Robin Schone's Blog - Posts Tagged "victorian-england"

I thought it might be fun to write about my books in the order they were published, and to give you some facts you may not know.

Awaken, My Love was my very first romance. What a rocky road to publication it was! Twenty-eight agents rejected it. One agent wrote that I must study the romance market; a romance book simply could not start with the heroine masturbating! (Read the scandalous opening that evoked such a maelstrom of emotion in "Robin's Writing.")

Well, I persevered. The twenty-ninth agent read it, loved it, and sold it to Avon Books (1995) five days after submission. My Author's Edition was published in 2001 by Kensington Brava. Awaken, My Love is still in print today . . . fourteen years after its original publication (and being told I couldn't start a romance book with a masturbation scene!) . . . and has thus far been published in Germany, Poland, Spain and Taiwan.

Awaken, My Love is somewhat lighter in tone than my later works. It's about a thirty-nine-year-old modern woman who wakes up in the body of a twenty-one-year-old Victorian woman. Elaine doesn't know anything at all about the girl whose body she now possesses, nor does she know anything about the era. One of my favorite scenes is when Elaine starts her period:

“Oh, marm, ye’re hurt!”

Righting herself, Elaine turned a scowling face toward the maid. Fancy Katie noticing she was lame after all this time, she thought caustically. But the maid’s eyes, big as the spindle hole in a floppy disc, were fastened onto the back of Elaine’s gown, not her leg.

Elaine grasped the right side of her nightgown and pulled it forward until the back slid within visual range.

The white silk was smeared and speckled with blood.

Red blood.

Fresh blood.

But where had it come from?

She twisted the gown this way and that. It was stained only in the back. What . . . ?

Elaine’s cheeks flamed with sudden knowledge of the blood’s origin.

“Oh, marm!”

The knowledge, too, had just occurred to Katie.

“Oh, marm!” the maid repeated, sounding utterly astonished that a ‘lady’ was subject to the same physical realities as the lower classes.

Elaine looked down at the maid in budding dismay. Oh, marm, indeed! In this era that didn’t even have toilet paper, what did they use for sanitary napkins?

While I have always revered archeology and palentology, it was this book that gave me an undying love and appreciation for the Victorian era. I was as ignorant as Elaine when it came to what 19th century women used for sanitary purposes. Visiting the Chicago museum, I was informed that women used 'napkins' that they pinned to their drawers. But drawers in those days had no seams in the crotch, so how could they pin anything to them? . . . After perusing dozens and dozens of books about feminine apparel, I came across a reference to sanitary belts. And a little later, a one-sentence reference to sanitary napkins! Thus began an education that continues today. . . .

If you've read Awaken, My Love . . . or even if you haven't! . . . I would love to hear your comments. And please, if you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to ask them: That is the purpose of a blog, to communicate!
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Published on July 09, 2009 13:53 • 380 views • Tags: awaken-my-love, erotica, robin-schone, tantrics, time-travel, victorian-england
A friend gifted me with a copy of Richard Burton's translation of The Perfumed Garden one Christmas. Since I had used Tantric . . . and in a round-about way, the Kama Sutra . . . in Awaken, My Love, I thought how cool would it be to use The Perfumed Garden in a book? I immediately knew that the story must revolve around a man--half Arab, half English--who uses the book to instruct a woman in the art of sexual love. Bingo, Ramial was born! But while Ramiel came to me right away, Elizabeth was a much more difficult character to get a handle on. I wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to put my finger on exactly why a respectable woman such as the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and daughter of the Prime Minister would turn to a disreputable man like Ramiel for sexual tutelage. Elizabeth finally came to me when Ramiel challenged her:

"Women who love their husbands do not ask strangers to teach them how to please a man," he said caustically.

"No, cowards who love their husbands do not ask strangers to teach them how to please a man. Cowards sleep alone, night after night. Cowards accept the fact that their husbands take their pleasure with another woman. Cowards do nothing, not women."

Whoa! Elizabeth spoke, and what a voice she had! I very much enjoyed her journey in not only learning about her sexuality, but in accepting that her needs . . . not only as a woman, but also as a person . . . were just as important as those of a man.

My editor loved The Lady's Tutor, therefore I was mightily surprised when I received the copyedited manuscript and all the Arabic terms had been deleted and or changed! It turned out that the copyeditor knew someone in Jordan, and asked him about all the Arabic sexual terms. Strangely enough (yes, I am being sarcastic), the terms used in The Perfumed Garden, a four-hundred year old book on erotology, were for the most part obsolete in modern Jordan, so my copyeditor thought to modernize my manuscript. It apparently never occured to her to check my Arabic terminology with The Perfumed Garden. As my editor said, "Imagine her phone bill!"

Needless to say, all my original text was restored. The Lady's Tutor--published August 1999--went through 2 print runs in a Zebra Splendor edition (it has a holographic heart on the front cover), and then 2 print runs in a regular Zebra edition, before finally in September 2000 being published in trade paperback, where it is now in its 8th trade paperback print.

Oh! And for those who didn't read my "Author's Notes" at the end of TLT. . . . The Uranian fellowship actually existed.
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Published on July 28, 2009 18:35 • 196 views • Tags: erotology, richard-burton, robin-schone, the-ladys-tutor, the-perfumed-garden, victorian-england
The Lover is my third "single title" novel. Strangely enough . . . or perhaps not . . . the idea grew out of research I came across while writing The Lady's Tutor. I was intrigued by the thought of night houses, hotels of sorts . . . NOT brothels . . . where not only prostitutes, but lovers could rent a room by the hour. In France these hotels were called "maisons des rendezvous," or houses of rendezvous.

I knew my hero would be a male prostitute named Michael, or more specifically, Michel (Michael in French) des Anges. (Voir les anges is a French term for orgasm; Michael is literally named for his ability to give women sexual satisfaction.) However, when I sat down to write the book, my muse balked at writing a story with a hero named Michael. I know so many Michaels in real life; alas, nary a one of them is a beautiful, violet-eyed gigolo. I simply couldn't create such an extraordinary character with such an ordinary name. Gabriel has always been a favorite name of mine, so I renamed Michael "Gabriel." Only to have Gabriel jump out of the pages and say, "I am Gabriel; Michael is Michael."

Suddenly my simple story of a historical gigolo became much more complex. But wait a minute. Did gigolos . . . a term coined circa 1920 . . . really exist prior to the twentieth century? Homosexual male prostitutes did--there's all kinds of documentation about m/m sex for hire--but what about heterosexual male prostitution?

I read over a dozen books that suggested it had, indeed, occurred, but not until I was thumbing through Frances Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue did I actually find terminology for these men. (My favorite is 'petticoat monger;' 'stallion' is still in use today.)

Okay. The names, characters and story were laid out, but there was still a major stumbling block: I wrote The Lady's Tutor using a traditional writing style; very straight forward. I knew this wouldn't work for The Lover. Michael and Gabriel--one man trained to please women, the other trained to please men--are two very complex and dangerous individuals. The very urgency surrounding their circumstances demanded that I convey this danger and urgency through the writing. It is a style frequently used in thriller/action genres--short, high-impact sentences--and what else, really, was The Lover but an erotic romantic thriller? Hence the opening, which laid the groundwork for the remainder of the book:



Michael did not know which of the two had brought him back to London.

He sat and waited for both.

It was a risk, writing The Lover as I did. I knew many readers who loved The Lady's Tutor wouldn't like the staccato-like writing. I also knew there were scenes in it that would greatly disturb gentle readers. When I sent it off to New York, I was quite certain my editor would toss it in the trash. The next night, I was drinking a glass of wine (okay, more than one) and whining to Don that I had probably murdered my writing career. When he asked why (due to time constraints, he had not read The Lover), I told him about the Andrew Marvell scene. He grimly agreed, "You are finished."

After all these years together, he knows just the right words to boost my morale! :-)

Unbeknownst to me, however, I had forgotten to turn on the upstairs phone that morning. While I was crying in my wine, so to speak, my editor called and left a message. She had received the manuscript that morning, and had stayed late at the office to read it. Fortunately for my sanity, I went downstairs to check my computer and saw the flashing red light on the telephone indicating I had voice mail. My editor loved the book! I drank the rest of the wine in celebration.

A writing career is very much like a roller coaster ride . . . lots of ups and downs.

Michael and Gabriel--mes deux anges--will always hold a special place in my heart. I think, in some ways, Anne is my most courageous heroine. She knew what she wanted, and in the end, she was willing to pay the price.

The Lover was my first single title release to hit the USA Today Bestseller list, and has thus far been published in six countries.
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Published on August 06, 2009 13:27 • 315 views • Tags: 19th-century-male-prostitution, french-sex-words, gigolo, night-houses, robin-schone, the-lover, victorian-england
My editor loved The Lover. When she asked what my next book was going to be--and I responded Gabriel's story--she sighed, and said, "I was afraid of that."

In 2001, there were very few romances that could list their hero's occupation as "homosexual prostitute." But that was what Gabriel had been in The Lover. When writing Gabriel's Woman, I could not sweep his past under the rug and pretend it had never happened. Victoria wouldn't allow it. She had the same questions I and my readers shared. I had to deal with Gabriel's sexuality, and I . . . Gabriel . . . had to be brutally honest. But just how honest could he be, and remain a romantic fantasy?

When Victoria asked Gabriel if he got an erection when he was with men, my mind froze in horrified fascination--rather like watching a freight train bear down on one--even as my fingers typed on.

"Sexual organs, mademoiselle, are apparatuses." Cynicism tarnished the silver of his eyes. "Like my bath or my shower. If you turn a valve cock"--he paused, allowing the double entendre to sink in, valve cock, cock--"it releases water. It does not care whether it is a man or a woman who turns it."

If that were the case, then why were his eyes so bleak?

"You are saying that there need not be emotion, or feeling, in order for a man to . . ." Victoria struggled to find the words, she, a governess who had never even heard the word cock until six months earlier, "to sexually perform--"

"That is correct."

"--And that the . . . that copulation is merely a reflexive response, a matter of cause and effect."


At which point, Victoria asks the question that could not be avoided, much as I had wanted to do just that.

"Are you saying, then, that you did not orgasm when you were with . . . a patron?"

This was the moment I had dreaded. Gabriel's answer would either be a career maker, or a career breaker. Yet there was no future for Victoria and Gabriel if he didn't answer. So answer he did.

I expected plenty of naysayers; what I didn't expect was how many readers would take Gabriel to heart. And how many women--and men--would write thanking me for Gabriel's unflinching honesty in dealing with the darker aspects of human sexuality.

I remember talking to Kathe Robin, reviewer extraordinaire for RT Book Reviews. She said Gabriel would never have found redemption without Hans Christian Andersen's tale of "The Angel." What do you think?
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Published on June 10, 2010 20:41 • 549 views • Tags: erotic-romance, gabriels-woman, homosexuality, male-rape, robin-schone, romance, victorian-england