Women Who Set the Gold Standard by Melissa Jarvis
“I like this wild and barbarous life; I leave it with regret.”
Those words were written by Louisa Clapp, a well educated woman from an upper middle class New England family, in 1851. A suggestive phrase, and you may wonder what she was talking about. Louisa was one of the women of California’s gold rush, which gave our fair sex an unprecedented chance at freedom from society’s constrictions. It was during this period of change, when women threw away their corsets for more practical clothing, that I set In His Own Time. In fact, my main character Victoria, takes a knife to hers, and then turns it on the hero’s pants. But I digress.
Here, women ran successful businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, barbershops and brothels. One woman even found work as a bullfighter. What I found the most interesting though, is that a prostitute during this time was treated the same as other women, at least in the beginning. Imagine a laundress turned saloon girl turned shop owner. While men toiled in the mines and rivers, women made so-called “women’s work” work for them. Since I’m one of those people who consider camping a Motel 6, I have nothing but admiration for them. (I also tried panning for gold in the spirit of research for this story. Let’s just say it requires better eyesight and patience than I possess.)
Jenny Megquire, a physician’s wife from Maine who ran a boardinghouse, said, “If I had not the constitution of six horses I should have been dead long ago.” Proof of what we’ve always known: we’re stronger than men give us credit for.
My first book, Past Her Time, was set during the French Revolution. I tend to write very action-oriented heroines, but as a historical author, I also have to abide by the conditions of the time. While my heroine Alex slit her petticoats to give her an advantage in a fight, she still had to wear the layers of clothes common to the period, ride sidesaddle (although she does defy that in one scene and is caught out by my hero Gabriel) sip tea, and faint occasionally to not give away her cover. In general, she had to give the appearance of what a lady was thought to be during the eighteenth century.
For In His Own Time, Victoria doesn’t have these restrictions. She can ride bareback, handle a knife and gun openly, and on occasion, even wear pants. This made it much easier for me as a writer to let her kick-ass.
The women during the Gold Rush managed to turn convention on its head for a short period and gave us ideas that, horrors, never went away.
Tell me, who are your role models? Which women do you feel gave society a run for their money? I’m running a contest, and the winner will receive an actual postcard from nineteenth century California and an ecopy of In His Own Time. Contest runs through July 21 (to accommodate those of you who might be at Comic-Con, which is where I’ll be! You can catch me in person on Saturday where I’m speaking on a world building panel.)
In His Own Time (The Lineage Series, Book Two)
Historical Romance, time travel, HEA
There is a traitor in the time travel organization the Lineage, and it’s up to new recruit Victoria Vasquez to discover his identity. After an incident (and stolen kiss) on her first assignment in 1923 Egypt, she suspects she knows who it is. Veteran agent Banderan of Ibile is hiding a secret, one that could endanger everything he holds dear. He will do whatever it takes to ensure his goal, no matter who gets in his way.
Victoria has fought hard for her independence, and has no time for arrogant know-it-all men. When both Victoria and Banderan are assigned to 1848 Gold Rush California, they find themselves entangled in a web of deceit and lies. And when they are cut off from the Lineage, it will be up to Victoria to decide if the man she has come to love is a traitor or a hero.
She found the object of her unease exactly where Ana had told her. The men and horses still had not returned, but that did not stop Banderan from closely inspecting the intricately tooled, leather-pommeled saddles. Victoria narrowed her gaze. She knew how easy it would be to cut the girth holding the saddle to the horse and send the rider tumbling, most likely to his death.
“I understand you wish to take me up on a tour of Ranchos de Las Campanas?”
Banderan turned around, and she saw him drop something in his pocket.
“Señora Victoria. I beg your pardon, I did not see you.” He bowed his head slightly.
Victoria forced a smile. “I’m told I’m rather hard to miss.”
“Indeed. If your generous offer is still open, then sí.”
“It is, but given the size of Señor Santiago’s holdings, I’m afraid it would be impossible to traverse on foot since the men took all the horses.” Victoria moved nearer, running her hands over the saddle Banderan had been looking at. Her fingers couldn’t detect any cuts or weakening in the leather.
“How well do you ride, señora?”
Victoria straightened. She prided herself on her riding abilities, having refused to train on sidesaddle, and learned to ride astride like a man. She could best most of the jumpers at Oxford and certainly didn’t need a pommel to hold on to.
“Very well, but it is a moot point.”
Banderan smiled, and his eyes lit up like a fire amid the smoky blackness. “Not true. I believe I noticed several horses grazing outside the gates. They are already lassoed, so it would be a simple matter to commandeer them.”
Victoria gulped. The Californios had a reputation as being some of the finest horsemen in the world, and with the abundance of horses and cattle, many were allowed to roam with lassos dragging from their neck so that the vaqueros could grab them whenever it was convenient and then leave them at their destination. But riding bareback was one boundary she had never crossed.
“I believe the aunts were going to accompany us, and alas, they do not have the stamina for what you suggest,” she said finally.
“Except that they are not coming,” Banderan said.
“What do you mean?” Had he overpowered them, locked them in the grain cellar? That was what she would have done.
About the Author
Melissa Jarvis is a mild-mannered Public Relations executive by day, and action-packed writer by night. She lives with her husband and son in celebrity friendly California. A native of Texas, you might hear the word “y’all” from her often, and watch out, it’s catching.
For over 15 years, she has worked in the public relations industry, helping clients ranging from the Playboy Jazz Festival to the Los Angeles Mission to indie film and comic books. And she’s survived with most of her mind intact!
Melissa writes both paranormal romance and urban fantasy, as well as spicy paranormal under the name Melissa L. Robert. She is the author of the Lineage time travel series, which currently has two books out, Past Her Time and In His Own Time. A self-professed nerd, she cites Anne McCaffrey, Robert A. Heinlein and the Myth Adventure series as huge influences. Unfortunately, her family won’t let her have a fire lizard or dragon in the house. You can visit her at her website www.melissajarvis.net.