Saturday, December 30, 2017

No Means No

 Click the image for a fun sidetrack.Bodice Rippers.

It's a term I've used in the past to mock the romance genre. It comes from an era of romance where the young virtuous ingenue is seduced by the experienced rake. She fights her own desire and, when she gives in, it is often under duress. It's the scenario where she said no but her body said yes. Now I consider that disgusting, it's rape made titillating. It also summarizes the value system of an era where good girls couldn't say yes... and it taught men that no didn't always mean no.

But romance novels did not create this norm, they were a symptom of it. The female readers during this time responded to these books because it was a representation of the social values they were living. Sexual fantasy was just that, fantasy. But the limits on a woman's right to claim her own sexuality was not a fantasy.

These were the romances I started with. In fact, these stories impacted my view about love and sex. I'm still trying to get over that.

Today's romance novels still frequently have an alpha man. The difference between the old school tropes and today's characters is that he's butting heads with an alpha woman. It's a meeting of equals. Unless you are reading a niche book about BDSM or rape fantasy or straight-up porn, mainstream romance is about a woman who is competent and powerful in her own right. She may or may not be virginal. She may or may not be young. Or thin. Or white. Or heterosexual. And there is no concern about whether or not a woman can acknowledge her own desires. If she says no, it's because she means no. And, an equally important shift, she has the right to say yes.

Romance has changed as the writers have changed. While it is still a market with, predominantly, women writing for women, that is not exclusive. A good story is still a good story, and (imo) the only thing keeping the romance genre limited to a specific section of the bookstore and a specific demographic is the prejudice in place against the genre.

(While I could talk at length about the ingrained prejudice against romance based on sexism and the patriarchal norms still lingering that want to limit women's sexual agency, this is a post specifically about the changing face of romance.)

So bodice rippers have had their time and the romance industry has evolved. It's to a point where the term has been reclaimed by the industry in much the same way as racial or homophobic slurs are used by people within the culture to take away the power of the word. We have taken ownership of the insult and know that, as a genre, we are above it.

*Click the image above to go to the BuzzFeed link, "19 Things Fabio Is Actually Thinking On Romance Novel Covers."

Monday, December 25, 2017

I Wish You a Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas!


I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday and hope for 2018.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Courtly Scandals

Courtly Pleasures is a stand-alone story within a trio of books. Each of these books can be read individually without the reader feeling like they missed an integral part of the story. I, personally, like this about romance. I love getting to know the families and friends of the hero/heroine of a story and then get to see their stories. I love getting a glimpse of the hero/heroine, happy in their life together, during the next novels. It keeps me buying that author again and again because I'm not ready to release that world just yet. And, if I read one out of order, the story is not hurt - it just makes me curious about what came before. In fact, it's fun to see the heroine I loved in book five as a young girl with scraped knees in book two.


COURTLY PLEASURES SPOILER BELOW

When I started writing, I wanted to create a rich world where the readers would want to come back. So far the reviews are strong and I have readers wanting to know what comes next for Frances and Henry. Their love story may have resolved, but the world they live in is continuing. Courtly Pleasures ended at the start of Christmas time. They will spend the twelve days of Christ's Mass at home with their children, Jane, and the goodly members of their household and tenant farms.

Mary made the choice to stay on in London with her previous mistress, Anne Cecil, the Countess of Oxford. Mary is not exactly a servant; she is a gently reared young woman placed in a prestigious household to better her chances of marrying well. As a companion to the lady of the house, she would help with some tasks, but really be there for company. She served Frances in this capacity and now has returned, by choice, to Lady Oxford. Why? Because Mary felt she was needed.

Anne Cecil has recently married the Earl of Oxford and, for her, it was a love match. Although I took some liberties with exact incidences, I tried to stay true to the type of man he was reported to be. As for Mary, I'm not sure what she thinks she can do to make the situation for Anne better, but she's going to, at least, be there for her friend. Whether or not Anne wants her.

Courtly Scandals is Mary's story. It is set over the twelve days of Christ's mass with Queen Elizabeth's court. The cool head and practical nature that was a rock to Frances is useless in the face of unrestrained revelry and Anne's capricious friendship. Mary must adapt and start thinking about herself for once.

While Mary is a fictitious character, both Anne Cecil and her husband, Edward (Ned) Da Vere, the Earl of Oxford, are real. I have portrayed them in their approximate ages and stage of their relationship circa 1572. The image featured to the right is a portrait of the Earl of Oxford, 1575.

If you enjoyed Courtly Pleasures, you will enjoy Courtly Scandals. If you miss Frances and Henry, don't worry, they'll be back again at Holme LeSieur for Jane's story, Courtly Abandon (estimated release date July, 2018).

Courtly Scandals is available for pre-order now. I look forward to sharing the cover reveal with you (I look forward to seeing it myself!).




Friday, December 15, 2017

Transportation and Communication Norms: Modern vs. Historical

It is hard for us, with our communication and transportation technology, to envision a world where someone in one town may never, in their life, visit another town that is fifty miles away. Stories in a historical setting have to balance a very fine line between historical accuracy and the modern reader's ability to suspend disbelief and commit to a story. Sometimes a concept is just so foreign that it is impossible to apply. In the case of Courtly Pleasures, the figurative distance between Frances and Henry can, in part, be linked to the literal distance.

Today it would take two hours and thirty-eight minutes to get from Holme Pierrepont (the basis for my fictitious Holme LeSieur) to Hampton Court Palace, depending on traffic. In the sixteenth century, it would have taken at least four days for a lady and her entourage to travel the one hundred and forty four miles -- and that's just travel time. This doesn't take into account the personal items (what a modern traveler might expect but on a much larger scale, literally. I had an Elizabethan gown and underpinnings that weighed forty pounds) and the household furnishings (I don't know about you, but I don't bring tapestries, bedding, beds, etc... with me when I travel) both for the wealthy traveler and their servants and their companions and their companion's servants... There is no guarantee of hospitality at the final destination and the hotels of the day consisted of rooms above a tavern, good only for a night's stay. And let's not forget able bodied gentlemen to act as outriders to both clear the way and ensure safety of the traveling party

And all this effort could only be successful if the roads were in good condition (no department of transportation to maintain a paved surface clear of potholes, flooding, and ruts) and free of bandits (no police force).

Travel was difficult and not undertaken lightly.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The King's Post, by R. C. Tombs

I don't mention any of this in my novel, Courtly Pleasures, because it would take away from the story. However, without laying out the challenges of distance and travel, readers may not be able to put the enormity of effort the simple act of visiting London required into context.

The challenges of travel directly impacted the communication systems of the time. With no post office, any letters would have to be delivered by a paid courier and without any guarantee when or if they would reach their destination. My main character, Frances, would have had someone on staff that she sent with missives to her mother. That courier would wait and bring a reply, but he still had to deal with traveling.

Can you imagine if the only outside information you received was filtered by word of mouth or in inconsistent letters from relatives? You may hear about goings on in the world, but long after the events occurred. You may not know that your brother's wife died or that there was a battle in Scotland or that the Queen was sponsoring exploration in the New World. Today we suffer from an overload of information. If a celebrity wore a certain dress to an event, we know it immediately, even if we don't care. It's hard to imagine a time where we would be ignorant of anything outside the immediate bubble of our household or village.

We have such a wealth of resources at our disposal that it is hard to grasp a time where people did not. I recently, in an interview, stated that I like modern times because of flush toilets and penicillin. Add to that the easy access to any question at the tap of a keyboard and the fact that I can talk, face to face, with my sister in Switzerland. The world has become much smaller...let's hope the distance between us does also.
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