Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Historical Body Image

C.W. Eckersberg - 1841

C.W. Eckersberg – 1841

So a while back I read this great post by Nancy Goodman entitled “How ‘Real’ Do We Really Want Our Romance?”.  In it she hits briefly on the topics of PTSD, rape, abuse, and the like popping up in more and more romance novels these days.  She goes on to wonder how much authenticity we actually want in our accuracy.  In the process she mentions that for some readers, the worst problem they feel comfortable with is that the heroine is a little plump.

Of course, that one tiny sentence in the post spun me off into a world of thinking about the realism of plump heroines.  It dawned on me that our 21st century standard of body image and relative plumpness is not anywhere near what the standard definition has been for the past couple of millennia.

I wish I had the time to do master’s thesis level research on this one, but since I don’t, I’ll share with you what I know … and a bunch of pictures gleaned from Wikicommons. (more…)

The King’s Deception – Elizabeth I was a man!?!

Elizabeth Tudor - age 16

Elizabeth Tudor – age 16

From MSNBC – “The King’s Deception,” a new book by Steve Berry, has brought together evidence of what may be one of the most jaw-slackening deceptions in the history of the English monarchy. Berry alleges that Elizabeth I of England died from the plague at age 10 and her attendants, fearing a gruesome execution from King Henry VIII, disguised a 9-year-old village boy to buy themselves time to escape the country. The subterfuge worked so well because Henry barely knew Elizabeth, and with all who knew her (him) too frightened to allege anything and risk execution for treason, the boy grew up, took the throne as the Virgin Queen and played the part till death. 

My first thought was ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I have an MA in History with a concentration in Tudor and Stuart England.  I immediately started thinking of reasons this could not be.  I eventually looked up the author and the book only to discover its 1) fiction 2) a contemporary novel about where the hero uncovers this deception as part of an international plot.

  There are many reasons the above ‘deception’ wouldn’t work.  A) If two people know a secret, then it won’t be a secret. B) The boy imposter would have to be a eunuch because of things like a beard and Adam’s apple.  C) Thomas Seymour wasn’t a fool or gay, neigher was Robert Dudley. D) Elizabeth spoke several languages and read several more, including Greek and Latin – where would a village boy learn that? E) Elizabeth lived life surrounded by dressers, maids, servants, some of who helped her bathe.  F) And several times before she became queen, she was under close confinement or house arrest, hard to keep up that deception.  G) Her ministers knew when she was too old to bear children, (most likely as her servants knew when she ceased to menstruate) as they quit pressing her to marry and started pressing her to name an heir… 

 I could go on and on and on, but I guess I’ll take this ‘deception’ in the same vein that watching a James Bond movie is an accurate depiction of the British Secret Service.  Not.

 What did you think when you read the MSNBC paragraph (besides the fact that it’s misleading)?

What reasons would you add to my thougths?

Hildegard of Bingen and Writing in First-Person

Every once in a while, Amazon gets it right.  A few weeks ago I pulled my Kindle out of its cover and there, on the sleep-mode page, was a recommendation for Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, by Mary Sharratt.  Well of course I bought it!  Hildegard is one of my favorite historical figures.

Cover-of-IlluminationsAt the same time, I’m really not all that surprised when I hear someone say “Hildegard von Who?”.  Precious few people are aware of medieval history, and even fewer of those people stop to consider what women in the Middle Ages were doing.  In the case of Hildegard, she was doing a lot!

In a nutshell, Hildegard was a German (and I use the term anachronistically) nun whose life spanned three-quarters of the twelfth century.  She was a mystic, a writer, an abbess, and one of the greatest minds of the High Middle Ages.  The crowned heads of Europe, including the Pope, wrote to her for advice on some of the thorniest issues, both personal and political.  Her musical compositions are still performed.  Her dramatic works are some of the finest of the pre-Shakespearean era. (more…)

Religious Life in the Middle Ages

So what do you do if you’re a Medieval lord with twelve children and not enough land to divide between them all?  You give your kids away, of course.  And who do you give them to?  The Church.

One of the areas of medieval history that we in the modern world might find it the hardest to identify with – particularly as romance novelists and enthusiasts – is that of the life of the Church.  How could people stand to live cloistered lives, praying all day and at the mercy of a Pope you would probably never see?  Chances are it was a life that wasn’t chosen freely either.  About 80% of the monks and nuns of the Middle Ages had been given to the Church as children.  These children, also known as oblates, had no say in the life they were given to. 

But before you are tempted to think that this was horrible and cruel of Medieval parents, let’s take a look at exactly what these lucky few could expect from their lives. (more…)

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

 Effie Hotchkiss was not your average Victorian era girl—she had dreams, big dreams and though she didn’t intend it, her dreams landed her on the front page of newspapers across America and her name was etched into history books.  The year was 1915 and Effie was already bored with her bank clerking job on Wall Street in New York City.  She wanted to do something exciting and adventurous.  She wanted to see America. And she wanted to do them both at the same time. 

saltlakecity Avis and Effie