Fellow Liquid Silver Books author Jessica Cale has a brand new historical romance out. In addition to snagging an excerpt from Virtue's Lady (which, incidentally, has a smoking hot cover), I also convinced her to give me a writing tip. As we all know, authenticity is important for historical settings. This author has a tip to for keeping the details straight.
Consider the Calendar by Jessica Cale
When writing fiction, it’s easy to forget special days like weekends, holidays, and birthdays unless you’re writing something around a holiday theme, but allowing for these and working them into your story is one way to anchor your writing in reality. Few weeks go by without a unusual day or two. If it’s a public holiday in America, your heroine might not get an important letter, or if it’s a Bank Holiday in Britain, the weekend before is likely to be full of parties and pub crawls.
Remembering holidays and notable days in history is especially important when writing something set in another time period or country. Christmas celebrations vary from country to country, and depending on where your story is set, there might also be feast days or important anniversaries that could help your plot along. For example, in seventeenth century England, Guy Fawkes’ Day was called Bonfire Treason Night, and it was actually the law that everyone had to celebrate. Every town was lit up with bonfires and alive with celebrations that lasted through the night. So much for staying home!
Virtue’s Lady takes place in Southwark between September and December of 1671, so my heroine, Jane, would have definitely been a part of the celebrations on November 5th. I worked this into the story and ended up with a couple of scenes that were smoking hot in more ways than one.
People love reading about different celebrations and customs. For your next project, remember the calendar, and consider including birthdays, holidays, and other notable days to enrich your plot.
Thank you for reading!
by Jessica Cale
Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.
After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.
Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.
When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Poor Lady Jane. She’s ruined now.
Jane’s eyebrows knit in irritation. She most certainly was not. The way she saw it, she had only begun to live.
She heard a sniff and looked up sharply to see Greta hastily wiping away a tear. Greta had been with her all of her life, and she took it hardest of all.
Jane sighed impatiently. “Please do not cry.”
“I beg your pardon, my lady.” She wiped her eyes and set down the brush, her task long since completed.
“I wish you would not be so upset. I’m not.”
Greta sank onto her stool, uncharacteristically emotional. “I blame myself. If I would have been here, I could have protected you.”
Jane turned to face her, unsure of how to handle her tears. At a loss, she offered her an embroidered handkerchief. “Truly, I am unharmed. See?” She raised her arms as if to demonstrate that she was still in one piece.
This seemed to make her cry harder.
Jane was growing impatient. “What is it?”
“But you are not! The damage to your reputation alone, the scandal! Your prospects are greatly reduced, my lady.”
“A small mercy,” she muttered. “Why would it trouble anyone that I was kidnapped, so long as I am unharmed?”
“You were gone overnight. I’m afraid they must assume the worst.”
Jane rolled her eyes. “What do they care, so long as I am wealthy?”
“Forgive me for saying, my lady, but few would willingly take a damaged wife.”
“Who says that I am damaged?”
Greta wiped her eyes and looked around the room, as if to satisfy herself they were alone. She lowered her voice and confided, “I apologize for speaking indelicately, my lady, but I know what happened.”
Jane tilted her head in confusion. “You do?”
Greta nodded. “Your small clothes. There was blood…”
Jane grasped her hand. “Does Father know?”
Greta shook her head frantically. “I daren’t tell him or Lady Hereford.”
“I beg you, please do not. They will never forgive me.”
“Forgive you?” Greta looked incredulous. “It is not your fault you were ravished, my lady.”
“Ravished?” Jane frowned. Greta had assumed the worst.
As her suitors had sharply declined in number, it was clear that everyone else had assumed the worst as well.
Jane patted Greta’s hand affectionately. “I assure you, I was not.”
Greta threw up her hands and looked away. “Of course. We should not speak of such things. I will keep your secret, and we shall pray you are not with child.” She stood at once and opened Jane’s closet, quickly sorting through the glut of pastel dresses before settling on a newer one in pale yellow.
Jane rose and obediently stood on her short stool, raising her arms to be dressed. Greta draped the yellow dress over the chair and straightened the already meticulously even laces of her stays before slipping the skirt over her head and dropping it to brush the silk stockings that covered her feet. She pulled the panels of bodice together in the back and began to lace them together from the bottom, taking care not to wrinkle any portion of the lace-edged chemise beneath.
When Jane had returned home, her father had asked her in his usual blunt fashion if she had been ravished and she had answered truthfully that she had not. He had openly wept tears of relief. Try as she might, she could not bring herself to tell him the whole of it for fear of breaking his heart.
Jane had hoped that by taking a lover, she would render herself unmarriageable and free herself to live the life of adventure that she craved, away from the responsibilities and expectations that came with being the daughter of an earl.
She had been right about the unmarriageable part.
Don't forget to check out the first book in the series...
Notorious harlot Sally Green fights for survival in Restoration London. When a brutal attack throws them together, Sally is torn between the tutor who saves her and the highwayman who keeps her up at night; between new love and an old need for revenge. Winner of the Southern Magic Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence 2015.
About Jessica Cale
Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at www.authorjessicacale.com.