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


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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

In honor of this fascinating holiday steeped in historical tradition, I give you this video from the History Channel--History of the Holidays: Halloween!

Join me at the Reading Between the Wines blog for a Character Costume Party! Tons of giveaways!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Un-Civil Grounds - Paranormal Activity at U.S Civil War Prisons by Donna Dalton

Welcome to History Undressed, guest author Donna Dalton!  She's written a fascinating piece for us today on the Civil War. Enjoy!

Un-Civil Grounds - Paranormal Activity at U.S Civil War Prisons

by Donna Dalton 

While researching settings for my historical romance, THE REBEL WIFE, I took a field trip to the southern-most point of the state of Maryland where Point Lookout Union Prison once stood. It was a glorious late spring day. Short-wearing weather. Yet as I passed through the reconstructed gate and into the prison innards, a heavy sense of oppression overcame me. This flat, austere land had once imprisoned thousands of men. It had seen much suffering and many deaths.  Flanked by the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other, the harsh winter months must have been pure hell for the sparsely clothed and starving inmates. Although I didn’t encounter any paranormal activity that day, I could see how departing life in such a wretched place could leave behind tormented souls.

I did a little research and discovered Point Lookout is considered to have one of the most haunted lighthouses in the country. The lighthouse sits at the very end of the peninsula. The most frequent sighting is of a gaunt ghost clothed in ragged, homespun clothing, running back and forth across the road. Other visitors have reported seeing a old woman on the beach, and some speculate she is looking for her gravestone. Paranormal researchers to the area have recorded over twenty-four different sounds and voices.

Other prison camps have reported paranormal activity as well. At the Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia, many visitors have heard eerie noises, including gunshots, marching, voices talking, and moaning. There’s a stench that people have smelled in the general area of the camp. One visitor was walking the grounds during twilight and spotted a strange figure walking ahead of him. A putrid odor permeated the air. The stranger and the odor vanished, but later, the man overheard a voice behind him talking about giving the last rites.

At Fort Delaware prison camp, in a restored and fully working officers’ kitchen, there have been reports of a female ghost that lingers around the pantry, hiding items stored there and calling people by name, telling them to get out. The officers’ quarters is reported to be haunted by several apparitions. A childlike ghost tugs on people’s clothing and its laughter can be heard. A woman’s ghost has tapped people on the shoulder and has touched them. Books fall from shelves by themselves and crystals hanging from a set of candlesticks move back and forth when there is no breeze to account for the movement.

While I have never personally meet with any apparitions, I believe they do exist, especially those souls who met their end during calamitous times like the U.S. Civil War. For those readers who find this period in American history fascinating, my latest book, THE REBEL WIFE, is set during the height of the war. The hero is a Yankee war correspondent on his way to Point Lookout to write an article about the prison. Louisa Carleton, a southern rebel, is also headed to there to try and free her imprisoned brother. Jack sees the world in black and white, while dyslexic Louisa sees everything in a distorted light. The joining of these two people cannot help but be filled with conflict and emotion.  You can read more about this story and how to purchase it on my website at www.donnadalton.net.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Historical Book Review: The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle

Today's historical book review of THE QUEEN'S LADY by Barbara Kyle was completed by History Undressed's ebook reviewer, Morgan Wyatt.


London 1527. Set in the nerve-jangled court of Henry VIII during his battle with the Catholic church for a divorce, THE QUEEN’S LADY is the story of Honor Larke, a ward of King Henry’s chancellor, Sir Thomas More, and a lady-in-waiting to Henry’s first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. Forced to take sides in the religious extremism of the day, Honor fights to save the church’s victims from death at the stake, enlisting Richard Thornleigh, a rogue sea captain, in her missions of mercy, and finally risking her life to try to save Sir Thomas from the wrath of the king.

Available now in ebook and print!
Visit the Author's Website


The Queen’s Lady, a historical romance, by Barbara Kyle was published first in 2008 by Kensington. It is available in both paperback and e-Book version. The story starts on the May Day riots when apprentices are revolting against the rich foreigners. The apprentices loot and pillage the city under the watchful eyes of seven-year-old Honor. The young heroine not only witnesses the carnage, but describes it in detail to the number of criminals, what they stole, the men’s names, even can identify types of silver tableware since the experience is embedded so vividly in her memory.

Honor Larke is a motherless girl of some nobility, but has a father at war with the church. She watches her father excommunicated by vengeful priest because he won’t prepay for his confession and absolution before he dies. The priest isn’t satisfied to condemn the dying man to eternal damnation, but hatches a scheme to steal Honor’s birthright by his ability to read Latin. Talk about an argument for literacy.

Thomas More becomes Honor's guardian. This famous historical character is drawn as a self-serving, man of the cloth. More, plus the vengeful priest who would make the Mafia members look saintly, convince Honor to abandon her Catholic faith and help Lutherans.

This is about the part where I became confused and wondered if this were a romance or not? Honor shows interest in a married man whose wife mysteriously dies prompting her to propose two days after the wife’s death. This makes me wonder were men in such a short supply that you had to grab them when you could, or did the wife’s sudden death have some assistance?

There are no major characters besides Honor. No strong romantic male lead is involved in the tale, but a mediocre one shows up halfway through the tale.  Thomas More gets a bit of a feature role, but it is only an opportunity to drag the Catholic faith through the mud. Even as non-Catholic, I was amazed at lengths the author went to defame a religion and a standard-bearer of that faith. An excess of religion is more suitable for inspirational novels.

The Queen’s Lady has the feel of an older, classic historic romance with verbose prose that makes sure to use nine words when five would suffice. The settings are richly drawn with historical detail. Honor turns out to be a regular Polly Purebred, the heroine featured in melodramas. She is orphaned, kidnapped, raped, and denied her inheritance pretty much before the middle of the book.

When I first started reading the book, I thought another POV might be helpful, but soon discovered no other character lasts long enough to provide an additional POV. The use of another POV might also result in the reader being sympathetic to that character, as opposed to Honor. I did have issues with a seven year old telling me items she’d have no reference of, and being able to express herself so eloquently. The illiterate Honor manages to understand a dying man speaking Italian, when the poor child doesn’t even know what a foreigner is. As a mother, I wondered why a seven-year-old child is roaming the rough streets of London when the household has adults who could fetch the missing Ralph home.

The Queen’s Lady was not the book for me, but it does not mean others would not like it, especially those who like old style romances. Many have liked it evidenced by online reviews and likes on Amazon. The blurb by Susan Wiggs on the front confused me because I thought it would be similar to Susan’s work. It isn’t. I found The Queen’s Lady weighted down with religious rhetoric; isn’t that what non-fiction is for? Want to learn a little more about Henry the Eighth’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and then I believe you’d enjoy this tale too, along with classic romance fans.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hidden History – Women of the Border Reivers by Blythe Gifford

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author Blythe Gifford! Today she's written a fascinating piece for us about Scotland and England. Enjoy!

Author Blythe Gifford
Photo by
 Jennifer Girard

Hidden History – Women of the Border Reivers

 by Blythe Gifford

Most of us nod wisely and cluck our tongues about the paucity of information about women in history  Unknown, unsung, unreported, it is always a challenge to discover enough about how real women lived to spin an authentic historical tale.
But I had no idea how true this was until I started writing in the era of the Border Reivers.
For those who don’t know, the Reivers (pronounced Reevers) were basically raiders on both sides of the Scottish/English border.  Loyal to family above king, these folks had feuds that rivaled the famous Hatfields and McCoys  They were beyond the law of either government, and usually even beyond the reach of the special Border Laws that were developed in a joint English-Scottish effort to bring order from the chaos.  For nearly 300 years (roughly 1300-1600), they “made a living” by stealing from others, or, alternately, by collecting “blackmail” from those who wanted to be left alone.
My new historical romance trilogy features the three siblings of a reiving family I call the Brunson clan.  I started to research the lives of women of the era, but information was so scarce about this macho society that I could barely find any information about how they dressed, though there are pictures aplenty of what the men donned to ride a raid.
The first story a researcher always finds about the women of the Borders is this:  When the larder ran low, the woman of the house would bring her man a set of spurs instead of supper.  That meant it was time for him to go “riding” again. 
The second thing I found was a prevailing opinion (from the English side of the border, to be fair) that Scottish women were “comely,” but “not distinguished by their chastity.” 
Hints, but not much to go on.
Beyond stealing sheep and cattle, there was arson and even murder aplenty on the Borders, and many women were left widowed and orphaned.  Later written histories claim that even women and children were not safe from atrocities during these raids.  Yet there’s a tension in the stories of this culture between the ones that claim Reivers honored women and preferred not to kill and the ones that label them vicious and cruel and ruthless. 

Modern litanies of the Reivers’ sins typically list rape among them.  In actual historic accounts, however, I was unable to find a specific report of one in the history.  (I am not alone in this.  The book Government, religion, and society in northern England, 1000-1700 mentions the “notable absence” of rape from the list of transgressions.)
Is this because it did not happen, or because women did not make it public?  The answer, as so much of women’s history, is hidden.  Yet there was a law passed by the Scottish Parliament in 1525 which gave the king’s officers the right to punish “particular faults and crimes that occur.”  On the list was “ravishing of women.”  A tantalizing clue.
Yet amidst the harsh reality, I discovered softness and beauty.  This was not a society that had leisure for art and culture, but the Border Ballads, rediscovered and popularized by Sir Walter Scott at the turn of the 19th century, remain hauntingly beautiful today. 

In his book FOLK SONG IN ENGLAND, A.L. Lloyd writes of the border dwellers that “they prized a poem almost as much as plunder.”  The narrative songs they created tell rip-roaring stories of war and love, like the one that begins:

My love he built me a bonny bower,
And clad it a' wi' lilye flour;
A brawer bower ye ne'er did see,
Than my true love he built for me.

Alas, the title of the ballad is “The Lament of the Border Widow,” and the final verse goes like this:

Nae living man I'll love again,
Since that my lovely knight is slain;
Wi' ae lock of his yellow hair
I'll chain my heart for evermair.

So where is a romance writer to find a happy ending?  Well, it turns out that love conquered all during the era of the Reivers, just as it always has. 
It seems that there was a law forbidding marriage across the border (upon penalty of death) unless one had special permission.  This was intended to make it easier for the kings to keep control of the population by preventing marriage/family ties that might dilute national allegiance.
Despite the best efforts, not only did such marriages occur, they were a near epidemic, to the extent that in some regions, the list of those that did NOT have cross border marriages was shorter than the list of those that did.
So in the end, I had a head full of ideas for my trilogy, confident that no matter how difficult the existence or strict the prohibition, men and women fall in love and get married.  There was all the validation I needed to write Border Reiver romance.
Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin
 Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. ®and T are trademarks of
Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its
affiliated companies, used under license.
Copyright 2012
What do you most wonder about the lives of women in history?  Leave a comment and one lucky person will win a copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, first book in The Brunson Clan trilogy.  Here’s a brief description:


Once part of a powerful border clan, John has not set sight on the Brunson stone tower in years. With failure never an option, he must persuade his family to honour the King’s call for peace.

To succeed, John knows winning over the daughter of an allied family, Cate Gilnock, holds the key. But this intriguing beauty is beyond the powers of flattery and seduction. Instead, the painful vulnerability hidden behind her spirited eyes calls out to John as he is inexorably drawn back into the warrior Brunson clan…
Harlequin HistoricalsTM

Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s launching a trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders if the early Tudor era, starting with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR a November release from the Harlequin Historical line. CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD will follow in January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work "the perfect balance between history and romance." She loves to have visitors at www.blythegifford.com,"thumbs up" at www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, "tweeps" at www.twitter.com/BlytheGifford, and followers at www.pinterest.com/BlytheGifford. You can also find her on Goodreads.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Historical Romance Review: Captured Heart by Heather McCollum

Today's historical romance review of Heather McCollum's book CAPTURED HEART was written by Emma Westport!


Fleeing with only her bow, horse, enormous pet wolf, and the cryptic clues hidden in her mother’s medicine journal, healer Meg Boswell gallops north towards freedom, running from the man who falsely accused her mother of witchcraft. Cursed with magical healing abilities, Meg knows that if she’s captured, she will die like her mother—atop a blazing witch’s pyre.

Winter winds rip across the Highlands, pressing Chief Caden Macbain forward in his desperate plan to save his clan. He’s not above using an innocent woman to bargain for peace if it keeps his clan from starving. But Meg isn’t who Caden thinks she is, and when she kills a man to save the clan, he must choose between duty and her life. For although he captured her to force a peace, Meg's strength and courage have captured Caden's heart.

Published with Entangled Select, Sept. 2012
Available in print and ebook


Set in the Highlands in the late 16th century, Captured Heart offers all that is best in historical romance—adventure, love and a happy ending brushed by magic.

Meg Boswell is a healer, a young woman haunted by her mother’s death.  Isabel Boswell was betrayed by her husband, Rowland Boswell, and burned as a witch.   Now Boswell, a rich, powerful man, wants to force a marriage on his daughter and he’s not above threatening Meg with charges of witchcraft if she tries to refuse.  Meg flees to the Highlands, hoping to find shelter with her mother’s sister and to prove her father’s treason.

Caden Macbain is chief of the Macbain’s, a Highland clan facing a rough winter.  Their crops have been burned, their cattle stolen and people will  certainly starve if Caden can’t end a century old feud.  He hopes to do that by kidnapping Meg Boswell and using her to negotiate a truce with the warring Munros.

Threatened by petty jealousies, warring clans and the competing claims of kings and religions, Meg and Caden struggle to save themselves and those they love from disaster.  Between Caden’s strength and Meg’s magic they are all but unstoppable.

Captured Heart will draw you in and leave you enchanted.  When it comes to romance and adventure, it definitely delivers.  Well worth the read.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Julie Peakman's New Book: Mighty Lewd Books

At Last! Gasp!

The paperback of Julie Peakman’s

Mighty Lewd Books
Published by Palgrave Macmillan October 2012.

Now considered a classic amongst scholars of eighteenth century and the history of pornography, Mighty Lewd Books provides a radical new approach to the study of sexuality in an in-depth investigation of the development of pornography. Through the examination of more than 500 pieces of British erotica, it looks at sex as seen in culture, religion and medicine throughout the long eighteenth-century.

A new form of flagellation pornography burst to the fore in the 1770s when erotic fiction became littered with whipping scenarios. Prior to this, English erotica had included a particular style of bawdy material marked by euphemisms and double entendres. Erotic poems, salacious prints and obscene satires were sold in London coffee-shops, in taverns, on street corners and in various book shops along the Strand and in Covent Garden. The underworld of booksellers and distributors are explored through trial records and witness depositions. This book also explores popular images in erotica; female flagellants whipping their submissive charges; depraved monks corrupting innocent nuns; libertine rascals seducing young virgins; and rakes carousing with their whores. Using the evidence of erotica, and taking a feminist approach within a framework of gender history, this book challenges the traditional view that women were generally seen as sexually passive.

About the Author: Julie Peakman is a historian, author and broadcaster who is internationally renowned for her work on the history of sexuality. Her books include Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century; a six-volume edition of A Cultural History of Sexuality and the edited collection Sexual Perversion 1670–1890. Since its first publication her ground-breaking book Mighty Lewd Books has become essential reading for anyone interested in eighteenth century erotica and the history of sexuality. She lives in London and on the Greek island of Leros.

 ‘This . . . fascinating and intelligent survey shows how an explosion of obscene literature
immediately followed the wild success of pioneering (but largely non-pornographic) fictions by Defoe, Swift, Richardson and their imitators . . . Porn’s strongest selling points were that it was sexy, unrespectable and forbidden, of course, but Julie Peakman shows that it had other attributes, not always connected directly with sex. It popularised new scientific ideas in botany, anatomy and electricity. It stoked the fires of anti-Catholicism with its lecherous monks and nuns, and it encompassed radical ideas in politics.’
—      Financial Times

‘ . . . fascinating book . . . well-written and researched . . . this book offers intriguing new insights into a hidden area of gender history, challenging many preconceptions about the c.18th century.’—      BBC History Magazine

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guest Author Sally Smith O'Rourke: A Bit About her Books and Jane Austen

Today I'd like to welcome guest author, Sally Smith O'Rourke to History Undressed! She writes amazing books featuring Jane Austen and characters from her classic novels. Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of either The Man Who Loved Jane Austen or Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (two winners!)

I had just finished reading David McCullough’s John Adams when I began my Jane Austen journey and was always a bit intrigued by the fact that the biographies of the iconic author and the founding father began the same way; a cold and blustery December day in 1775.

John Adams left his home in that month and year to attend the second continental congress in Philadelphia. It may not have been the actual shot heard round the world (that being the musket fire at Concord) but the result of that convention was most definitely heard round the world.

John Adams
At the same time across the Atlantic in the English countryside a baby girl was born at Steventon Rectory. Her cry may have only been heard by those in the house but in the years to come her pen would have an impact on the world to match Thomas Jefferson’s.

It may seem a stretch and some may even consider it a trivialization of Jefferson’s words but I believe that Austen’s impact on the world is no less important than Jefferson’s. The effect of Jane’s writing maybe more subtle than that of the Virginian and Thomas Paine but it is no less influential.

Jefferson’s and Paine’s words instigated and promoted a revolution, a war of independence. Jane’s words had no such excessive consequence. Still in her own, quiet, genteel yet powerful way she declared and promoted the same principles of freedom and self-regulation as our American forefathers.

In all her novels Jane advocates independence of person and thought, the rights of all and acceptance of responsibility of those rights and actions.

Jane Austen may not have incited military actions as Jefferson did but even as an avowed royalist I doubt not that Jane Austen firmly believed in his declaration of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

She had more liberty and independence than most women of her era but she was still restricted by societal mores that she found stifling. So she wrote strong, intelligent, independent women and the men who love them. Although she based most of her characters on the people in her life, one character has remained an enigma, Mr. Darcy.

A few years ago I re-read all of Austen’s books and while her characters are fun and interesting, I was far more intrigued by the author herself. In an era when men treated women as chattel, to be sold to the highest bidder and bear heirs to maintain family fortunes, Austen’s men were different.

Mr. Darcy was different in 1813 when the literary world met him for the first time and he is different today. A man of his stature and wealth would very likely, even today, simply walk away from a rejection such as Elizabeth’s without ever looking back. But Darcy is dissatisfied with himself and makes a concerted effort to change. Frankly there aren’t many men today who would do that. Darcy is the ultimate leading man because he altered his perceptions and attitudes with no expectation other than bettering himself. By doing so, however, he is able to please the one woman who is worthy of being pleased.

Austen not only wrote the inimitable Mr. Darcy but six men who loved the six strong and intelligent women she also created. The men love the women not in spite of their strength and intelligence but because of those attributes.

Thus infatuated with Jane Austen, my husband and I decided to write a ‘what if’ story about who the real Mr. Darcy might have been. In our hands he became a 21st century man who accidently slips through a rip in the fabric of time, waking up in Jane Austen’s bed.

In The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, Fitzwilliam Darcy is an American horseman, master of a 200 year old estate in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Pemberley Farms; breeder and trainer of champion jumpers. On a buying trip to England he and a new horse jump a rock wall and stumble into the spring of 1810.

Three years later Manhattan artist Eliza Knight crashes the gates of Pemberley Farms armed with an unopened letter written to Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen and she wants answers. Darcy spins an epic tale of love and romance in Regency England, convincing the skeptic and pragmatic artist that the letter is meant for him.

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen continues the story, reacquainting readers with Fitz Darcy and Eliza Knight. It juxtaposes their blossoming romance with Jane Austen’s life the summer of 1813 as she copes with the subtle celebrity of being the ‘Lady’ who wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

As the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice nears (January 2013) Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen delves into the complex nature of the man who is the embodiment of Jane Austen’s most romantic and legendary hero and the women who love him.

Ann Channon of Jane Austen’s House Museum (Chawton Cottage) said:
“I have finished Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen and really liked it. Your books are imaginative and very different. Your ideas are new and fresh and endearing. Well, done.”

A small taste of Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen…

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen
Chapter 5

Although the sun was fully up in the Virginia summer sky, it was not yet hot. Fitz found jumping exhilarating; the cool morning air caressing his face, and Lord Nelson, so strong and graceful, took all the jumps with no effort.
Heritage Week was over so things could get back to normal. He shrugged. Whatever normal is. He realized there was a very good chance that his normal was about to change radically. Eliza’s letter—the one she had found written to him from Jane—had ended his search for the truth of his Regency encounter. But Eliza did much more than give him the letter.
He had been merely surviving, not living, in the years since his mother’s death. He’d thrown himself into the business of Pemberley Farms to the exclusion of almost everything else. Eliza’s arrival had heralded an acute awareness of that fact. It was as though a light was suddenly shining so he could see the world around him. She made him want to live again. And she had given him the letter… Jane’s letter.
Fitz reined Lord Nelson to a walk as they entered the cool shade of the woods on the edge of his property.
Jane. He had spent more than three years seeking proof of his meeting with her and of her feelings for him. Almost as if he’d been transported again back to Chawton in 1810, the image of Jane’s sweet face flooded his mind. He thought back to that morning and his inauspicious entrance into Jane Austen’s life.
       The combination of his head injury and the laudanum prescribed by Mr. Hudson, the Austen family physician, caused Darcy to slip in and out of consciousness. He tried to sit up, the effort making him dizzy.
Jane gently laid a hand on his chest. “Please, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hudson wants you to remain still.”
Through a cotton mouth, his head spinning, Darcy asked, “Mr. Hudson?”
“The doctor,” Jane said. “You must rest now Mr. Darcy.” The American looked at her face. Her curiosity was palpable even in his drugged state. Unable to think clearly, never mind responding to questions he wasn’t sure he could answer, he closed his eyes completely and turned his head away.
Jane returned to her vanity table where she continued to write; a single candle and the flames in the fireplace her only light. Interrupted in her writing by a low murmur from Darcy, she took the candle and quietly approached the bed. He was tossing back and forth, his face flushed and contorted; he was speaking in quiet tones, a hodgepodge of words that meant nothing to her. He spoke what she could only suppose were the nonsensical ramblings of a sick brain; she attributed words like television and jet to his head injury and delirium. She placed her hand softly on his cheek and was distressed by the heat radiating from him. Using fresh linen soaked in water from the pitcher on her wash stand, Jane swabbed his face and neck, then laid it across his forehead. It seemed to calm him and she went back to her writing.
Each time he grew restless Jane stopped writing and went to the bed to refresh the linen with cool water. After three episodes in close succession she remained on the edge of the bed so she was at hand, and each time he started to toss and turn she would caress his face and neck with the cool, damp linen in hopes that it would, in time, reduce his fever.
She stayed there until Darcy’s features turned placid and he was breathing more evenly. He finally seemed to be sleeping comfortably. She laid her small, soft hand on his cheek. The fever was broken. She dropped the cloth into the basin. Stiff from sitting in one position for so long without support, she stood up and stretched. She was not particularly tired but needed to get some rest.
Quietly she crossed the wooden floor and slipped the small pages of writing she was working on into the drawer of the vanity, then took a nightgown from the closet next to the fireplace. Glancing back at the bed she stepped behind the screen.
He opened his eyes just enough to see her slender, full-breasted figure silhouetted on the muslin screen, back-lit by the remnants of the fire as the light fabric of her nightgown floated down to envelope her.
Jane stopped at the bed before making her way to Cassandra’s room for a few hours of sleep. As she stood over him he watched surreptitiously through the veil of his eyelashes. She leaned down and whispered, “Good night, Mr. Darcy,” almost brushing his lips with her own. In spite of his continuing laudanum haze, he could see that her eyes were filled with a tenderness that caused him to grab her hand as she straightened up; he didn’t want her to go.
Without opening his eyes or letting go of her hand he said, “Please don’t leave me.”
Unsure whether this was further evidence of the delirium or whether he was actually requesting her presence, she pulled her hand away. He did not move to take it again but said, “Please, stay.”
Cognizant of Mr. Hudson’s admonition of keeping the injured American calm and concerned her leaving might agitate him, Jane sat once again on the edge of the bed. Darcy smiled in the flickering flame of the dying fire. He said nothing more but gently took her hand. He did not relinquish it again until she rose to move to a chair by the side of the bed where she finally slept.
The movement woke him. His mind finally clear of drugs, he scanned the room in the dim, pre-dawn light. There were no electrical outlets or switches, no lamps, television or telephone, and the only clock appeared to be pendulum driven. Everyone he’d seen wore costumes similar to the ones people wore to the Rose Ball. Those things and the medical treatment he had received led him to the inexplicable conclusion that somehow he’d fallen into another time—a time when Jane Austen was alive.
And there she sat, serene in what had to be an uncomfortable position for sleep; his nurse, his savior and much prettier than she was depicted in the only portrait of her to survive to the twenty-first century. She was not the brazen hussy of Darcy family lore but a sweet and loving woman who took care of him without concern for her own safety or expecting anything in return. His mother would have said she was a true Christian.
As he watched her in the pale light of the dying embers his head started to throb as though a nail was being driven through it. He closed his eyes and blessed sleep overtook him.
Jane was an incredibly strong, intelligent, willful and virtuous woman who followed the propriety of the day… mostly. During the last three years he’d often wondered what might have happened between them if he’d been forced to stay in early nineteenth-century England. Of course with the way her brothers felt about him, he probably wouldn’t have seen her again.
If the circumstances had been different would he have married her? He could have been happy with her, he supposed, but over the years he’d come to realize that the love he felt for her was based on who she was, the awe in which he held her, caring for him when she certainly didn’t have to, loving him. Then again, did she love him? She had never said it and the letter Eliza had found and given him showed obvious affection but she urged him to find his true love. Apparently she didn’t think she was it. Had they ever loved each other or had it just been a fling across the ages?
He laughed. What difference did any of it make? Jane Austen had been dead for almost two hundred years. Still, the undisputed icon of witty English romance had kissed him whether she loved him or not. He still had to pinch himself to believe it had ever happened.
He had no such questions about Eliza. Everything felt right when he was with her. This was no fling. He had no idea where they were headed, but for the first time in years he was looking forward to the rest of his life. As long as Eliza was with him he didn’t care where they were headed.
Fitz and Lord Nelson crossed the bridge at a leisurely gait; the ground fog was burning off in the warm morning sun. Had it really been only two days since he and the great stallion were galloping across the bridge before the fog had lifted and run Eliza off the road and into a muddy drainage ditch? He hadn’t even realized she was there until it had happened. When he did, he brought Nelson to a stop and, without questioning who she was or why she was walking along a road on his property, he had lifted her onto Lord Nelson’s back and then swung up behind her. She was slightly light headed from the sudden fall, and once on the horse she had leaned against his chest and he’d had to control a strong desire to kiss the top of her head. He still didn’t understand how a complete stranger could make him feel that way, but he didn’t really care. From the first moment, being with her felt right and wonderful and that was all that mattered.
She had touched something in him that no one else ever had, including Jane, even before he knew her. At the Austen exhibit at the New York Public Library he had found himself staring at her. He laughed remembering that he had thought of her as a raven-haired beauty. Then two days ago she had come out of the fog and into his life.
He had told her his story about jumping through a rift in time and meeting Jane Austen. It had been very difficult at first, but once he started it tumbled out and had been a relief that he wasn’t carrying it around anymore. It was as though a weight had been lifted and this slight, feisty New Yorker had done the lifting. She had listened to him with an intensity that had made her a part of the story. She had been kind and compassionate—he had seen real grief when she asked him about leaving Jane—and she had given him the letter that answered his questions about whether he’d actually met Jane Austen and how Jane felt about him.
Jane would always hold a special place in his heart, but Eliza held his heart. Maybe it was too early to take it all for love, but it certainly felt the way he'd always thought love is supposed to feel.
Horse and rider stepped out from the cool canopy of the woods and into the warm summer sun. Spurring his favorite horse to a full gallop Fitz guided him over every fence and stream on their way back to the barn.

Purchase Links:

Visit Sally Smith O'Rourke:

Sally's Website: Austenticity

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Historical Romance Guest Author Samantha Grace

Today I'd like to welcome our guest author, Samantha Grace to History Undressed! Ms. Grace writes Regency romance and is here today to talk a bit about her latest release in her Beau Monde Bachelor Series, Miss Lavigne's Little White Lie. Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy!

Thank you so much for having me at History Undressed today. I’m not a historian by any means, but I find the past absolutely fascinating. I love sites like this that share what others have learned in their research.

My 8th grade American History teacher is responsible for instilling a love for history in me. She was a ‘no nonsense or I will crush you’ type of teacher, but in spite of my fear of her, I couldn’t wait for her class every day. She did something no other teacher had ever done in my experience. She told stories that brought history to life.

I suppose that’s what authors do, too. We don’t necessarily tell true stories, but it’s important to have as many facts straight as we can to lend authenticity to a story.

Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie was pretty heavy on research even though I only used a small portion of what I learned. Since the book begins in New Orleans, I had to research what the city was like in 1819. I needed an old map, so I would know how my heroine and her family made it to the wharf where they would board Captain Daniel Hillary’s ship. I researched the War of 1812 and the Creole people, because Lisette Lavigne is a descendant of the Creole who came to New Orleans from the West Indies rather than France. I studied British colonies in the Caribbean, because the ship makes a stop to resupply. I had to study serious illnesses that could result in death without it being a given. And then of course, I needed to know as much as possible about wooden ships.

I was most interested in what life would be like on Daniel’s ship, the Cecily. I thought it might be fun to share some of what I learned. Travel by wooden ships was a real hardship, and many people didn’t survive the journey.

The ship’s captain (known as the shipmaster, but addressed as Captain) had the best living conditions on board. His quarters were located at the stern (back) of the ship and usually on an upper deck with natural light and fresh air available. His quarters often contained a separate area for sleeping, dining, and conducting business. He also had a private bathroom, which his poor crew didn’t have. Their facilities were often located at the bow of the ship with nothing but boards to sit on and the ocean below them. Yikes! Some of the bigger vessels might have had a head (ship talk for bathroom) below deck with a rudimentary plumbing system that spilled waste into the water.  

The captain’s first and second mates usually had individual cabins that were approximately 6 feet by 6 feet, although the size could vary by rank. If there weren’t quarters set aside for passengers, the first and second mate might give up their cabins. If someone of VIP status traveled on the ship, the captain might give up his quarters. A lot of ships in the 1800s included quarters for passengers, though.

Crewmembers didn’t have individual cabins. They slept in the bow of the ship, or wherever they could find a place. Some ships had bunks with straw mattresses or hammocks. Their area was crowded and smelly, and it could get very cold or unbearably hot, depending on the weather. Also sharing space on ship was livestock and poultry, which served as a source of food. I imagine that added to the stench and filth.

There were many dangers associated with sea travel, such as disease, storms, tainted food, shipwrecks, dead calms (no wind that stranded ships indefinitely, which meant they could run out of food and fresh water), and pirates, although they were less plentiful during the regency era.

Here’s a scene from Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie that shows the biggest danger the Cecily faces on the journey:

The wind-swollen sails of the Mihos carried her over the waves, and her flags whipped from the mast. Frothy white water parted for her bow. Daniel’s newfound enemy would be upon them soon.
He handed Lisette the spyglass. She gazed through it and shrank against his side. “It is him.” She passed the glass back to Daniel. “I recognize the flag.”
The Mihos’ personal flag displayed a red lion standing erect with claws bared against a white background.
Daniel hugged Lisette to him and kissed her temple. “Take Rafe, Serafine, and Amelia below deck. Stay out of sight no matter what transpires on deck. Have I made myself clear?”
Lisette’s emerald gaze narrowed and her jaw jutted forward. He returned her glare without blinking. She may dislike him ordering her about like one of his men, but he was in charge.  
She turned to her entourage. “You heard the captain. We are to cower below deck.”
“Now, that’s a good little woman,” he said. To annoy her further, he popped her on the bottom, eliciting an outraged squeal.
Several of his crew chuckled, and she turned crimson, slaying Daniel with one dirty look. Good. He preferred her angry with him than frightened by the coming confrontation.
“Run along.” He made shooing motions with his hands and grinned in the face of her displeasure.         
She snatched Rafe’s hand in hers and marched to the hatch with him in tow. Serafine hurried behind, throwing a wary glance over her shoulder before disappearing below deck.
Jake shook his head and offered his arm to Amelia. “You are hopeless. I’ll be back in a moment. Don’t start the fun without me.”
Amelia’s perfect lips turned down. “Jake, you will be careful, won’t you?”
“Of course, sweetheart. There’s no cause for concern.”
Daniel felt a twinge of apprehension as his brother escorted his wife below deck. What if Daniel had underestimated Reynaud and was placing everyone in danger? Perhaps he should have tried outrunning the other ship. He shook off his uncertainty and squared his shoulders. There was no turning back now.
A question for readers: What is your favorite time period or historical location?

Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie -- Out Now! Sourcebooks Casablanca

Captain Daniel Hillary's ship is the only one sailing from New Orleans to England, and Lisette Lavigne is bound and determined to be on it! Desperate to save her brother from being thrown into an asylum and to escape her devious fiancĂ©, Lisette offers to pay Daniel any price for safe passage — even if it means warming his bed.

Daniel never allows women on his ship, but Lisette's exotic beauty and spirited nature convinces him that rules are made to be broken. He had no idea that this decision would lead to a hasty marriage, an enraged pursuit by the jilted fiancé, or a dangerous blackmail scheme that could cost him everyone he loves...

Samantha Grace made her debut earlier this year with Miss Hillary Schools a Scoundrel. Her newest regency romance, Miss Lavigne’s Little White Lie, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and she did a happy dance in her kitchen. Samantha lives with her husband, their two tenacious kids, and an endless parade of characters that inhabit her imagination. You can connect with Samantha at:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Historical Book Review: Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson

Many thanks to our book reviewer, Emma Westport, for reviewing D. E. Stevenson's book, Miss Buncle's Book!

About the Book...

Who Knew One Book Could Cause So Much Chaos?

Barbara Bunde is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days. Maybe she could sell a novel ... if she knew any stories. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out.

To her surprise, the novel is a smash. It's a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar. But what really turns Miss Bunde's world around is this: what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts. Does life really imitate art?

A beloved author who has sold more than seven million books, D. E. Stevenson is at her best with Miss Buncle's Book, crafting a highly original and charming tale about what happens when people see themselves through someone else's eyes.

Available now from Sourcebooks
ISBN: 9781402270826

Emma's Review...

Art shapes reality when an “unimaginative” young woman writes a book about her friends and neighbors.  But what else can Miss Buncle do?  Being “unimaginative,” she must write about what she knows.  And she must write because, with the economy failing, her dividends are not coming in.  How will she pay her bills?

What Miss Buncle lacks in ‘imagination’ she makes up for with her ability to read human nature.   A publisher takes on the book, releasing it under Miss Buncle’s highly  “unimaginative” pseudonym, “John Smith.”  The book quickly becomes a best seller. 

Miss Buncle is delighted.  Her first check—an amazingly unthinkable one hundred pounds—warrants a trip to London, a perm and a lovely new hat.  Life is looking up.

But then her neighbors read the book.  Too many secrets have been revealed.  Some are foolish.  Does Mrs. Carter wear a wig and put pectin in her jam?  Some are heartbreaking.  Will a marriage fall apart because the husband is an abusive fool?   Soon the people in Miss Buncle’s small town are out for blood—John Smith’s blood.  For good or for ill, everyone wants to know—who authored Miss Buncle’s book.
Pour your tea and settle in because, from the opening pages, you’ll be drawn into this small village, set somewhere in England, sometime between the wars.  You’ll probably stay the night.  You’ll definitely want a sweater.  Because this book is hard to put down—and, despite what Miss Buncle may say, it is truly, truly imaginative.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Truth Behind Knights in Shining Armor by Dana D’Angelo

Welcome to History Undressed, today's guest blogger, Dana D'Angelo, author of medieval romance. She's here to talk with us about the truth behind knights in shining armor! Enjoy!

The Truth Behind Knights in Shining Armor 

by Dana D’Angelo

What is it about knights that capture our imagination? Is it that they’re true heroes, intent on protecting the less fortunate, fighting bravely and fiercely for their home and country? Is it their admiration for and love of women? This is what Hollywood wants us to believe.

But if you look closely, there are actually grains of truth in this portrayal.

You see, a seven year old boy, usually from a well off family, would be sent to foster at another home and be trained as a knight. At first he would act as a page, essentially becoming a servant, and heeding his master’s every beck and call. He would start at this humble beginning until he reached the age of about 14 years. At this point, he would graduate to become a squire. He would gain enough confidence from his master to accompany him into battle, although he didn't exactly participate in the fighting.

In his long years of training to become a knight, the squire would learn all sorts of things including battle readiness and the finer arts of socialization. Geoffrey Chaucer, a well known writer in the middle ages, illustrated in one of his characters a squire that had the ability to compose songs, dance, draw, and write. On top of everything, this character had horse riding expertise and proficiency in jousting.

Although Chaucer’s character is obviously fictional, we can assume that these abilities were quite common at the time. Scholars believe that during the early medieval period, warriors acted upon an unspoken rule where they behaved in a courteous and civil manner when dealing with their enemies. As time went on, this behavior gained favor with many people and a knightly code of conduct was formed.

Poems of courtly love were recited throughout the land by troubadours, and the ideals of chivalry were spread. It was around the 13th century that romance stories such as the legendary tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table became extremely popular. It’s debatable whether King Arthur really existed, however these stories further influenced the way a knight behaved toward their enemies and those of a more gentle birth.

What resulted from this commitment to chivalry was a strict code of courtly love. A knight, for example, would single out a woman — usually one that was already married. He would admire her from a distance, and write long love poems, professing his undying love and loyalty toward her. And to prove his devotion, he would do dangerous and courageous feats in order to impress her.

A squire would observe all this from his betters, and would try to incorporate the knightly ideals into his own life. When he reached his 20th year or so, he finally had the opportunity to earn his knightly spurs. He would then participate in a religious ceremony, attending a church vigil and taking a purifying bath. And only after these were performed would he then be officially dubbed and declared as “Sir.”

Although we can imagine that it would be near impossible to uphold the chivalric code during the heat of a brutal war, there is still enough evidence to support that many knights followed the ideals of chivalry.

Men  — fierce fighters, bold, brave in facing death, yet often displaying a gentle nature… Perhaps, the real reason why we admire these knights in shining armor is because they share many of the same qualities as the heroes of our own time.


Dana D’Angelo is the author of One True Knight, the first book in The Knights of Honor Trilogy. To learn more about Dana or new release, visit her at www.dana-dangelo.com

When the beautiful yet feisty Rowena de Belleville discovers her father’s plan to remarry, she fears the worst and flees her home — only to be thrust into the arms of a stranger.

Desperate to hide her identity from her pursuers, she embraces the dark stranger. But her reckless act backfires as it awakens a passion buried deep within her soul, while igniting the fuse of her mysterious benefactor.

Unable to escape destiny, their paths cross yet again. This time she learns the handsome man is Jonathan d’Abelard —  the Iron Hawk, a legendary knight feared by all save one faceless killer bent on making his life a living hell…

Will her chance encounter draw them together, or ensnare her in a dangerous game of seduction, feverish desire and vengeance?