Monday, May 28, 2012

Deidre of the Sorrows

This is a painting by J.T. Waterhouse, "The Lady of Shallot". I like it as it also depicts a woman of great beauty and great sorrow, like Deidre of Irish Myth.

 While editing my time travel novel for a June release date, I re-discovered a lovely old legend about an Irish lass and her noble and brave lover who flee a cruel king so that they can be together.  It's a timeless tragedy of Irish legend that has been around much longer than Romeo and Juliet.

Deidre is abducted by a King as a child, held as his 'ward' because she is so lovely he wants to wait for her to mature until he can have her for himself. But don't worry, Deidre encounters a hero who will take her away from the evil King.  Here is the story, and it is wrapped in an excerpt from my upcoming book, "Some Enchanted Waltz" that is to be released on Amazon for Kindle in June.  In this excerpt, Tara, my time traveling heroine from the future, is traveling with her husband and father to Dublin by coach (circa 1798), and she is reading a book of Irish Legends, or rather trying to . . .

Some Enchanted Waltz, copyright Lily Silver, 2012: 
         Tara hadn’t been able to read the book she brought for diversion, because each time she opened it and gave it her attention, Adrian would start talking to her or her father's snoring would destroy her concentration. She was beginning to believe she would never find out what happened to the fair Deidre of legend. The poor girl's future had been foretold by a druid before she was born. The prophecy said she would be the most beautiful woman in the land and thus would suffer greatly and be marked for death. When Deidre was only a child, she was abducted by King Conchobar of Ulster because of her great beauty. King Conchobar wanted to keep her hidden until she was of a marriageable age when he would have her for himself, so he placed her in a great Castle in the wilderness, isolated and guarded by his most trusted servants. 

         Deidre grew into a lovely young girl, and time was running out for her before the King would demand she become his bride. Each day, Deidre was allowed to walk about the grounds for a time with the guards watching her. Each day she wandered a little bit further into the woods. There she met a handsome warrior, Naoise, who was as dark and handsome as Deidre was fair and beautiful. He met her in the woods each day, and together they planned their escape. When Naoise made arrangements and secured passage for them on a ship, he sent word to her. They met as usual in the forest surrounding the castle where Deidre was being held. They ran away together with Naoise's two brothers, Ainle and Ardan, the sons of Uisnech, to land that was called Alba, but today is known as Scotland.

         The King of Alba learned of Deidre’s legendary beauty, and upon discovering that she was in his land, he, too determined to have her for himself. The lovers were again forced to flee. Back in Ulster, Ireland, the nobles felt sorry for the lovers and begged King Conchobar to swallow his pride and let them return, he agreed. King Conchobar told them they could return to Ulster and all would be forgiven. The lovers were about to board a ship and return to their homeland but at the end of their journey, King Conchobar awaited them with an evil plan in his heart . . .

         “Why is it that women in your land regard men with contempt?” Adrian intruded on Tara's reading for the hundredth time with another random question.
         “I don’t know.” Tara murmured, re-reading the paragraph he had interrupted regarding Conchobar’s evil scheme.
         “Are all the men rakes and reprobates where you come from, completely without honor?”
          Tara closed the book. “Yes.” She replied with more annoyance than she intended.
        “Your father seems an honorable man.” The pair of them gazed at the snoring man across from them.
        “He’s from an older generation, one that still put a great stock in principles and morality.”
         “And men of your generation do not hold such ideals?”
        “Some do, it’s not that simple.” Tara sighed, remembering the many dates she'd been on that led no where, except to bed, and that was the end of it. Most men of her era didn't believe in marriage. They believed in free sex without any strings attached. She glanced at Adrian, her 18th century lord.  “I had to come here to find a noble and worthy mate. If you don’t mind, I’d like to find out what happens to Deidre and Naoise.”
        “The King kills him and she throws herself on his sword as Conchobar is about to run Naoise through a second time. At least that’s one version of the legend. The other version is that the King kills Naoise and his companions and locks Deidre up in a tower where she grieved for her lover for the remainder of her days.”
             “The lions of the hill are gone, and I am left, alone--alone---" Adrian  quoted.
              "Dig the grave both wide and deep, for I am sick and fain would sleep.
              The falcons of the wood are flown, and I am left, alone--alone,
              So dig the grave both deep and wide, and let us slumber side by side,
              The dragons of the rock are sleeping, Sleep that wakes not for our weeping;
              Dig the grave and make it ready; lay me on my true love’s body .”
Copyright Lily Silver, 2012.

As Tara and Adrian hurry to Dublin so Adrian can fulfill his destiny with the 
United Irishman will their love story also end in tragedy? Available on


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Darcy Legacy: Why We Love Mr. Darcy, Part II

Colin Firth, as Mr. Darcy in 1995
 In the prior post, I discussed the plot of Pride and Prejudice briefly, and gave my opinion about the reasons behind Darcy's social awkwardness.  However, as Darcy is such a literary icon, I felt as if I had barely touched upon this great romantic hero who has endured in the hearts of women for nearly two centuries!  (published in 1813, mind you.)

The legacy of Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen fame has spawned numerous movies, many of which I mentioned in the previous post.  In this post I wanted to discuss Darcy as an enduring literary character. Pride & Prejudice (P&P) has become a timeless classic, often used in high schools by brave lit teachers in order to pass the joy on to another generation.

What is the literary legacy of Fitzwilliam Darcy, owner of Pemberley, Gentleman extraordinaire?

Why doe he endure as a timeless romantic hero?  Why can we buy Mr. Darcy dolls, for pity's sake. Don't believe me?  Have a peek here.   Mr. Darcy action figure?

One observation for his enduring quality is that Mr. Darcy could be considered one of the original Alpha Male prototypes for the modern romance novel genre.  He was invented by Jane Austen in the mid 1790's, as that is when she wrote the rough draft of the novel, originally named  "First Impressions". Jane Austen's fictional character of Darcy is a man we admire, loathe and can't seem to get enough of, based on the number of tribute novels on the market these days, everything from Pride & Prejudice and Zombies to Mr. Darcy Vampyre.  (I'll leave a nice list for the curious to peruse at the end of this post. My point is this: we can't get enough of Darcy, and as Jane Austen didn't write any further novels with he and Elizabeth in them, we are left with a few brief pages of the pair in marital bliss after a whole novel of them being at odds with one another.  But alas, dear reader, we are not left bereft of our cherished couple, for everyone, it seems wants to write a novel depicting these two characters. 

Getting back to the Alpha Male Factor:
The term alpha male is typically used when discussing wolves. We all know the alpha is the dominate male of a pack, whom the other wolves obey and solicit the favor of.  You don't want to piss of the alpha, or he'll drive you away from the pack, you'll become a social pariah if you do. He decides where we hunt, where we eat, who gets what cut, and so forth. 

In romance author and reader discussion forums, an alpha male is pretty much the same thing, the dominant male in the group, usually the hero of the story. I'm not sure when this term was first coined for romance novels, but just the term "Alpha Male" sets feminine hearts beating faster and pulses racing in any room. I've listened to seminars at the Romance Writers of America conferences devoted to discussing the attributes of the Alpha Male Hero, so trust me on this one, an alpha male hero is a romance staple.

What about Darcy as an alpha male? As an alpha romantic lead, he has it all. He is rich, and with that wealth comes a great deal of power. Noted, he's not a lord, not a duke or an earl, as oft is the case with modern regency romances. Also, Darcy has a commanding presence. When he's in the room, he seems to dominate it without really trying, another alpha male characteristic we romance writers like to talk about. Darcy isn't trying to dominate, mind you, but he just seems to have this presence that puts those about him in awe of him, even his best friend, Bingley does what Darcy deems best, even dumping poor Jane because Darcy doesn't approve of her.

In romance literature, an alpha male typically takes care of things. He's the guy who is going to get it done, period. He won't ask permission of anyone, he won't hold a meeting to solicit opinions or start a focus group to determine the best course of action, he just does what needs to be done, fixes the problem on his own. In many romances this means rescuing the heroine from some peril, often a villain or bad situation. Again, we have Mr. Darcy doing just that. No, he doesn't go out and slay a dragon or challenge some cad to a duel, but he does save the heroine's family, just the same.

Recall that when he learns that Elizabeth's 15 year old sister has run off with a rake, Darcy goes searching for them. He tells no one, but as he loves Elizabeth and cannot bear to see her suffer, he goes after the Rake and forces him to marry Lydia, thereby saving Lydia's reputation as well as the entire Bennett family's. He does it secretly and with great conviction and determination. He swears Elizabeth's uncle to secrecy, seeking no praise or reward for his gallant deed. In fact, he's content to let Elizabeth's uncle take the credit for orchestrating the marriage. If that isn't swoon worthy, I don't know what is. A hero saving his love's family from social ruin. Darcy could have merely turned his nose up in disdain, and given the Bennetts the cut direct in future social gatherings. Except that he is deeply in love with her, and as a staunch alpha male, he's going to swoop in and save his beloved in whatever means is at his disposal. 

This is part of the Darcy Legacy. Darcy has strong Alpha traits that are recognizable in modern romance culture, and I believe this is one reason why we love Mr. Darcy and why he continues to endure as a romantic icon. 

Here is the list I promised
Many modern writers have been so in love with the story of Darcy and Elizabeth that they have written stories depicting the couple in their happily ever after, with children and intrigues and so forth. This list is not exhaustive, just a starting point for P&P lovers who want to continue the story:
  • Death Comes to Pemberley, P. D. James, 2011. Intriguing tale with Lydia Wickham crashing an annual ball at Pemberley in hysterics, claiming her husband has been murdered, sending Darcy and Elizabeth into the middle of a murder mystery. A very good murder mystery read. 
  • A Darcy Christmas, Amanda Grange, Sharon Lanthan, & Carolyn Eberhart, 2010. 
  • Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, an immortal sequel to Pride & Prejudice, Amanda Grange, 2009. Haven't read this one, but I intend to!
  • Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith, 2009. I haven't read this, but friends who have enjoyed it immensely, so I added it to the list.
  • Pemberley Shades, A lightly Gothic tale of Mer. and Mrs. Darcy,  D.A. Bonivia Hunt, 1914. Reprinted by Sourcebooks in 2008. I have read this one. It is very good. Dark, Moody, Gothic. 
  • The Darcys & The Bingleys, Pride & Prejudice continues, Marsha Altman, 2008.  I have read this one and loved it. It will go on my DIK shelf to be enjoyed again and again. It's a wonderful story with all the characters revisted, along with Darcy and Bingley comparing notes on Darcy's copy of Kama Sutra!  A very entertaining read. 
  • Also by Altman: Mr. Darcy's Great Escape, & The Darcy Brothers.
  • The Darcys Give A Ball,  Elizabeth Newark, originally published 1997, reprinted in 2008
  • Mr. Darcy's Daughters,  Elizabeth Aston, 2003. Aston has several other Darcy stories.
  • Darcy's Story, by Janet Aylmer, 2006. A retelling of P & P from Darcy's point of view.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Sharon Lathan, 2009.
  • Also by Sharon Lathan:  Loving Mr. Darcy, 2009  & The Darcys at Years End, 2008. She has many books on Darcy if you're looking for a Mr. Darcy Series. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why We Love Mr. Darcy

Note the 'brood factor' of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in A&E's Pride and Prejudice
When I was first introduced to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy back in the 1990's, via the beautiful A & E presentation of Pride & Prejudice starring Colin Firth, I did not like him. Really, how many of us would swoon over a man who is so rude that he would speak openly about us with disdain at a local dance where our friends, family and our neighbors can hear his rude comments about our appearance? "She's not handsome enough to tempt me!"

And yet, we love Mr. Darcy.

For the uninitiated, here is a recap of Mr. Darcy's first interaction with our feisty heroine:
Small town girl, Elizabeth Bennett encounters Mr. Darcy at a local ball. She and her sisters are in attendance, and they are excited because there are some newer gentlemen in the neighborhood attending the dance. Mr. Bingley and his friend, Mr. Darcy. These two fellows are dashing, handsome and full of town polish, having just arrived in Meryton from London. Alas, poor Elizabeth overhears Mr. Darcy in conversation with his friend, and to her mortification, they are discussing her! She hears Mr. Bingley exhorting his proud friend to stop being such a prig and dance with the ladies. He even mentions Miss Bennett, as a suitable partner for a dance.  Our plucky Elizabeth cannot help but listen carefully now. But what she hears is enough to insult women throughout the centuries.

"She's not nearly handsome enough to tempt me!" Darcy replies. Further adding insult to injury, the bloke states emphatically that he is in no humor to dance with girls unfortunate enough to lack partners, thereby lumping Elizabeth in with among the wistful wallflowers. So what's the attraction to this ill mannered, spoiled, self important cad? Elizabeth has already set her heart against him at this juncture, yet we have just begun the classic love story.  As heroes go, he's not kind or gallant. He's nasty.

Yet we love Mr. Darcy.

 It gets worse. Mr. Darcy is good friends with Mr. Bingley, an affable young man of means who is attracted to Elizabeth's older sister, Jane. Darcy influences his friend to break off the association, thereby breaking Jane's heart as she is in love with Bingley. Elizabeth learns Darcy is behind this and she is livid with anger at him for his interference, for as she puts it, he has cruelly destroyed the hopes  and happiness of her sister. Darcy doesn't see it that way, he sees it as having saved his friend from a potentially bad union, and tells Elizabeth so with pride and self-righteousness.
After all this, there comes a a very infuriating marriage proposal from Darcy to Elizabeth Bennett. He slides into the parlor looking as if he's ready to lose his lunch in his hat, and pretty much tells her that against his better judgement, and despite her lowly connections in society, he has decided to make an offer for her hand in marriage. Elizabeth, and the rest of us, are properly appalled. The nerve of this guy, making her feel as if he's doing her a favor by lowering himself from his pedestal to marry her. She rebuffs him, of course. Wouldn't you?                                     

Ah, but don't forget our heroine is actually in love with him, despite his towering ego. He's handsome, rich (worth about a million, by modern equations) and swoon worthy. At this point, we should give Elizabeth a round of applause for not succumbing to the charm of his bankroll and ignoring his flaws. (Many a modern lass has lacked her resolve.) To be honest,  Darcy is a pretty package, all brooding, handsome, and ridiculously rich. Just needs a little help on the social front.

Or maybe he needs Zoloft for his social anxiety disorder. Why do I say this? Think about it, dear reader. How truly social is Darcy, at any event in the novel (or movie)? He's pretty much a sad, reluctant observer. He remains in the background silently brooding, looking as if he's sitting in the reception room waiting to be called into the dentist's office to have a root canal.

By his own admission, he states it is difficult for him to converse at social gatherings. Elizabeth chides him when he confesses by countering with the example of her piano playing. She says that the only reason she is not very good at it is because she does not practice, inferring that he must practice being social more if he wishes to become proficient at it. This statement is met with gaiety by Elizabeth's companion, Colonel Fitzwilliam, but Darcy himself appears mortified by her suggestion, and rightly so. It's sort of like telling someone who is afraid of heights to practice jumping out of planes in order to overcome their discomfort. This casts Mr. Darcy in a different light. He's not a jerk, he's just uncertain and clumsy on the social front, and the perceived insolence that he shows to the world is perhaps not insolence at all but a stoic feeling of torture at being forced into social engagements due to his position in society.

And so, we love Mr. Darcy! 

Aside from his brood factor, there are other redeeming qualities in our timeless hero. He cares enough about those in his social circle that he will interfere when he sees them making a mistake, or sees them caught up in disturbing circumstances that he can fix for them. When Elizabeth's little sister runs off with a man who is a terrible rake, ruining her reputation and that of her family, Darcy steps in behind the scenes to try to fix it. He searches for the couple, finds them, and forces the man to marry young Lydia, preserving the Bennett Family's reputation in society. He also secretly pays the bridegroom a huge stipend as a bribe to get him to agree to marry the girl, as he knows Mr. Bennett, Elizabeth's father could not afford to do so. All this is done in secret, but of course Elizabeth finds out he saved her family from social ruin and she can't help but fall even deeper in love with him. He is a true gallant after all. And, he rescinds his censure over Bingley marrying Jane, Elizabeth's sister. In the end, we have a double wedding, with sisters Jane and Elizabeth marrying for true love.

The love story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett has been an enduring tale for two centuries. It was written by Austen in the late 18th Century, originally titled "First Impressions", aptly named as the misjudgements of a first impression change through the course of the story. It was rewritten in 1811-12 and then released as Pride and Prejudice in early 1813.  It was her second published novel, coming after the 1811 publication of Sense & Sensibility, but Pride and Prejudice has become the most beloved of her works.

Movie versions:
There are several movie versions of Pride and Prejudice, the previously mentioned A&E production that is a classic, being a faithfully rendered miniseries. This one stars Colin Firth as Darcy (See top Photo) and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. This version follows the storyline of the book precisely and even the dialogue is word for word directly from the book. I highly recommend it.

Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy

 If you want a quicker, shorter rendition, the big screen Theater release of 2005 with Kiera Knightly as Miss Bennett and Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy, is equally good, but the storyline is much more keenly focused on the lovers instead of the Bennett family intrigues that make the book so compelling. Still, it is a very good short version if you're looking for a quickie fix.

Elliot Cowan is Mr. Darcy in 'Lost in Austen'
  And last, but not least, is the brilliant comedy "Lost in Austen". This is the story of Amanda, who loves P&P so much, she literally gets thrust back in time to the take Elizabeth's place in the storyline. What happens is a clash of sensibilities as Amanda tries to fit into Regency culture. It's funny, and touching, and adds a wonderful modern twist on the storyline. Elizabeth Bennett goes into the future, exchanging places with Amanda in time. Elliot Cowan plays a stunning Mr. Darcy, complete with a serious brood factor that comes close to Firth's incarnation, and as Amanda puts it, a "Smoulder Alert".

In closing, I leave you with an extra chocolate truffle, being it is Mother's Day. Note Darcy's confession of social awkwardness here.  Sparks fly between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett in this 2005 offering.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lost; and Found by a Demi-God, Every Woman's Fantasy!

Harry Hamlin as demi-god hero Perseus in 1981 Clash of the Titans

As most of my readers know, I am a historian, and a lover of romance.
I combine the two by writing historical romances and publishing them as an independent author. For this blog, I write about timeless lovers throughout history, myth, legend and literature.
 I consider it my job in this blog to mine these sources to unearth great love stories that are forgotten due to the sheer volume of new romantic stories published every year.

And I admit, I do get a wicked satisfaction in proving that history is not always so boring! ;)

The old myths are worth revisiting as they are ripe with archetypes that resonate with people on a purely subconscious level. Archetypes stick with us. Authors use them to create memorable characters time and time again--sometimes intentionally, and sometimes on a purely subconscious level without realizing it. If you're the nerdy type, and want to pursue more on Archetypes, just Google the term and you'll find lots of articles on the subject.

Well, dear reader, I recently found a  delicious modern romance that I literally could not put down. I finished it last week, and as I tried to come up with lovers for this week's blog post, I kept going back to this pair. I just couldn't get them out of my mind. As I was getting desperate for a subject for my blog, I finally realized there is a reason these lovers are stuck in my head. They are strong, modern archetypes that will resonate with the reader. 

Let me introduce you to our Timeless Lovers this week, and later, I'll tell you why I find them such memorable characters. The book is Lost in Italy, by Stacey Joy Netzel. It is available in print and e-book form on Amazon and other Digital outlets.

Halli Sanders is a small town girl from Wisconsin who is touring Italy with her siblings for the first time. Halli is a spirited, intelligent modern woman who has childhood hurts that have created a deep seated need for her to be in control of every situation, to literally have A Plan to follow to get through life. Her parents were con artists and used Halli and her siblings as as pawns in their cons when they were children. This gives Halli some serious trust issues. The parents are currently in jail, but Halli has developed an obsessive need for order and control, along with an aversion to chaos.

As she and her siblings, Ben and Rachel, arrive at beautiful Lake Como, she takes some video footage of some picturesque swans. Innocent tourist type behavior, so we think. Halli's subject matter, the swans, move about erratically and she follows them with her video camera. She zooms in as they fly up near a villa, and gets a clip of one man fleeing a house, falling and a view of another man in a window looking right at her. It's creepy, but she moves the viewfinder and doesn't think much of it at the time.

Her siblings get antsy while she's doing this. They hop in the car and leave the distracted Halli behind at the lake. Halli's a little shook up, this isn't part of the plan, but she sits down impatiently on a park bench, knowing her sibs will eventually come back for her. At least, that is her hope. She doesn't speak the language and as they just left the airport in their rented car and were on the way to the hotel, she literally is left behind with only the clothes on her back, and her camera.

The adrenaline in Halli's bloodstream is already jacked up pretty high by this sudden descent into the unknown.  A car pulls up, and a really hot dark haired dude gets out of it, wearing Ray Bans. He approaches her and says, "I need you to get in the car."

Well, dear reader, what would you do in this situation? 

I'd say no, and Halli does, too.

After a few tense seconds of quibbling, Halli recognizes him as that famous American movie star, Trent Tomlin. Still, he keeps insisting she get in the car with him. Trent knows he has mere seconds to intervene and save this hapless tourist from imminent danger, so instead of arguing with her about it he picks her up and forcibly puts her in the car, a convertible.

In Halli's mind, she's just been kidnapped, what follows is a wild car chase with the pair arguing as nasty Italians keep shooting at them. Instant conflict here: our heroine, mild mannered, intelligent, cautious Halli Sanders, has just been thrust into a churning tempest of ultimate chaos, the very thing she fears. 

From her perspective, she's been kidnapped, as Trent takes her to his home and holds her there against her will. She's not too sure about this guy, despite his demi-god status as a movie star. Is he nuts, on drugs? Mentally unstable? There are always the stories in the tabloids . . . . who knows, is he having a psychotic break? She wants only to get out of his clutches and get to the police. The local police will help her, she realizes, if she can just get away from him. 

Trent is not nuts. He took Halli as she's his only link to putting his brother's murderers behind bars. Trent needs to get that video Halli just shot so he can get it to the right people. The police in the area are corrupt. They are in the perp's payroll. If Halli goes to the police, Trent knows she will likely end up dead. She does escape him, goes to the police, and he has to get her away from the police station.

Add to this already simmering plot line the frightening reality that Ben and Rachel, Halli's siblings, do go back to find her, and taken hostage by the bad guys. The villains now have leverage. They want her swan video in exchange for the hostages. Our heroine, mild mannered, quiet, reserved Halli, has just filmed a murder, in case you are wondering why all the fuss over the  swan clip.

As Halli and Trent are forcibly stuck together in a desperate situation, they share some unexpected romantic moments as they keep running from the Italian gangsters, the police, evading thugs and bullets. One unforgettable scene is on Trent's boat on Lake Como at night. Halli makes Trent a meal of SpaghettiOs and wine after he's been shot, as that is the only thing available to eat. I loved the author's wry sense of humor here. They are in Italy, the one place in the world where a person should be surrounded by culinary delights and our protagonists are forced to eat a can of SpaghettiOs!

Through various plot twists and incredibly fast paced action, I came to admire Trent, the movie action hero forced to bring his role playing into real life to order to stay alive and keep Halli alive as well. And I admired Halli for learning to overcome her anxiety disorder and learn to just go with the flow as they race through the Lake Como district of Italy with gangsters on their tail.

Why do I find this story so compelling?: 

Trent Tomlin is an excellent depiction of the Hero Archetype. The hero in ancient literature was usually a little above mortals. He was half god, a demi-god,  as son of a god and a mortal in ancient Greek literature. Think Hercules or Perseus in Clash of the Titans. The hero archetype is of moral noble character, is strong, handsome, a prince among men, a celebrated personage of some sort. He is typically on a quest that will involve great personal sacrifice but will benefit the greater good.

In this story, Trent fits this archetype perfectly in the modern world. He's a movie star, he's famous, handsome, sought after, rich--a prince among men--a modern demi-god, if you will. Trent is trying to stop murderers and smugglers who have killed both his brother and his friend, among others. He's a good guy, he's Halli's knight, but she doesn't recognize him--hell, she doesn't even like the dude at the moment. She thinks he's a selfish celebrity, despite the fact that he just saved her butt. There's another key--he saved her.  He stopped in his quest and picked her up (literally), like a fireman hauling a reluctant woman out of a burning building.

The Damsel in Distress is another archetype. It's pretty much a given in romance novels, but writers today are challenged to make the Damsel more gritty and less of a wilting violet. Halli is gritty, capable, independent. She's not helpless by any means. She doesn't want to be rescued, thank you very much. She fights her would be rescuer. It's only after Trent has expertly maneuvered them through imminent disasters a couple of times that she realizes maybe he's her best bet for staying alive and getting her siblings out of harm's way. The author, Netzel, created a likeable, believable character in Halli, the Plain Jane small town girl who gets swooped up into the arms of a demi-god, superstar Trent Tomlin.

Now I ask you, gentle reader, who among us hasn't had this fantasy of being swept up in real life into the strong, capable arms of our movie idol? Doesn't matter if your heart throb was Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford (as Han Solo or Indiana Jones), Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) Robert Downey Jr. (as Sherlock Holmes or Iron Man), or even Dean Winchester (Supernatural) or Edward Cullen (Twilight) for the youngest women among our ranks. (Notice I'm taking you through a little film history here, ;), see, didn't hurt a bit, did it! )  It doesn't matter. Every one of us has had this little fantasy, at one time. And that,dear reader, is why this particular story has so much universal appeal. It taps into a subconscious fantasy of women everywhere and gives it a clear voice. You can make Trent Tomlin into any guy you prefer in your mind as you read, any actor who makes you swoon. Trust me, it works!  

The story is well written, entertaining, fast paced, and has just the right pauses for romantic interludes. It is set in Italy, it has a happy ending and a sequel in the works. The book reminded me of Bird on Wire, with Mel Gibson in the 90's, or a modern day adventure akin to Knight and Day, the recent Tom Cruise release. The elements of danger, intrigue and edge of your seat action combined with spices of romance were similar to those movies in tone, although Netzel's story is completely original and based on true elements of her own life. You'll have to read the book to find out more on that account. 

If you are looking for a great summer romance, you won't be disappointed.
Stacey Joy Netzel is a Wisconsin native, a romance writer who has many books on her back list. I have read most of them and I find her stories deeply satisfying. She has written short stories and novellas, too. Some of her short stories are available on occasion for free or very reasonably on

Check out her author site and blog:
She offers a 'Sunday Share' each week, with contests and free excerpts from popular books

Next Time at Romancing History Blog: Why We Love Mr. Darcy

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day: Morgaine meets a Masked Lover in the Mists

May Day is upon us again.

Yes, it is that wondrous time of year in the northern hemispheres where spring suddenly explodes into action after a prolonged period of inaction and celibacy. It's a time for love, and lovers frolicking through the fields and lanes, a time of dancing, feasting and dancing around the May Pole. In some cultures, the maidens would wear wreaths of leaves or flowers around their heads as they danced in a circle around the May Pole, while the men would wear green sashes about their waists.

May Day is an ancient pagan holiday that was a celebration of not just spring, but also fertility and sexuality. Ah, such a sight for a hopeless romantic like myself. Imagine it: lovers young and old dancing in the wild wood, dancing round a bonfire, celebrating life and love!

Every culture in European history has a May Day celebration, from Ancient Rome to the present day.
In ancient Rome, it was the Festival of Flora.  Some scholars attribute the origins of the holidays to the ancient Druids. Others to the Germanic Tribes. There are several different opinions about it, and as a historian myself, I found conflicting data on the subject from different texts. 

The Celts and Druids celebrated May Day with bonfires and with a dance around a pole. Pagan ceremonies in Europe also celebrated the day and the season with a Jack of the Green appearance. May 1st was celebrated as the beginning of summer, with June 21st being Midsummer, or Summer Solstice.
 May Day celebrations were banished by the English Puritans during the mid 17th century, as it was considered too Pagan in practice and somewhat <gasp> sexual in nature. This didn't last too long, fortunately, as once the throne was restored to Charles II, the festivities in England were resumed. 

When looking for lovers to celebrate this week, I wanted to find something connected to May Day. To my delight, I found a pair from "The Mists of Avalon", by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  The book was made into a TV miniseries for TNT in 2001, with Julianna Margolies as Morgaine. In the summer of 2001, Mists of Avalon was the highest rated, most watched on cable, with 30 million viewers.

This story is a retelling of the King Arthur legend, from his half sister, Moraine's point of view. In the movie there is a very stirring, mystical scene with Morgaine at the Beltaine festivities (May Day). As a druid priestess in training, she has been chosen this year to be "The Virgin Huntress" at the Fertility Rite. This means she must go into the forest, and hunt for a man wearing a mask--a stag mask. This scene is so lovely and mystical. She represents her order, so it is a very high honor to be chosen as this years 'Huntress'. At the appointed time, Morgaine goes into the woods wearing a mask and cloak. The metaphor is stunning, she steps away from her friends and family, away from the bonfire and all that is familiar to her. She is stepping with uncertainty into the mists at night to seek her 'stag'. Talk about a new definition of a stag party, one that favors the lady!

Once Morgaine encounters her 'prey', a very virile, handsome man dressed only in a mask and a pair of pants, she is excited and afraid about what is to come next. As a young woman in love, Morgaine hopes the man in the mask is the man she loves, but in truth, the ceremony is set up to be anonymous so she will never know who this handsome masked lover is. At last she 'captures' the stag, and what follows is a very lusty, primal sexual interlude. This is a mating rite that as supposed to ensure a good harvest for the coming season.  Morgaine goes on her way and the lovers never meet again. She does conceive a child through this union, who turns out to be Mordred, Arthur's son and nemesis.

Yes, its not the happily ever after we would wish for them. Still, it is a very lovely, intriguing image of an ancient pagan May Day celebration that I have never forgotten. Cheers to Marian Zimmer Bradley for giving us our two legendary lovers this week, via  "The Mists of Avalon".

While Mists of Avalon is not a Romance story, it is still an Epic tale. Link below for the book for those interested in this classic story. 

Happy May Day everyone; and Happy Hunting!

To find the book:

 Or Rent the movie