 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historical Sites includes properties in eight states, plus D.C. and Guam. In Beyond the Ruins: The Meanings of Deindustrialization, historian Thomas Lassman details how the changing economy of the 1960s and 1970s crippled cities like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Baltimore, stripping them of their population, tax base, and ability to maintain their physical infrastructure. In many places, Detroit included, it became easier and cheaper to tear the past down than preserve it. All this has left me feeling a special affinity for Detroit, a city I’ve visited only once, and hoping showcasing the former grandeur of these sites will, if even the smallest bit, contribute to the ongoing preservation effort.

Whether a reader or a writer, what do you think about the use of real historical sites in fiction? And can authors and books really make any difference in a situation like Detroit’s?

Thanks for reading,

Laura Kaye

Hot, Hearatfelt Romance – Because everyone longs to belong…

Laura Kaye is a multi-published author of paranormal, contemporary, and erotic romance. Her first books released this spring from The Wild Rose Press. Hearts in Darkness is a contemporary romance about two strangers who find acceptance and dare to find love while trapped in a pitch-black elevator. Forever Freed is a paranormal romance about a reclusive, empathic vampire who falls in love with a woman he planned to kill and her young daughter, then must fight his ancient guilt, bloodlust, lie by omission, and an old vampire rival who threatens everything he holds dear. Next up is Just Gotta Say, a contemporary erotic romance to be published late this summer by Decadent Publishing, and North of Need, the first in a four-book fantasy romance series featuring Greek gods to be published in November by Entangled Publishing.


A heart can break, even one that no longer beats.

I stalk my new neighbors, a single mother and her child, drawn by the irresistible scent of their joy and love. I crave their blood, starved for some healing respite from my ancient grief. Now to lure them into my grasp.
But they surprise me. Little Olivia accepts me without fear or reservation--talking, smiling, offering innocent affection that tugs at my long-lost humanity. Her mother, Samantha, seeks me out when she should stay away, offering sweet friendship, and calling to the forgotten man within me. They lure me instead.

Ah, Dio, Lucien, run and spare them while you can...

Find Laura on the interwebz:

Website: http://www.LauraKayeAuthor.com

Blog: http://laurakayeauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: @laurakayeauthor

Buy Laura’s books:

--From the Publisher: http://www.wildrosepress.us/maincatalog/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=800

--On Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Kaye/e/B004XMNF6W/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1