Regency Era Smut
You may recall that last week I mentioned a Regency-era tale called The Lustful Turk. I suppose it’s erotica. I had high hopes for this book going in. After all, it’s Regency-era smexiness. What could be better except maybe pictures, which the print version has?
On the whole I would rather troll Shakepeare for dirty puns. (I’ll be right over, Amanda.)
In Preview This Book on Amazon, the pictures looked nice and clear. In the book? Not so much. I could tell the subject matter was racy, but in the print book, the pictures were too small and pixelated. What a disappointment, because there was some artistic merit in them.
The Text of The Turk
The text wasn’t a disappointment, but not in a good way. Early attempts to tell extremely racy stories (de Sade excluded since he could at least write his way out of a paper bag) were predictably bad since 1) the desire to write hot doesn’t necessarily coincide with a talent for such and 2) there was a fairly universal lack of elements we today consider necessary to an entertaining story. Things like plot, character development and something– some nugget of something– that readers can care about.
I don’t know for sure if this is something peculiar to men writing about sex but for pre-20th century raciness, the lack of story elements is the norm. More on that in a bit. Although, I’m pleased to say that this book did have a discernible plot. I’m not saying it’s a good one, but stuff happens!
Great Lines in Literature
However, plot points aside, The Lustful Turk is notable for what I consider one of the greatest lines of literature ever written:
“Seize the virgin!” repeated Ozman, ‘she will be only too honored and happy to escape the pollution of this blaspheming wine bibber.’
Imagine this Regency buck sitting at his club with pen and paper and writing his magnum opus between drinks and bad jokes. What should Ozman say, he probably wondered at this point. He wants his heroine to get kidnapped at her wedding and then nailed by the Lustful Turk, who is not Ozman, by the way. Yes, it’s quite a turning point and full of conflict. Will someone pop her cherry before the Turk gets his chance? Our erstwhile author is at least attempting to create tension. He has another drink and inspiration swells!
Rest assured, the Turk gets his virgin. Several of them actually.
In Which Carolyn Sighs. Many times.
The women are all horrified at being raped until the Turk convinces them they like it, and then hey! Turk-y baby I love you because you can get that big engine ready on a moment’s notice all night every night.
I was not convinced, I’m afraid.
It was authorial wishful thinking with a big dose of stupid ideas that need to die a horrible death. It’s a distasteful trope that lasted well into the 1980’s when Feminists saved all our asses by pointing out how absurd, destructive, hateful and just plain wrong it is to think a man can rape a woman and she’ll eventually like it. It’s pervasive in too much literature and lingers still.
In fact, you can probably yourself think of several literary books that include such false and damaging notions. And, of course, early Romances aren’t sometimes called Rapetastic for nothing. But, then, these women didn’t have a better example. That they often turned that trope on its head is something to celebrate as we also celebrate having moved past that in Romance.
There are all kinds of slurs, cliches and stereotypes. Everywhere you look. Religion? Yup. (An abbott demands sex in return for saving a womans’ life, otherwise, he leaves her to die) People who aren’t white? You betcha! (the whole damn book) The lower classes? But of course! (The heroine’s beautiful servant is badly beaten but the heroine? She is too white and tender and upper class.)
While the distasteful representation of female sexual agency is front and center there’s plenty more in the background. (Dear Anonymous Author: Worried much about women?) I get that he didn’t know any better, but did it have to take us 200 years before we did?
Meanwhile, Back in the Harem
Anyway, the story is told in epistolary fashion, with all the extreme awkwardness of that device that you could possibly imagine. No, imagine more. More. More….. Yes!
Now you’re close.
So more virgins get kidnapped and deflowered and the Turk is indeed very lustful. But he is also a nice guy. Because his very last conquest cuts off his penis and he is totally cool with that! He sends all his ex-virgin white girls home to their loving families. To be fair, one of them is Greek or something.
There is also sequel bait in the form of the heroine’s baby. She’s knocked up at one point, and I think we never find out what happened to the baby. Or maybe we do. But I’m NOT reading through that again to find out.
Any connection with Byron is quite a stretch. He may be inextricably linked now with the revolution in Greece, but he’s not the only Englishman to go there or be aware of the politics of the revolution. Mentioning Greece in no way connects this book with Byron except for the modern reader who only knows, yeah, Byron — he went to Greece. I doubt very much the author was thinking of Bryon. He was thinking about whether the Turk should deflower another virgin.
Thoughts? Reactions? Opinions? Share in the comments.
My mind is still wandering, not entirely away from RWA in Orlando, a bit still on the road, and a lot in my almost finished Book 3 of my Soldiers Series.
Something very cool from RWA.
After the Awards Ceremony (where Amanda and Carolyn were finalists for the RITA, in case you forgot…) several of my friends from Washington Romance Writers (WRW) and I were invited to Michelle Monkou‘s hotel suite. Michelle is RWA’s president as well as a member of WRW, and as president she’d done a fair amount of entertaining in her suite. Leftover from one of those events was a booklet compiled for librarians by John Charles (reviewer for Booklist and the Chicago Tribune), Shelley Mosley, and Kristin Ramsdell. The booklet defines the Romance genre and its subgenres and describes its historical origins. It lists Romance publishers and resource books and articles and electronic resources. Five Blogs were listed and RISKY REGENCIES WAS ONE OF THEM!!! Right up there with Word Wenches, The Goddess Blogs and Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book.
Speaking of blogs, I’m way behind on Number One London, one of my blog favorites. Here is a sample of some of their offerings: More on the Althorpe auction, Food Glorious Food (iconic British food), Jo Manning on Gainsborough, Famous Dandies Paper Dolls. Number One London is up for a blog award. Feel free to vote for them!
Do you subscribe to RT Book Reviews? In the September issue, go to page 44. There among the Historical reviews is the bookcover for Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress!
RT gives the book 4 Stars and says: “Three soldiers share the horrors of the Battle of Waterloo. Their powerful stories and realistic backdrop elevate Gaston’s series out of the traditional Regency romance.”
Let’s hope Book 3 lives up to that statement as well!
What is on your mind this week? Do you have a goal for the week? Mine is finishing the book!
Come see me Thursday on Diane’s Blog!
Sally’s going Naked again. No….not that kind of naked. Sally MacKenzie is back again with her latest Naked book–The Naked Viscount. Sally will be giving away a signed copy of The Naked Viscount to one lucky commenter.
I’ve been with Sally at various conferences and events and one thing is always true. Readers greet Sally with a smile. I’m delighted that readers will soon (June 1, for certain) find Sally’s The Naked Viscount on the bookstore shelves.
“Ah, another naughty, naked hero to brighten MacKenzie’s irresistible romance.
There’s plenty of sizzle, delicious repartee (filled with double entendres),
excitement and mystery to satisfy anyone who needs a bit of love and laughter to
brighten their day.”–Kathe Robin, RT Book Reviews
So let’s give a big Risky Regencies welcome to my pal, Sally MacKenzie!
Welcome, Sally. Tell us about your latest Naked book, The Naked Viscount.
Here’s the story from the Viscount’s back cover copy: After eight London Seasons, Jane Parker-Roth is ready to quit the dull search for a husband in favor of more exciting pursuits. So when she encounters an intruder alone in her host’s townhouse, she’s not about to let the scoundrel escape–especially when she discovers she’s wrestling Viscount Motton, the one noble she wouldn’t mind meeting in the dark. And when their struggle shatters a randy statue of the god Pan, even more mischief ensues. The viscount is indeed searching for evidence of a scandal, but the shocking clues inside the nude statue are far from what he expected. The same can be said of Jane, who shows a talent for interfering in his affairs. And as his quest becomes more than a little bit improper, he finds the impetuous lady has a talent for impropriety as well.
Did you come across any interesting research writing The Naked Viscount?
Hmm. I’d have to say the most interesting thing was the drawing that became the inspiration for the sketch Jane and Motton are looking for in The Naked Viscount. I was leafing through Vic Gatrell’s City of Laughter; Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London when there on p. 404 I saw Thomas Rowlandson’s pornographic print, Lord Barr…re’s Great Bottle Club. Very eye-opening, indeed. I knew Rowlandson drew pornography, so that part wasn’t a surprise. But this particular print…there’s a lot going on there. Perhaps it’s just me, but I tend to picture our forebears as stiff and formal like the portraits I’ve seen in art galleries and school history books. This sketch is more “peers gone wild. “
We’re all about being risky. What is risky about The Naked Viscount?
You Riskies were in the back of my mind as I was writing this book–it has “risky” written all over it. Did I mention the pornographic inspiration? And then there are the Pan statues with the prodigious penises in which the clues are hidden. And all the visual jokes as our lovely heroine goes about finding the clues–while our manly hero gnashes his teeth. And then there’s the aphrodisiac… I suspect there is really no such thing as a true aphrodisiac, but by then my characters were on a roll.
You recently attended the RT Book Reviews Convention. Can you tell us about it? What was the most outrageous part of the Convention? Can you share any photos?
Well, I had a novella, “The Naked Prince,” due May 1, so I spent more time than usual in my hotel room. Wednesday I was part of a group that hosted the Midnight Mad Hatters Historical tea, which was great fun except for the midnight part. Here’s a picture of me with my friend (and one of the other hosts), Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor. And here’s another picture of me at the event–my borrowed hat appears to be trying to escape. I had a lot of laughs during the historical panel I was on–“Bringing Historical Characters to Life.” The panel was moderated by Kristi, and my fellow panelists were Courtney Milan, Victoria Dahl, Sylvia Day, and Victoria Alexander.
Perhaps the craziest thing happened before the Faery Ball. I write for Kensington Zebra, and “they” (I think the idea came from one particular editor) thought it would be fun if some of the Zebra authors made a grand entrance at the ball as a herd of zebras. Here we are–I’m the one with the tan “hooves” on the far right. Two of the zebras are editors, but I won’t say which two!
What is next for you?
I’ve got two more Naked stories coming. My novella The Naked Prince will be out in February 2011 in the anthology An Invitation to Sin. Jo Beverley is the lead author; Vanessa Kelly and Kaitlin O’Riley join me rounding out the list. Then The Naked King is scheduled for June 2011.
And now for some questions: 1. Do you think of historical figures as very proper folks, always polite, never speaking in contractions? Or are they just like us, only wearing less comfortable clothes? 2. I know I can never write with a completely historical perspective–heck, I’m an American writing about English nobility for goodness sake. Where do you think the line is between strict historical accuracy–dirty hair, bad teeth, and all–and romance?
Great questions, Sally. Go at ’em, Risky Readers, and remember that one lucky commenter will be chosen at random to win a signed copy of The Naked Viscount.