Great news! The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews will be on sale from June 4-June 10, 2018 for 99 cents. This historical romance, set in Victorian England, is a delightful read. Mimi is celebrating the release of the audiobook on June 11, so this is a special opportunity to get the printed copy for a great price. Mark your calendars so you won’t miss out!
I am privileged to host author Nancy Blanton, author of Sharavogue and her newest work The Prince of Glencurragh. Today, she is going to tell us about the source of inspiration for her new work. Over to Nancy…
I first started reading historical fiction as a teenager. I only dreamed I would one day be writing it, not believing the dream could come true. But I’ve since learned that inspiration can come from anywhere, and often the drive with it.
While researching 17th century Ireland for my second historical novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, I was stopped in my tracks by an arresting portrait of James Butler, the 12th Earl of Ormonde and the 1st Duke of Ormonde. I knew right away I had to find out more about him, because he was going to be featured in the book.
When I learned he had ascended to earldom in 1634 at just 24 years of age, I realized he was a contemporary of the characters I was already constructing. This earl became quite powerful, and led the passionate Royalist stand against English dominance under the boot of Oliver Cromwell and his army. He seemed to embody the ideal of beauty, money, and power.
1st Duke of Ormonde by Sir Peter Lely (circa 1665) Public domain, Wikimedia Commons
This portrait captures Ormonde looking magnificent in ceremonial robes. He wears white satin trimmed in red and blue. Delicate hands grasp lance and sword; his jaw is proud, his eyes soulful and knowing. The long golden locks affirm his noble stature and remind me of a young, proud-faced Roger Daltrey, out to change the world in his own particular way – perhaps with similar sexual energy but without Daltrey’s penchant for fisticuffs.
No less appealing would have been James’s enormous wealth and power. He was born into a family tracing back to the Norman Invasion in the 12th century. The family seat became the great Kilkenny Castle from which they controlled the vast kingdom of Ormonde (including counties Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick).
Educated in London, James learned the Irish language, which was to serve him well later in life; and also met his cousin Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Sir Richard Preston, Earl of Desmond. Their marriage in 1629 ended the long-standing feud between the two families Butler and FitzGerald. In 1661, King Charles II created him the first Duke of Ormonde.
Biographer C.V. Wedgwood describes James Butler as a “high-hearted” nobleman: “Handsome, intelligent and valiant, he was also to the very core of his being a man of honor: loyal, chivalrous and just.”
And let’s not leave out dauntless. When the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, ordered that the wearing of swords in Parliament would not be permitted, Ormonde told the official who tried to take his sword that the only way he’d get it was if it was “in his guts.” He ultimately won the argument.
In my novel, Ormonde brings his significant power and influence, his chivalrous mindset, and his own agenda to the story, along with a fierce belief in fairness, justice, and love.
The Prince of Glencurragh, published in July 2016, is the three-time award-winning story of an Irish warrior who abducts a young heiress to help restore his stolen heritage and build the Castle Glencurragh. He is caught in the crossfire between the most powerful nobles in Ireland, each with his own agenda. The book is the stand-alone prequel to my first historical novel, Sharavogue, which begins with the arrival of Cromwell in Ireland, and follows the protagonist’s experiences on an Irish sugar plantation of Montserrat. Both books are available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other online retailers. Find more information and links on my website, nancyblanton.com.
While researching my 17th century historical novel, Stolen, in which a young woman’s parents are kidnapped by Barbary corsairs and taken to the slave markets in Morocco, I came across several blogs where people questioned whether such raids had ever really occurred. They were especially doubtful that white women ended up in Northern African harems.
Certainly, in popular culture, the possibility was too tantalizing to pass up. Many of us have heard of the somewhat notorious Angélique and the Sultan by Sergeanne Golon, in which a 17th-century French noblewoman is captured by pirates and sold into the harem of the King of Morocco. She stabs him when he tries to have sex with her, and stages a daring escape.
Then there’s The Lustful Turk, or Lascivious Scenes from a Harem, a British novel published in 1828, in which the harem is a sort of erotic finishing-school for a number of Western women forced into sexual slavery in the service of the Dey of Algiers.
No wonder people started to wonder if there was nothing more to these ‘white women in the harem’ stories than the fevered imaginations of Western men!
But the scenario also shows up in more serious Western art. For instance, in Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio a Spanish man tries to rescue his beloved from the harem of the Sultan Selim, where he believes she has been sold by pirates; in Voltaire’s Candide, an old woman tells of being sold into harems across the Ottoman Empire.
As I delved further, I found what seemed to be legitimate historical records of such abductions. One that stood out was the story of Helen Gloag, a young Scottish woman with red hair and green eyes, who, at nineteen was kidnapped at sea by Barbary pirates, and sold in the slave markets to a wealthy Moroccan who ‘gifted’ her to the sultan. She lived in his harem, and ultimately became his fourth wife, mother of two of his sons, and Empress of Morocco.
Even though Gloag was able to write home, and was visited in Morocco by her brother, thus seeming indisputably ‘legit’, I still came across a piece in Scotland Magazine that mentioned doubts over the story’s veracity. However, as one of Helen’s direct descendants stated in the same article, “Why would anyone make all that up? The voyage is accurate. It is well known that piracy off the Moroccan coast was prevalent at that time.”
In Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, Prof. Robert Davis writes, “The pasha … bought most female captives, some of whom were taken into his harem, where they lived out their days in captivity. The majority, however, were purchased for their ransom value; while awaiting their release, they worked in the palace as harem attendants.”
In White Gold, the Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves Giles Milton writes, “Capturing large numbers of white slaves was part of a strategy to gain leverage over ‘the great powers of Christendom’. English females, it seems, were sometimes ransomed for more than £1,000.” And others, he maintains, were taken into harems.
The more I read, the more it seemed incontrovertible that white women did end up in harems. I wanted to include this in Stolen, but in the least sensational manner possible, one which would not make the world of Morocco and the harem seem ‘things apart’ from the Western experience, impossibly ‘exotic’, incomprehensible — and titillating. It was a challenge with such dramatic material. In an early part of the book, I show a European man keeping an Englishwoman in seclusion, and using seductive techniques in an attempt to control her. True, he has had experiences in North Africa that influenced him, but I hoped to reduce the ‘distancing’ factor by setting this part of Stolen in England. It is an approach I used throughout the book, so that slavery in all its forms, including in the harem, could be seen to be endemic to the human race as a whole, not one specific nation or people.
I also tried to tell a roaring good story, and I hope readers find that I succeeded.
A little about Sheila:
Sheila Dalton has published novels and poetry for adults, and picture books for children. Her YA mystery, Trial by Fire, from Napoleon Press, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. Her literary mystery, The Girl in the Box, published by Dundurn Press, reached the semi-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and was voted a Giller People’s Choice Top Ten. Stolen is her first book of historical fiction.
Visit Sheila’s website at http://www.sheiladalton.weebly.com
Read about STOLEN…
Devon, England, 1633: Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs and carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Desperate to help them, Lizbet sets out for London with Elinor from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children, the only other survivor of the raid. The unlikely pair are soon separated, and Lizbet is arrested for vagrancy. Rescued from a public whipping by a mysterious French privateer, she is taken to his Manor House in Dorchester, where he keeps her under lock and key. Later, Lizbet is captured at sea by the pirate Gentleman Jake, and forced to join his crew. Her quest leads her to the fabled courts and harems of Morocco and the tropical paradise of Barbados.
Based on true events, Stolen is the story of a brave but very human young woman who perseveres in the face of incredible odds to establish her place in a new world.
Find STOLEN at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Sheila-Dalton-ebook/dp/B00SXBLCTQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430259938&sr=1-1&keywords=sheila+dalton
Now that spring is here, it’s time to entertain! This week, author Sheila Dalton will be presenting a fascinating article on this blog site. She is the author of a historical novel STOLEN and non-fiction works as well. Please watch for her post! Her book is available on Amazon.com if you’d like to take a peek.
Jen Corkill’s debut novel, SEASONS OF THE MIST is coming out in December 2014. An exciting mix of Victorian era, a vampire, and international skullduggery, it promises to be a thrilling read. Watch for it!
Introducing the author:
Jen Corkill is a stay-at-home mom living in rural Nevada with her husband and three children. She gardens, sews, paints, and (of course) writes. Her interests include Star Wars, Victorian Literature, Bioware, power metal, and a serious fondness for coffee. Visit her website at http://www.JenCorkill.com.