Backstory

Authors tell you what inspired their work

Julia London, author of "The Hazards of Hunting a Duke"

Long before I ever dreamed up The Hazards of Hunting a Duke, a teacher told my class that the reason we should appreciate history is because we, as a society, can't know where we are going unless we know from where we have come.

Frankly, at the time, I was far more interested in where Matt M. was going and where he'd been than history class, but I'd always liked history. When I got a little older, I was swept up in American history courtesy of Roots and North and South. For the first time, history came alive for me in reading John Jakes' North and South trilogy. Who could not be caught up in his vivid depiction of the civil war? Moreover, who could read his books and not fall in love with the Hazard or Main men? From there I went on to read Kathleen Woodiwiss, who wrote some of the first scandalously hot historical romance novels set in mid 19th-century America. The conflict between the states formed a perfect backdrop to the conflict between strong, brawny men and women with flaming red hair.

By the time I went to college, my course work immersed me in European history. Here were men to capture a young woman's attention! Chivalrous knights, anointed kings, and dastardly barons enticed me, but the women who loved them with their flowing gowns and long silky hair captivated me. I read all about King Arthur and the kings and queens of Europe, then progressed to fiction and Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Charles Dickens. Romance abounded in these books, of course, for what is the purpose of chivalry and honorable men without women to notice?

It was only natural that I began to write what I loved to read. My first historical romance novels were full of men who would resist love just as fiercely as they would later embrace it. The women were just as fiercely determined to drag men to love as they were to secure their rightful place in society. But as I wrote more novels -- I've written 15 novels now, ten of them historical romance -- I began to feel somewhat trapped by the women.

That is when I began to appreciate what women were up against before the twentieth century. As I tried to capture the magic of falling in love and the art of building relationships, I was stymied by the fact that women were second-class citizens. They could not own property, could not inherit, could not step out of their house and walk down the street without someone to accompany them for fear of being labeled loose. If they came out into society and didn't receive an offer of marriage in a two or three year period, they were considered bound for spinsterhood. And that was the privileged women! Women at all social and economic levels existed in a world dominated and dictated by men.

When Desperate Housewives stormed onto the scene, I got the idea for my new series. At least the Desperate Housewives have jobs and legal protections and the liberty to come and go as they please. The women in my novels have none of that, yet they must find their way in the face of conflict and build relationships with the opposite sex in spite of facing the same dynamics between the sexes that women face today -- society has changed, but men and women haven't changed that much at all.

In my new Desperate Debutantes series, I take three aristocratic women who have no other purpose than to fish for a husband... until the rug is pulled from under their feet and they have no money, no protection, and could be compelled to marry the first slovenly, thick-lipped buffoon that comes along, they must pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make their own destinies. "The Hazards of Huntin a Duke," the first book, has a great romance (of course!), but it also about a woman who is not going to take whatever fate hands her.

I appreciate how confining society was for these women, and I want to give them wings. I finally get what my teacher said all those years ago: We can't know where we are going if we don't know from where we have come. As a woman, I get where we've been and where we are going, and thank God that we have come as far as we have. And because I write fiction, and I have the liberty to write what I want, I have taken the liberty of giving my desperate debutantes a tiny taste of where we've gone. I hope you enjoy the book.

Julie London is the author of The Hazards of Hunting a Duke.


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Sunday March 11th 2007, 9:27 PM
Comment by: Carolyn J.
I was so glad to see your article here! I have very much enjoyed your Highlander novels. As an avid reader of historical romances, I find there is still one area in which women, even after all these years, may feel even less free than the aristocratic women in your new Desperate Debutante series: admitting, as I just did, that they love reading romance novels.
Well, I have some liberating news! As I was perusing the March 3-9, 2007 issue of NewScientist, I happened upon an article entitled,"Fictional selection." The author, Jonathan Gottschall, who teaches English literature at Washington and Jefferson College in Washinton, Pennsylvania believes that literary criticism can be improved by using evolutionary biology: "literary Darwinism."
While all of the article is interesting, the part that really caught my attention had to do with, of course, romantic love. Stating that academics "claim that romantic love is not a universal emotion" and that it dates from troubadours in the 12th century, it goes on to cite a study that did an analysis of folk tales to check the validity of those claims. The study, published in Philosophy and Literature, vol 30, p 450 and conducted by the author and several others, "found salient depictions of romantic love love in folk-tale traditions broadly scattered in space and time. Either people everywhere have independently learned to respond to each other in this way, or romantic love in an innate part of human nature evolved by natural selection."
So thank you, Julie, for carrying on a literary tradition that not only appeals to our innate nature but is time-honored as well!

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