The Haunting is OUT in Ebook and Audiobook

My paranormal romance, The Haunting is out in ebook and audiobook with Scribd! Read or listen to the book for free when you sign up for a 30-day free trial.

Set in my former home of Frederickburg, VA, The Haunting is a steamy, second-chance-at-love story — my very favorite kind. Framed for treason by his nemesis, Union army captain Ethan O’Malley is hanged in 1862. Even as he walks toward the Eternal Light, Ethan vows to wait for his beloved Isabel on the Other Side.

Flash forward to present day. American History professor, Dr. Maggie Holliday moves into her dream home in the Fredericksburg Historic District and discovers the diary of Isabel Earnshaw while cleaning the attic. Reading of Isabel’s breathless encounters with a certain dashing Union army captain, Maggie begins to feel as if she’s not reading a stranger’s words but her own. Searching for answers, she encounters a sexy Civil War reenactor squatting in her attic, who insists she’s his Isabel. And that he’s “her” Ethan.

Can these star-crossed lovers find their way back to one another before the portal to the past closes, this time forever?

The inspo for The Haunting, its twisty ending especially, is the film, “Somewhere in Time” with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, a comfort watch I still go back to. The notion that time isn’t linear but layered, more like an onion than a straight line, has always fascinated me. And of course that true love is truly timeless appeals to my incurably romantic heart.

Another reason I so love The Haunting is that my real-life Maine Coon kitty, Willie, appears as Maggie’s (and Isabel’s) beloved fur child. Because, you know, soulmates don’t have to be only two-legged. Willie passed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2014, but he lives on in our hearts–and in these pages.

Enjoy The Haunting and my other books, too. Find my complete book list here.

Hope

Stinky Boots – Hygiene and Hot Sex in Historical Fiction

Getting Down and Dirty in Historical Fiction

Chamber pots, head lice, the pox—and I don’t mean the kind prefaced by “chicken”—writing historical fiction, especially romantic historical fiction, calls for striking a balance between authenticity and contemporary sensibilities. I still recall, with lingering discomfort, watching Braveheart for the first time. Spending nearly three hours with Mel Gibson’s William Wallace and his men blanketed in sweat, blood, and woad was nearly as excruciating for me as the final execution scene.

In PBS’s Sanditon, adapted from Jane Austen’s unfinished novel set in an upstart coastal resort striving to be the next Brighton, Sidney Parker (Theo James) opts for a refreshing — and unencumbered — solo sea bath, emerging from the cleansing froth just as Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) trots up. The birthday suit booty comes early on in episode two, which surely would send Miss Austen clutching her pearls. Or, more properly, turning in her tomb.

Sanditon, PBS.org

Getting Wet

In Medieval times, providing a bath was part and parcel of the hospitality on offer to visiting knights and other honored male guests. The ritual was performed in private and hands-on by the chatelaine of the castle—talk about your potentially sexy novel scenario!

England’s Queen Elizabeth I couldn’t abide malodors from her courtiers or herself. Her commitment to cleanliness called for hauling her private bath on every stop of every Royal Progress.

But what about everyone else, those whose social station fell somewhere between lordly and lowly?

Making an indoor bath happen was a time-consuming labor. Water was brought in from an outside well, heated in the kitchen, and then carried in heavy, copper-lined buckets up flights of often steep, winding stairs. But there were alternatives. The remains of hot rocks baths, communal bathing pools lined with smooth stone and sometimes roofed against inclement weather, have been excavated throughout Scotland and parts of Ireland. Some sites were proximate to naturally occurring thermal springs, but others were not. In the latter case, buckets of heated stones or rocks were periodically added to the water, maintaining a semi-constant warmish temperature. Quelle steamy story setup for an historical romance writer!

Regency rake and original male fashionista, Beau Brummell is known as much for bringing fastidiousness into vogue as he is for his elaborate snowy waterfall neck cloth and champagne-based boot blacking. We have Brummell to thank for bringing regular bathing to the in crowd.

Toothsome Tales

Medieval people also took regular care of their teeth, and I don’t only mean visiting the blacksmith or other local tooth puller once things got… ugly. Tooth powders were the precursors to Crest and Colgate. Certain wood barks were ideal for cleaning between teeth. Chewing fennel and other breath-freshening seeds was a common practice between and after meals—early Altoids! Recipes for soaps and bath salts were passed down from mother to daughter.

Getting Physical

By the late 1990’s and early aughts, historical romances began embracing grittier, less airbrushed depictions of hygiene and intimacy. Take, for example, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, the launch to her brilliant and beloved Scottish time travel series. During Jamie and Claire’s wedding night lovemaking, his curious kisses stray… south. The usually randy Claire halts him, protesting that he must be put off by her unwashed state. Smiling, Jamie likens the situation to a horse learning his mare’s scent. And proceeds to prove how very not put off he is.

We don’t call them “heroes” for nothing. 😉

Outlander, Starz

By now most of us are familiar with the infamous tampon scene in Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. In historical romances, our heroines rarely have their periods until they don’t and then only in the service of the story, notably advancing the tried-and-true “marriage of convenience” trope. Rarely do we see in fiction what dealing with menstruation must have meant for our foremothers. Plug-like devices for blocking flow are traceable to ancient Egypt (papyrus) and Rome (wool). The modern, mass-produced tampon wasn’t invented until 1929. Patented in 1931 by creator Dr. Earle Haas, this remarkably liberating new product was later trademarked “Tampax.”

Such advances are all well and good but what about having the personal space to put them into practice? Not even gentlewoman Jane Austen had a room of her own. In Irish Eyes, my women’s historical fiction debut (on submission), my Irish immigrant heroine shares a three-room Lower East Side, New York tenement flat with a family of seven. Finding the privacy to change clothes, bathe, relieve herself and manage menstruation as she must is a challenge few of us can imagine facing. Yet as documented by turn-of-the-century reformer, Jacob Riis in How The Other Half Lives, those were the very circumstances in which the vast majority of immigrant arrivals to New York found themselves.

Jacob Riis

Historical fiction fans are an exceptionally savvy lot. Anachronisms invariably jar us from the story; too many may well have us pulling the plug without reaching the end. And yet none of us truly knows what it was to live in a previous century or, for that matter, generation. We conduct our research in the service of the story. Fortunately, romantic historical fiction focuses not on the ordinary but on the extraordinary. Not on tepid tenderness but on grand passion and great stakes. Not on how dark, dreary and dirty life can be but on how amazing real love is and always will be.

PBS's Sandition, based on Jane Austen's unfinished historical fiction novel
PBS.org

An earlier version of this article appeared in Heroes & Heartbreakers.

Copyright Hope C. Tarr

Read the first chapter of Tempting, my award-winning Victorian-set historical here, then get the book on Amazon and elsewhere for #99cents.

Twitter @hopetarr Instagram @hopectarr

 

Book Trailer! VANQUISHED & The Men of Roxbury House Go to Spain!

As some of you may remember, VANQUISHED (Book #1 in my Men of Roxbury House trilogy) is being published in Spain. Translated into Spanish and given a gorgeous new cover, the book is now on sale. Check out the super short–two minutes!–book trailer by my fabulous Spanish publisher, Libros de Seda.

VANQUISHED and my other Men of Roxbury House Victorian-set romances, originally published with Medallion Media Group, are also available in French and Italian. As they say, it’s a small world. I am beyond thrilled to be able to share these beloved books with romance readers around the globe.