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


***All photos accompanying posts are either owned by the author of said post or are in the public domain -- NOT the property of History Undressed. If you'd like to obtain permission to use a picture from a post, please contact the author of the post.***

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cerne Abbas Giant...aka The Giant Penis Man

Nestled in the hills of Dorset England is a ginormous man--and penis.

The other night the DH and I were surfing through popular shows on Hulu, when we came across Kim Cattrell's Sexual Intelligence. Never one to pass up on an opportunity to learn about the human body, I selected it (alas, I did not finish it...got too tired). I was pleasantly surprised when she stood on the 8-foot-long phallus of this giant--how in all of mankind had I missed this??? Have you heard of it?

It is a monument in England, seriously!!

According to the National Trust site, the figure is believed to be Hercules carrying a club...and wearing one too it seems, lol.

He is 180 feet tall. The outline is trimmed and chalked. Local folklore places the giant as an ancient figure. You can see in the picture, that there is an earthen square above his club. This is the Trendle, dated from the Iron Age, so who knows when the man sporting an enormous erection showed up. Could have been the Iron Age, or the ancient Romans who had no problems baring all, could have been a prank some couple hundred years ago from which rumor turned to folklore and we're staring at the penis drawn by some drunken dandies one night. No one knows for sure.

The fact of the matter is--in Dorset England, there is a huge chalk figure with a thoroughly engorged penis, and I have just added it to my list of things I must see!

If you care to visit the site, here's a link.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas in Medieval Times by Dana D’Angelo

Today I'd like to welcome guest author, Dana D'Angelo to History Undressed! She's got a special medieval Christmas treat for us :) 

Christmas in Medieval Times by Dana D’Angelo

The term “Christes Maesse” was first introduced in a Saxon book in 1038 AD.

One source I found claimed that Christmas gradually became popular by a succession of rulers such as Charlemagne (800 AD), Edmund the Martyr (855 AD), and William I of England (1066 AD) who chose Christmas Day to become crowned.

Another source suggested that the Church didn’t have a fixed date for Christmas Day until the 4th century. And they chose December 25th in an attempt to superimpose on a pagan holiday that fell on the same date.

But whatever the case may be, there is no denying that the Druid or pagan traditions integrated with the Christian ones to form new ideas about celebrating and feasting during the holidays.

Over a twelve day span, the merging of these two customs allowed people to indulge in food and “misrule” (drunkenness, promiscuity and gambling), which was a large part of the pagan celebrations. At the same time, these same people were able to commemorate the birth of Christ and their own salvation.

By the time the High Middle Ages rolled around, Christmas became so wide spread that that writers of the time noted how influential people celebrated the holiday. In 1377 AD, for instance, King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas banquet that served twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep!

In terms of gift giving, this act was usually done between people with a legal relationship such as a tenant and landlord. While it was customary for noblemen to give tenants and workers time off to celebrate the “holy days”, it wasn’t customary for them to give gifts. However if a landlord decided to show his generosity, he may have offered coins to servants and apprentices, or treated the poor to a supper in the great hall.

However whether the people were poor or wealthy, they appreciated the holiday fare. Throughout the year, they were constantly hungry and the holidays were the only times that they could indulge in food.

Some popular foods and drinks the people enjoyed were:

  • Wassail – A powerful, hot drink that was made from a mixture of ale, honey and spices. The host served the drink from a large bowl. With friends present, he would cheerfully call out “waes hael” or “be well.” The friends, meanwhile, would reply with “drink hael” or “drink and be well.”
  • Baked Mince Pie – Minced pie was baked in an oblong shape to symbolize the crib that Jesus slept in. It consisted of shredded meat, fruit, and three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) to represent the three gifts offered to Christ from the Magi. The people held a belief that a wish made on the first bite of the pie caused the wish to come true. However if a person refused that important first bite during Christmas, bad luck would follow him in the new year.
  • Pudding or Frumenty - Essentially a spicy porridge made from boiled wheat, currants, dried fruit, yolks and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. The mixture was cooled and then allowed to set before it was served.
  • Golden Roasts - In noble homes, the cooks strived for artistry in their culinary creations. For example, to make a roasted peacock look visually appealing, they would add butter and saffron to paint the meat in a golden hue. When the peacock was finished cooking, they often redressed the gilded bird in its old skin and feathers.
  • Boar’s Head - A boar’s head, with an apple or an orange in its mouth, was placed at the trestle table during an extravagant banquet. This rosemary and bay scented center piece was considered a noble dish and eagerly enjoyed by dinner guests.

All in all, the history of Christmas during the Middle Ages was an interesting one. While it seemed that new traditions emerged, they were in fact heavily grounded by the old ones.

The Promise - A Medieval Christmas Novella

Sir Gavin the Bold appears one winter evening demanding payment for saving the life of Baron Clifton de Leraye. The knight claims that he is entitled to marry one of the lord’s three daughters.

Except the claim is called into question.

With the family’s honor at stake, and her sisters’ futures on the line, Lady Estella de Leraye does all she can to protect what little integrity the family has left, even if that means agreeing to marry the dark stranger.

As she struggles to come to terms with her plight, she finds it equally difficult to fight her growing attraction to the handsome knight. But will his charm and allure prepare her for the secret she will soon discover?

Note: This medieval Christmas romance novella is approximately 29,000 words or about 80 print pages. Although the story has romantic elements, it does not contain explicit love scenes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Castle of the Week: Ardvreck by Vonda Sinclair

Castles of the Week are back, and we're kicking it off today with a post by my good friend and fellow Scottish romance author, Vonda Sinclair! Awesome post and beautiful pics! Enjoy!

                    Ardvreck Castle by Vonda Sinclair

One of the places that inspired several scenes in my book, My Brave Highlander, was the Assynt area of northern Scotland in what is now Sutherland. Ardvreck Castle inspired my Munrick Castle which I placed on Loch Assynt. The MacLeods are the occupants, just as they were in the early seventeenth century.

The first time I saw Ardvreck Castle in person, I was on a tour bus going sixty miles per hour and the driver said something like, “Oh, by the way, there’s Ardvreck Castle.” I barely had time to take a blurry photo from the opposite side of the bus between other tourist’s heads. LOL Since this castle wasn’t on our itinerary, there was no time to stop, even for a minute, to get a good photo. I had to go back!

As you can imagine, when I was driving and saw this castle in the distance, through the mist with the mountains all around, I was in awe. What a spectacular and mystical setting.

Ardvreck Castle is a ruin which sits on a promontory that juts into Loch Assynt. This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful areas of Scotland. The MacLeods had control of this area from the late 14th Century. The castle is said to have been built by Angus Mor III of Clan MacLeod in the last half of the 1400s. Then, it was only a simple rectangular block, three or four storeys high. In the late 1500s, Donald Ban IX added a tower, vaulted cellars and a vault over the great hall on the first floor. The castle was small and required several buildings around it to house kitchens, servants’ quarters and stables.

The circular part of the tower contained the stair and the square caphouse above it contained two rooms, each with a fireplace. The inhabitants reached the upper floors by stairs in the small turret set in the angle between the tower and the main block.

The most famous tale relating to this castle involves James Graham, Marquis of Montrose. He was a Royalist fighting on the side of Charles I against the Covenanters in 1650. Having lost a battle nearby, he sought refuge with the MacLeods. Neil MacLeod was away and apparently his wife Christine had Montrose captured and imprisoned. Later, he was taken to Edinburgh and executed.

Ardvreck was attacked and taken by the MacKenzie Clan in 1672. They took possession of all the Assynt lands. They lived here at the castle until 1726 when they built a manor house nearby, Calda House, which also now stands in ruins after a fire in 1737.

Ardvreck is said to be haunted by several ghosts including the weeping daughter of a MacLeod chief who drowned in Loch Assynt after marrying the devil in a pact to save her father’s castle. She has been seen on the beach. A ghostly man in grey is often seen in the ruins.

Do you enjoy learning what inspires authors and finding out the history or background behind a specific setting? I will give away a copy of My Fierce Highlander (first book in the Highland Adventure Series) to one commenter. Thanks!

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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Horrible Histories Pilgrim Song :-)

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I give you this Horrible Histories Pilgrim Song!  Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Video of the Week: Horrible Histories -- Victorian Fashion

You all know how I love Horrible Histories! This week's video is on Victorian Fashion.

Hope you get a giggle out of it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Historical Romance Review: One True Knight by Dana D’Angelo

This book has been reviewed by History Undressed reviewer, Morgan Wyatt...


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?


One True Knight by Dana D’Angelo is a medieval romance that highlights the differences in the freedoms enjoyed by men and women of the period. Rowena’s ability to be her own woman, and manage the castle grind to an unexpected halt when her father, Sir Phillip’s announcement that he will marry. Ten years ago, when his beloved wife died he swore to never remarry. He also chose to ignore Rowena because he blamed her for the plague her mother contacted from nursing her. Her impulsive nature forces her into action.

Jonathan is more than a wandering knight he is a man on a mission. His first mission is vengeance against the Grey Knight. The nefarious knight is so bold to send him messages and taunts causing Jonathan to scurry across the country in search of the knight. His cousin has asked him to vet Sit Phillip before she marries. His cousin a widow finds herself forced to choose between her two neighbors to be able to afford some type of protection for her people.

Rowena escapes the castle disguises as a simple servant. She isn’t quite sure of her plans, but she realizes a new mistress will change her role in the house, and maybe even push her out of it. Jonathan disguises himself as a peasant too in an effort to find out more about Sir Phillip. In an effort to escape her father’s guards, she chooses to kiss Jonathan as a distraction, sparking an attraction between the two of them. She flees refusing even to leave a name with the besotted knight.

One True Knight has a great deal going on, besides romance including intrigue and betrayal. There is also the double disguise of Jonathan and Rowena pretending to be other people, always a handy plot device. The chemistry between the two works well. The characterization of the cousin being a pawn in the games of men is accurate for the period. This is a good debut novel, but there are areas where it could be stronger.

More detail would give me a sense of being there. Historical references were rather vague, specific ones as a tie-in could help in getting a feel for the period, and the people.  In the beginning, Rowena acts more like a spoiled brat caring more about herself, than anyone else. She doesn’t care about her father’s happiness; she’s just upset because his marriage might mess her life up. She sets up her own nursemaid to get in trouble so she can run the country in disguise. Rowena improves as the book goes on maturing with the chapters.
One True Knight is a good bet for medieval romance fans. Its short length makes it a quick read too.

Romance Review: Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick

This book has been reviewed by History Undressed reviewer Morgan Wyatt...


Evangeline Ames has rented a country cottage far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal Gardens, she finds pleasure in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety.

Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There are rumors enough already, about treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle — who died of mysterious causes.

With Evangeline’s skill for detection, and Lucas’s sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they have a common enemy. And as the energy emanating from Crystal Gardens intensifies, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long...


Amanda Quick’s Crystal Gardens is the first in the series of Ladies of Lantern Street series, which deals with three unusually gifted women who become companions in dangerous situations that require their talents. Crystal Gardens is the story of Evangeline Ames and Lucas Sebastian.

Evangeline Ames escapes to the country to settle her frazzled nerves from her almost murder in London. This is why it is so unnerving to hear a prowler in the house. He isn’t trying to be quiet, probably because he doesn’t expect her to live to report him. Evangeline planned for such a predicament, however, she didn’t plan to end up in the arms of the mysterious owner of Crystal Gardens.

Sebastian Lucas returns the much-rumored Crystal Gardens to investigate the curious death of his Uncle. He realizes things aren’t as they seem from the glowing gardens resulting from botanical experiments to his uncle’s death. On his first day, he meets his new tenant, the intriguing Miss Ames. On the second night, he finds his arms wrapped around the delectable lady.

Crystal Gardens are a menace drawing in treasure hunters searching for Roman gold hidden, only to become fatalities of the gardens’ mysterious power. Paranormal energy fuels the plants, vision pools, and Lucas’s ability to track his uncle’s killer, and the person after Evangeline.

Evangeline and Sebastian have wonderful chemistry together. There are some enjoyable secondary characters in Molly and Stone. The setting is appropriately eerie, which adds to the atmosphere.
Crystal Gardens is another delight from a master author Amanda Quick.  It is a fun, sexy read. I would recommend it for all romance fans.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reading as a Writer by Callie Hutton

Today I'd like to welcome, Callie Hutton, not only a wonderful historical romance author, but one of our reviewers too! I can't wait to read her new Christmas story!

Reading as a Writer

By: Callie Hutton

            I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. My mom would take a book out of my hands and point to the door. “Go out and play.”
            At various jobs where I worked, I was known as the woman who always had her nose stuck in a book. When people would ask what I was reading, most times I had to check the cover because I read so fast I didn’t even have a book long enough to remember its name.
            Reading has been my main source of entertainment for years. It disturbs me that now that I have written several books, gone through critiques, contests, and editing with publishers, that now I read, not as a reader, by as a writer. It’s sort of like seeing the faults in your child. You love them anyway, but sad when you discover those little things that you wished wasn’t a part of their makeup.
            I’m currently reading a book by a very well-known romance author. Every time she head- hops, I cringe. I have no problem following the story, and frankly I never could understand the horror that particular issue creates, but I know it’s not acceptable. Then there’s the flat out mistakes. Missing words, wrong words, repetitive phrases. Reversed letters so it reads: “her won” instead of “her own.”
            I suppose at one time that would never have bothered me, or even if I would have noticed it. Or is it just editors are getting sloppy? I allow (but don’t accept) mistakes in self-published books because I realize it’s hard to find your own mistakes, even though any decent self- published author uses beta readers and critique partners to catch them.
            But when you’re reading a book by a well-known author, coming from a “big” house, and you see these mistakes, it irks me. Have I always been this fussy? Or is this a new trend? In any event, even though I never intend to give up my favorite past time, it’s now riddled with annoyance.
            How about you? Do mistakes bother you? Does it pull you out of the story? Do you think there are more mistakes in books now then, say, twenty years ago? And lastly, when you see mistakes in a book, do you try to contact the author and let him/her know?
            Inquiring minds want to know.

Callie has been making up stories since elementary school, and writing gave her a way to turn off the voices in her head.  She’s had a number of articles and interviews published over the years, and finally decided to put her writing skills to the test and write novels.
            Oklahoma is where she hangs her hat with her husband of thirty-six years, two young adult children, and three dogs.
You can catch her hanging out at Facebook, Twitter- @CallieHutton, and her home base, www.calliehutton.com. Stop by sometime and say hello.

Blurb for Miss Merry’s Christmas:

The Duke of Penrose is not happy with Miss Meredith Chambers, the American governess his new wards have arrived with. He quickly replaces her, happy to have his unwanted attraction to the unsuitable woman behind him. Until his mother hires her as a companion…

England, 1817.  David Worthington, Duke of Penrose dislikes Miss Meredith Chambers, the American governess who accompanied his new wards. He especially detests his attraction to the insufferable woman, and is anxious for her replacement to arrive.

Merry is thrilled when the Dowager Duchess Penrose hires her as a companion. Now she can stay with her beloved charges. But can she ignore how her heart thumps when the pompous duke gets close?

Two people determined to ignore each other, despite the pull between them, and the sparks that fly whenever they're together.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Debut Author Pamela Sherwood Spotlight & Giveaway!

Happy Wednesday Folks! Want a chance to win a copy of debut author, Pamela Sherwood's highly anticipated novel, WALTZ WITH A STRANGER, before it releases on December 4th from Sourcebooks??? Leave a comment for your chance!

Crippled after a riding accident, shy heiress Aurelia Newbold shuns Society--until a dashing stranger draws her into a secret waltz and awakens desires she has long thought dead. After a year abroad to regain her health, she comes home to find the one man she’s been dreaming of--now an earl--engaged to the one woman she would never betray: her beloved twin sister.

One night James Trelawney took pity on a girl he saw as a wounded bird. Now the Earl of Trevanan, he is not prepared for the vibrant woman who returns to London, intent on reclaiming her life. Nor is he prepared for his growing desire for that woman--especially after he has proposed marriage to her dazzling twin.

As the scene shifts from London's glittering ballroom to Cornwall's windswept coast, forbidden desires resurface, and inhibitions begin to melt beneath the summer sun. But even as James struggles to resolve his feelings for both sisters, the secret that killed his predecessor reaches out from the grave to threaten his life--and that of the woman he loves.

Praise for Waltz With a Stranger...

“Sherwood effortlessly evokes the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James, and her exquisite character development, memorable secondary characters, and impeccably researched historical setting infuse this elegantly written debut with a richness and depth worth savoring.”   Booklist STARRED review

 “Readers will be enchanted
 RT Book Reviews

“Sympathetic protagonists will keep readers engaged
Publishers Weekly

Mark your calendar! Pamela will be back visiting with us on December 11th for a fun post.  :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Society Norms and How Caroline Montague Thwarts Every One by Christy English

Today I'd like to welcome historical romance author, Christy English to History Undressed! Today she's written a post on society norms during the Regency. Enjoy!

Society Norms and How Caroline Montague 
Thwarts Every One
by Christy English

The Regency Period was a time of calm conversation and sedate dancing. A time when the waltz was considered a little scandalous, and an unmarried woman would never consider dancing it without the permission of Almack’s.

It isn’t that Caroline Montague, the heroine of my novel HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE, doesn’t know these things. Her mother did her level best to raise Caroline to behave like a lady. It’s simply that Caroline doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

In Regency England, it is best if a young lady is seen and not heard. A young lady should sit demurely and wait at her mama’s side until a gentleman asks her to dance. A young lady might shoot a bow and arrow, but never in competition with gentlemen who would clearly best her in any contest.

Caroline has never waited for permission to do anything in her life. She enjoys dancing, but she prefers country dances to the waltz. She finds it simpler to lead the young men she knows instead of letting them lead her. Caroline loves her bow so much that she keeps it in her bedroom, along with her throwing knives. She doesn’t hesitate to outshoot the men around her whenever she can, and she takes pleasure in her victory.

A Regency lady should always wear a riding habit when on horseback. Caroline prefers to ride in breeches, astride her war stallion, Hercules. Occasionally, she makes the concession of hiding her breeches underneath a gown, but not often.

Would a woman in Regency England have been allowed to break as many social conventions as Caroline does? I don’t think so. Which is all the more reason I enjoyed creating this woman, and watching her thwart every convention put in front of her. She does learn to compromise after she is married, but so does her husband Anthony. In the end, neither is truly tamed. They finally learn to communicate with each other, and to live together as equals. Caroline keeps her bow and her knives, but she and Anthony learn that when they spar together, it is better to use blunted blades.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Christy's new book!

How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English

A clever Regency retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew”

Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, returns from war to marry his commanding officer’s daughter. A man of fiery passion and strict self-control, Anthony expects a biddable bride who obeys him without question. But Caroline Montague is no simpering miss; she rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. It’s a duel of wit and wills in this charming first book of a new series.

Visit the author at her website: http://www.christyenglish.com/

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Colonial Frontier and Beth Trissel's New Historical!

Welcome back to today's guest on History Undressed, historical romance author, Beth Trissel! We're glad to have you back! And congrats on your newest release!

Thanks for having me on your splendid blog, Eliza. Always an honor. Today I’m sharing the turbulent history behind my new historical romance novel, Kira, Daughter of the Moon.

‘A beautiful Scots-Irish healer in the rugged Alleghenies finds herself accused of witchcraft. With the terror of the French and Indian War fresh in her mind, can Kira love a white warrior?’

Kira, Daughter of the Moon, the third in my colonial frontier series, follows Through the Fire and Red Bird’s Song. Though written to stand alone, Kira, Daughter of the Moon is the long-awaited sequel to Through the Fire and features strong secondary characters introduced in that novel, with the addition of the very unique heroine, Kira, and other new characters. The story also builds on the conflict between Scots-Irish settlers and frontiersmen, the Shawnee and their allies, and British mandates regarding the return of white captives depicted in Red Bird’s Song.

Set in the rugged Alleghenies in the colonial Virginia frontier, the story opens in the spring of 1765, about six months after the close of Red Bird’s Song in the fall of 1764. Through the Fire takes place the summer of 1758 at the height of the French and Indian War. For those of you interested in this obscure but vital era of American history, a second war lead by Chief Pontiac (who united a number of the tribes) followed on the heels of the French and Indian, a sort of part two. That’s the war wrapping up in Red Bird’s Song, but to anxious settlers the Indian Wars just flowed together with times when attacks were more prevalent than others. These harried folk trying to survive didn’t keep track of the names of the wars. They didn’t always even know which tribe was attacking them, and some war parties were a mix of allied warriors. But the Shawnee gained the distinction of being the most feared tribe in the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia frontier—the ultimate badass. The French officers who lead some of these attacks were particularly hated, to this day in some mountainous regions of Virginia and now West Virginia. Memories run deep. Bear in mind that Virginia used to be vast and encompassed states.

Dread of Indian attacks, of being killed or captured, of what happened to captive loved ones, and mistrust of white men who turned renegade and ran with war parties was on the minds of these mistrustful and superstitious Scots-Irish. Not that all settlers were Scots. Some were German/Swiss and English, but the clannish Scots tended to band together. And this is the volatile background for Kira, Daughter of the Moon.

Logan McCutcheon returns to colonial Virginia after seven years in the hands of Shawnee Indians. But was he really a captive, as everybody thinks? He looks and fights like a warrior, and seems eager to return to those he calls friends and family.

Kira McClure has waited for Logan all those years, passing herself off as odd to keep suitors at bay––and anyone else from getting too close.  Now that he's back, he seems to be the only person capable of protecting her from the advances of Josiah Campbell and accusations of witchcraft.  And to defend the settlers against a well-organized band of murderous thieves.

About Beth Trissel: Married to my high school sweetheart, I live on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia surrounded by my children, grandbabies, and assorted animals. An avid gardener, my love of herbs and heirloom plants figures into my work. The rich history of Virginia, the Native Americans and the people who journeyed here from far beyond her borders are at the heart of my inspiration. In addition to American settings, I also write historical and time travel romances set in the British Isles. For more on me, my blog is the happening place: One Writer’s Way

***Kira, Daughter of the Moon is available in print and kindle at Amazon, in print and various eBook formats at The Wild Rose Press, and from other booksellers. If you would like to be considered for a giveaway of the novel in pdf or kindle format, winner’s choice, please leave me a raving comment.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Weird & Interesting Things About Medieval Times by Lana Williams

Today I'd like to welcome Lana Williams to History Undressed! She's written a fun post on the weird and interesting! Enjoy!

Thank you so much, Eliza, for having me at History Undressed!  The second book in my medieval romance trilogy, Trust In Me, is now available on Amazon. To celebrate this, I thought I’d share some of the weird and interesting things about medieval times that I like to sprinkle in my stories.  I find these tidbits fascinating as they help reveal what life was like on a daily basis.

I’m giving away a free Kindle e-book of Trust In Me, so please leave a comment!

Here are some weird and wonderful things you might find interesting:

  • Cattle and sheep horn served as the plastic of the Middle Ages. It was light and strong, doesn’t absorb flavors like leather or wood, and wasn’t hard to manipulate into the shape needed. The horn would be soaked in water for up to three months to soften it, then unwound and flattened.  Items such as spoons and musical pipes were made from horn.  The center of the horn could be split and polished and used as a substitute for glass in windows. While you can’t see through it, it does allow light in. Horns could also be hollowed out to use as a container for herbal remedies and other items.
  • Spices were expensive but used heavily especially during a feast to show wealth.  An ounce of pepper could cost a laborer as much as a day's wages or more.
  • Herbs played a big part in both medical treatment and in daily household uses and I noted some uses in both books of my medieval romance trilogy, A Vow To Keep and Trust In Me.  Lavender was scattered on straw mattresses to improve the smell and to keep fleas away.  Rushes (tall, grass-like plant) were spread about the floor of the great hall and gave off a pleasant fragrance when stepped on and sometimes herbs were added to these. Marjoram might be used in a healing poultice to place on bumps and bruises. Lemon balm was thought to cure many serious illnesses. Many medicinal journals suggested the healing herbs be picked on particular days thought to be magical, such as Midsummer’s Eve. 
  • Spinning thread was done by women using hand-held spindles similar to the picture displayed. Often, single women made a living spinning thread, which is where the term “spinster” came from. Medieval sheep produced only one-third of the wool that modern day sheep do. 
  • Livestock vs. deadstock. Livestock, as most of us know, refers to cows, sheep and the like. Deadstock refers to tools, carts, and most other things not “live”. 
  • Animal fat had a multitude of uses from making tallow candles to preventing armor from rusting to greasing cart axles.
  • Bloodletting, used since ancient times, was considered a cure for nearly any ailment. Just as it sounds, a physician cut open a vein and allowed the blood to run out. When the treatment was done and which vein was used could depend on the color of the patient’s urine or what phase the moon was in. Unfortunately, the practice was rarely successful.
  • At meal times, tables were often set with the spoons facing down to keep evil spirits from lingering there. Most everyone brought their own knives to use, but spoons were usually provided. Forks were not yet invented, but using your fingers was perfectly acceptable.
  • Early halls and peasant cottages had a hearth in the middle of the room, which meant people’s clothes smelled of smoke. Since people’s outer garments were rarely washed, the smoke scent acted like a deodorizer.  Wall fireplaces eventually become popular as they had a flue to carry away the smoke.
These sorts of details make understanding daily life all the more vivid, don’t you think?

Trust In Me is set in England in 1268. It’s the second story in The Vengeance Trilogy - three books that show how a quest for revenge can change in a heartbeat. 

When his brother is abandoned near death at the gate of his keep, Lord Nicholas de Bremont seeks revenge against those he believes guilty: Lord Crefton and his treacherous daughter, Elizabeth. But the old lord is too feeble for Nicholas to fight. Desperate to protect her father, Lady Elizabeth offers to take his place, but as Nicholas’s wife.

Nicholas vowed never to have a family and risk passing his cursed second sight on to a child, yet how else can he make Crefton suffer but to take away his only daughter? Determined to make Elizabeth pay for her part in his brother’s injuries, he adds a punishing stipulation to her offer--he refuses to bed her, dashing her dream of a family.

As they feign a true marriage, Elizabeth tries to guard her heart from the angry lord who appears to despise her, yet his small acts of kindness crumble her defenses. Nicholas attempts to keep his distance from the beautiful lady, terrified Elizabeth will unveil his dark secret, but is tempted every moment he's with her. When his visions divulge a villain who intends her harm, Nicholas must choose whether to accept her trust and love, or keep his secret and claim vengeance.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to get a chance to win a Kindle e-book of Trust In Me!  Thank you so much, Eliza, and History Undressed!

Trust In Me (The Vengeance Trilogy-Book II) http://amzn.to/PB1td7

A Vow To Keep (The Vengeance Trilogy-Book I) http://amzn.to/Vzf0Vi

FB:  Lana Williams Books  http://on.fb.me/QkYcQs        Twitter: LanaWilliams28

Author Bio:

Lana Williams writes historical romance filled with mystery, adventure, and a pinch of paranormal to stir things up. Her medieval romances begin with A Vow To Keep, the first in The Vengeance Trilogy, followed by Trust In Me, the second.

Filled with a love of books from an early age, Lana put pen to paper and decided happy endings were a must in any story she created. She writes in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, two growing sons, and two dogs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day!

In the USA, it's Election Day! Don't forget to get out there and vote!!! What happens if there is an electoral college tie?

 And just for fun... A Rap Battle :)


Monday, November 5, 2012

“Till Death do us Part” – Introduction to the Laws of Marriage by Alison Stuart

Welcome back to History Undress, Alison Stuart! Today she's here with another fascinating post on the Laws of Marriage! Enjoy!

“Till Death do us Part” – Introduction to the Laws of Marriage

Alison Stuart

*This article originally posted here.

In my last post I wrote about the Laws of Succession. Continuing on the "property" theme, this post is a short guide to the laws of marriage in England.

The laws of marriage went beyond being merely a civil contract, they significantly altered the status of an individual (the woman) in respect of her actions, obligations and property.  Because it was also considered a "holy estate", canon law as well as civil law had to be taken into account. Until the nineteenth century, questions of "Marriage" were the almost exclusive jurisdiction of the Church.

Marriage required not only the solemnisation provided by the church but also the "physical union of man and woman in carnal copulation" (and because I love latin legal maxims, here's the maxim for the day "commixtio sexuum"). Because there could be copulation without marriage, it was decided that an intention to marry (a mental element) had to be present and according to Canon Law (and at least until 1753) a promise to marry someone could be held as an indissoluble union, a contract of marriage between two people by consent alone without any form of ecclesiastical ceremony, provided the consent was given in words of the present tense...”I am marrying you...” as opposed to “...I will marry you...”. These irregular marriages were generally legitimised by the parties being compelled to solemnise their marriage publicly at the door of the church. In the event of a dispute with a later marriage, this irregular marriage would be upheld. This archaic concept of marriage lingered through to the 1970s in the form of an action for “breach of promise of marriage”.

For a marriage to be “regular”, publicity of the intention to marry came into formal existence by 1200 when Archbishop Walter required banns to be published on three separate occasions. The calling of banns allowed the congregation to declare any impediment to the marriage such as consanguinity or pre contract.

In these early days, the marriage took place at the door of the church. The priest would call on the couple to declare any impediment. The parties would then speak the words of betrothal and present matrimony and the husband would then place a ring of the wife’s finger (the wearing of wedding ring by a man is a modern concept) and deliver to her the tokens representing dower (see my last blog). The ceremony would conclude with a nuptial mass inside the church.

In 1753 Lord Hardwicke’s Act abolished secret marriages. The publication of banns, the purchase of a licence, the presence of two witnesses and the recording of the marriage in a public register were made compulsory. Interestingly Jews and Quakers were exempt from this Act and there was no special provision for Roman Catholics and non conformists. This was not remedied until 1836 when the civil marriage ceremony was introduced and Non conformist places of worship could be registered under that statute. 

Husband and wife were seen in the eyes of both canon and common law as one person (here comes another legal maxim:  erunt animae duae in carne una).  This one person was, of course, the husband. Modern women may cringe at this quote from Blackelocke "...the very being or legal existence of a woman is suspended during marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband...". Of course the origin of this is scriptual, reflecting the Canon Law influence on marriage.

A wife could not own property or enter into contracts.  Only acting as an agent for her husband could she make valid contracts. Married women were only given the same contractual rights as men as late as 1935.

Neither could she sue or be sued and nor could she take any legal action against her husband because they were seen to be “one person”.  In the case of injury to the wife, a husband could sue for loss he suffered through the loss of the wife’s services or society (consortium). He could sue in trespass against a man who committed adultery with his wife. If the wife absconded with her lover, an action for “enticement” could be brought against the lover, alleging the defendant had maliciously schemed to deprive him of his wife’s consortium by enticing her away. This action was not abolished until 1970! No corresponding rights existed for the wife.

On marriage any property which the woman owned as a single woman became the husbands and could be disposed of by him without recourse.  You may recall from my last post, if the husband predeceased the wife she could claim one third of his estate if he died intestate (without a will). If he died testate (with a will) she was only entitled to whatever legacies he saw fit to leave her. Interestingly although a wife’s real property brought by her into the marriage, vested in her husband during the marriage, if she predeceased him he was only entitled to a tenancy by the courtesy. A husband could dispose of her property but on his death the wife would be entitled to claim it back. However if she wanted to alienate the land during her husband’s life time, she would have to have his assent. Any grants of property to the wife during the marriage, vested the property in the husband.
By the eighteenth century an equitable doctrine of "separate use" had begun to be used. In equity, a husband and wife could be seen as separate people and property settled on the wife during marriage could be held on trust for the wife's separate use. Judges noted with concern that this could lead to the wife being coerced into disposing of her equitable estate to her husband and a far thinking judge solved the problem by inserting "the restraint on anticipation" condition into a settlement which prevented the wife from alienating or charging the property during her marriage. This protected the property for the wife until widowhood. It also prevented her from disposing of it legitimately in any other form!

While this equitable doctrine applied nicely to the landed classes, it did nothing for the poorer classes. By the middle nineteenth century, after intensive lobbying, the equitable doctrine of separate use was extended to wages and earnings of working women. This provided some modest protection for those women who worked to keep their families together only to have their husbands take their humble earnings. A further reform in 1882 extended this to property of a married woman, whether acquired before or after a marriage.

Reference:  An Introduction to English Legal History: J.H. Baker

Alison Stuart is an award winning Australian writer of historicals with heart.  Whether duelling with dashing cavaliers or waywards ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes.  She lives with her own personal hero and two needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along the sea front of her home town.  She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, facebook, twitter and Goodreads. Her latest book, GATHER THE BONES, is a “Downton Abbeyesque” haunting love story set in 1923.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Steamy Bath (excerpt from THE HIGHLANDER'S REWARD by Eliza Knight)

When writing my historical romances, I try to stay true to history and the era of the story I'm creating. At the same time I like to make things sensual, after all, it is a romance. Today, I'm presenting you with an excerpt from THE HIGHLANDER'S REWARD...

A Steamy Bath...

“I need a bath and a shave.” Magnus held Arbella's hands up to his mouth and kissed her fingertips. “And I would think ye’d be happy for the pleasure of a warm bath, would ye not?”
Arbella swallowed, not sure if she trusted herself enough to speak yet.
Magnus pressed a hot, entirely too quick, kiss to her lips before leaving the room. She could only stand there, trying to explore what had just happened between them. Trying to understand the sensations whipping through her body, the turmoil in her mind. Magnus made her feel things, showed her things, she didn’t think were possible. He was opening up her eyes to a whole new world. A world of pleasure, desire, and more importantly a world where a man was strong yet sensitive to a woman’s needs. He was showing her by his actions that he was not a barbarian. She smiled a little at this knowledge. As much as he wanted to pretend he was a hardened warrior, no hard-hearted man would caress her the way he did. A barbarian would not care that she had a bath, or that her hands trembled when they entered his courtyard.
Magnus was a big, soft-hearted, man, even if he tried to hide it. She’d found out his secret.
When her husband returned several minutes later, he was followed by two servants carrying a large wooden tub—large enough for Magnus to fit in, and a half dozen others carrying buckets of steaming water, linens and balls of soap.
They set down the tub, lining it with one of the linen towels, then dumped in the water. They left and returned with more buckets until the tub was half full. Steam curled into the air from its depths. Oh, how she wanted to sink into that tub, to scrub away the dirt from her travels.
She startled as the door shut on the last servant. Her gaze was drawn, with alarm, to Magnus as he started to undress.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Taking a bath.”
“I will come back.” She scurried toward the door.
“I dinna plan on taking my bath alone, Arbella.”
“What?” she gasped.
Her mother had assisted the baron with his bath, would she be expected to do the same? Her heart raced, her palms grew damp.
“Ye dinna want to bathe?”
Her back was still to him, the door and escape only inches away. From behind, she heard the slosh of water. He was in the tub. If she turned around, she’d see the breadth of his naked shoulders, his chest wet from the water… The visions she created in her own mind had her wayward nipples hardening once more.
She pressed her lips together and then forced herself to speak. “I do want to take a bath, but I had thought to take a bath…alone.”
“Ah. But ’tis more fun to take a bath together.”
She gulped, afraid the sound echoed off the walls.
Magnus chuckled behind her. “Turn around, lass.”
Arbella turned in a slow circle, her eyes wide, her throat constricted.
Even the visions she’d imagined in her mind did no justice to the vision of her very nude husband soaking in the massive tub. He was glorious. Perfection sent from the devil to tempt her into wickedness.
He grinned at her, roguish and sensual. “Well?”
“I cannot take a bath with you.”
“Suit yourself. Will ye at least wash my back?”
“What?” she whispered. He wanted her to touch him? To stroke soapy fingers over his taut flesh?
“Come now, dinna be shy with me.”
She stepped forward, curiosity getting the better of her. She wanted to wash his back. To touch him. To breathe in his intoxicating scent.
His smile was inviting and his eyes followed her as she came closer.
Arbella rolled up the sleeves of her gown and knelt behind him.
He handed her the soap and a small linen square. “Here.” His voice was gravelly, like he was holding back something in his throat.
She dipped the linen in the water and lathered the soap onto it, then she stroked the cloth over his shoulders. Magnus sighed and sat forward, allowing her greater space to wash him.
“That feels wonderful, lass,” he mumbled.
She nodded, even though he couldn’t see her. It did feel wonderful. She rinsed the cloth then wiped off his lathered flesh with water.
“All finished,” she said, annoyed at the quiver in her voice.
“But ye haven’t done the front.”
The front… The wicked side of her wanted desperately to do the front. The part of her that wanted to remain chaste and return to England resisted.
“I cannot do the front. ’Twouldn’t be decent.”
“My sweet, we are beyond decent already.”
He was right. Her face burned with the memory of his mouth on her bare flesh. Besides, it was only a bath. It couldn’t hurt to wash his chest… But she would not wash that part of him.

WANT MORE???? BUY IT HERE (Print or Ebook): Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Smashwords

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?

BOOK TWO: The Highlander's Conquest -- out now!
BOOK THREE: The Highlander's Lady -- Releasing 12/15!