Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ladies & Gents...Delilah Marvelle!

Yay! Here she is. :)

THE NOT SO SEXY SIDE OF HISTORY....by Delilah Marvelle

Venereal Disease is not really a subject that's usually touched upon in historical romance novels. In ONCE UPON A SCANDAL, my current release, the heroine’s father is dying from syphilis. It’s not pretty and it’s utterly heartbreaking. Because we’re dealing with romance novels, many people don’t want to see the ugly side of the reality most of these women (and men) faced. Which is why I wrote the story. My own editor squirmed and asked me to tone down all the descriptions. Needless to say, I had to do a balancing act.

Except for AIDS, every sexual disease imaginable was passed around in history. And because there was no understanding that REUSING condoms could in fact transfer disease to both sides…there was a false sense of security for men back in the day. An example of what a rake’s life was REALLY like was Casanova himself. The man bed hundreds of women, dined with the finest and the lowest, fought several duels (and lived to tell about it) and suffered from 11 venereal diseases (including gonorrhea, soft chancre, herpes, and syphilis...sexy, eh?). In the beginning, he was getting it from the women (because obviously he wasn’t born with it). Toward the end, he was giving it to the women. Despite the long list of diseases he had…believe it or not, he lived well into old age. What killed him was his inability to piss when his urethra finally closed up on him. Eck. I know. Hey, these were the REAL rakes of the day.

When it came to trying to cure these diseases, these people tried everything. Some claimed eating peacock would cure it, (I joke about this in ONCE UPON A SCANDAL) while some claimed sleeping with virgins would cure it (don’t you just want to KILL these people?). Believe it or not, the whole sleeping with virgins superstition lasted well into the 1900’s. There were actually brothels who specialized in ‘curing’. (Shaking head here…)

Though drinking mercury was the most popular form of cure, although applying mercury in a form of a salve onto the lesions was also done. Most often it was the mercury itself that ended up killing them. For chaffing and lesions linen bandages soaked in narcissus water was used. There were also people who created their own versions of ‘the cure’ (quacks) and tried to sell it and make a profit (of course it never worked).

Syphilis, depending on which region of Europe you were from went by many names. The British Called it ‘French Disease’, The French called it ‘Italian Disease’, The Russians called it ‘Polish disease’ (see a pattern here?). Everyone was freakin calling it according to their ‘enemy’ The reality was, they all had it, British, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, you name it. Because everyone was having sex.

Once a prostitute (or courtesan) contracted any detectable disease, her career was over. For who would pay any good price for tainted goods? Although sadly, that did not stop many of these women from spreading it around (or being in denial). It simply meant they would no longer be in ‘demand’ for they were ‘poxed.’

In respectable society, gentlemen gave it to their wives all the time because of their dalliances. It was a dirty, horrible secret. And once it was diagnosed, respectable society had a tendency to ‘disappear’ as quietly as they could. They ‘took in waters’, they ‘toured Europe’ and called it hundreds of other things it really wasn’t. Which is why when looking over documentation, it’s hard to dig up a lot of facts. People just didn’t want to talk about it. Think of how everyone in the 1980’s reacted to AIDS. It was amazing to see the reaction, the freaking out, the misunderstandings, and the whispers…can you imagine THEN? And yes, if you haven't already figured it out, I like to write about the not so sexy side of history...

PS. She's giving away a copy of her book, Once Upon a Scandal.  Please comment for a chance to win. Contest ends Sunday 1/30/11 (pacific) at 7:00pm Thank you! And thank you, Delilah. I *heart* you, woman. :)

18 comments:

BLHmistress said...

Kind of takes the fantasy of wanting to live back then and punctures a big hole in it. When you read these books you say aw yes I wish that was me but now you think maybe not lol.

But I think that is an interesting plot to add in, I don't think I ever read , not that I recall of STD's mentioned.

vampiremistress2010(at)gmail(dot)com

Jane said...

Congrats on the new release, Delilah. It's definitely important to know the not so sexy side, too. Not many romances would mention the characters contracting STDs.

janie1215 AT excite DOT com

D.L. said...

In my junior and senior year of high school in our European history class we had a running joke- if a historical figure died of an "unknown cause", we said they died of syphilis.

the[dot]distant[dot]light[at]gmail[dot]com

❤Stephanie! said...

This post is a breath of fresh air. I love how you mention the "bad side" of romance, especially in historical context, because most fiction books fail to address that. In fact, I just took this sex ed course that told us (with statistics!) that the majority of adolescents and even inexperienced adults get most or all of their information about sex from the media INCLUDING books that have sex in them. Most romance novels make sex look wonderful and glorified, never once mentioning risks of STIs and pregnancies, so it makes the readers/viewers think sex is just a good thing. Well, reality hits; there is an ugly side.

Great post! :)
Stephanie
thestephanieloves AT gmail DOT com

Jessica said...

Haven't read the book yet, Delilah, but I can't wait to. It was great catching you here today!

jsididia@gmail.com

Izzy said...

Great post, Delilah. I agree that it is important to be aware of all the diseases that can be contracted.

bradunwanted @ gmail . com

lisagk said...

Wow. Very interesting post.

lisagkATyahooDOTcom

Dominique Peters said...

Wow! Now, whenever I read or hear about somebody "touring Europe" -- I'm not going to think its so glamourous!

Emily said...

I enjoyed how insightful you are. thanks for the post!

fantasizesg @ aol . com

footfootballpsu@yahoo.com said...

It used to be so romantic...before I read all this. LOL.

Thanks for the giveaway!

JenM said...

This is exactly why I would never want to go back in time. All those awful diseases... We've got plenty of health problems today, but it's nothing compared to the way it used to be. Thanks for an informative post.

Delilah Marvelle said...

Boy did I ever fall behind, lol.

@BlHmistress,yeah, it totally takes out the fantasy of the times, but I think that's what has also created a frustratingly fake understanding of what the past was really like. You'd be surprised to hear that I get readers who think I invented gay people by putting them into a historical romance...lol...because gays are only found in today's society, lol.

@Jane, thanks for the congrats and the post!!!

@D.L. Omgosh, I'm so lucky I wasn't drinking pop or I would have totally snorted it through my nostrils and ripped something, lol. I love, love, LOVE the joke. It's classic, and sadly real...

@Stephanie, you are totally right. You'd be surprised how little people still know/understand about sex itself these days, yet alone back in the day. While I write romance and therefore there will always be an element of fantasy in it, I always, always want there to be an element of reality that knocks on the door and reminds people that it's there.

@Jessica, thanks for posting!!

@Izzy, thanks and yes, I think reality balanced with fantasy is what I'm going for.

@lisagk, thanks for posting!

@Dominique, hahaha, love it. It's always great to have others screw with your way of thinking, isn't it? *wink*

@Emily, thanks for posting!!

@footfootballpsu, LOL -- yes. Emphasis on the USED TO BE...

@JenM, you totally nailed it. As much as I love history, you couldn't pay me enough to actually step back in time. As I like to say, wild polar bears are adorable and cute...at a distance...

Danielle Gorman said...

I can't wait to read this series. It looks so good. Also, I am loving the covers. So pretty. I love that you are not afraid to show us the dirty side in historicals. Not many authors write about STD's and sex addiction.

iqb99@yahoo.com

Estella said...

Very enlightening post!

kissinoak at frontier dot com

Abbie said...

This was a great post! It does take a little of the "shine" off the romance, but I'd love to read the book.

I also wanted to point out that the "virgin cure" is still very common in parts of Africa to cure AIDS. So sad.

jeanette8042 said...

Interesting post that doesn't sound very appealing but I think it definitely adds realism to a story. Congrats on the release!

lilazncutie1215[at]yahoo[dot]com

ClaudiGC said...

Your books sound really great and interesting!
When reading romance I relly blend out all the awful little details like that and think it was all nice back then. :)

claudigc at msn dot com

Bridget Locke said...

The winner is...Stephanie!!!! I'll be sending you an email in a minute! Thank you for all the comments. I'm sorry I was late in posting, but I've been away for most of the weekend.

Stephanie-You win a copy of Once Upon a Scandal!!! Yay!

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