Justine: Mixing History and Fiction

373px-Paul_Delaroche_-_Napoleon_Crossing_the_Alps_-_Google_Art_Project_2

“Napoleon Crossing the Alps” by Paul Delaroche, 1850

As a historical romance writer, I’m very fortunate in that when I work on a book, I get to research interesting facts about the time period, and then try to incorporate them into my stories. (Okay, some people might find that tedious, but I love it!)

My six-book series, The Beggars Club, begins the first week of March in 1815, just as Napoleon is escaping from Elba and making his way to Paris in advance of what is now called his Hundred Days.

Napoleon was cunning in planning his escape. He, along with his mother and his sister, Pauline, one of his most ardent supporters, threw a party on the eve of February 26th, 1815. During the fête, which was quite a distraction, Napoleon sneaked out of his compound and to the harbor, where he met up with seven ships, 1,026 men, forty horses, two cannon, and a coach. Bypassing the Royal Navy, who were supposed to be on the water keeping watch, he landed at Golfe Juan, near Cannes, and had a singular goal: get out of the area of Provence (which was generally hostile towards him) and cross the mountains to Dauphiné, where a more sympathetic population awaited.

Also important to Napoleon was money, and unfortunately for him, while winding his way up a steep and icy track after Grasse, he lost two mules carrying 1/10th of his treasure down a precipice.

I have been able to take this little-known fact and weave it into my first book, His Lady to Protect, which comes out in spring 2019. My heroine’s uncle, a Napoleonic sympathizer, learns of this loss and decides to use his niece’s dowry as a contribution to Bonaparte’s fortune.

What I would love to know, but haven’t been able to determine, is whether anyone ever recovered that missing fortune.

Another event that happened the first week of March in 1815 were riots against the Corn Laws. No, they were not about corn. At that time, all grain was referred to as “corn.” What wealthy landowners (some of whom were also members of Parliament) were attempting to do was to restrict the importation of grain in order to keep domestic prices high, which would naturally favor them. In advance of the vote, which happened on Friday, March 10th, riots occurred in the city, and several members of the House of Lords had their houses broken into and vandalized by angry mobs who opposed the measure. As you can image, the repercussions of such actions were swift and harsh.

In an interesting twist, news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba and his march towards Paris reached the London papers on the same morning as the vote, and the threat of another long and bloody war with L’Empereur cast aside much of the protests about the Corn Laws, which passed Parliament with little fanfare.

Of course, the passage of those laws would come back to bite England the following year, when the effects of Mt. Tambora’s eruption in 1815 caused one of the coldest summers on record in 1816, leading to massive crop failures and rampant famine.

The riots in advance of the Parliamentary vote also play into my book, creating a diversion and conflict one evening when my H&H are attending a party.

So, do you like it when authors are able to combine the real world (or real history) with their fictional one? What’s your favorite example?

Michille: Cosmo’s Take on Historicals

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Or The 10 Sexiest Nonsexual Things That Happen in Historical Romance Novels in Eliza Thompson’s opinion. She starts with hand touching that is unimpeded by gloves, which is stage four according to Desmond Morris’s stages of intimacy. She gives an excerpt from In Bed With the Devil by Lorraine Heath. I’ve never read one of hers, but I have When the Duke Was Wicked in my TBR pile. It may have just moved to the top of the pile. Continue reading

Elizabeth: (Re) Writing History

Stories Yet To Be WrittenAs a fan and writer of Regency fiction, I’m interested in the way historical events are portrayed in works of fiction and how perceptions can be changed and/or influenced, even when they are not the main focus of the story.  I’ve unintentionally learned a lot of random bits of history – especially British history – through romance novels. Not a complete education by any means, though I did recently ace the Napoleon category on Jeopardy.

I’ve been thinking about the combination of history and the arts since weekend when I came across a documentary on the musical Hamilton during a bout of random channel-surfing (after I’d met my NaNo word targets, of course). Continue reading

Justine: Taglines for Authors…The 5 Ws and the H About You

author tagline, writer tagline, eight ladies writing, justine covingtonMy tagline has been bothering me lately. Actually, it’s been bothering me for the last year, but I’ve been too lazy (or busy or otherwise occupied with “more important” things) to do anything about it.

But now I need to. It’s starting to rub me wrong like a scratchy tag on a shirt.

In case you’re wondering, a tagline is a brief description of you, the writer, just as a logline is a brief description of your book. Except the tagline is about YOU. It identifies to a perfect stranger what they can expect from your books (think of it as “The five Ws and the H about you”).

My critique partner has a great tagline. She writes paranormals with snark, bite, laughs, and great sex. Her tagline is “Snark. Sex. Romance.” And that really sums up what she writes!

My current tagline is Continue reading

Justine: Finding a Pot of Story Gold

story ideas, history in story, historical events, writing, eight ladies writing, corn lawsHappy St. Patrick’s Day! One of the best things that can happen to a writer is to find a pot of “story gold.” That wonderful, juicy tidbit of information that lends credibility, interest, or detail to your story. My pot of gold? The Corn Laws.

(Yeah, I know…you’re scratching your head, saying, “Eh?” Stick with me, though!)

The Corn Laws were British tariffs assigned to imported grain or corn (anything that could be ground), but especially wheat. They were the result of a political dispute between the Continue reading

Elizabeth: Historical Fiction – What’s Your Preference

historical fictionWhat do you think of when you think about historical fiction?

Does it bring to mind long sweeping sagas, rich in details and descriptions like M.M. Kaye’s Far Pavilions or Colleen McCullough’s Thorn Birds (both popular during my long ago book seller days) or stories like Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels or Jo Beverley’s The Dragon’s Bride, that have a historical setting, but focus more on plot and character than detailed historical content?

The question came up when I read this comment from one of the judges of my recent contest entry: Continue reading

Justine: My Niggling Conscience When Writing Historical Characters

historical fiction, writing historical fiction

Coat of Arms of the Duke of Manchester

Frequent readers will know it’s no secret that I love history. Case in point: my first in a new recurring series about interesting things from the Regency.

It is therefore surprising to me that I struggle when writing historical fiction. Not because it’s hard to remember what the different pieces of clothing are called on a 19th century woman or what sort of conveyance a person would take to get from London to Bath: rather it’s because I want to be historically accurate, and so have decided to use locations and individuals who actually existed two hundred years ago. For example, Viscount Sidmouth, the then Lord Secretary of the War Office, is a secondary character in my current WIP, and the next book I’ve started outlining is about the wife of the 5th Duke of Manchester (who, it is told, ran away with her footman, although that’s not the plans I have for this duchess).

So what’s the problem? I’m giving them characteristics and actions, sometimes very unsavory ones, that didn’t happen according to history. In some cases, they’re marrying different people, and in an extreme case, dying way before their time. My meddling in the lives of these once-real people is weighing down my conscience. Continue reading