Saturday, May 28, 2011

Romance or Historical Fiction?

     This site is for those readers and writers whose favorite books sit on the fence between two genres, those books entered into the RITA contest as historicals with a strong romantic element.
Sometimes the line between historical romance and historical fiction blurs and thankfully so. I'm not sure  I would have been as avid a romance reader if I hadn't started with Georgette Heyer, Jan Cox Speas, and Mary Stewart, books heavy on plot and character, with great tension, subtle romance and intensely satisfying, albeit innocent, happily-ever-after endings.
      Romance, as a genre, didn't actually come about until the 70's. Before that, romantic stories and other genres, were lumped together as fiction. I remember standing in front of the shelves in my local library reading book jackets to insure that I would find a book with enough of a love story to keep me interested. Romance as a genre has come full circle. Although the bodice ripper is still out there, romantic fiction covers a tremendous span from the steamy heat of Virginia Henley and the wise-cracking comedy of Janet Evanovich to the satisfying warmth of Marcia Willett.
      A good friend of mine always makes a point of introducing me to his male friends as, "This is Jeanette Baker. She writes romance novels." Then he asks the proverbial question: "Have you ever read a romance novel?"
      I know why he does it. He loves the reaction, the look on their faces that reveal their dilemma. Will she be offended if I say no? Will she think I'm strange if I say yes? Does this woman who looks like my Sunday school teacher really write those novels?
      I don't know whether to put them out of their misery or keep silent and enjoy the game. The truth is, I have written those novels, the sensual kind, and I have also written the kind that aren't the least bit R-rated. It depends on the story and whether or not the plot is enhanced by a steamy scene. 25% of those who read fiction, read romance. Amen to those publishers who continue to offer readers a wide variety of romantic fiction.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Beltane, celebrated on May 1st, is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain), celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Traditionally, it marked the arrival of summer in ancient times.

The Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon at Beltane. The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation of Taurus, near his shoulder. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) in the constellation of Taurus. It stands very low in the east-northeast sky for just a few minutes before sunrise.

Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter and summer. As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counterpart, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.

Like Samhain, Beltane is a time of "no time" when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and magic abounds! It is when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection. Many otherworldly occurrences transpired during this time of "no time". Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food during the time of no time is treated with great care.

When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse's bells as She rides through the night. If you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go to the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since.

Beltane has been an auspicious time throughout Celtic lore, it is said that the Tuatha de Danaan landed in north-west Connacht on Beltane. The Tuatha de Danaan came from the North through the air in a mist to Ireland. After the invasion by the Milesians, the Tuatha faded into the Otherworld, the Sidhe, Tir na nOg. Christina Aubin

It is an unusual sort of Christianity practiced on the islands off the coast of Ireland and Scotland. The ancient practices of the Druids are often blended with the early teachings of the Catholic missionaries, hence the practice of cementing a child's relationship with the earth at baptism when a tiny spoonful of soil is fed to him along with holy water. 
Poteen From Ireland
7 lb of bakers yeast
3 stone of brown sugar
4 lb of treacle
1 lb of hops 1. Steep ingredients in 3 gallons of lukewarm water at the bottom of a 40 gallon barrel after steeping fill barrel to three quarter full with cold spring water. Leave in a cool place to settle. After several weeks transfer to your still. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Queen's Visit

 Queen Elizabeth II will visit Ireland for four days beginning Tuesday, May 17th. For those not familiar with the history of Ireland, the relationship between The Crown and and its first colony has been one of the longest and most difficult in the history of Britain's monarchy. The first British monarch to visit Ireland was Henry II in 1171. He was followed, 400 years later by Henry VIII who became the King of Ireland as well as England.

What followed was centuries of what even the most committed Anglophile must surely agree was merciless exploitation and cruelty. Millions of Irish people were either driven from their lands or driven to their deaths. It was under Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Victoria, that Ireland suffered the terrible famines of the mid-19th Century when the potato crops failed and an estimated one million people starved to death. Members of Parliament called it “The Irish Problem” and historians agree that the exportation of food from the starving Irish was a deliberate attempt at extermination of a people the English believed to be barbarians.

And now Elizabeth will come to Ireland, the first monarch since 1911.  Today Ireland is a sovereign nation no longer tied to England.  There are those who believe that the Queen’s visit will help lay to rest the troubles of the past. Tourism will increase. Crowds will turn out to watch. Yet security will be tight. Irish memories are long. Both nations have been scarred by the perceived betrayals of the other: Ireland by the brutality of British rule; Britain by the neutrality of Ireland at its hour of greatest need in WWII. Can she win over the Irish? Probably. The Irish population is a young one. Most were born long after WWII, long after Ireland’s independence and the Queen, after all, is a grandmother, a harmless figurehead, fond of large hats.