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?

Nancy: More Thoughts on Diversity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock AND falling behind on your 8LW reading, you’ve heard about Suzanne Brockmann’s stirring acceptance speech for her Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 RWA national conference. On Thursday, our own Kay summarized the speech and Brockmann’s career. This launched a discussion about writing diverse characters and including diverse experiences in romance fiction.

One of our Eight Ladies, Justine, disclosed in the comments her own trepidation about writing diverse characters in a meaningful, inclusive, and non-appropriating way. This sums up a lot the discussions the Eight Ladies have had on this blog and outside of it. And Justine threw in a twist – how do we respectfully and conscientiously diversify our historical romances? As I said in a reply to Justine’s comment, I have no answers or advice, just some thoughts and more questions of my own.

How bad would it be to write an historical world where women, and people of color, and characters with non-straight sexual orientations, and those with neurodiversities, and those with disabilities, are treated equally? Continue reading

Jilly: Good Book Squee – Historical Romance

27431042_sWhere do you stand on intelligent, well-written historical romance?

By the time you read this, Justine’s UK research trip should be well under way. If things go to plan, we’ll have spent Friday in Brighton exploring the Royal Pavilion and other Regency landmarks with 8LW friend Rachel Beecroft, and Saturday investigating the narrow streets and smugglers’ haunts of the ancient Cinque Port of Rye. Today? If it’s Sunday, it must be Dover!

Justine will be following in the footsteps of a generation of US historical romance authors, walking the terrain of Kent and Sussex to soak in a million tiny details that she’ll use to give her stories an authentic and unique feel. There’s a strong tradition of quality historical romance writing in the US, and I’m constantly impressed by the way the authors skillfully mix historical accuracy and characters with agency to create novels that feel credible but appeal to a 21st-century reader. I especially love stories that go beyond Dukes and governesses and gowns – some of my favorite historicals may have Almack’s and corsets, but they also have spies, soldiers, suspense, mysteries, politics, business-people, dancers, actresses, and social change.

I’m really looking forward to reading the 8 Ladies’ contribution to this excellent tradition – Justine’s Three Proposals, Elizabeth’s The Traitor, and Nancy’s new series – but while they write, edit, polish and pick new titles, I’d like to celebrate some of my favorite US historical romance writers and (if I’m lucky) collect some new recommendations.

Off the top of my head, how about: 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

Nancy: A Girl Anachronism

"Two Strings to Her Bow" by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

“Two Strings to Her Bow” by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

This past week, on one of the author loops I read, someone posted about her preference to read historical romances in which heroines either don’t step outside the bounds of the time period’s social structures, or suffer (social) consequences if they do. While I don’t want my 19th-century heroines to read like 21st-century women, I can’t get on board with keeping our heroines from stepping over the lines or cutting off their toes if they do.

During our McDaniel classes, we discussed the need for characters, especially protagonists, to be in some ways larger or better or more interesting in stories than most of us are in real life. A story about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives under ordinary circumstances just isn’t likely to be a very riveting read. One or more of those ‘ordinaries’ need to become extraordinary to make our fictional worlds worth exploring. And I want my historical heroines, whether I’m reading about them or writing about them, to be extraordinary. Continue reading

Nancy: All I Want For Christmas…Are Books!

Reading List

I love a good list. I get an incredible sense of organization from writing to-do lists and a huge feeling of accomplishment by crossing off each completed task. I adore reading lists like those Michille shared last week, as they give me great ideas for new books to add to my TBR pile.

But one type of list I dread writing every year is my Christmas wish list (yes, I know, most adults don’t do this, but I have a few family members who still request it, even though my childhood years are…ahem…decades behind me). And sorting through reading lists right now (because really, what do any of us want more than books? 😉 doesn’t fit into my current schedule as I fight through multiple to-do lists, none of which have anything to do with the impending holidays.

That’s where my secret weapon comes in, because I have a built-in group of smart, well-read people who, I’m sure, won’t be shy about sharing some ‘best of 2014 books’ of their own with me. (Those of you reading the 8LW blog are the smart people, in case you missed that.) I’ve already started my Christmas wish book list, but there’s a problem. Continue reading

Justine: Community

eight ladies writing, justine covington, community, writing, writerThe concept of community is something very important in books, IMHO. When you fall in love with a character, invariably you fall in love with the other characters that make up their community and often, the community comes together to help the hero or heroine achieve their goal.

The same is true in the writing community. For a few weeks now, I’ve been thinking about how to revise my first scene. The way it is (as evidenced by my five-week evolution here) is okay, but it sets me up with a big problem, namely we don’t see Susannah and Nate together until the fourth scene — WAAAAAY too long for the two of them to meet. Plus, by setting up the first scene as it was, we don’t get a sense of Susannah’s community (which is limited at first to her friend Maggie). Again, we have to wait until the fourth scene to discover Susannah’s friend. Continue reading