Saturday, February 25, 2012

Basic Regency Etiquette

With every society, culture, era, there are certain rules of etiquette, and the Regency was no exception. Today I'd like to give you a few basic rulse of etiquette that I've recenlty been reading in, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickes Knew by Daniel Pool--literally a must have for lovers of the Regency! I have of course added my own commentary.

A Gentleman's Rules of Etiquettte:

  1. If passing a lady--whom you are only slightly acquaitned with--while out in about in town or at the park, do not tip your hat unless hse first acknowledges you. Do not speak to her unless spoken to. Boy, this certainly does give a woman a chance to issue the cut direct, does it not?
  2. Going up the stairs--men first. Going down stairs--ladies first. Hmm... I would have thought the opposite, so said gentleman could catch her when her corset-wearing-short-breaths cause her to faint from the exertion.
  3. When riding in a carriage with a lady who is not your wife, sister, mother or daughter--do not sit next to her! Also be sure that you are sitting in the seat facing backward. Also, take care not to step on her dress. I do like to break the rules and have my ladies sit directly next to her unmarried beaus--and have their limbs touch.
  4. A gentleman never smokes in the presence of ladies. Wish this rule were true today!

And now, A Lady's Rules of Etiquette:

  1. If a lady is under the age of thirty and/or unmarried, she should never be alone with a man she is not related to without a chaperone--unless of course he is escorting her to church or the park early in the morning.  I can imagine many a lady confessing her sins once she arrives at church.
  2. Never wear pearls or diamonds in the morning! How obscene to seen doing such! I wonder if emeralds, rubies and sapphires are acceptable?
  3. Never dance more than three times with the same gentleman at a party. I love to break this rule too!
  4. Do not give someone the cut direct unless absolutely necessary, and when you do, make sure it is with an icey stared, perhaps even a stiff bow. Ooh, I can see many a lady doing this to some handsome, yet thoroughly rakish men.
Do you have any Regency rules of etiquette you care to share?


Eliza Knight is the multi-published, award-winning author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain, and enjoys cold winter nights when she can curl up in front of a roaring fire with her own knight in shining armor. She writes Regency erotic romance for Carina Press. Visit Eliza at or her historical blog, History Undressed, which was recently mentioned in a feature article in The Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Devil of Jedburgh

My latest Scottish romance released this month, so I thought I'd share a short excerpt... Arran doesn't know that Breghan is his intended bride, yet, and she's still in two minds as to whether she should keep on running...

   ’Twas said he’d not only buried six wives, but their blood was on his hands.
   “How many wives have you had?” she demanded outright.
   “None yet.”
   His eyes met hers once more and she caught herself searching for the truth in that direct gaze. Another rumour without substance? Or the devil giving her what she most wanted to hear?
   Most wanted? I must be losing my mind to think I care either way.   Disgusted with the both of them, Breghan spun away and ran to the spot where she’d discarded her shoes and hose. She quickly rolled the thin wool up her legs and donned her shoes. Hair prickled her neck and she knew his stare had followed her.
   She turned to face him with a firm smile in place. “What made you choose McAllen’s daughter?”
   “The lass has certain qualities I require in a wife.”
   “You—you’ve met her?” Breghan tensed inside and out. Had he seen her someplace before? Did he know exactly who she was? Had he being toying with her all this time?
   He shook his head. “Her reputation precedes her most favourably.”
   Where there should have been only relief that he didn’t know who she was after all, came a sudden thrill.
   Her virtues had been extolled?
   Leave be. What does it matter anyway? No answer will sway my mind.
   Her mouth defied her resolve. “What exactly did you hear of her?”
   “The lass has twelve brothers,” came the flat reply. “Each one over six foot tall and built like a boulder.”
   Confounded, she waited for more as she watched his face eagerly. “Go on,” she said to his silence. “What other qualities caught your interest?”
   “None that come to mind,” he said with a shrug.
   She was starting to hate that shrug.
   And she was thoroughly dismayed with herself. That thrill had come from more than a desire to be acknowledged as a worthy individual.
   What had she expected to hear? That he’d fallen in love with her from afar, from an imaginary picture painted by romantic fables of her beauty and gentle nature? An excuse to stop worrying, stop running, to believe that Arran Kerr could truly be a husband who’d cherish her?
   “You want McAllen might on your side,” she said dully.
   His eyes creased at the outer edges and his lips twitched suspiciously.
   When he erupted into a guffawing laugh that had him bent double, her brows crossed. This man seemed to swing between moods like a pendulum without any apparent cause. She folded her arms and glared at him. “Are you laughing at me?”
   “N—no, lass.” He started to come up, then fell into another bout of laughter. “’Tis just the idea of a Kerr wanting anything from a McAllen.”
   “You want McAllen’s daughter.”
   Her reminder sobered him at once and he unbent with a straight face. “I willna dispute that.”
   Breghan tapped her foot impatiently. “You’ve still not explained why you chose her above all others.”
   If she could uncover some foul motive, she could convince her father of his error in judgement and all would be forgiven.
   “You’re mighty curious for a castle lass.”
   “I’ve served the young mistress for many years,” Breghan said quickly. “Naturally her fate remains my concern.”
   “McAllen’s daughter is your mystery lady?” Serious now, he gave her a long, absorbing look. “Very well, lass, I suppose I do owe you a boon after…” He shrugged.
   “You stabbed me?” she offered.
   “I’ve ridden alongside McAllen many a time,” he told her. “Most often Tristan, Kyle and Callum were there, sometimes Thomas and James. I knew McAllen had twelve sons, of course, each as strong and towering as the next. It was only when I attended our Queen Mary’s wedding feast at Holyrood, however, that McAllen mentioned a daughter. I admire the man his prolificacy and even more I admire his lady wife. So when McAllen hinted at the merits of a union, I found no reason to stall negotiations.”
   Breghan raised a hand to interrupt. She knew very well that Arran hadn’t met her mother at Holyrood in July. “From where do you know McAllen’s wife?”
   “I don’t. I admire the lady for bearing a dozen strapping sons and living to see them grow.”
   Finally, he was beginning to make sense.
   Breghan’s mouth fell open in disgust. “You don’t know the Lady McAllen. You’ve never seen her, never met her. The only thing you admire is her ability to produce a pack of hearty sons and you hope the daughter is made from the same stock.”
   “Aye,” Arran stated without a blink.
   “You don’t seek a woman to tend your home? To see to your comfort?”
   “I have servants for that.”
   “Someone to keep you company by the fire at day’s end? Someone you can laugh and talk with?”
   “There’s more ’an fifty men at Ferniehirst at any one time, lass. I’ve all the company any man could need.”
   Breghan’s voice grew faint as her throat went dry. “Someone to share your worries with?”
   “A man takes care of his own troubles.”
By this time, understandably, she's decided it would be better for everyone concerned if she can just get Arran to change his mind...

  The roasted hares were laid side by side on a blanket of fresh leaves. Breghan didn’t refuse when he sliced a generous portion for her. She’d eaten nothing since the previous night.
   In between bites, she chose to inform him, “In all your haste, didn’t you stop to consider why McAllen’s daughter reached the grand age of nineteen without any offers of marriage?”
   He gave her a blank look.
   “The daughter runs to fat,” she declared. “She is mean tempered and as ugly as a wart. ’Twould be an awful trial to beget your heirs on her.”
   “My wife should certainly be buxom to carry my offspring. Besides, I prefer my woman with a bit of flesh to hold on to.” He tore off a juicy leg and ripped into it with a hearty appetite.
   “She has a small forehead, a sharp nose and no chin at all,” Breghan went on. Once she was done, he’d consider it a blessing to find his brood mare had fled the pasture.
   “If her appearance isn’t to my taste, I’ll douse the candles before climbing into bed at night.” He shrugged those massive shoulders.
   It was confirmed.
   She hated that noncommittal shrug.
   “She has a vicious tongue that none can escape. Everyone from kitchen servant to castle lord falls foul to her scathing rants.”
   “If I canna keep her screams sweet in bed, I’ll keep her mouth busy elsewhere.”
   Breghan had no idea what he meant by that, but everything else was perfectly clear. Arran Kerr had no interest in his bride’s character or looks. Only one thing filled his mind and she refused to play third party to a union between this man and her womb.
   She was back to believing he’d buried six wives. He was clearly capable of using one up and then going on to the next. “Do you plan to spend any time out of bed at all?”
    “If McAllen’s daughter is half as bad as you say, then no, at least not with my wife.”

... you can read more about The Devil of Jedburgh here and thanks for stopping by

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Felling Mine Disaster

As I write this, there's a bit of dust-up on the internet and on morning talk shows about a father who discovered his daughter had been disrespectful to him in a Facebook post and responded with his own special brand of retaliation. This may seem like a bit of a non sequitur, but it got me thinking about the Felling mine disaster.

Two hundred years ago this May, a mine explosion in a coal mine in what was then County Durham, England, killed 92 miners. Even today, coal mining is a hazardous profession; reportedly, there were over 6000 coal mining deaths in China in 2004 alone. Dangers to miners include the collapse of mine walls and ceilings, oxygen deprivation, and poisonous gas, not to mention the risk of developing “black lung,” a lung disease caused by chronic inhalation of carbon dust. But the most devastating danger to miners occurs when firedamp—flammable gas which can accumulate in pockets in a mine—ignites and triggers a coal dust explosion.

Miners have known about firedamp for centuries, and such explosions are still a serious risk, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century, coal mines were truly scary places. They were naturally dark, and lamps required an open flame. One safety strategy was to employ a brave miner to deliberately introduce a candle into gas pockets to ignite the gas before it could accumulate in heavy concentrations. He was called a “monk” because he performed this operation swathed in wet blankets in the (probably vain) hope the blankets would protect him from the resulting explosive flashes.

The Felling mine explosion, May 25, 1812

The Felling mine disaster occurred when firedamp ignited and the resulting coal dust explosion sent a devastating blast throughout the mine and up its two mine shafts, the John pit and the William pit, named after the Brandling brothers who owned the colliery. The disaster was such a shocking and violent occurrence that it prompted two young innovators, engineer George Stephenson and scientist Humphry Davy, to separately design safety lamps for use in mines. Stephenson went on to become the “Father of Railways,” building the first public railroad in the world, and Davy went on to a baronetcy and the presidency of the Royal Society, though their lamps ignited a conflagration of a different kind when Davy erroneously assumed that Stephenson had stolen his idea.

But the aspect of the Felling mine disaster that haunts me most is the list of victims, now inscribed on a memorial at St. Mary’s churchyard in Heworth. The blast was especially deadly because it occurred as one shift of workers was relieving the other. Of the 92 miners—three-quarters of the mine workforce—who perished in the blast, 36 were under the age of 18; 27 were under age 15. Victims Thomas Gordon and Michael Hunter were only 8, and two other boys, Thomas Craggs and George Reay, were just a year older.

Child labor in the mines.

It’s a chilling reminder of the kind of life children often led before the advent of child labor laws over the next hundred-plus years. In 1842, the Royal Commission report on Children in the Mines found that “while from eight to nine is the ordinary age at which employment in these mines commences,” in some cases “Children are taken into these mines to work as early as four years of age.” These children typically worked shifts of twelve hours—sometimes as many as eighteen hours—doing dirty, backbreaking, and in many cases life-threatening work. The report came out in May, and was so shocking that by August 10 Parliament had passed the Coal Mines Act, prohibiting female labor underground and requiring boys in the mines to be a full ten years old.

Ten years old, and that was the improvement.

You might mention that to your teenager the next time the topic of household chores comes up—or think about it yourself the next time you feel frustrated because your otherwise-responsible teen isn't behaving in the most grown-up manner. Nowadays, kids are kids, and sometimes that's a good thing.

Alyssa Everett is currently awaiting word as to the fate of her debut regency, A Tryst With Trouble, while Dorchester Publishing reorganizes and reassesses its product lines. Her second regency, Ruined by Rumor, will definitely be coming out from the lovely Carina Press on May 21. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bohannon and Lilly: When You're Hot, You're Hot

Two of my favorite characters, Bohannon and Lilly, are from the AMC series, Hell On Wheels. Actually, this post is supposed to be about word-of-mouth and how that is the singularly most important thing a product can have, whether it is a TV series or book. I don't watch TV much and how I got hooked on HOW was a friend of mine told me I had to watch it.  Why?  Because of the character, Cullen Bohannon. She was right! I watched and I was hooked. Of course, I told everyone I knew how terrific this series was. I even recorded the marathon and loaned it out. New fans were created and we are all awaiting the 2nd season now.

Word-of-mouth is an elusive thing. It is not anything tangible that a writer can acquire through ads or blogging or anything else. It happens or it doesn't. About 80 percent of the books I've read have been due to recommendations from my friends. The others I read because I liked the story line. But I discovered Jeffery Deaver, Greg Iles and Shanna Abe, all through word-of-mouth. And, word-of-mouth spreads easily. I have recommended these authors to several other readers. So, if you like a book, be sure to tell someone, not just write a review. They are not the same as a verbal recommendation to a friend. Maybe it has something to do with sharing and the excitement that comes with sharing something you enjoyed.

And speaking of sharing something I enjoy, I will share a clip of Bohannon and Lilly.  First, a little background for those who don't know the story. Bohannon is an ex-Confederate soldier whose wife and son were murdered by Union soldiers. He is tracking down these men and killing them. He's very blunt and violent and he's not always heroic, which is what I love about this character. He's not John Wayne. He has a dark side and is generally feared by most men. Of course, I don't know of a woman watching the show that doesn't love him. The actor in the role is from Tennessee so his Southern accent doesn't sound fake.

Lilly is from London. She was out West with her husband when Indians attacked their camp. A warrior killed her husband. In return, Lilly broke off the arrow stuck in her shoulder and shoved it through the warrior's neck. Now, that is my kind of heroine! She continues to show spirit and courage as she decides to stay in the camp town of Hell on Wheels and rather than become the railroad baron's mistress, she sets up her own tent. Now, this is partly because she likes Bohannon, I think. There has only been a hint of romance with longing looks in the series so far but the tension between the characters is terrific. The big question is: Are they destined to be together?  What do you think?

If you want to see some clips from the show, click to watch and there are other links to vids that follow.

Thanks for stopping by!

Patricia Preston

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anne of Cleves, you look nothing like your Facebook picture.

I’ve heard it said by historians that some of the fascination with the Tudor period comes from the works of the artist Hans Holbein the Younger. Through his portraits, we see and relate to the key players in the drama of Henry VIII’s life as real people because they were portrayed realistically in their portraits. Or were they?

 Let’s face it, the concept of Photoshopping isn’t new, it has a long history stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt, where very few realistic portraits of the Pharaohs exist. Instead, most art from that era portrayed the god king as young, strong, handsome and powerful. The Armana period excluded, there wasn’t a pot belly or receding hairline to be found. The Romans produced more realistic busts of individuals, which helped me when I was trying to describe Caligula in my latest release, Mask of the Gladiator, but there was still an element of perfection in the representations.

A few thousand years later, and Henry VIII was faced with choosing a bride based on what we might call a profile picture. Poor Anne of Cleves. Some historians say Holbein painted her dress with a lot of zing to take attention away from her plain features. Others say it is a true likeness and she isn’t the “Mare of Flanders” Henry made her out to be.  Either way, one gets the sense from reading the historical accounts that the portrait was the modern day equivalent of the high angle, turned to the side snapshot we took five years ago and is now our profile picture.  Do we look good in the picture? Sure. Is it an accurate and faithful representation of what we really look like? Um, well, maybe not, but then, the futures and fates of countries aren’t entangled in the way we look.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Bundle Me, Baby!

When I write and read historical romance, I tend toward highly sensual, even erotic stories.  That’s just personal taste, and yours may be quite different from mine.  Given my preference, I naturally have an interest in sexual mores and practices from past eras.  I often come upon surprises like bundling.

Bundling was a practice popular in the Puritan times and the 18th century in the northeast and Amish areas of this country.  It involved allowing couples to share a bed during courtship.  The young man would spend the night at his intended’s family’s house.  The two would remove their outer clothing, and the girl’s mother would wrap each of them in separate blankets on a bed that was divided down the middle by an obstacle like the bundling board or bundling sack.  The young people would then spend the night together talking and getting to know if they were compatible.

There were several practical benefits of the practice.  In Colonial America, houses were far apart.  In order to visit the woman he was courting, a young man would often have to slog long distances through snow and other bad weather.  It was only natural for him to spend the night.  Not only were beds in short supply, but houses were cold and firewood and candles too dear to allow for long hours spent in leisure after supper.  Bundling together for heat while passing a pleasant time with the person you intended to marry made sense.

There was even a biblical basis for bundling in the story of Ruth and Boaz, (Ruth 3:6 and 3:13) in which the couple laid together all night on the threshing floor and later became husband and wife.
An anonymous ballad of the 1780's explains the rationale for bundling.
Nature's request is, give me rest,
Our bodies seek repose;
Night is the time, and 'tis no crime
To bundle in our cloaths.
Since in a bed, a man and maid
May bundle and be chaste;
It doth no good to burn up wood
It is a needless waste.
Let coat and shift be turned adrift,
And breeches take their flight,
An honest man and virgin can
Lie quiet all the night.

(From the website of Colonial Williamsburg

I remember hearing about the practice of bundling when I was a teenager and thinking “They could get away with THAT?”  I knew darned well that a board or sack wouldn’t prevent young people from getting to each other if they wanted.  I ask you:

Sure enough, Washington Irving wrote in his History of New York "that wherever the practice of bundling prevailed, there was an amazing number of sturdy brats born . . . without the license of the law, or the benefit of clergy . . .” (Quoted in © 1975 - 1981 by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace "The People's Almanac" series of books.)  Of course, only couples who were seriously courting, with their parents’ permission, were allowed to bundle.  Marriage between the two was only a matter of time.  A baby who made his/her appearance “early” wouldn’t cause a terrible scandal.

Maybe we ought to reinstate the practice…for consenting adults, of course.

Alice's website

Monday, February 06, 2012

Where were you?

There are a handful of events that for good or ill (more often for ill, unfortunately) are unforgettable. I’ll never forget where I was when I heard about the Challenger disaster--I was in 9th grade, and they announced it over the intercom during 4th period Alabama History.

I found out about the 9/11 attacks when I was awakened by a phone call from my parents, who were supposed to be flying into Seattle for a visit later that day. Mom said, “All flights have been canceled.” Assuming she meant all flights out of Birmingham, I asked if there’d been some kind of storm or problem at the airport. She told me there had been a terrorist attack and to turn on the TV.

And most recently, last spring I was waiting for dinner at Red Robin with my husband and daughter. Mr. Fraser and I were checking Twitter on our phones, as internet addicts are wont to do, when tweets started to buzz with the news that President Obama was about to “address the nation.”

It sounded ominous, so we speculated about possible war with Iran or North Korea. I also worried that it might be something like a hideous cancer diagnosis for either the President or the First Lady, and that he might be stepping down and handing the reins to Vice-President Biden because of it--ever since I lost both my parents to lung cancer, my mind goes to the C-word in a hurry.

Instead, of course, the big news was the death of Osama bin Laden. We’d figured it out from Twitter before one of the TV feeds in the restaurant switched from sports to the news--which was neither captioned nor audible in the noisy restaurant, so Mr. Fraser and I leaned over the booths to tell our fellow diners what was happening as soon as we heard their baffled concern. Eventually, the headline at the bottom of the screen said something like, “Bin Laden death confirmed,” and the line cooks, most of whom would’ve been in junior high on 9/11, started cheering and stomping their feet.

We were home by the time the president actually spoke, so Mr. Fraser and I stood together our den--somehow it seemed too solemn a moment for lounging on the couch--and listened.

In the time period I write about, there was plenty of momentous news, though of course it rippled through the world much more slowly. I imagine if I’d been born in 1771 instead of 1971, I’d remember where I was when I heard about the French Revolution and Trafalgar and Waterloo, to name a few. So, when I recently read a collection of first-hand accounts of Waterloo in The Hundred Days (compiled and edited by Antony Brett-James), I was intrigued to find a chapter about how the news reached France and Britain. I was then flabbergasted by the following account by Mrs. Boehm, the woman hosting the ball the Prince Regent was at when Wellington’s messenger arrived:

That dreadful night! Mr. Boehm had spared no cost to render it the most brilliant party of the season; but all to no purpose. Never did a party, promising so much, terminate so disastrously! All our trouble, anxiety, and expense were utterly thrown away in consequence of--what shall I say? Well, I must say it--the unseasonable declaration of the Waterloo victory! Of course, one was very glad to think one had beaten those horrid French, and all that sort of thing; but still, I always shall think it would have been far better if Henry Percy had waited quietly till the morning, instead of bursting in upon us, as he did, in such indecent haste; and even if he had told the Prince alone, it would have been better; for I have no doubt his Royal Highness would have shown consideration enough for my feelings not to have published the news till the next morning.

...After dinner was over, and the ladies had gone upstairs, and the gentlemen had joined them, the ball guests began to arrive. They came with unusual punctuality, out of deference to the Regent’s presence. After a proper interval, I walked up to the Prince, and asked if it was his Royal Highness’s pleasure that the ball should open. The first quadrille was in the act of forming, and the Prince was walking up to the dais on which his seat was placed, when I saw everyone without the slightest sense of decorum rushing to the windows, which had been left wide open because of the excessive sultriness of the weather. The music ceased and the dance was stopped; for we heard nothing but the vociferous shouts of an enormous mob, who had just entered the square, and were running by the side of a post-chaise and four, out of whose windows were hanging three nasty French eagles. In a second the door of the carriage was flung open, and, without waiting for the steps to be let down, out sprang Henry Percy--such a dusty figure!--with a flag in each hand, pushing aside everyone who happened to be in his way, darting up stairs, into the ball-room, stepping hastily up to the Regent, dropping on one knee, laying the flags at his feet, and pronouncing the words “Victory, Sir! Victory!”

The Prince Regent, greatly overcome, went into an adjoining room to read the despatches; after a while he returned, said a few sad words to us, sent for his carriage, and left the house. The royal brothers soon followed suit; and in less than twenty minutes there was not a soul left in the ballroom but poor dear Mr. Boehm and myself.

Such a scene of excitement, anxiety, and confusion never was witnessed before or since, I do believe! Even the band had gone, not only without uttering a word of apology, but even without taking a mouthful to eat. The splendid supper which had been provided for our guests stood in the dining-room untouched. Ladies of the highest rank, who had not ordered their carriages till four o’clock a.m., rushed away, like maniacs, in their muslins and satin shoes, across the Square; some accompanied by gentlemen, others without escort of any kind; all impatient to learn the fate of those dear to them; many jumping into the first stray hackney-coaches they fell in with, and hurrying on to the Foreign Office or Horse Guards, eager to get a sight of the List of Killed and Wounded.

I first read that account nearly a month ago, and it still boggles my mind every time I re-read it. I can understand that it would suck to put down the kind of money it would take to throw a ball for the highest of London’s elite and have it all go to waste. But to still resent it, years later (her account is from 1831), when it was abundantly clear just how important Waterloo was? And the way she seems to focus on breaches of propriety above all else--Henry Percy was dusty, and he shoved people out of the way in his haste to reach the Prince Regent. One might almost think he was bearing critical news for his country’s acting head of state or something! Not to mention those ladies running out in their muslin gowns and slippers, with or without escort, all because they had brothers or sons or sweethearts with the army and wanted to know if they were still alive. How shocking! And lest you think her reaction is somehow typical of her time, the behavior of her guests belies it. Also, all the other accounts sound remarkably like what happens now in those moments we all remember--normal social barriers breaking down, everyone turning out into the streets to talk it over, etc.

(The painting illustrating this post is David Wilkie’s Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch, which the Duke of Wellington commissioned at a cost of 1200 guineas. I think it’s a more typical reaction than Mrs. Boehm’s, don’t you?)
Susanna Fraser writes Regency romance with a focus on the Napoleonic Wars. The Sergeant's Lady and A Marriage of Inconvenience are available now from Carina Press.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Where are the REAL stories?

As you probably know (or may not!) I run a review blog called "Speak Its Name" which aims to list (and one day--hollow laugh) have reviewed all the gay historical fiction that there is out there.

It's a growing and healthy genre, from the handful of authors who were writing it when the blog started in 2007, there are now going on 100 authors who have tried it or are regular authors. There are books from just about every era now (if not every country) from (believe it or not) cavemen to the cut-off period which I cheekily upped from the Historical Novel Society's cut-off of "50 years ago" to "pre-Stonewall/Wolfenden report" which takes it all the way up to 1971.

But the interesting thing is, is that though there is a positive deluge of the stuff and most of it is good, nearly all of it concerns original characters having adventures in a past time.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that of course, but it surprises  me that--with the wealth of real-life gay men scattered throughout history, that there's not more stories regarding them. After all, much of the backbone of historical novels can set itself against the books of Jean Plaidy and the like when people wrote about the mildly fictionalised lives of kings and queens. I was raised on these books and I say: Where are gay equivalents? Why aren't people writing about all these fascinating people who managed to be gay--some notoriously so?

Of course, there are exceptions. If you persue "The Lists" (print/ebook, ebook only) you will find a smattering of "real life" characters. Some of course lean heavily on supposition. William Shakespeare is a popular subject. It seems that no original gay character can enter Tudor London without getting ambushed by either the Bard of Avon or the naughty Mr Kit Marlowe. Oscar Wilde is also a popular chappie, and there are quite a few books about him, although many (such as the series by Gyles Brandreth) are alternative history, where Wilde becomes a sleuth.

Philipa Gregory even dipped her toes in gay historical fiction. Her "Earthly Joys" is about the famous gardener John Tradescant the Elder who (in her book) ends up falling for the betwitching First Duke of Buckingham who was almost certainly bisexual and King James I's favourite. However attractive this book is--and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I had to stretch my imagination to breaking point to believe that the handsome Buckingham would have been even mildly attracted to Tradescant. But who knows? Perhaps he really was.
First Duke of Buckingham
George Villiers - First Duke of Buckingham
John Tradescant - not as handsome as Phillipa Gregory would have you think!

However - what I'd like to see is some damned good novels about real people going through times that we knew actually happened. The trouble is that there's so much been lost. Families who destroyed letters and diaries that would incriminate their sons as to their sexual preferences. People like Byron whose diaries were burned by order of his publisher. Oh! The loss of what they must have held! But there is a fair amount of information about gay characters--and more books are being written yearly (see the non-fiction section of The List) so if someone were to write something about Nijinsky and Diaghilev (why oh why hasn't someone done this already?) or Michelangelo - I'd certainly be standing in eager line waiting to snap them up. I do know an author who is working on a labour of love regarding Ivan the Terrible and his boy toy, but goodness knows when that will get done, (although it's going to be fabulous, I know!)

I mean, look at the Douglases. By that I mean Bosie and his brother. As far as I know (please please correct me if I'm wrong) but there's no book with an account of Bosie's experiences. And as for his brother? It's almost unknown that Francis Douglas who was older than Bosie, was somehow entangled with his boss, The Duke of Rosebery and a near-scandal ensued. Francis was granted a title by Rosebery and only 18 months afterwards (was it a pay off perhaps?) Francis was killed in a "hunting accident" although whether it was suicide, accident or something darker (seeing as how Rosebery was married into the Rothchild family...) Yes yes, supposition, but it's far less Wilde (excuse the pun) than Oscar as a detective!

Those devilishly handsome Douglas Boys (Bosie, left, Francis, Right.)
The Douglas Brothers, left-Bosie, Right, Francis

And when you think about it, one suddenly has a glimmer of sympathy (perhaps) for Lord Queensbury whose two sons were both involved with powerful older men. No wonder he went ballistic when Bosie went the same way.

Anyway - come on, authors! Where are the books about E M Forster? Wagner and Mad Ludwig? Siegfried Sasson? Clifton Webb? There are hundreds of subjects to choose from and only a handful of existing books. It's not right.

And if you don't, I may have to do it myself.

Further reading: Queers in History | Rictor Norton | Famous and Gay | List of Gay Men throughout History

Erastes is the penname of a female author living in Norfolk, England with 3 cats and a mad dog. She writes gay historical novels and short stories with gay themes from many genres. Her two books for Carina are: Muffled Drum (Austro-Prussian War) and A Brush with Darkness (coming out in March, which is set in 19th century Florence) Her website is and she can be found easily on Twitter and just about everywhere else.