Love Never Fails: Romance in the Early 1900s

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Brentlee Shoemaker! Brentlee, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com so I can send you a copy of Against the Tide.)

The 1900s brought some dramatic changes: from fashion to world events to courtship. Three of our authors responded with thoughts on the historical events of their books’ settings, and how the traditions of romance have changed from back then to where they are now.

First, Janette Oke shares more about the shift in attitude that came in the 1920s, and how that change impacted the heroine of her new release.

Where Courage Calls

Title and Setting: Where Courage Calls, 1920s Canada

My Question:
What was the attitude of the time period toward romance and courtship?

Janette’s Answer:
The story of Beth Thatcher took place during the Roaring Twenties—a time when the world was quickly changing in so many ways, after the First World War. Coming from a very wealthy, conservative home and daring to venture out on her own seemed scary enough—but forming new worldviews, new perimeters, new social standards, and new relationships was totally mind-boggling. Especially for a young girl who was not looking for a life partner . . . yet.

At the time, there was a measure of transition happening. In the past, the parents of the upper class were very involved in the process of match-making. Young ladies debuted into society. Proper young men were welcomed as suitors, others quietly rejected.

In the time period for our story, more young women were seeking a new independence. Many were furthering their education and thus choosing their future career. They were being much more exposed to the world and all of its possibilities and pitfalls. For many it was a totally new world that frightened parents and excited youth. In a way, they were joining the society around them, where the lower classes had already been making such decisions on their own.

Oke_JanetteChat with Janette on a March 4th Facebook Party!

Siri Mitchell‘s upcoming release, Love Comes Calling, also takes place in the 1920s…but in the bustling city of Boston instead of a remote mining town. Her main character, Ellis, encounters all the commotion and chaos of the Prohibition era.

LoveComesCalling_mck.indd

Title and Setting: Love Comes Calling, 1920s Boston

My Question:
What did you personally find interesting about your main characters’ relationship?

Siri’s Answer:
It’s a romance between two people in the upper strata of Boston society who are burdened by the expectations of their family and friends¬. They both see (and love) each other for the people they are, not the people others want them to be.

My Question:
What was an interesting dating tradition of this time?

Siri’s Answer:
The Roaring Twenties was known for its fads. These were the years in which the dance marathon was born. This is also when “dating” truly began. The term “blind date” first appeared in 1921.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Siri’s Answer:
Part of the story takes place on a college campus. As a writer of historicals, it was a treat to place a book in an era when women were attending college. One of the plot points involves the heroine, Ellis, trying to avoid being “pinned” by the fraternity boy hero, Griffin. Pinning is long-time tradition in the Greek System in which the fraternity boy offers his fraternity pin to his sweetheart. As a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, it was fun to be able to share that tradition with my readers.

My Question:
How was romance/courtship different from what it looks like today?

Siri’s Answer:
Actually, it was during this period that romance and courtship began to take on the look and feel of our modern era as the concept of dating became established. The 1920s are also notorious for their ‘anything goes’ mentality. The slide in morality among the decade’s youth can be blamed on two things: movies and the automobile. Many young men of the era freely volunteered that everything they knew about kissing, necking, and petting they learned from the movies. And the car changed everything. No longer did a boy have to spend his time courting a girl within the confines of her family home at the invitation of her wary parents. If you were going to let a boy buy you a drink or take you out to dinner, then you owed him something. This shift of control in the dating arena from the female to the male forever altered relations between the genders.

Mitchell_SiriConnect with Siri on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Finally, Kate Breslin writes about the turmoil of the early half of the century from an ocean away in the midst of World War Two. Here, she shares how such a conflict might shape the lives and hearts of those in the middle of it all.

For Such a Time

Title and Setting: For Such a Time, 1944 Czechoslovakia

My Question:
What did you personally find interesting about your main characters’ relationship?

Kate’s Answer:
The fact that they have one. My hero, Aric von Schmidt, is a SS-Nazi Kommandant in charge of the camp; my heroine, Hadassah Benjamin, is a blond, blue-eyed Jewess who poses as his Aryan secretary, Stella Muller. Stella has every reason to despise Aric as she watches her own people struggle against Nazi brutality and the constant threat of Auschwitz. Aric, a man of hidden depths, finds himself drawn to “Stella,” knowing only that she was raised by Jews and fearing her hatred of him once he’s executed his part in the Nazi’s Final Solution—the total annihilation of Jews inside his camp.

Auschwitz

A view of Auschwitz, from Kate’s Pinterest board.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your novel was typical of the time period and what was atypical?

Kate’s Answer:
During my research, I found the occasional instance of Jewish women marrying Nazi officers, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. Nazi romance and courtship was a very “white bread” ideal. Each man of good German stock was to marry a blond, fair-featured Aryan female to bear him many children for the Nazi state. She would be a model mother and homemaker, unobtrusive in her manner and dress, and keep for him a happy home and hearth. The Nazis expended much propaganda to this end. The U.S. had their own share of propaganda, but aimed it more toward encouraging women to take on roles previously held by men.

As far as romance and marriage, while expectations here were not rigidly idealized as in Germany, many young women felt pressured to meet and marry a serviceman before he departed for the war. I’ll also note here that German women were prohibited from a professional career during wartime or from joining the armed service, while our women became more independent, filling in for our men in all facets of work as well as serving as nurses and other occupations in the armed forces.

I believe that romance, when it did occur during this time, must have felt more amplified than it does today. The world was at war, and men everywhere were being pressed or drafted into service to fight and perhaps die. The European Jewry had been rounded up by Hitler and was being slowly exterminated. Life in every aspect became precious, the future fragile and uncertain. For many, a sense of urgency to form lasting bonds drove them beyond conventional rites of romance and courtship. Marriages took place in all venues—perhaps a weekend’s liberty in some foreign country or in the middle of a concentration camp.

Breslin_Kate1Connect with Kate on Facebook and her website.

When Calls the HeartThis time our giveaway prize is a little different: two winners will receive DVDs of When Calls the Heart, based on the novel by Janette Oke. To enter, comment on this blog post with an answer to this question: if you could travel back in time to any period in history, which would you pick and why? Winners will be posted on a new blog post on Thursday, March 6th.

Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1880s, Part Two

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Martha J. Sturm! Martha, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com so I can send you a copy of A Match Made in Texas.)

Last Friday, we went to the West to find out what courtship looked like on the American frontier. But, even though set in a similar time period, Elizabeth Camden’s novels have a very different feel. Set in cities like Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C., they portray a different kind of love story than one set on a ranch or in a small Western boom town. Here, Elizabeth shares the unique challenges of romance for her heroines.

AgainstTheTide_4color.inddWith Every Breath

Title and Setting: Against the Tide and With Every Breath, late 1800s Boston and Washington D.C.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your novel was typical of the time period and what was atypical?

Elizabeth’s Answer:
The American Civil War brought a surprising opportunity to American women. As men left to fight in the war, the government hired thousands of women to fill office vacancies in Washington, D.C. Even after the war, the floodgates had been opened and it was acceptable for American women to obtain respectable white-collar jobs in cities all over the United States. By 1891, there were 70,000 women working in offices, and by 1920 that number had swelled to half a million.

As a romance novelist, this presents an irresistible temptation for me. Although “dating the boss” is taboo in today’s society, in the late nineteenth century women who ventured into the workplace were considered fair game. Sometimes they welcomed the attention of their employers and sometimes they didn’t, but there was no law against workplace sexual harassment until the landmark Supreme Court case of 1974, Barnes v. Train, recognized this as a distinct issue.

I’ve always been fascinated by the professional woman of the nineteenth century, and most of my novels feature heroines working in professional capacities.  In Against the Tide, Lydia was a translator for the Navy when she met a man who does undercover work for the government. It wasn’t a terribly risqué plot, since Lydia never reported to Bane and could walk away from him whenever she wished.

CustomHouse

The Boston Custom House where Lydia and Bane often interact with each other, from Elizabeth’s Pinterest board.

I got a little more daring in With Every Breath (August 2014). This is a hospital drama, and Kate is a government statistician who is hired by a doctor to help with his research. Kate reports directly to Trevor, and both are well aware of the risks associated with getting romantically involved. “Dating the boss” added a delicious layer of tension and complication to the plot, one which I wouldn’t be free to explore were I writing a contemporary romance. Over the years we have too much instinctive suspicion of relationships that begin with such a disparity of power, but this is a twenty-first century attitude, and I write nineteenth century characters. Trevor and Kate are smart enough to be aware of the emotional danger of their relationship, but it hardly stops them from pursuing it.

If you’re curious about professional women in the late nineteenth century workplace, I hope you’ll take a peek at one of my novels!

CAMDEN_ElizabethConnect with Elizabeth on Facebook and on her website.

For a chance to win Into the Whirlwind, comment below with your thoughts on this question: what event or time period would you most like to see as the setting of a historical novel, and why? The winner will be announced in next Friday’s post!

Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1800s, Part One

(Congratulations to our winner from last week’s post, Hannah Brown! Hannah, please email your mailing address to me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com so I can send you a copy of Rebellious Heart. I loved reading all of your thoughts about the best aspects of life and love during the Revolutionary War.)

Now we move from the era of tea taxes and revolution to the frontier of America in the 1800s. The rules for love and romance have changed a bit, adding interesting features like mail-order brides and women who have to put in long, hard hours of labor on farms and ranches. It’s Valentine’s Day, the perfect time to see what our sisters from a century or so in the past thought about love and romance.

The first to represent the West, Mary Connealy shares some perspective on finding love in Texas in the late 1800s.

Match Made in Texas

Book Title and Setting: Meeting Her Match, from the A Match Made in Texas novella collection, 1893 Texas

My Question:
What was an interesting courtship tradition of this time?

Mary’s Answer:
One of the things I found most interesting was that as the school marm at that time, to have any scandal attached to her name meant being fired immediately. Even if everyone in town was quite sure you were innocent, it was just unthinkable that even a hint of wrongdoing could swirl around the teacher—that’s how high her moral standards had to be. And once that bit of scandal was attached to my heroine, Hannah, she was forced to marry.

The flip side of that was that no married woman was allowed to teach school. There might have been exceptions, but they were rare. It was considered an insult to the husband for his wife to work, as if saying he wasn’t able to take care of her.

Hannah and Mark

My Question:
What about the relationship in your story was typical of the time period, and what was atypical?

Mary’s Answer:
The thing that was not typical between Hannah and Marcus was their ages. Hannah was over twenty. In her mind she was firmly a spinster at that terribly old age. The chance for marriage had passed her by. Today if a twenty-year-old gets married, we are all very nervous because they are so young. It was also far less typical that Hannah was a working woman; most women lived at home until they married.

Connealy_MaryConnect with Mary on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Next, Regina Jennings, one of the other novella contributors, describes an entirely different scenario between her two characters.

Book Title and Setting: An Unforeseen Match, from the A Match Made in Texas novella collection, 1893 Texas

My Question:
Describe your main characters’ relationship.

Regina’s Answer:
Because she’s going blind, Grace is forced away from her responsibilities as a school teacher and from society in general. Clayton realizes how much she values her independence, and he wants to help her maintain it, although he’d prefer that she’d learn to trust him instead. He’s torn between showing her that he can take care of her and teaching her how to take care of herself.

Palo Duro Canyon, the book's setting, via the A Match Made in Texas Pinterest Board.

Palo Duro Canyon, the book’s setting, via the A Match Made in Texas Pinterest Board.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Regina’s Answer:
In the West it wasn’t unheard of for a single woman who owned a homestead to have a hired hand. There was plenty of work to go around, and the role was clearly defined. In An Unforeseen Match, however, Grace’s blindness blurs the lines. Clayton shouldn’t come inside the house, but who is going to cook? How can he guide her around the ranch without touching her? They constantly find themselves in unconventional situations.

Jennings, ReginaConnect with Regina on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

In Tracie Peterson’s new book, the heroine doesn’t meet her intended husband until their wedding day, something quite different from dating and marriage today.

A Sensible Arrangement

Book Title and Setting: A Sensible Arrangement, 1893 Texas and Colorado

My Question:
Describe your main characters’ relationship:

Tracie’s Answer:
Marty Dandridge Olson—originally from the LAND OF THE LONE STAR series is a widow who wants to get out of Texas and answers a newspaper advertisement for a Lone Star Bride. Jake Wythe is originally from the STRIKING A MATCH series. When his Colorado banking job insists he have a wife, he looks for a platonic mate with whom he doesn’t have to risk his heart.

My Question:
What about the relationship in your book was typical of the time period and what was not typical?

Tracie’s Answer:
Advertising in the newspaper for a wife wasn’t all that unusual in the 1800s, but in truth it was probably done less in the later years of the century. However, for my rural ranch characters who lost mates and have no desire to fall in love again, a platonic, arranged sort of mail-order marriage works well. Today we have the Internet, but in the 1800s it was newspapers if you wanted to advertise for a wife or husband.

Peterson, TracieConnect with Tracie on Facebook and her website.

More giveaway fun for you, readers! This time, you have a chance to win A Match Made in Texas. To enter, just comment on the blog with an answer to this question: if you were writing an advertisement for a spouse who you would marry sight unseen, what three characteristics would be most important to you? (If you’re already married, pretend you’re writing the advertisement for your son or daughter.) The winner will be announced in next Friday’s post!

Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1700s

Part of the fun of historical fiction is stepping into another era . . . both the good and the bad. Beautiful gowns—yes, please! Wearing tightly-laced corsets under those gowns—maybe not. A simpler life with less technology might be appealing, but the lack of indoor plumbing certainly isn’t.

One of the best things about reading is that it can take us into the past while still keeping us firmly in the present. At the same time, there are customs of the past that we would love to see brought back into style today. For many of us, that includes some of the traditions of romance in years gone by.

I interviewed several of our historical fiction authors about the difference between romance and courtship today and in the time period they write about. Every Friday this month, I’ll post a different time period . . . with a fun giveaway at the end of each post!

Join me as we go back several centuries and talk with Jody Hedlund about love and marriage in the 1700s.

When Susanna’s heart for the poor and Ben’s disillusionment with British rule cross paths, the two find themselves bound in a dangerous fight for justice.

Book Title and Setting: Rebellious Heart, 1763 Boston

My Question:
How was courtship different in the era of your novel compared to now?

Jody’s Answer:
First, courtship in the 1700s was a family affair. Parents often had a hand in choosing potential suitors and steered children toward appropriate matches. While such involvement may have had an overbearing quality to it, young adults of today could save themselves later heartache by obtaining family input on potential marriage partners. Continue reading

Prayer for Authors: February 2014

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m so glad we have readers who are willing to pray for these wonderful authors. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Authors with Books Releasing in February:

Patrick Carr
Leslie Gould
Laurel Oke Logan
Janette Oke
Lisa Wingate

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-18, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer

  • For the authors’ ability to balance multiple demands on their time and attention while still maintaining priorities like family.
  • For confidence in God’s leading for whatever comes next.
  • For readers who might not be interested in Christianity to pick up one of these books.

Our authors love knowing that you prayed for them, so if you could leave a message here or on Facebook telling them you took a moment to remember them in prayer, that would be wonderful. Thanks, and God bless!