Friday, January 28, 2011
The Historical Romance Writer’s Virgin Hussy - Lisa Hendrix
How’s that for a title? Think Harlequin will buy it?
The Virgin Heroine and the Worldly Hero is one of the great tropes of romance, especially historical romance: a sexually experienced, slightly older man seduces a virtuous young woman and introduces her to the (to her) surprising pleasures of lovemaking.
But what if our virgin doesn’t need educating? What if she already knows a bit—quite a bit, actually, thank you very much—even though she’s still a virgin. Changes the dynamic a bit, doesn’t it?
But in other times and places—most times and places, I’d dare say—children grew up knowing everything.
During the Middle Ages, all the unmarried women of a household slept in the chamber with their mistress. The intention was to keep them from being molested by the hordes of men who slept in the hall, but the reality of the situation meant they were all in the room when my lady’s husband came to her bed. The curtains may or may not have been drawn on the great bed, but everyone in the room surely knew what was going on. Besides, they’d all seen animals mating in field and barn, and they’d probably seen Will the Groom lift Margaret the Kitchen Maid’s skirts out behind the smithy. (Where else were they going to do it?)
Communal living continued to be the standard for all but the richest until well into the 18th century, but the exposure to the odd mating animal or swiving servant surely continued well after that. Even for the young, carefully guarded Regency miss who managed to avoid seeing anything untoward, however, there would have been plenty of opportunities to learn about sex. First, her mother or nurse would likely have explained things when she started menstruating—the same sort of birds and bees talk that most children got until recently, although filtered through bad science and euphemism. But a curious girl would have turned to a better and likely far more accurate source of information: the chambermaids, who, if they hadn’t done anything themselves, had surely seen the aforementioned Will and Margaret. A mildly resourceful young lady might also find the opportunity to experiment with kissing a family friend or even a handsome French tutor or groom. Perhaps a bit more than kissing. Perhaps, in some cases, a great deal more.
After all, even today, a great many young women manage to kiss and pet and still remain virgins. Some are pretty darn well educated before doing the final deed. Technical virgins, we call them. What makes us think our ancestors were any different or pushed the boundaries any less? (In fact, marriage and sex in Colonial America—you know, good old Puritanical Colonial America—were in such a similar state to today that:
“...in the mid to late 1700s, more than one girl in three was pregnant when she walked down the aisle. In parts of Britain, 50 percent of brides were great with child.” [Source http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/holiday07/court.cfm]
Oh. My. Great-great-great-great-great grandma wasn’t even a virgin hussy.
So yes, I believe in virgin hussies. I write them—Eleanor in Immortal Champion very much knows what she’s doing. But not as much as Marian in Immortal Outlaw did! I’ve also written a few naïve virgins, and I’m working right now on a non-virgin widow whose husband was actually a good lover (gasp), and my monkish Torvald is enjoying her company very much. I’m also thinking one of the guys deserves a non-virgin, non-widow heroine to challenge all his preconceptions of what he wants in a bride. And she’s going to be good in bed, too.
Just out of curiosity—what romance tropes do you love and which ones would you like to see broken occasionally?
To celebrate Immortal Champion’s Top Pick from RT (and Eleanor’s status as virgin hussy), I’m giving one Tote Bags reader an official Immortal Brotherhood mug and the book of the winner’s choice from my backlist. Just comment below with your answer to my question.
IMMORTAL CHAMPION BLURB
He faces a future of cold uncertainty, until her warm embrace…
Part of a Viking crew of warriors cursed by an evil sorceress, Gunnar the Red must toil through eternity as half-man, half-beast, living out his days as a great bull, while his nights are spent in human form. And though he keeps mostly to the wilds, his heart yearns for the simple comforts of man—and the chance to redeem a tragic past…
Seeking refuge from a bitter winter in the welcoming hall of Richmond Castle, Gunnar rescues two maidens when a blaze erupts—and his destiny is forever altered. For one of the young women is Lady Eleanor de Neville, who is immediately entranced by her rescuer. Her kiss of gratitude—the brief touch of her lips against his cheek—awakens a longing in her soul. And even when she is betrothed to another, Eleanor never forgets her courageous knight.
When Gunnar rides back into Eleanor’s life, she is consumed by undeniable passion. And though his body surrenders to her every touch, Gunnar’s heart remains imprisoned by the curse—and only the magic of the truest love can save him…
For more about the Immortal Brotherhood, including excerpts, interactive maps of the locations, and freebies you can send for, please visit my website, Lisa Hendrix.com.
Posted by Lee Hyat at 12:05 AM