For those who have read historical romances before the likelihood is high some mental picture of the time period already exists, thank you Hollywood. Often readers tend to stick with a specific time frame, say Regency or American Western. Readers do this for the very same reason writers do, because its what is well known to them.
What the romance genre does is take all the “good”, flowery and sparkling parts of the history and intertwine this with characters who will eventually find a “happily ever after” ending to their adventure.
As someone who can never decide, day to day, whether to be a writer or a historian first I have a harder time making history something it never was even for the purpose of a sweet story line. So yeah while some oral health care happened people weren’t brushing teeth at least twice a day. Taking liberty with history is a writer’s prerogative and while I do much to avoid this I find even I cannot be purely historically factual and maintain the romantic elements, she would be missing teeth and his breath was going to be gag worthy. Although what I write directly in regards to historical events, people and places are factual for some who may not know or who will question the facts I am adding these blogs to build a better picture of the period in hopes to spark interest and deepen the appreciation for the “love found” aspect of every romance.
I do want to make sure its understood while “historical fiction” uses facts of time, place, people, events as a “secondary character” in the story, which interact with the main characters to draw out the drama (goal, motivation, conflict), by contrast a “costume drama fiction” really only uses the general idea of the period as a setting and often the real historical facts have little to do with the story over all.
Because I write both historical fiction AND costume dramas I will try to be clear in my blogs which I am referring to. For The Debt I use the standards of Historical Fiction while The Worship Series is fully a Costume Drama.
So, what was happening in 1490? In general not very much. For the British Isles this is still the very beginning of the Renaissance Period which started roughly 1485 and lasted through 1649. The Renaissance was going strong in places such as Italy for more than 100 years but due to the lack of full stability in Great Britain over the same time frame as well as disturbances on the European continent the Cultural Revolution or rebirth was slower to gain ground in England.
From 1327 until 1484 England saw seven different monarchs sit the thrown and each fought to hold both the thrown and the kingdom. The seating of Henry VII was not without controversy and not without troubles, but for the British it was the end of the conflict between the Lancastrians and Yorkists. King Henry VII line would lead England to world superpower status.
However, this did not mean such things as slavery, human chattel and servitude to an over lord disappeared. The practice of indentured servitude which is the premise of “The Debt” was very common and not often was the indentured person treated fairly. The person would die still owing a debt in some kind of bondage. In all likelihood because “The Debt” deals with a contract and civil matters these would have been approved through either The Court of Sessions or The Court of Baron both of which dealt with civil issues, trespass and debts. However, these two official courts were not established in a formal manner in 1490. Although legal proceedings became more cohesive by this time the intervention of courts would not have happened for the protagonist.
The second main premise is of a “forced” marriage. While less common these did happen and for the very reason given in the story; to advance someone politically. Marriages in general during this time period became more “love based” as people were waiting till their early to mid twenties to wed. Nobility still wed slightly younger to protect inheritances but the tradition of marrying children was almost completely ended by this time. The “marriage contract” was only the first step in a legal marriage and while binding, alone it was not enough to force someone to wed. While never mentioned directly in “The Debt” there is an assumption that the “spousals”, oral promises given in front of witnesses, have been spoken. Legally speaking a marriage didn’t occur until several more steps had taken place but for the Anglican Church a contract of marriage was enough standing. Under English Law a marriage not done by the book but sanctioned by the church committed the couple to each other for life however did not give a guarantee any heirs would be allowed to inherent. In this “The Debt” sets up enough of a quandary for the protagonist to be concerned and thus not want to risk the “marriage” as it stands.
Here now are the historical bases for the premise of the story. I hope this gives you a better perspective on the complex tangles a young woman such as Torlan could find herself in. And gives you an even more clear understanding of how difficult it will be for Torlan and Dark to overcome these legal and social issues.
Enjoy and READ ON!