Today I am delighted to welcome Rebecca Cohen to my blog. I have always been a huge history nerd and the Tudor period is one of my favourites. Discovering that Miss Cohen had written a male/male Elizabethan novel absolutely made my week. Finding out there was now a sequel was even better. That sequel is now out and if you have not already read it, I heartily recommend it. Now, before I start waffling and gushing all over the place, I’ll turn my blog over to Rebecca so she can tell you about her book for herself.
Like many writers, I like to hop around the genres I write. In my case, this means I flit from fantasy, sci-fi and historical. Each genre tends to raise different questions, but one of the most common questions I get when I talk to folks about the historical novels I’ve written is what drew me to the Elizabethan period.
There are many periods of history I enjoy but the Tudors hold a particular fascination for me. I don’t know whether it is the extravagant costumes of the rich, or the wonderfully devious machinations of the royals that initially drew me to the period, but it is the varied stories that I’ve read that keep me coming back. I was researching Elizabethan past times of the wealthy, and while, unsurprisingly, feasting and dancing were high on the list (and Anthony Crofton loves to do both!), I was intrigued by the nobles love of sport; hunting, tennis, archery and, of course, dueling. I couldn’t resist including a duel in Duty to the Crown, especially one where Anthony is defending his honor and wanting remittance for someone over stepping the boundaries with his ‘wife’. And having read of something called ‘the Englishman’s defense’ in an extract from an Italian dueling master’s manual, I just had to use it. I can certainly see Anthony using any methods necessary – even if punching someone in the face might seem ungentlemanly.
Extract from Duty to the Crown:
In the middle of the lawn, Nicholas and Anthony saluted each other with their rapiers, blades pointing to sky, and then each took two paces back. Sebastian wasn’t surprised to see Nicholas make the first move, lunging forward with his sword arm held straight in front of him. Anthony blocked it easily and countered with his own attack. Nicholas was quick on his feet though, and after his failed opening, the two of them circled each other warily as if waiting for the other to charge. With a flourish worthy of the stage, Anthony broke the stalemate and advanced with a jab that was easily blocked, and followed up with a swipe which Nicholas parried again, his response making Anthony spring gracefully out of the way.
Sebastian’s stomach rolled with nausea. Anthony fended away an onslaught of quick attacks that sent Sebastian’s heart racing and made him feel quite breathless. Miriam, seeing his anguish, grabbed his arm in support and Sebastian squeezed her hand in thanks, not daring to take his eyes off the duel.
Anthony was now on the attack but Nicholas had no trouble defending himself, turning the tables with his clever footwork, which had Anthony shuffling backward before he was able to reposition himself and charge forward again. The tip of Anthony’s sword caught Nicholas’s doublet but it didn’t tear the fabric, let alone draw blood, and Nicholas’s answering parry caused Anthony to swerve quickly to the side. In reaction, he caught Nicholas’s sword arm with his left hand and landed a vicious punch to his opponent’s jaw.
Nicholas toppled backward, losing his balance, and landed heavily on his back. Anthony stood over him, the point of his sword held at Nicholas’s throat. With a flick of his wrist, it the tables with his clever footwork, which had Anthony shuffling backward before he was able to reposition himself and charge forward again. The tip of Anthony’s sword caught Nicholas’s doublet but it didn’t tear the fabric, let alone draw blood, and Nicholas’s answering parry caused Anthony to swerve quickly to the side. In reaction, he caught Nicholas’s sword arm with his left
The romance at court was another obvious draw of the period. At a time when it was not the done thing to touch your partner overtly in public (not that Anthony bowed to that social nicety), dancing was of the few ways a couple could openly show their affection. One of the risqué dances of the time was called the Lavolta, an intimate dance of lifts and skips that sent tongues wagging when first seen at court. So when Sebastian sees that Anthony intends to dance the Lavolta with someone else he steps in – no matter what their duty to the crown is, there is only so much he will allow.
Extract from Duty to the Crown:
They were pressed closely together, their gazes locked, and Sebastian paid no heed to the other couples who were also dancing. Anthony’s left hand lay on Sebastian’s right hip, left thigh pressed firmly against Sebastian’s right thigh, and Anthony’s right hand below where Sebastian’s bosom would’ve been. Sebastian wrapped his right arm around Anthony’s shoulders and used his left hand to lift the hem of his gown. Even though he was well past the stage of merry, Anthony was still an excellent dancer. He expertly led Sebastian through every step, caught every leap, and lifted Sebastian with such a steady ease that Sebastian never once thought Anthony would drop him. Being so close to Anthony in public made Sebastian tremble with desire; the smell of Anthony’s cologne and the heat of his body were tantalizing. It was a display of physical closeness rarely seen in public, the dance having caused a stir at court the first time Sebastian had seen it. The audience watching him now only made it more erotic.
All too soon the dance ended. Sebastian stepped away, flushed with want, and he would need to retire to his room to deal with his erection. Anthony grabbed his hands, brought them to his mouth, and kissed them. “My lady.”
Sebastian curtseyed low. “My lord.”
Other guests took to the floor and Anthony led Sebastian to the side, handing him a goblet of wine.
Sebastian leaned in closer to whisper. “I could not have watched you dance like that with Marie—I would’ve caused a scene as I ripped you from her arms.”
“And I would’ve broken the arms of any man who dared to touch you in such a fashion,” replied Anthony, resting his forehead against Sebastian’s.
The kiss they shared made Sebastian impossibly harder and he groaned as they separated. “I think it’s for the best that I retire for the night—before I disgrace myself.”