Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Not So Sexy Side of History....

My dearest Readers,
This month's blog post will be dedicated to the history behind Book 2 of Once Upon A Scandal.
And boy is the history ever a good one. We'll be exploring two facets laced throughout the pages of the book 1.) Venereal Disease and 2.) The Cicisbeo

So let's begin our little history lesson starting with the not-so-sexy side of history. 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. 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’ known as TEMPLES. *Shaking Head*

Though drinking mercury was the most popular form of cure, 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 were known to ‘take in waters’, or they ‘toured Europe.' They 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 about how venereal disease was treated. 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 freaking out, the misunderstandings, and the whispers…can you imagine THEN?

2.) The Cicisbeo. Also known as the Cavalier Servante.

This is a practice I stumbled upon whilst researching Venice and is utterly fascinating, although not too much has been documented and written on the subject, leaving holes in the subject. A cicisbeo was a make-shift lady's maid, a chaperone and a protector in the guise of a gentleman. It was a practice in Italy amongst the nobility in the 18th and 19th century that allowed a married woman to keep a man, whom her husband chose for her to have during their marriage for a specified amount of time. It was created, supposedly, during a time when noblewomen were educated and reared in cloisters only to emerge and be married to men that were three times their age. Due to the age difference and the fact that these men traveled for business, leaving their wives frequently unattended, the idea of the cicisbeo was born. A cicisbeo was any respectable, unmarried gentleman. He would sign a contract of servitude to the lady on the day of her wedding, although it had to be approved by both the husband and the priest. From that day onward, for however much time had been agreed to, the cicisbeo served his lady. He would dress her, bring her chocolate to drink, attend to her servants to ensure they were doing their part, bring any news and gossip for her from the city, assist her in and out of her gondola, attend events with her when her husband couldn't, and basically anything else she needed. He was basically her right hand. *Excuse me while I smirk* It was considered "unfashionable" to be seen anywhere in public without one. It was like having the latest ride. *Excuse me while I smirk again* There were rules he had to follow and he was expected not to be involved or married. I did my darnest while researching and contacting researchers and professors trying to find those set of rules, but the reality is very little is known about their day to day life. Because of the close daily and nightly proximity a married lady had with her cicisbeo, I have no doubt it lead to other things we can only imagine. Some historians argue it was a glorified and legal lover of the wife that husbands tolerated. I guess it's something we'll never know....

Supposedly, Lord Byron himself was a cicisbeo for a period of time to the married Contessa Teresa Gamba Guiccioli. He even wrote a poem regarding the cicisbeo (Beppo), but if you read it, you quickly figure out he wasn't a fan. He probably got the short end of the stick. No pun intended...

Now that I've completely bonked you on the head with the not so sexy side of history, let's bring it full circle and make it sexy again, shall we? February is the month of LOOOOOVE, with Valentine's Day right smack in the middle of the month. In honor of Valentine's Day, my gift to you (aside from this post...heh), I am offering up FIVE signed copies of the ever romantic Once Upon A Scandal. That's right. Five. How's that for scandalous love? To enter all you have to do is either Tweet a link to this post or Facebook a link to this post, then come back and post a little love (or a lot, it's your choice). With five books, that's five chances to win! Winners will be posted and chosen by the end of the month. PLEASE POST YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS in your post so I can contact you. Good luck! Until next time, 

Cheers and Much Love, Delilah Marvelle


Kelly M said...

Hi D!!
Thanks for sharing all this wonderfulness with us.. :)
I will totally pimp you out on Twitter and FB.
here are the links

Thanks again for sharing!!
Kelly M

Delilah Marvelle said...

My dearest Kelly,
Thanks for the love! Seeing you were the very first to post and show YOUR love, I'm offering a bonus early bird special, which means you automatically win a copy of Once! I'll still have 5 other copies to give away, but figure, you deserve some extra love for being first!

Amy Alvis said...

Just posted to my facebook account. One reason I love reading historical romance is all the interesting things I learn!

Johanna R Jochum said...

This book looks awesome and is on my wish list to get! I can't wait to read it! I loved this post. I did not know how to leave a link but I did share on my face book profile. Since I'm a friend of yours on FB you will see! Thanks for sharing!

Delilah Marvelle said...

My dearest Amy,
Thank you for posting your love! You are officially entered :) Although I do need your email address so I can contact you. I'm finding a lot of people forget to collect their prizes and so I'm just making sure, lol. For the same you love reading historical romance, is the same reason I love writing them. I learn so much!!!

My dearest Johanna,
Yay! I saw your post on facebook! Thank you for THE LOVE. You are officially entered!

Johanna R Jochum said...

Oops! I forgot to leave my e-mail too! sorry!


BTW, My sister checked out this blog today. You might of shocked her! HeeHee! Thanks!

Jena Lang said...

Thanks for sharing this fascinating side of history, and for the giveaway!



Anaiz said...

I heard the whole "sleeping with virgin will cure STD" idea is still in use in some parts of Africa *shakes head* on a more happy note, I am super excited for the release of The Perfect Scandal this month :):)

Vanetta said...

Oh my dearest Delilah.... I just got on facebook to leave you a comment regarding... Once upon a scandal... I just finished it.. Omgosh.... I was half way through it and I thought... I am only half way done? then you stumped me not once but twice with this story.... it kept me guessing.... OMGosh! I don't know how you did it but I couldn't put it down once I got half way because I wanted to see how it ended, as I thought it was "ended" twice... but it wasn't! LOVED LOVED LOVED IT! Oh did I say I LOVED IT ALREADY! OMGosh!

This one deserved to be on the NYBSL for a entire Month!

Now I have to wait another 14 days... for the next book....

oh the other reason I came here.... LOL

I Facebooked & Twittered about this blog... You can see my facebook... I am sure... but here is my twitter as well http://twitter.com/#!/VanettaQ....

Talk to you soon! LOL


Gannon Carr said...

Oh, Delilah, the things we learn from you. Who knew?!? Great blog!

I just posted a link on Twitter--



Julie said...

Talk about fascinating. A cicisbeo sounds like something I'd want, if it weren't, you know, close to indentured servitude. Damn. ;)

Thanks for sharing your research with us! I've retweeted your tweet on my Twitter

julieguan AT gmail DOT com

DaniJo said...

Just began Once upon a scandal this morning... I know I'm going to enjoy it!

Delilah Marvelle said...

My dearest Johanna,
LOL - I love that I was able to blow back the hair on your sister's head :) You're officially entered!

My dearest Jena Lang,
Thank you! You are officially entered.

My dearest Anaiz,
You nailed it. Africa is probably the worst when it comes to superstitions. They also believe in the Tokeleshe which is a gnome-like demon with a huge cock (I kid you not) known to rape virgins in the middle of the night. Girls are scared shitless of this thing. I dropped the name in my first book, Prelude, via Justine's POV. It'll fly over the heads of most people but this huge cock toting demon was deeply feared. The reality was, girls were getting pregnant out of wedlock and that's when I think the myth was created to protect these girls from getting stoned. They'd be like, "The Tokoleshe did it." and they'd be like, "Oh....poor girl." Seriously! And yay! I'm so excited for The Perfect Scandal release too. It's my baby and favorite out of all three :) Thanks for posting!!!

My dearest Vanetta,
I am seriously blushing here. I am thrilled, thrilled, THRILLED you enjoyed Once Upon a Scandal that much!!! I loved writing this story. Thank you so much for posting your love for it and you are officially entered to win!

My dearest Gannon,
LOL, I'm always surprising myself by the things I find...thanks for the post and you are officially entered!

My dearest Julie,
You and I must be on the same wave length, because I thought the same thing and concluded 'Damn.' just like you, lol. Of course, my husband is my own personal cicisbeo, so I'm not complaining too much. *waggling brows* Thanks for posting and you're officially entered.

My dearest DaniJo,
Yay!!! I hope you enjoy Once Upon a Scandal. It's Cinderella in Trousers, so to speak :) Thanks for posting!!!

Kelly M said...

GIRL!!! you are to sweet for words... So can't wait for April.. Let me know as soon as you find out the details.. I was dumb and signed up for a race on the 3rd of April.. Hope we can still meet up!!!

Kati said...

Dear Delilah (I feel like I'm calling into a radio station featuring a lady who shares your name),
I just started reading ONCE UPON A SCANDAL and it made me want to post some pictures on Twitter of Italy/Venice that I took 6 years ago. So I did. Thanks for bringing back awesome memories. :)


p.s. I tweeted a link to your blog.


Anonymous said...


Hi thanks for the give away....sharing is caring ;)

FB link below


Melania Tolan said...

I just posted it on my facebook page. Very interesting information. Can't wait to read your books. Very tantalizing.

Amalia said...

ahaha Kati I know who you're talking about!

posted a link on facebook! Gosh I love this site. I have to convince my mother to read it lol no easy task.

Delilah I do Love you. I have to give you a big BRAVO for Prelude btw, I meant to drop you a line but didn't get a chance.

you are ever fabulous

Suzanne said...

I'm posting to my facebook account (seakiev or suzanne anderson) as soon as I leave here. Just wanted to let you know how impressed I am with your research, I really enjoyed this article!

Kama said...

What an interesting article! Thanks for sharing all the info. Love your books! (and I am posting this to my twitter account: http://twitter.com/#!/Kama_)

kamasutra128 @ yahoo. com (no spaces >8-p)

Maddy said...

Thanks for you article on Guide to literary agents - I didn't comment there because I'm not in Canada but I was shocked to read about you receiving hate mail - more especially since you write romantic fiction - that seems so bizarre to me [not what you write but that your readers could behave in that horrible way]

Anyway thanks again for your uplifting piece - very encouraging.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the information you've provided. It reflects well on you and your writing that you do such wonderful research. Love the cicisbeo info. I think I could use that in my novel. LOL.

Excellent blog.

Laurel W.


Cassie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassie said...

It's so mind boggling how clueless people used to be! I don't mind a little VD in my romance....novel that is. That's what I love about your books, they're not afraid to seem a little more on the real side! I tweeted the love, and hopefully more people will get a little educated by reading your blog

Cassie S.

Amalia said...

agh I forgot my email!


Pamela said...

Let's see what my FB friends think about this article. I loved it!!! (and I can't stop reading your posts)



Pamela said...

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=679540465 Here's the link to FB.

Delilah Marvelle said...

Okay girls,
Thank you for the LOOOOVE.
You ready for the five winners???
I'll be emailing you personally this week but the winners that were pulled from a hat by my hot hubbie ARE: Kelly (for being the first poster this was the bonus round), Kama, Amalia, Pamela, Cassie and Kati!!! Congrats and thank you to all who entered. I will be emailing all the winners personally shortly.

Amalia said...

Omgosh I won! I actually won! thanks hot hubby! and delilah of course

Kati said...

OMG! I'm clearing a space on my bookshelf right now. Thanks Delilah and Mr. Hot Hubby Marvelle.

Kati said...

Any of the winners been contacted by Delilah yet?

Delilah Marvelle said...

Hi Kati!!!
I just sent out those emails. So look in your inbox :)