Today, I’m thrilled to have K. C. Bateman here on the blog, sharing a fabulous historical tidbit with us!
Napoleon’s Engagement Ring
The importance of story (and history!)
Before I began writing Historical romances, I spent fifteen years as an antiques and fine art appraiser in the UK, and in both professions the idea of story is extremely important. In the antiques trade the history behind an object is the ‘provenance,’ and as an auctioneer I’d encourage vendors to tell me as much as possible about a piece. An interesting history can drastically affect the price. Stories are powerful things.
This was perfectly illustrated in an auction result I came across while researching my latest Napoleonic Regency, ‘A Raven’s Heart.’ An auction house in France was asked to sell a pretty two-stone diamond and sapphire ring. It wasn’t fancy. Each of the teardrop-shaped gems weighed just under a carat each, which gave it an estimated auction sale value of around $2,000, based on current market values for similar pieces of jewelry. So far, so ordinary.
But here’s where the story comes in. The vendors had evidence that this particular ring was none other than the engagement ring Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his Empress, Josephine de Beauharnais! Aware that this background would make it more appealing to collectors, the auctioneers set the pre-sale auction estimate at ten times the original valuation—$20,000—and crossed their fingers . . .
Can you guess how much it sold for? How much did the romance of that particular story add to two colored bits of rock and a thin sliver of shiny metal? It sold for $949,000, plus 25% buyer’s commission! That’s over a million dollars!
So I’m firmly convinced of the power and importance of story. As an auctioneer, I hope an interesting provenance will help an item sell for more than the composite sum of its parts. And as an author, I hope that readers will find value in the stories and characters I create. Stories can transport us to new worlds, introduce us to new people, teach us things we didn’t know, and even make us fall in love. And what could be more powerful than that?
Tell us something fun about the relationship conflict.
A Raven’s Heart includes the classic ‘best friend’s little sister’ trope between the hero and the heroine. Watching Raven and Heloise’s love-hate relationship as they (unsuccessfully) try to fight their simmering attraction to one another is great fun!
One of the themes I play with in the book concerns internal and external scars. Heloise has a scar on her face which she believes makes her unattractive, whereas Raven’s scars are all on the inside. He thinks he’s too emotionally damaged to love. In this respect they’re opposites—and perfect for one another; they both see past the damage and find something to love underneath.
Where do you get your ideas?
Lots of my ideas come from real historical people, events, or things. For example, in one of my favorite scenes Raven lets slip how much he cares for Heloise by referring to the ancient Japanese art of Kinstukuroi. It’s the use of molten gold to repair damaged pottery, with the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken and lovingly repaired. I thought that was such a romantic idea that I had to include it in a book! Ostensibly Raven’s discussing his mother’s favorite piece of porcelain, but we all know he’s really talking about Heloise.
Do you have favorite historical romance comfort reads?
Absolutely! My keeper shelf includes anything by Laura Kinsale, some Old Skool classics like Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub, As You Desire by Connie Brockway, Pride & Prejudice (of course!), Joanna Bourne, Anne Stuart . . . the list goes on!
When a bookish codebreaker and a dashing spy are reunited in this steamy historical romance, their lives depend on their ability to resist temptation. In the war against France, Heloise Hampden is a high-value asset to the Crown. Someone is trying to kill her for cracking the enemy’s codes, but it’s the agent assigned to protect Heloise who poses the greatest threat to her heart. . .William de l’Isle, Viscount Ravenwood.
Series Name: Secrets & Spies
Genre: Regency / Napoleonic Romance
Heat level: One or two love scenes
We want to hear from you!
In A Raven’s Heart I play with the idea that Raven and Heloise are like the Greek gods Hades and Persephone. It’s one of my favorite stories; darkness drawn to light. A shadowed Hades kidnaps an unwilling Persephone and takes her down to the Underworld, but the two end up falling in love and learning to compromise. If you could host a dinner party and include any mythological couple, who would you choose?
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