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No chocolate in Spain…

LovingLiesBY TINA DONAHUE 

As an unrepentant chocoholic, I had to laugh when I saw that Roseann poster where she says, “There is no chocolate in Hell. That’s why it’s Hell.” How true. But given that we’re on earth, indulging in the decadent treat shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Wrong. At least during a certain period.

For my erotic historical, Loving Lies, I chose medieval Spain, 1488 to be exact. I had once written a paranormal romance with that period mentioned and had already researched the Inquisition extensively. I thought—whoa, what I’ve already done will make this new book easy.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Even though I knew there was constant war with the Moors and no end of danger on the Spanish countryside from rogues or ruffians, I hadn’t researched food for the other book. Or for that matter, what people wore during the late fifteenth century, other than heretics before they were burned at the stake. With that not helping me, I had to buckle down for more research so I could bring my romance to life. I envisioned a stirring tale about Fernando, a warrior-knight, who rescues Isabella, the ultimate woman-in-peril. Of course, Isabella’s no shrinking violet, but this post is about chocolate, not her bravery. During one scene, when Isabella and Fernando finally come upon food—after several harrowing escapes—I ached to reward her with chocolate, befitting the noble lady she is.

No dice, unless I wanted to be historically inaccurate. One of the biggest sins a writer can make.

During my new research, I learned that chocolate was unknown in the old world for some years even after Columbus first came upon cocoa beans in 1502. It wasn’t until the Spanish conquered the Aztecs that chocolate came to Europe. Even then, nearly a hundred years passed before the treat gained foothold in that part of the world.

Poor Isabella. I’d so wanted her to enjoy something tasty after nearly losing her freedom and possibly her life and Fernando’s. However, that got me to thinking, what else did those folks eat on a regular basis (something I hadn’t needed to address in my paranormal romance)? What wasn’t available in peasant or noble households? What could travelers buy from roadside inns since Fernando and Isabella have to traverse the countryside to safety? Were there inns or restaurants during that period?

Argh. My head was spinning with too many questions. I’d write three words then stop, worried that oranges weren’t around then or cabbages or tomatoes. Tomatoes weren’t until the sixteenth century and the jury’s still out on whether they came via Columbus, Spanish conquistadors, or Jesuit priests.

Although I was sweating badly because of too little information, I thought the internet would solve that problem. Unfortunately, there isn’t a website on Google, or anywhere else I know, that has all the answers in one document even though I searched endlessly for it. Eventually, I had to piece together my research from sources written at that time. I even ended up reading Don Quixote (which took place more than a hundred years after my story) in order to get some flavor for what people ate.

All of this because of my love for chocolate, which I didn’t even get to use.

By then, my research had veered to what these guys wore. Again, I naively believed that all I had to do was Google ‘clothes during the late fifteen hundreds’ and I’d be home free.

No such luck.

There is a ton of information about English clothing throughout the ages. French fashion also gets it due. I found stuff on Germany. Possibly Ireland, can’t recall. But absolutely nothing on Spain. Doggedly, I kept Googling my question with modifications to pick up some details. I even scoured Google books to see if there was anything there. Uh-uh.

Desperate, I researched paintings from that time for Spain’s monarchs. Finally, I had a visual representation of noble clothing, but what did peasants wear? Even when I found a few paintings of them, I didn’t know what the different pieces were called. Hose? Pants? Slacks? And what in the heck are braies?

After pulling together the information I needed, I gained new respect for historical novelists. Writing any story that moves quickly, makes perfect sense, and is thoroughly enjoyable is hard. Making feelings jump off the page in a romance is difficult to the extreme. Wedding those factors with historical accuracy that makes a period come alive can be murder. Especially if you’re writing about a country that no one seems to have documented except through paintings. Thank goodness for them.

Although I didn’t get to use chocolate in Loving Lies, there are several food scenes. Here’s a brief excerpt from one.

She warned herself not to smile. They had no choice now except to keep walking and prolong their journey. “You may be forced to carry me again. Are you disappointed?”

“I am and famished. Go on. Cook this.” He tossed an item. The thing hit her hip and fell to the dirt floor. Fernando sighed loudly. “Isabella, you were supposed to catch that.”

She stopped rubbing her hip. “What is it?”

“Cabbage. Go on, pick it up and cook it.”

When she had never prepared a meal? If he’d wanted her to spin yarn or mend a garment, she could easily accommodate him. “Will we have a fire or am I to perform magic and cook the thing with flames bursting from my lips?”

“Better flames than shrewish words.”

“From me?”

“Time will tell.”

Time would not. They had so few days together, she couldn’t deny what was in her heart. “Thank you for returning to me.”

“Such gratitude.” He smiled. “Is this your way of telling me you have no cooking skills?”

“No. However, I have no experience preparing food.”

“Do as I say and you may survive the night.” He turned to the straw bed.

Isabella weakened more than she should have.

What happens next is better than chocolate any day.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Tina is an Amazon and international bestselling novelist in erotic, paranormal, contemporary and historical romance for Kensington, Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Siren Publishing, Booktrope, Luminosity, Decadent, and indie. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work. Three of her erotic novels (Freeing the Beast, Come and Get Your Love, and Wicked Takeover) were Readers’ Choice Award winners. Another three (Adored, Lush Velvet Nights, and Deep, Dark, Delicious) were named finalists in the EPIC competition. Sensual Stranger, her erotic contemporary romance, was chosen Book of the Year at the French review site Blue Moon reviews. The Golden Nib Award at Miz Love Loves Books was created specifically for her erotic romance Lush Velvet Nights. Two of her titles (The Yearning and Deep, Dark, Delicious) received an Award of Merit in the RWA Holt Medallion competition. Take Me Away and Adored both won second place in the NEC RWA contest (different years). Tina is featured in the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Before penning romances, she worked at a major Hollywood production company in Story Direction.

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LOVING LIES 

Deception knows no limits. Passion knows no bounds.

When she’s kidnapped, Senorita Isabella knows the men have been sent by her uncle in a murderous attempt to control her family’s fortune. But when she is rescued by a dashing and mysterious warrior, Isabella can’t imagine why a stranger would risk his life for her—until she discovers her rescuer believes she’s someone else….

Fernando de Zayas loves nothing more than the cry of battle. Defying death is his way of life. But when he discovers his betrothed has been kidnapped, he rushes to her aid—never suspecting that spirited beauty would soothe his warrior heart…

With her uncle’s minions close on their heels, Isabella finds herself drawing closer to Fernando. But as the desire between them builds, her secret could keep them apart forever… 

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