I don’t write historical romances, but I heard Eliza Knight’s name again and again even before I “met” her by taking her Sensual Novella class a few months back. And what I heard was she’s the go-to gal on historical research, and many of you may already know about her wonderful blog, History Undressed. Really, people, how can you go wrong with that name? I know my history classes would’ve been a LOT more interesting if we’d studied naked people. When I discovered Eliza’s The Highland Jewels series, I told her that a highlight of my life was being in Dublin on St. Paddy’s Day and watching kilted men ride motorcycles in the parade! I really, really, really wanted to see what was under those kilts – J.
Although we won’t be giving away any kilted Highlanders today, Eliza will give away a copy of her regency romance, Love Will Bloom, to one lucky commenter!
Eliza, welcome to Romance University and thanks for taking time to talk with our readers about “History-making Heroes.”
Thank you for having me!
Kelsey: Tell us a little about the historical time periods featured in your books and where you gain inspiration for your historical heroes.
Eliza: I write Regency and medieval/renaissance England and Scotland, so my heroes vary quite a bit in what they wear, their mannerisms, their speech patterns, hobbies and skills. Inspiration…well who isn’t inspired to read or write a Regency romance when they think of Colin Firth or Mr. Darcy? Nuff said. As for Scottish medievals/renaissance, I am inspired by the kilt or plaid, the caress of a Scottish burr, and thick corded muscles from years of training. My English medieval heroes are equally built, devilishly handsome lords, who are most definitely alpha males, but when it comes to the woman of their dreams, they will move heaven and earth for her—which actually applies to all of my heroes.
Kelsey: What would you say are the most notable differences between historical and modern heroes?
Eliza: Hmm…Besides the way they dress and what they do? And maybe hygiene? I believe that in history there were a few select males who believed a woman had rights and would allow a feisty heroine to behave the way a modern woman does, BUT it was rare. I think the biggest difference is that men nowadays typically expect a woman to be independent, whereas in history a woman had to depend on a man for everything. Another difference is men in modern times do not expect women to be baby making machines—while most men want to have a son, they don’t require their wife to produce an heir and a spare.
Kelsey: What are some mistakes inexperienced writers make in developing the historical romance heroes in their manuscripts?
Eliza: Typical mistakes are not doing their research from actual, factual sources. A lot of beginning writers will take their knowledge of history from what they’ve seen in movies and on television programs, and let’s face it—those are fiction, adapted to wrap around a story line and script, and cannot be considered as a source.
Another mistake is not developing the characters fully.
Kelsey: How do you balance writing a hero who is believable for his time period, yet not stereotypical?
Eliza: You have to give him a personality, quirks, some defining physical feature, a phrase he uses, and above all else, he MUST overcome his macho ways. It’s all in the character development, making him a real person, not a shell.
Stereotypical: Handsome, muscular, alpha male, thinks he’s always right, doesn’t cave. When I think of stereotypical I think of the “bodice rippers” from the days of old historical romance. Today’s historical heroes have so much more depth.
Unique: Handsome, muscular, alpha male, with a cleft chin, jagged scar on his left shoulder, grey eyes—but not just grey, when you look really closely, they have specks of blue laced with the grey, when he raises his brow in mock irritation, the corner of his lip twitches, always calls the heroine princess, or some other endearment that has an insider meaning. At first he is unbending in his ideas and decisions, but the heroine helps him to discover the error of his ways, and in the end, he is a supporter of her rights and ideas. He loves to train and mock-fight with his men, but the actual act of war is not something he enjoys—he wants to preserve life. He cares for his people, wants his subjects to grow and prosper. He is a savior, not a villain. If he is from the Regency era, the same applies, he doesn’t look down his nose at people, but embraces everyone with respect. He is genteel in manner, yet still has the devilish air about him. A seductive rogue on the outside, could have a heart of gold, and may only be putting on airs to come off that way. See how I took the shell and made him into an individual? Don’t you want to get to know him better?
Kelsey: Several of your works are very sensual in nature. Could you give us some insight on how the typical man regarded sex in the Regency period?
Eliza: Typically, it is said that women were not to enjoy sex, to endure it, pray that it would end, and those that did enjoy it were considered wanton. But during the Regency period, you also found males who were over the top, even sadists like the Maquis de Sade. Courtesans were famous in Paris and while taboo amongst the female English aristocrats, were relished by most English males—probably because their wives abhorred sex.
So I would honestly say that men regarded sex most like they do today. If anything, it was the females who had a different view.
I think that’s why it is so much fun to write sensual romances in the Regency period, because it was so hyped up, and taboo.
In medieval times amongst the nobles, sex with your wife was done to create heirs, of course you’ll find the occasional couple that enjoyed sex, but many men also had mistresses. Their mistresses provided them with pleasure…you did things, like oral sex, with a mistress, not your wife.
Remember, in medieval times and even in Regency, marriages amongst nobles and aristocrats was a contract—done for what you could gain by coming together. Love had little to do with it. Some couples were lucky to fall in love, but most would simply remain cordial to each other. It would be hard for a woman and even a man to enjoy sex with someone you were only cordial with. Some young women would even be married without choice to much older men, men two and three times their age.
Kelsey: Should love scenes in a historical be written in a different context than modern-day sex scenes?
Eliza: Well obviously a few things will be different, what they wear, how they undress, how they come together, any sexual accessories, including protection, will be different. However, despite the historical stuff, I think most sex scenes you’ll find are how we make love today. Sex doesn’t change, just the stuff we use with it J
RU readers, take a moment to ask Eliza your most pressing question about history, heroes or both.
And be sure to join Adrienne on Friday when Laura Caldwell discusses putting out back-to-back-to-back books.
Growing up, Eliza was a proficient story teller, with most of her plots encompassing princesses and princes and dreams coming true. Now as an author, her stories still revolve around a happy ending, with sexy alpha males and feisty heroines, and she is living proof, that the dreams of your childhood can become a reality and fantasies do come to life!
Eliza is a huge history fan. Her favorite time periods are the Regency and medieval eras of Europe. Growing up, she was lucky to have grandparents who lived in Paris, so many a summer was spent exploring medieval ruins and historical sites.
She picked up her first romance novel, The Bride, by Julie Garwood in high school, and hasn’t been able to stop reading or writing romance since. One of her all time favorite books is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and she is of course a Jane Austen fan, her two favorites being Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. She is also a fan of Shakespeare, and readers will find in a lot of references to the literary God and his work within her stories.
When not reading or writing Eliza is usually doing research for fun. If you love history, come visit her at History Undressed, where she discussed all the wildly fascinating and titillating facts of history! Eliza teaches various workshops on research, history and writing craft. She is also a professional critiquer for aspiring writers and authors.