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


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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Castle Stalker by Vonda Sinclair

Welcome back to History Undressed, my good friend and amazing Scottish romance author, Vonda Sinclair! She's giving us the Castle of the Week -- Stalker Castle, and she's sharing with us some beautiful pics she took on her trip to Scotland.  Enjoy!

Castle Stalker

by Vonda Sinclair

Castle Stalker (Caisteal an Stalcaire) sits in one of the most dramatic and beautiful settings in Scotland, on a small island (or islet) known as Cormant's Rock in Loch Laich, just off Loch Linnhe in Port Appin, Argyll, Scotland. If you're traveling there, it's midway between Oban and Glen Coe. On our travels, because we had gone through Glen Orchy, we went ten miles or so off route just to see the castle and eat a nice lunch at the Stalker View Café. From these photos you can see it was a very cloudy day and it started raining while I was taking pictures.

Stalcaire or Stalker means hunter or falconer. Even today in Scotland, deer hunting is called deer stalking. We didn't get to visit the castle because a boat is required. The castle is fully restored, habitable and privately owned. A few tours per year are available.

Castle Stalker as seen today is original from the 1400s. But before Castle Stalker, the MacDougall Clan, Lords of Lorn, held a small fort on the islet, which is great for defense, in the early 1300s. The MacDougalls lost this title because they were defeated by King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of the Pass of Brander in 1308. They regained the title and lands after 1328 and held it until around 1388 when the Lordship of Lorn passed to the Stewarts along with the site where Castle Stalker sits.

Most sources state that Castle Stalker as seen today was built by Sir John Stewart, Lord of Lorn, in the 1440s. The castle was built by expert stone masons who constructed parts of the walls nine feet thick. They also built a dungeon beneath it and there is still a record of those who were held here.

Sir John Stewart is known to have had an illegitimate son, Dugald, in 1446. In 1463 he wanted to make his son legitimate by marrying his son's mother, a MacLaren, at Dunstaffnage (a castle near Oban.) But John was attacked and mortally wounded by Alan MacCoul, a MacDougall, because he and a large group of men were trying to prevent John from continuing the Stewart line. John Stewart did live long enough to marry the mother of his son, therefore making him legitimate so he could inherit.

There was a lot of plotting and political manipulation going on at the time between many clans because the Lord of the Isles, who held a lot of power in the west, had a major conflict with the king. And of course, the Stewarts of Appin being both powerful and loyal to the king were seen as a threat. It is believed that the Lord of the Isles was behind the assassination of John and that others who went along with the murder plot could have been Colin Campbell, Lord Argyll. The murderer, Alan MacCoul was the illegitimate grandson of an earlier MacDougall chief.

Dugald Stewart became the first Chief of Appin. But he lost the title of Lord of Lorn because of his uncle, Walter Stewart's treachery and plotting with the Lord of Argyll. Walter ended up with the title but with no authority. A battle took place in 1468 across from the castle called the Battle of Stalc in which the Stewarts banded together with the MacLarens and defeated the MacDougalls and MacFarlanes (acting in the interests of Colin Campbell and Walter Stewart.) Dugald himself killed his father's murderer, Alan MacCoul. The MacFarlanes were defeated and never able to fully recover. The outcome of this battle solidified Dugald's claim to Appin. This area was formally granted to him by King James III on April 14th, 1470.

Dugald Stewart was killed in 1497 in a battle or skirmish in which the Stewarts and MacLarens were allied against the MacDonalds of Keppoch. The reason for the conflict was the stealing of cattle. What's interesting is one source says the MacDonalds stole the cattle. Another says the MacLarens stole the cattle from the MacDonalds, but the MacDonalds followed them and once they caught up with them a battle took place. The MacDonalds won and recovered their cattle. But the MacLarens asked Dugald Stewart for assistance. Then, another battle between those clans took place in which both Dugald and the MacDonald chief were killed. Dugald's son, Duncan Stewart, succeeded him as Chief of Appin.

King James IV and V were cousins of the Stewarts of Appin and often traveled to Castle Stalker to hunt. Duncan Stewart led the clan until 1512 when he was murdered by the McLeans. His younger brother Alan succeeded him. He and his five sons fought in the Battle of Flodden and all survived, though the king didn't.

The Stewart clan held Castle Stalker until 1620 when the Campbells of Airds acquired it in a drunken wager by the 7th Stewart Chief, Duncan, in exchange for an eight-oared wherry or beorlin (a rowboat). The Stewarts, under Ardsheal, regained the castle in 1689 when they sided with King James VII (and II) against King William. After their defeat at Dunkeld, Castle Stalker again was to be granted to the Campbells. But the Stewarts refused to give it up. The Campbells lay siege to the castle for several months until the Stewarts were granted an honorable surrender in 1690.

In the Rising of 1745, Castle Stalker was held by the Campbells and a garrison of 59 government troops. The Stewarts (Jacobites on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie, their very distant cousin) attempted to take the castle with a force of 300 men but the castle proved too strong with its thick walls. At the famous Battle of Culloden, Charles Stewart of Ardsheal led a company of 300 men from 19 clans. The Appin Regiment suffered 92 killed and 65 wounded. After the Battle of Culloden, the government used the castle as a center where Jacobite Highlanders had to surrender their arms. And Stewart of Ardsheal went to Europe.

The Campbells lived in Castle Stalker until around 1800 when they built a new house on the mainland at Airds. Castle Stalker became a storehouse. Around 1840, the roof fell in or may have been removed so the owner could avoid paying a roof tax. The castle was abandoned until 1908 when Charles Stewart of Achara purchased it from the Campbells and did some preservation. In 1965, Lt. Col. D.R. Stewart Allward purchased the castle and spent ten years personally rebuilding and restoring it as it is today. It is now owned and run by his children and grandchildren.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of MY BRAVE HIGHLANDER!!!

Vonda's newest release... My Brave Highlander

Battle-hardened warrior Dirk MacLerie isn't who everyone thinks he is. He's Dirk MacKay, heir apparent to the MacKay chiefdom and Dunnakeil Castle on the far north coast of Scotland. When he returns home after a long absence, will his clan know him and will the duplicitous enemy who tried to murder him twelve years ago kill him in truth this time?

Lady Isobel MacKenzie is a beautiful young widow betrothed to yet another Highland chief by her brother's order. But when her future brother-in-law accosts her and threatens to kill her, she is forced to flee into a Highland snowstorm. When she runs into a rugged and imposing man she thought dead, she wonders if he will turn her over to her enemy or take her to safety.

Dirk remembers the enchanting, dark-eyed Isobel from when he was a lad, but now she is bound to another man by legal contract—an important detail she would prefer to forget. She wishes to choose her own husband and has her sights set on Dirk. But he would never steal another man's bride… would he? The tantalizing lady fires up his passions, testing his willpower and honor at every turn, even as some of his own treacherous clansmen plot his downfall.

Vonda Sinclair’s favorite indulgent pastime is exploring Scotland, from Edinburgh to the untamed and windblown north coast. She also enjoys creating hot, Highland heroes and spirited lasses to drive them mad. She is a past Golden Heart finalist and Laurie award winner. She lives with her amazing and supportive husband in the mountains of North Carolina where she is no doubt creating another Scottish story. She is the author of the Highland Adventure Series: My Fierce Highlander, My Wild Highlander and My Brave Highlander. Please visit her online at:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley -- $1.99 today only!

Today on Nook, The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley is only $1.99!

Remember you can read Nook on your Nook, but you can also download Nook apps for free and read Nook books on your Android, IPad, IPhone, Mac or PC! Don't miss out on this awesome book! We at History Undressed loved it and our review is forthcoming.


Historical Romance Review: A Perfect Knight for Love by Jackie Ivie


Deep in the Scottish Highlands, a stalwart clansman and a wayward bride confront duty and desire…

A Man Of Misfortune

With his reckless, drunken brother bringing ruin to the clan, and the lass he’s loved all his life in the clutches of a violent husband, the last thing Thayne MacGowan needs is a spirited, sharp-tongued damsel to contend with—no matter how enticing she may be…

A Woman With A Secret

Having narrowly escaped an objectionable arranged marriage, Amalie is starting a new life—with a new identity. But her freedom is cut short when a surly but irresistibly handsome Highlander is forced to take her as his bride. If only he knew who she really was…

An Unlikely Love

Fate designs an improbable match, and a battle of wills ensues. As Amalie struggles to protect her identity, Thayne finds himself fighting for an unexpected love—and a passion neither can refuse…

ISBN: 978-1-4201-2400-2
On Sale Date: September 4, 2012
Kensington, Zebra -- Paperback


Ms. Ivie has penned a compelling, passionate tale of adventure, love and loyalty. Amalie and Thayne are larger than life, each with their own views on how the world should work--which just so happen to conflict with one another.

Amalie, a lady born of English Society, takes on the disguise of a governess, escaping an unwanted marriage. She travels to Scotland to become a governess--which seems all well an good, but the clothes are not what she'd prefer! Literally, she lands in the arms of the hero and is swiftly thrust into a dangerous adventure. Highlanders, battles, enemies, lies. All of it, and she does the best thing she knows how--acts her way out of it, or so she thinks. In fact, she'll end up embroiling herself further.

Thayne is a seasoned warrior, a tougher than tough Highlander, who seems to undergo an immeasurable amount of pain both physically and emotionally and still can be gentle with his heroine. He owns every page he graces. A bit brutish on the outside, inside Thayne has a heart of gold--even if he doesn't believe Amalie is who she says she is.

Great descriptions of castles, decor, clothing, the Scottish countryside. The scenery was vivid and truly popped.  This was a nice escape story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Ivie's work.

Anna Bentley Tremaine's Guest Historical Review of The Braham's Deception by Louise Marley

ABOUT THE BOOK: The Braham’s Deception by Louise Marley

Music scholar Frederica Bannister is thrilled when she beats her bitter rival, Kristian North, for the chance to be transferred back to 1861 Tuscany to observe firsthand the brilliant Johannes Brahms. Frederica will not only get to see Brahms in his prime; she’ll also try to solve a mystery that has baffled music experts for years.

But once in Tuscany, Frederica’s grip on reality quickly unravels. She instantly falls under Brahms’ spell—and finds herself envious of his secret paramour, the beautiful, celebrated concert pianist Clara Schumann. In a single move, Frederica makes a bold and shocking decision that changes everything…

When Frederica fails to return home, it is Kristian North who is sent back in time to Tuscany to find her. There, Kristian discovers that Frederica indeed holds the key to unraveling Brahms’ greatest secret. But now, Frederica has a dark secret of her own—one that puts everyone around her in devastating peril...

Kensington Books, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-7582-6567-8 

Anna Bentley Tremaine's Guest Historical Review:

This book is first and foremost a cautionary tale about interfering with the past. It is a story of disappointed hopes and abusing power in an attempt to get ahead. Kristian, the hero, who's just left the ivory tower without completing his PhD, is asked to step back in time to find out what happened to his rival when she didn't return as scheduled. The story centers strongly around music, but the author is careful not to overwhelm lay readers with terminology that might prevent them from enjoying or understanding the writing.

Unfortunately, the book did not work for me. The characters felt constructed and cliched rather than real. The author made almost all the "bad" people ugly, rich, and controlling while the "good" people were beautiful, poor, and noble. I did not care for the fact that the hero kept a very important secret for as long as he did. Most of all, I didn't care for the idea that we could go back to witness the past as ghostly spirits who could not be perceived by anyone around us. While one of the concerns of the story was preservation of the established timeline, it did not once touch on on the ethics of going back in time to watch people who could not give their consent to being watched.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Video of the Week: Terry Jones Medieval Lives -- The King

Terry Jones is hilarious, I love his take on history! Makes learning entertaining! So enjoy this video on Medieval Kings--be wary, this video is about 30 minutes long, so you may wish to watch it over lunch or when you need a break!


Monday, August 20, 2012

A Bit of History Behind THE EAGLE'S WOMAN by Miriam Newman

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author and friend, Miriam Newman! Today she's sharing with us a bit of history behind her new medieval romance, THE EAGLE'S WOMAN! Take it away, Miriam!


 My new release, The Eagle’s Woman, is a project that has long been in my mind.  Book I of a series to be titled The Eagle, it begins the journey of Ari and Maeve. 

The year is 856 A.D.  Son of an impoverished, ailing Norse chieftain, Ari raids for booty and slaves in order to feed his people.  Pagan himself, still he spares priests although he sells them.  He is a heathen…a murderer.  It is a sin for any Christian woman to love him.

Maeve is the simple daughter of simple people, from an Irish fishing village so remote it has never experienced a raid.  She has heard of Vikings, but never seen one.  That is about to change.


“What?” Ari asked, reaching with his free hand to take her chin in it. His thumb caressed her bottom lip and she thought she was not out of danger with him, no matter how disheveled her appearance. This man wanted her, no doubt of it. Not enough to commit violence on her, apparently, but she thought gentleness held its own dangers. If she was not careful, it could weaken her will. He was not unattractive—with fair skin, strong angular features and striking eyes—though just then he looked like a drowned rat as all of them did. It did not obscure the strength of his body or the keen intelligence in those eyes. She turned her head to the side, dislodging his thumb.
“I have not seen tears from you before,” he said thoughtfully, “though many of the others are crying. What has finally broken you?”
“I am not broken,” she spat, “only mourning two good people who raised me. But I am sure you know nothing of such feelings.”
He sat back on his heels. “Do I not? Two good people raised me as well. One lies crippled in his sickbed and the other waits for me to bring coin to buy things a sick man needs.”
Maeve was silent, surprised and momentarily chastened. She had never seriously supposed he had motives other than greed.
“Do you think raiding is worthy of a fighting man?” he persisted. “I would rather face an army than hungry children.”
She stifled an impulse toward sympathy. “Ours are dead or captive. You seem to have no trouble facing that.”
Abruptly, he set both feet beneath himself and got up, undaunted by the motion of the ship which made such things impossible for Maeve. She had not noticed a wineskin hanging from the rigging, but she saw him reach for it then. “I cannot help your children.” He took a fulsome swig. “Just mine.” Wiping the neck with his wet tunic, he held the wineskin out to her.
It was decent wine, probably from their monastery, tasting of strength and summer. She needed strength to remember that summer would come again, so she drank.


I was amazed and a little intimidated when I first began researching this book and realized just how much work bringing that back-of-my-mind dream was going to entail.  I knew about the Viking longships, the Berserkers…I even had a notion about how their concept of trial by judge would filter down into English Common Law via the Norman invasion to become our modern trial-by-jury.  This will come into play in Book II, The Eagle’s Lady.
But I didn’t know much about the private code of conduct so integral to Viking life.  Viking society was permeated by the notion of honor, or drengskapr, and shame, or nior.  In stark contrast to our present-day image of heated Berserker frenzy in battle, the Viking in his private life was valued for self control, bravery, generosity, sense of fair play and respect for the right way of doing things.  A stoic and imperturbable manner was considered highly honorable.  Cowardice, treachery, kin-killing and oath-breaking constituted dishonorable, shameful behavior that could even result in temporary or permanent banishment.  Taunts issued through—of all things—poetry could get you outlawed, and accusing another man of effeminate behavior was signing your own death warrant.  Viking law allowed for lethal reprisal.
Matters of honor were often settled by duel with swords, spears and axes.  This
 took place before witnesses in the context of a carefully orchestrated ritual.  In Iceland, men were required to duel within the area which could be covered by a cloak, often on a small island in a river, which prevented retreat or interference.  The first man to become disarmed was the loser.  If his opponent then cut him down, he could be outlawed, which meant he was banished and was essentially free game to anyone who wished to kill him, and someone usually did. Again, this will come into play in my second book of the series.  Quite a difference from our image of the out-of-control raider decimating peaceful villages, isn't it? 




Sunday, August 19, 2012

How Victorian Evolved into Steampunk

For those of you interested in the Victorian era and Steampunk, today's guest blogger has written us an interesting piece, what do you think?

How ‘Victorian’ Evolved into ‘Steampunk’

The golden period of Victorian age is still remembered by the Europeans and their American descendants. This was the phase of development, which put impact on the people of today also. This era belonged to the industrialization and urbanization. Some new inventions were done in that period. The steam engine was invented just before this era. It created awareness among the people about science and technology.

The people’s craze about steam energy was on the heights in that period. So, a lot of new things were fantasized about running through steam energy. Some famous writers like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne wrote  science fiction literature. The specialty of such novels was that all things would run through steam energy. Time machines, gadgets, gears, and a lot of other such things have been fictionalized in the books of that era. Such literature provided us a new insight about the history. We found an alternate history, which actually never took place.

Another type of literature came in the limelight in or near the Victorian age, which we know today as gothic literature. This literature used to believe in horrific capabilities of science and the existence of supernatural events. In some manners, it was similar to the science fiction literature mentioned above, but still there was a big difference. The above mentioned literature was based on inventions in harmony with humanity. On the other hand, gothic concept was based on the negative impacts of industrialization and capitalism.

When the modern era began, it took the influence from Victorian period in several aspects. The advent of Hollywood film industry presented the Victorian age in a new way. The classics were made, which were based on the science fiction themes of the period of Queen Victoria. Such themes have developed a new subculture, which we know today as steampunk. That was a superb time of steampunk clothing. This word was derived from steam energy. Besides, some new plots on the same concepts were written, which enriched this punk culture. “The Time Machine”, “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Steampunk Lincoln” etc. are some of the films on this theme.

Moreover, some more things with this theme came in the limelight such as steampunk comics, clothing, and so on. The punk clothing became the fashion statement of the people of today. This clothing has acquired the Victorian style and added new Hollywood punk style to it. Moreover, gothic trends have also impacted on this genre. The modern dress sense had also been added to this genre.

About the blog poster...

My name is Mark. I am a historian, researcher and writer. I regularly write on Historical topics related to Medieval, Renaissance, Pirate & Steampunk themes. If you want to know more about me and my blog, then see my websites: Renaissance OutfitsRenaissance Festivals.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Vikings in Ireland by Suzanne Barrett

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author, Suzanne Barrett! Today she's hear to talk with us about Vikings and Ireland!

The Vikings in Ireland
by Suzanne Barrett

By the ninth century Irish education had advanced to the degree that at the court of Charlemagne Irish masters taught at palace schools. However, as learned monks now had practical reasons to leave their homeland, the way was paved for the Viking expansion.

Many of the Norsemen were pirates and traders, and they came from the Scandinavian North. That they were Norwegians and Danes is known, however, ancient historians dealt harshly with all Viking invaders and it is not clearly known if those called Finn-Gaill were of Norwegian descent and those called Dubh-Gaill were of Danish stock. The term Gaill means Gentile or foreigner.

Ireland had been free from invasion since prehistoric times and Christian for three hundred years by the time of the first Viking incursion. The land was nominally ruled over by the Árd Rí, or High King of the Irish. In truth, it was more a collection of petty kingdoms which gave lip service only to the ceremonial overlordship of the Ui-Naill and was constantly warring over one thing or another. The North of Ireland was ruled by the Ui-Naill family. Meath was ruled by the Southern Ui-Naill, while Ulster was ruled by Njall-Caille of the northern Ui-Naill. By the advent of the Vikings, the Árd Rí was no longer "King of Tara" except in name, for inasmuch as he ruled, he did so from Derry, which was not even in the kingdom of Meath where Tara stood.

The earliest record of Viking attacks is around 795 A.D. The islands of Inismurray and Inisbofin on the northwest were among the first places attacked. After the initial shock, the Irish rallied, but the nature of the raids also changed, and settlement succeeded raid. By 807, the Vikings had won a foothold on Inismurray and Lindisfarne. During the early years they were beaten back, but by 820 Viking fleets once more appeared along the coasts of Ireland and plundered Howth, Wexford and Cork. In 841 Vikings founded a permanent settlement at the mouth of the River Liffey on the east central coast. This rugged settlement was the foundation for the city of Dublinwith similar bases established at Waterford in 914 and at Limerick in 922. These bases most likely were wooden stockades built around beached longboats but eventually they would become trading centers and the forerunners of urban centers in Ireland, setting them apart from the prior rural pattern of Irish history.

The Irish kings built fleets against the invaders, and the Norsemen built towns. Stone superseded wood and eventually became the chief building material and round towers became lookouts.

By 822 Viking raids occurred annually, and a few years later, they made incursions inland. By 840 their attacks were concentrated on the monastic communities. The monasteries were early targets. These undefended sanctuaries, the deposits of treasures of the kings, were primarily of wood and were destroyed by the raiders. Many of the illuminated manuscripts were among the treasures that were destroyed by the illiterate Norsemen–the Book of Kells being a notable survivor. Still later, they established settlements along waterways: Dublin by the River Liffey, in Waterford by the River Barrow, in Limerick by the River Shannon, and in Anagassan by the River Boyne. (Dublin would remain a separate kingdom and would be ruled by a Norse king from 853, when the dynasty of Olaf was created, until long after the final dissolution of Viking political power in 1014, a period of more than 160 years.)

After many incursions into parts of Ireland, the Irish began fighting back. While the Norwegian Vikings held their main winter camps, new aggression by Danish intruders held off any advancement. In the mid 800s many Vikings were killed by the Irish, however, by the end of the century, the Scandinavians had integrated into Irish life through the taking of wives and settling on the shores. In the latter half of the century, the Danes and the Norwegian Vikings were fighting each other.

Eventually the raids ceased and many of the Vikings became mercenaries, fighting for whichever warring faction of the four provinces needed aid. But after this period, most Norse became known as merchants and traders. Second generation Vikings often had Irish names and many converted to Christianity. Furthermore, ancient Irish and Viking design became intermingled as the dual cultures thrived. The Norse towns and adjoining regions–primarily Dublin, and later, Limerick–became client kingdoms after the Irish pattern. In 1000 A.D. the Norse introduced the first native coinage into Ireland.

The Viking period in Ireland lasted about 220 years, with the period of strongest influence lasting a mere 140 years--from the establishment of Dublin until its sack by the King of Tara. But aspects of Irish culture, linguistics, and politics would be influenced for all time by the Norse presence.
This is but an overview of the Viking period. A later article will go into detail about the conflict between the high Kings of Ireland and the Viking rulers. For further reading the Viking Answer Lady has an excellent, detailed history of the period. Also check out an article by Renee Vincent, author of the recently published novel Ræliksen set in Viking Ireland.

If this whets your appetite to learn more about Viking Ireland, why not visit Dublinia, a Viking and Medieval Museum right in Dublin City Centre located at the crossroads of St Michael’s Hill, Patrick St., and Thomas St. Dublinia is connected to Christ Church Cathedral by a medieval footbridge. Open daily throughout the year (10.00am to 5.00pm April to September and 10.00am to 4.30pm October to March). Admission is €6.95 for adults, €5.95 students and seniors and €20.00 for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children). Group and combined rates also available (combining Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral), also there's a guided tour of Viking and Medieval Dublin with costumed guides stationed around the exhibits to provide more information.


After working twenty-five years for a major defense contractor, Suzanne left engineering to write full time. Nine years after beginning her first novel (set in Ireland) she “got the call.” Suzanne has published eleven novels, both contemporary and historical and now writes exclusively for Turquoise Morning Press. But writing is only one of her hobbies. Suzanne creates artisan jewelry, gardens in her mountain acreage in Northern California and enjoys cooking, water fitness, searching the coastal beaches for sea glass and many other hobbies. She reviews for major publications and writes non-fiction articles for an Irish website.
Her latest books are Loving Luke and The Prodigal Lover, available at Amazon and other online stores. Both novels are set in Northern California. In Love and War, a novel of Ireland is set in County Waterford where Suzanne spent a winter researching Irish history.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Reality of Pirates in 1717 – Not Quite Pirates of the Caribbean by Claire Ashgrove

Today on History Undressed I'd like to introduce you to our guest author today, Claire Ashgrove! She's talking pirates...

Good morning everyone.  Thank you so much for hosting me today!  I wanted to do a little fact versus reality comparison for you all today, in relation to my debut historical romance, Bound by Decency.

The Reality of Pirates in 1717 – Not Quite Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney has done a great deal to influence our perception of a pirate and tell us what a pirate should, or should not be.  We all love Jack Sparrow – who wouldn’t with Johnny Depp behind the name?  But the truth is, the reality of pirates aren’t quite what the production companies would like us to believe.  Let’s break a few myths, shall we?

1.  The Dialect – They really speak like this, yes? 

We have a national Talk Like A Pirate Day, how could it be otherwise?  Truth is… no.  The exaggerated rrs and the catch-phrases we all associate with pirates originate not from history annals, but from Long John Silver, 1954.  Did pirates have a brogue?  Probably.  In fact, most likely.  And it was also most likely a similar variation of the Cockney accent.  The poor, uneducated British man’s speech.  If not, they’d possess the natural English brogue we associate with the land.  In short—if they were educated, they’d speak like our ladies and lords we love of Regency romance.  If they were uneducated and (typically) poor, it would resemble more Eliza Doolittle.

2.  All Pirates Were Drunks – Um… well… yes and no. 

To examine this, water has to be considered. Finding potable water on board a ship was really hard.  They might leave port with several barrels, but bacteria would set in, or they’d flat run out.  Which left them with cleaner, healthier rum, wine, whiskey, and alcohol in general.  So yes, indeed, they drank a lot of spirits. 

But here’s the crux:  Every agreement that crews drew up reference severe penalties for failure to adhere to duties or abandon posts, and some reference penalties for being drunk at the time of engagement.  Given that it’s rather obvious if a person is truly drunk, it stands to reason attention to duties often suffers, the drawback to being drunk isn’t often worth the indulgement.  Who really wants to die for drinking past 8 bells?  So it stands to reason that while alcohol infused their daily lives, drinking was done in moderation aboard ship, with attention to sobriety.  (Five glasses consumed over a day, as opposed to five in an hour).  The real partying came when the ship was at port.

3.  Pirates Wanted Gold, And They Buried it Too!

Ahh… the romance of fiction.  Did pirates want gold?  Well—do you?  Of course they wanted gold, and they certainly wouldn’t leave it behind on a ship they raided.  But the vast majority of pirating didn’t involve riches.  It involved the simple things needed for survival on a ship.  Recall that spoiled water?  Yup, they’d raid because they needed fresh.  This goes hand-in-hand with rotten food, tobacco, medicines, guns, ammunition, and things like canvas for battered sails. 

Then there’s the whole burying these treasures part.  Ignoring the fact that most of what they stole were consumables, we can thank Treasure Island for this common misconception.  Fact is, no legitimate treasure map has ever been found.  Nothing exists to suggest they buried riches, and for men who partied hard in port—they spent what they acquired as fast as they could.  Buried treasure doesn’t really fit the bill.  Unless you’re speaking of the rare incident when excessive coin was discovered.  In such cases, a pirate captain who naturally would’t trust his crew to watch over the take, might hide his riches.  But he would do so in a place he could readily get to.  Which nixes the idea of complex pirate maps.

So, there you have it.  A peek at the reality of pirates in the early 1700s.  Disney has given us great memories, but before you claim Sparrow as the epitome of pirate life, consider some of these more unromantic facts!


Giveaway Details:

Claire will be giving away a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card to one random commenter during the tour.  Follow the tour – the more times you comment, the better your chances of winning!  Complete schedule can be found here.


Claire Ashgrove has been writing since her early teens and maintained the hobby for twenty years before deciding to leap into the professional world. Her first contemporary novel, Seduction's Stakes, sold to The Wild Rose Press in 2008, where she continues to write steamy, sexy stories for the Champagne and Black Rose lines. Adding to these critically acclaimed romances, Claire’s paranormal romance series, The Curse of the Templars debuted with Tor in January 2012. For those who prefer the more erotic side of romance, she also writes for Berkley Heat as the National Bestselling Author Tori St. Claire.

She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, and her local RWA chapters, Heartland Romance Authors, Midwest Romance Writers, North Texas Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers.

Claire lives in Missouri with her two toddler sons, and too-many horses, cats, and dogs. In her “free” time, she enjoys cooking, winning at Rummy, studying Ancient Civilizations, and spending quiet moments with her family, including the critters. She credits her success to her family's constant support and endless patience.
To learn more about Claire, visit her on the web at www.claireashgrove.com, or www.toristclaire.com


Bound by Decency -- Book One: The Flying Gang Series
After inheriting a portion of Spain’s Royal Inheritance, Cain left The Flying Gang for a chance at honest wealth. With the secrets of his piracy tucked away, he achieved his lofty aspirations. But when his partner and best friend betrays him to the Royal Navy, Cain’s dreams are ripped to shreds. He’s left with his ship, the tattered remnants of a stolen future, and a piece of Spanish mystery. Wanted by three nations and destined for the gallows, he returns to the legendary band of buccaneers for one purpose -- vengeance.

 Kidnapped by the formidable Cain, India Prescott discovers he intends to kill the man she’s to marry. Cain’s story reveals betrayal. Treachery that extends to her as well. Although she holds the key to retribution, India refuses to become another man’s pawn. Freedom lies before her, the liberty to shrug off propriety, make her own decisions, and claim her destiny. But when she uncovers goodness in Cain’s soul and he awakens passion in her heart, she must combat the chains of convention once more.

Only this time India's not fighting society. She’s battling a pirate bent on keeping her decency intact.


For a moment, he could do nothing more than stare. Richard had said his intended was lovely, but somehow, Cain had never pictured her as a beauty. Yet now, as she stood before him, her chest heaving with indignation and her hair a sopping mess, he realized Richard had once again played him false. India Prescott wasn’t merely lovely. She was breathtaking.
“What in the name of Mary do you think you’re doing?” she snapped. “My father will see you hang for this.”
Her sharp tongue yanked Cain out of his stupor. He collected himself quickly, and for the first time since his arrest, gave into a broad grin. “Indeed, he will have to get in line.”
India’s eyes widened a fraction, but anger drew delicate brows downward, and those sky-blue eyes narrowed. “I see no amusement in this. Do you have any idea who I am?”
As a rumble of laughter broke through the men within earshot, Cain’s humor subsided. His smile faded, and he reached out to twine a thick lock of her hair around his finger. Turning his wrist, he wrapped the silken length around his hand, slowly bringing her closer. So close that the wet fabric straining across her breasts dampened his shirt. The heat of her skin grazed his. “I know well who you are, Miss Prescott.” He ran the back of his free hand across her dainty collar bone, over the slope of her shoulder, then lifted it to draw his thumb across her parted lips. The audible catch of her breath ricocheted through him. So she was not unaffected by him. Good. He could use it to his advantage.
His gaze held hers. A flicker of fear passed behind her eyes, but to her credit, she didn’t shrink away. She stood straight and proud, even as she shivered in the stirring breeze. Courage Cain didn’t often encounter from the gentle born. God’s teeth, men far stronger and larger than she didn’t hesitate to grovel at his feet. Yet she, no bigger than a lark, defied him with stubborn silence.
To drive her subservient position as his captive home, he tightened his hold on her hair until she winced. Leaning forward, he lowered his mouth to her ear. “You are the daughter of a powerful man and presently my prisoner, to do with as I will.” Stepping back, he untwined his hand and smirked.
India’s palm cracked across his cheek. “Rot in hell!”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Historical Romance Review: Bound by Decency by Claire Ashgrove

I love a good swashbuckling romance, and Ms. Ashgrove has definitely penned a vibrant, adventurous romantic tale, not to be missed!


Once, Cain sailed with the cutthroats of The Flying Gang, fearless Captain of The Kraken, bound to no one save the sea. After inheriting a portion of Spain’s Royal Inheritance, he resigned the life of brigands for a chance at honest wealth. With the secrets of his piracy tucked away, he achieved his lofty aspirations. But when his partner and best friend betrays him to the Royal Navy, Cain’s dreams are ripped to shreds. He’s left with his ship, the tattered remnants of a stolen future, and a piece of Spanish mystery. Wanted by three nations and destined for the gallows, he returns to the legendary band of buccaneers for one purpose---vengeance.

Kidnapped by the formidable Cain, India Prescott discovers he intends to kill the man she’s to marry, Richard Grey. Cain’s story reveals betrayal. Treachery that extends to her as well. Although she holds the key to retribution, India refuses to become another man’s pawn. Freedom lies before her, the liberty to shrug off propriety, make her own decisions, and claim her destiny. But when she uncovers goodness in Cain’s soul and he awakens passion in her heart, she must combat the chains of convention once more.

Only this time India's not fighting society. She’s battling a pirate bent on keeping her decency intact.


From the moment I began to read, it was evident that Bound by Decency was a well-researched novel. The author has a great handle on the language of ships, the time period, every little nuance, which brought the story vividly alive in my mind.

Cain is bent on revenge, and torn between a life of decency and a life he's made for himself as a pirate. He wars with his ultimate desires and his reputation. The only way he sees to living the life he wants is by gaining his freedom, freedom that was taken by him from someone he trusted, his partner. His revenge leads him to India Prescott--the fiance of his enemy. But she is nothing like what he imagined, and Cain finds that he fights himself more often than anything else.

India too hides behind a facade instead of being the person she wants to be. Society dictates how a lady should act, and she doesn't want to disappoint her father. But...on a ship...there is no Society. And while she refuses to help Cain in his mission for revenge, she can't refuse his kiss.

Together, Cain and India not only burn up the pages with tension, passion, adventure, they learn to accept who they really are, for they bring out the "best" of themselves when together. Bound by Decency is a romantic, adventurous tale, that shows when two people come together, sometimes they learn who they really are.

Recommended read! Well done!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Braveheart aka William Wallace

Happy Friday history lovers!

Today I'm guest blogging over at Laura Vosika's blog about William Wallace.

Stop by to learn a little history behind this fascinating man!

Cheers, Eliza

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Castle of the Week: Stirling Castle

Picture showing castle up on Castle Hill.
For hundreds of years, Stirling Castle has held prominence and power in Scotland. Sitting atop a crag, the castle reaches into the sky, an imposing dominant force to be reckoned with. Being a seat of power, the castle has been through many sieges time and again--several times during the Scottish War on Independence (think William Wallace and Longshanks) and the last attempt with Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 18th century. To take the castle meant you were taking Scotland--holding the power.

Stirling first became an important stronghold in the 7th or 8th centuries and was home to powerful rulers: King William, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, James V. The castle is huge, housing a chapel, grand great hall, king and queen's lodgings (each with three rooms: outer hall, inner hall, bedchamber), storerooms, great kitchens, gardens, vaults, and so much more. Courtiers flocked to the castle. To be seen at Stirling, to be a part of that court was indeed a noble thing--unless of course it was under siege, then you'd best get your armor on and weapons ready.

Some pics of Stirling Castle...

Drawn in the 17th century by John Slezer
Castle Gardens in front of Prince's Tower
Prince's Tower
Northern Bailey
Entrance to the Castle
The castle is open to tours, and if you should find yourself in Scotland is not to be missed! Its decorated for the 15th century, so when you enter, its like stepping back in time. Check out the official site here: http://www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk/

My series, The Stolen Bride Series features William Wallace and Stirling Castle. In fact, the Battle of Stirling Bridge is on the beginning scenes in The Highlander's Reward.

She belonged to another… But was destined to be his…

Lady Arbella de Mowbray abhors the idea of marrying an English noble occupying Scotland. When she arrives in Stirling, she is thrown into the midst of a full battle between the Scots and the English. Besieged by rebels, she is whisked from her horse by a Highland warrior who promises her safety. But when he kisses her she fears she's more in danger of losing herself.

The last thing Magnus Sutherland wants is to marry the beautiful English lass he saved. As the laird of his clan, he has a responsibility to his clan and allies. But when Arbella is attacked by one of his own men, he determines the only way to keep her safe is to make her his. A decision that promises to be extremely satisfying.

Magnus brings Arbella to his home of Dunrobin Castle in the Highlands. And that’s where the trouble begins… Their countries are at war and they should be each other’s enemy. Neither one considered their mock marriage would grow into a deeply passionate love. What’s more, they were both unhappily betrothed and those who've been scorned are out for revenge. Can their new found love keep them together or will their enemies tear them apart?

“Eliza Knight has crafted a wonderfully entertaining, emotional and sensual read. I loved the sizzling romance and the exciting adventures. Magnus, the hot Highland hero, stole my heart just as he did Arbella’s.” Vonda Sinclair, Award-Winning author of Scottish romance

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

True Medieval Bra and Underwear? -- What do you think?

Photo By University Innsbruck Archeological Institute
I'm sure recently you heard about the discovery of the medieval bra and underwear found in the Austrian castle. If you haven't heard... well then I'm telling you now. Archaeologists from the University of Innsbruck found (in 2008--only now hitting headlines) what appears to be several linen bras and a pair of underwear while excavating at Lemburg Castle in Tyrol. They were stuffed inside a vault in the south wing, along with old shoes, a codpiece and some shirts--one can only imagine what would possess someone to shove these items into a vault... The mind does come up with several fun ideas!

Perhaps two young lovers were in the act when a sound alerted them to someone's approach. Not having enough time to dress they shoved their garments into the vault and ran naked--but their were several bras, perhaps it was a situation even more scandalous!

Or a maid had stolen the items, hoping not to get caught, she hid them to pick them up later but never got the chance...

Why do you think they were stored there?

All right, back to whether or not they are bra and panties...

Photo By University Innsbruck Archeological Institute
Now, the thing is... We don't really know if these are bras and underwear. There is no doubt, since they did a carbon dating, that the garments are from some 600 years ago. The underwear resembles a string bikini -- not unlike what was worn by some men. And the "bra" itself, designed of linen, lace and other adornments. There looks to be a spot where a backstrap could have been--torn edges make it seems so. But if you look around the front at the bottom of the piece, it is also torn--looks as though it has come off of a corset or kirtle--which was a long tightly fitted smock that was worn under gowns, sometimes tied tight to give support.

What do you think?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Video of the Week: Filthy Cities -- Medieval London

Happy Monday history lovers! Be prepared to spend the next hour entranced with the filthiness of medieval London, brought to you via YouTube and the BBC... Get your tea and popcorn!