Highlighting Historical Romance with Barbara Monajem and the facts behind her newest release.
I like to put little tidbits of historical detail in my stories—perhaps because that’s the sort of detail I enjoy reading, too.
My new release, Lady Rosamund and the Horned God, takes place in the Lake District in England. I’ve been there a couple of times, once as a child and once as an adult (but we drove through in a hurry, so it doesn’t really count). I’ve been in love with that region ever since reading the Swallows and Amazons children’s books by Arthur Ransome, many of which take place there.
Apart from the gorgeous setting, one of my ideas for Horned God came from Ransome’s Swallowdale, in which there’s a brief reference to a hound trail. For some reason, the image of a pack of hounds racing ten miles across the fells, following a trail laid for them, caught my imagination and stayed there all these years. I looked hound trails up on the Internet to see if they existed in the Regency era, and of course they did. Back then, they laid the trail for the hounds using something with a strong odor—a rabbit carcass, maybe?—and now they do it with a mixture of paraffin and aniseed. I watched some You-Tube videos of present-day hound trails—both of the hounds running across the countryside and of the race to the finish, with the owners cheering their hounds on. Such fun—and a perfect little historical detail! (If you’re interested in learning more, go to http://www.houndtrailingassociation.com/)
Since Horned God takes place at a house party with a group of playwrights and actors, I thought back to some plays I had read years ago in Major Voices: 18th Century Women Playwrights by Michael Caines. The success of these women writers (one of whom, Elizabeth Inchbald, is still alive at the time the story takes place) is encouraging to one of the secondary characters, an aspiring playwright. This area of research is also significant re my upcoming romance, His Lordship’s Incorrigible Wife, in which the heroine writes plays.
Another tiny detail came from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals. She lived with her brother, the poet William Wordsworth, in the Lake District, and her journals tell of everyday life there. Occasionally, she mentions giving a few coins to a beggar. I would never have imagined beggars roaming the countryside up there, but evidently there were quite a few men (some with families) out of work and needing help. Lady Rosamund knows this, so she has money in her reticule just in case.
Another detail came from The Cumbrian Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore by William Rollinson. Dobby stones are stones which naturally have a hole them (aka self-bored stones). Traditionally, they are hung with string over the cattle in a barn to keep them safe from the evil eye. In Horned God, the body of the murdered man is kept temporarily in the ice house, and some superstitious person hangs some dobby stones in the doorway!
About the Book—Lady Rosamund and the Horned God
Widowed Lady Rosamund spends the first months of her mourning in the Lake District, where it’s safe and peaceful, and murders are exceedingly rare. Luckily, she is rescued from this tedium by a house party comprised of playwrights, poets, and actors—an immoral set of persons with whom no respectable lady should associate. Even so, she hardly expected to wake in the wee hours to find one of the guests lying dead.
As if that wasn’t troublesome enough, Gilroy McBrae is at the same party, masquerading as a footman to investigate a series of thefts. Was the sudden death an accident—or murder? Almost everyone had reason to loathe their unpleasant fellow guest. Rosie must set aside her confused emotions about McBrae and work with him to find the culprit before an innocent person is accused of the crime.
Barnes and Noble paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lady-rosamund-and-the-horned-god-barbara-monajem/1139423417
About the Author
Rumor has it that Barbara Monajem is descended from English aristocrats. If one keeps to verifiable claims, however, her ancestors include London shopkeepers and hardy Canadian pioneers. As far as personal attributes go, she suffers from an annoying tendency to check and recheck anything and everything, usually for no good reason. Hopefully all this helps to explain her decision to write from the point of view of a compulsive English lady with a lot to learn about how the other ninety-nine percent lived in 1811 or so.
As for qualifications, Barbara is the author of over twenty historical romances and a few mysteries, for which she has won several awards. On the other hand, she has no artistic talent and therefore is really stretching it to write about an artist who draws wickedly good caricatures. But she’s doing it anyway, because he’s irresistible. To her, anyway. Not so much to the aristocratic lady. Or at least not yet.
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