When fact & fiction collide: The true stories behind The Tattooed Duke!
For those who are sticklers for historical accuracy in your romance novels, or if you just like to know the behind the scenes scoop, this blog is for you! Fiction involves making stuff up and occasionally it also requires mashing together some true stories into a brand new narrative. The Tattooed Duke is no exception. Here is a list of the true stories I wove into the story of the wicked, world-traveling Duke of Wycliff and his newspaper reporter/under cover as a housemaid heroine:
Wycliff is paid one thousand pounds to leave England by his lover, Lady Shackley’s, husband. This is based on the true story of Lord Invernairn, who thought his wife was having an affair with explorer Earnest Shackleton. The “obvious” recourse was for Invernairn to give Shackleton the equivalent of nearly a million dollars in today’s money to fund his expedition to the Antarctic. That certainly got him out of the picture!
The story of Lord Alvanely’s ridiculous raindrop wager is true! According to Wikipedia, he wagered three thousand pounds on which particular raindrop would slide to the bottom of the windowpane. You know, as you do when you have an inordinant amount of time and money. This little snippet of gossip also appears in my edition of The London Weekly.
Wycliff was inspired by the real-life explorer and scientist, Joseph Banks, who joined Lieutenant James Cook on an expedition to Tahiti and Australia as the official botanist. One of my favorite books on him, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, reports “his journal entries cover everything from clothes (or lack of them) and cookery to dancing, tattooing, sexual practices, fishing methods, wood-carving, and religious beliefs.” Banks later went on to be the president of Royal Society and sponsored the explorations of Mungo Park who traveled through Africa on foot (another inspiration for my hero!). Mungo’s journals are free on amazon–and fascinating!
Second Joseph Banks story: He had a sort of “understanding” with a young woman, Harriet Blosset, and it was assumed he would marry her when he returned from his expedition. Or at least she understood that. She waited for him while he took years exploring. When he returned he refused to marry her (gah!). There are shades of this in Wycliff’s “relationship” with Lady Shackley.
Some of Eliza’s exploits were actually done by real-life Girl Reporter Nelly Bly—for example, going undercover in the insane asylum (my personal nightmare) and talking to prostitutes for stories. As you might have guessed, Nelly is the inspiration for Eliza (even though she lived a few decades later).
There really was a race to Timbuktu! In 1824, the Paris-based Société de Géographie offered a 10,000 franc prize to the first non-Muslim to reach the town and return with information about it. Who was the winner? Find out!