Please welcome authors Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna to the blog today talking about their newest release Stronghold (All For Love #3).
Authenticity vs. PC
While we were working on the edits for Stronghold, one of the editors raised a concern about our use of the word “gypsy” to refer to Raúl, noting that it could be considered offensive. While this was a valid observation, it reflects the values of the twenty-first century, not the seventeenth century setting of our story. Most of the characters from that time would definitely have thought of Raúl and his companions as gypsies rather than Romani. In fact, “gypsy” would likely have been one of the most benign terms they might have used to refer to them.
Even at that time, the word had pejorative implications. Gypsies were commonly viewed as tricksters, thieves, or worse. As early as in Checkmate, Raúl tells Christian that he prefers to avoid drawing the attention of the Church, which might be less than pleased with his “heathen” ways; the reward he asks King Philip for his part in uncovering the plot against him is to “stop the Inquisition from persecuting the gypsies simply because they are Rom.” In All for One, after Raúl uses his healing talents to succor the wounded Benoît, he asks Aristide to “repay your debt at some future time by giving aid to another gypsy should you find one in need. My people have far too many enemies and far too few friends.” While Stronghold begins with Gerrard and Raúl staying with Christian and Teodoro in Paris, Raúl declines to accompany them when the court removes to Tarascon, observing that “Attention from the throne rarely bodes well for Roms.” At one point Raúl wonders whether a shopkeeper suspects him of having stolen his horse, since it’s obviously too good for a gypsy. Even Gerrard’s young son tells him that his mother wouldn’t let him go near a caravan that passed through their village because “She says gypsies take children away from their families.”
Excising the word “gypsy” from our writing wouldn’t change the reality of how the Romani were perceived at the time. While we can recognize now that the term reflects unfounded prejudice, the fact that such prejudice existed is important to Raúl’s story throughout the All for Love series, and particularly in Stronghold. Characters such as Gerrard and Teodoro may have learned to reject such bigotry, but they were unfortunately rare exceptions in that time.
Our response to the editor was that while Raúl would call himself and his people Rom (except when he’s referring to how they are perceived by outsiders), the other characters needed to continue to refer to them as gypsies precisely because of the word’s connotations. It’s one thing to give modern sensitivity to members within a marginalized group, perhaps even to people who have come to understand and appreciate them in ways they would not have been viewed by most, but going beyond that runs the risk of being anachronistic and even of downplaying or erasing the difficulties faced at that time by such a group. While we don’t want to offend, we also don’t ever want to deny the reality of such struggles.
Title: Stronghold (All For Love #3)
Authors: Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: Nov. 28, 2016
Genre(s): Historical European
Page Count: 282
All for Love: Book Three
“Are you surprised that strength is drawn to strength?”
For the last six years, the gypsy healer Raúl has lived a life he never dreamed possible. Gerrard Hawkins has stood at his side, his love a source of silent strength like nothing Raúl has ever known.
When a letter from Gerrard’s estranged father forces them in separate directions—Gerrard back to England to make peace with his family and Raúl to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for his annual pilgrimage—Raúl expects to suffer for their parting, but he holds on to their plans to meet again in France when Gerrard has satisfied his father’s demands.
Gerrard left England never expecting to return, especially after he pledged his life and love to Raúl. Yet he cannot dismiss his father’s offer of peace without some acknowledgment. When he arrives in England to find tragedy, his sense of duty toward his family’s tenants wars with his promises to Raúl.
As tensions mount and illness spreads in France, Raúl stands as a bastion of hope, but his strength is not limitless. Gerrard is the rock he leans on, and without that strength, Gerrard’s arrival in France may come too late.
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All For Love Series
“Who is Raúl?” Randall asked as Gerrard helped lift him up into the saddle. “Will you be staying here now? Mother says I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I wish you would stay so I can see you and Nubarrón more often.”
Gerrard decided he should be pleased to rank above his horse rather than after him in Randall’s esteem. “Raúl is a very dear friend of mine,” Gerrard said. “He is in France right now, visiting a special church. I was supposed to meet him there, along with the rest of his caravan, because I live with them. I didn’t know about Sir Harald and Sir James being ill. Now that they’re gone, I have to live here at least some of the time, but first I have to tell Raúl everything that has happened. I’m hoping he and his caravan will come back and live here with us, but I don’t know yet what they will say.”
“I go to church with Mother and Grandfather,” Randall announced. “We say prayers for Grandmother, now that she is in heaven, and for you wherever you are. Except now you’re here!” He grinned, squirming happily while Gerrard mounted behind him. “Is Raúl a gypsy?” he asked, not pausing long enough for Gerrard to answer. “I saw a caravan once. They came to the village, but Mother wouldn’t let me go to see them. She says gypsies take children away from their families.”
“Yes, Raúl is a gypsy,” Gerrard said, picking out the most important part of what Randall had asked. His temper flared at hearing the same prejudice against the gypsies from his son’s mouth that he had encountered all over Europe, but he bit it back. Yelling at Randall for repeating what he was told would serve no purpose. If Raúl agreed to come to England with him, Gerrard would have a few words with Rebecca about her preconceived notions. “You don’t have to worry about gypsies stealing you away. They take in children who have nowhere else to go, but they would never take a child who has a family to take care of them.” He pulled his hair back so the hoop in his ear was clearly visible. “See what Raúl gave me?”
“Does that mean you’re a gypsy too? Did it hurt? Can I have one?”
“It means I live with the gypsies,” Gerrard agreed, “and it hurt a little, but not too much. As for whether you can have one, we’ll wait until you’re a little older before we make that decision. You might decide you don’t like the gypsies after you meet them.” He couldn’t actually imagine that coming to pass, given Randall’s sense of adventure and the gypsies’ sense of family, but one delaying tactic was as good as another at this point. “But don’t tell your mother just yet. She’ll fuss at me again for telling you tall tales, even if every word is the truth.”
Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.
When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).