Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guest Post: Romance in the Past with Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked)

One of the best things, at least to me, about YA is the romance. The sexiness, intensity, passion, even the awkward and the cute and the sweet. But what about when the book is historical? Obviously, times are different. So how do you hit into that, while keeping it in line? Debut author Jessica Spotswood is stopping in today to talk about her take on it, and what she's done in her book Born Wicked.

BORN WICKED takes place in an alternate version of 1890s New England ruled by a patriarchal group of priests called The Brotherhood. The Brothers are super-strict about girls' behavior. It's forbidden for men and women who aren't related to be alone together unchaperoned. Well-bred girls should always be accompanied by a female relative, a lady's maid, or a governess. Men can offer ladies their arm to cross the street or to help them down from a carriage, but beyond that, physical contact is frowned upon and can have a devastating consequence on a girl's reputation.

Having established those rules, it was tricky to get Cate alone with either of her suitors. Paul escorts her home from church several times, which is a standard way in this society for men to show interest in courting a girl. Even though his mother's in the carriage with them, it's still enough to cause gossip! Their visits have some sense of informality because he's an old friend and he's used to dropping by the Cahill home, but one of the first things Cate's new governess does is insist that her walks with Paul be chaperoned. However, for one pivotal scene Paul asks the chaperone to give them some privacy, and since the maid is a bit of a romantic, she agrees.

Finn is working part-time as the gardener for the Cahills, and he is less interested in following the Brothers’ rules, so it was easier to have him and Cate run into each other outdoors. His other job is as a bookseller in his mother's bookshop, so, again, she runs into him in the course of business. Basically, at first, he’s this somewhat-annoying, somewhat-intriguing guy she keeps encountering when she wants to be left alone. Later, after they realize they are interested in one another, they still have to keep any trysts super-secret. Cate's usually very cautious, but her attraction to Finn makes her take chances -- even though she knows that if they are found in a compromising position, she'd be arrested by the Brothers and given a morality trial.

I think (hope) that all of the forbidden-ness and the secrecy add to the romantic tension. Any little touch is scandalous. The smallest look or brush of a hand can mean more than a modern kiss. Cate's usually wearing a cloak outdoors, so when Finn sees her with her hair uncovered, that's sexy. When she sees him working without a jacket, in his shirtsleeves, she's totally lustful. There's a scene where she bandages his ankle after he falls off a ladder, and she's touching his leg, and it's a big deal. The build-up to kissing can be, in my opinion, just as sexy as the kissing itself!

Born Wicked hits shelves today, so be sure to pick it up. Trust me, both Finn and Paul are yummy and swoonworthy.


  1. I love this post! I think the build-up Jessica talks about is really what most appeals to me about historical fiction. :)

  2. Randi, I admit I don't read historicals as often, but I do love the soft build up of them. This one, especially, struck me. Its SO hot, without being outwardly hot. =D