Sunday, February 5, 2017

Historical Research Companion Excerpt: Revolutionary Times/Georgian

Popularity as a Romance Setting (Revolutionary Times/Georgian)

Pirates. It’s really the first thought to come to mind when I think of Revolutionary Times. I also think about the tall ships, the highwaymen, and the clothing -- low-cut gowns and powdered wigs. I’ll get to all of that, of course, but in the backdrop there is a Scientific Revolution; the period of Civil War in England (basically a conflict between the king and parliament, 1642-1651), an execution of a king (King Charles I is beheaded on January 31, 1649); a brief, kingless Commonwealth government followed by the Restoration of the Monarchy (1660), plague (The Great Plague of 1665); the Great Fire of London (1666), witch hunts and trials of note such as the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692; the Jacobite Rising in Scotland (1745) of the supporters of James II who, almost 60 years after James II’s exile to France, tried to reclaim the British throne; and also the French (1789-1799) and American (1775-1783) Revolutions.
English Monarchs
The Stuarts (1603-1714)
James I (1603-1625)
Charles I (1625-1649)
The Commonwealth (1649-1660)
Charles II (1660-1685)
James II (1685-1688)
William& Mary (1689-1702)
Anne (1792-1714)
The Hanoverians (1714-1910)
George I (1714-1727)
George II (1727-1760)
George III (1760-1820)
George IV (1820-1830) who is Prince Regent from 1811-1820
This is also a time period when France dominates as a major political and cultural leader. The influence of the French would continue in grand style during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1714), the Sun King, who has the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history. Readers are notably familiar with a French setting from the infamous Three Musketeers, Dumas’ historical adventure novel set in Louis XIII time of 1625-1630ish. This story gave us an appetite for rakish heroes who somehow mix chivalry with comedy. We also become acquainted with the term libertine, which means one devoid of most moral or sexual restraints. The libertine philosophy often followed by the aristocracy and monarchies of England and France would be in stark contrast to prominent religious sects of the time.
In England, following the sober constraints of the Commonwealth years, the Restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660 brought with it a return of flamboyant revelry and previously banned celebrations. The theaters reopened and Puritan restrictions on “pagan” festivals were lifted, reinstating things such as maypoles and mince pies. The Restoration ‘rake’ earned his reputation and so did the king, becoming known as ‘the merry monarch,’ notorious for his mistresses.
By then, many of the Puritans had left England for America. Settling mainly in New England, they would inspire the settings of Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter and Miller’s The Crucible. The settlement of Salem would also be the location of the very real Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692.
The late eighteenth century and technically up to 1830, which covers the Regency also, is also known as Georgian, spanning the reigns of the four Hanoverian kings all named George. Romance writers and readers, however, are accustomed to breaking out the Regency as a separate category. Georgian, therefore, is really more grounded in the eighteenth century. For a visual feast of all things Georgian, you might like to visit author Lucinda Brant’s Pinterest Boards.
So before we get to the Regency, we have the iconic heroes of Revolutionary Times who contribute greatly to the appeal of an action-filled historical romance set in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries…like pirates.
Of course, we all know historical romance readers have been fans of the pirate theme long before Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean solidified the genre’s mainstream appeal. There is a lot to be said about the appeal of a pirate, and some of it will be said again when talking about the appeal of the Viking Age setting. They too were considered pirates by some.
The pirate romance offers something a reader might not find elsewhere and that is action. Historical romance writer Marsha Canham, who knows a thing or two about writing an adventure on the high seas, says this on The Allure of the Pirate Romance, a Write Byte at All About Romance:
“The appeal is in the very romance of history itself, the romance of something we can only imagine from the safety of a burglar-proof house with its indoor plumbing, thermal pane windows, and refrigerators that dispense ice in cubes or crushed pieces. It is the notion of stepping, however briefly, through a door in time and being transported to another place not quite so safe, where the air is filled with the acrid scent of smoke and gunpowder, where your ears ring from the firing of a full broadside and your feet slip out from beneath you, when the deck lurches and your toes lose their grip on the mixture of blood and ash on the planking. It’s the taste of the salt spray on your lips and the sting of undiluted rum in your throat. It’s the glimpse you get of the sun setting in a blaze of red across the horizon and the experience you share of climbing into the rigging at night when the sky is such an immense vault of endless space, filled with the magic of so many stars and constellations, it should shame the writer who settles for: it was a dark night and the stars were twinkling overhead. It is the pure, exhilarating adventure of meeting the men and women who survived by performing reckless, dangerous, and yes -- heroic deeds, without a thought toward the morality or the political correctness of their actions. They were thieves and reckless adventurers, and both kinds of men have always fascinated us, especially if they manage to escape unscathed.”
Diana Gabaldon’s enormously successful Outlander series was also set during this adventurous time period around the years of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. (To be accurate she moves about in time quite a bit, as shown in this timeline of the Outlander series.) She describes what she thought to include in this series on her website:
“…owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they include…
history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…
…you know, the usual stuff of literature.”
That pretty much explains why this is a popular time period! And not bad for “practice,” don’t you think? Outlander became (by far) the most popular historical romance time-travel novel ever written.
But wait…there’s more! Adding to the popularity of the time period is the romantic period drama Poldark, which is set in the 1780s when Poldark returns to England after fighting in the American Revolutionary War. All I can say is the remarkable Aiden Turner as Poldark is fast overtaking my The Hero Board on Pinterest!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Available now! The Historical Research Companion 3rd Edition

I've been keeping this under wraps for a while now, but I'm very excited to announce the release of the 3rd edition of the Historical Research Companion to Everything of Interest to a Romance Writer. The new edition has a brand new cover and loads of new content!

Here is a sneak peak from the Foreword:

Welcome to the 3rd edition of the Historical Research Companion. Written from the perspective of a historical romance writer and reader, this new edition expands the daily life historical information and continues to look deeper into what makes each historical time period popular as a romance setting.

With this 3rd edition, the chronological order has been “flipped” to go back in time instead of forward. We begin with a look the Gilded Age/Edwardian Era. Like the Regency, it is a relatively short time span that reaches beyond its historical boundaries in influence. The next stops on the journey follow this order: Victorian/American Old West, Revolutionary Times and the Regency, Renaissance and Reformation, Medieval Times, and The Dark Ages.

The companion is further divided into sub-categories, which are: Political and Social Climate, Fashion, Food and Drink, Society and Entertainment, Crime and Punishment, Religion, Health and Medicine, Travel and Transportation, and Homes and Architecture. Some time periods still have more sub-categories than others. The Regency, my favorite time period, probably still gets the lion’s share of attention, but additional topics have been added to all of the main categories. Last but not least, each time period still has an extensive Chronology, located at the back of the book, to help you get a sense of your time and place.

This companion continues to be about getting a head start on your research and getting on with the business of writing. It is not, as you probably can guess from the scope of historical content covered, the sort of book to read “cover to cover.” There are no covers, for one thing, and nor are there likely to be since this is a resource that takes full advantage of the Internet. As one reviewer pointed out, it is rather like a Google search, but without the distractions. That is not to say you won’t get distracted when you venture out to explore a link provided, but I hope you will return home to the organization of this companion.

It is the organization, or in other words, the simple fact that the focus of this companion is kept on the needs of the historical romance writer, that I hope you will find most unique and helpful. This companion does not cover everything, in spite of what the title implies, but it does cover a lot. The Table of Contents is your short cut to specific topics, but the Companion also gives a framework to your research by looking at what makes each historical setting uniquely appealing. Some time periods will have several of these “Popularity as a Romance Setting” entries. The Victorian time period, for instance, looks at the popularity of sub-genres with settings of the American Old West, the American Civil War and also Native American Romances. Likewise, the Dark Ages and Medieval time periods look at sub-genres of Viking Age Romance, Arthurian Legend Romance and Romances set during the Norman Conquest. Or, not to be forgotten, are the highwaymen and pirates of Revolutionary Times.

There is, logically, some repetition and overlap with broad topics and themes. For instance, the English system of primogeniture and the policy of entail is a political system of great interest to a historical romance writer, mainly because it has enormous social consequences for characters in a historical setting. And so, the word “social” is now added to the Political Climate sub-category because I feel, as you may, that the social consequences of political systems and events is what we find most important when researching history for our fictional stories.

Across the span of time, certain topics also overarch. The history of bloodletting, for example, is a medical practice that went on for hundreds of years, but didn’t change overmuch in understanding or method. Or the history of horses for transportation is another interesting topic that carries over century after century, but is slightly more changeable over time with manmade innovations of invention and breeding. At times, history moves so slowly you hardly notice a difference and at other times it advances with lighting speed, driven by a renaissance, an industrial revolution, or simply a fashionable, trend-setting monarch.

So let’s dive into some time travel! I hope you enjoy the added content of this 3rd edition!

Melissa Johnson

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