One of the wonderful benefits of writing historical romance is research–wonderful, at least, for a history buff such as myself. I love finding unusual men and women who’ve since fallen through the cracks of history, and occasionally I’m lucky enough to bring their realities into my fiction.
When writing SONG OF SEDUCTION , about a widowed violin prodigy and the renowned composer she idolizes, I wanted to see if women in 1804 had been allowed to perform as violinists. My research led me to a violinist named Regina Strinassachi, who is best remembered because she and Mozart performed together for Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1784. Mozart’s “Sonata in B flat for Violin and Keyboard” (K. 454) is also known as the “Strinassachi Sonata.”
By all accounts, K. 454 is a very difficult piece, which speaks to Mozart’s high opinion of Strinassachi. He often wrote puff pieces for influential patrons’ children who had mediocre talent, but this was not one of them. In a letter to his father, Mozart wrote: “We now have here the famous Strinasacchi from Mantua, a very good violinist. She has a great deal of taste and feeling in her playing. I am this moment composing a sonata which we are going to play together on Thursday at her concert in the theater.”
Reading this account sparked off possibilities in my mind. Although women violinists were exceedingly rare, Regina proved that it was possible. I only look for the possible when writing historical romance, knowing that suspending disbelief won’t be utterly impossible for my readers!
In the following excerpt, SONG OF SEDUCTION’s heroine, Mathilda Heidel, first meets Regina–who’s known as Frau Schlick, having married a cellist in 1785. Talented but hesitant about pursuing a future in music, Mathilda has no idea that such a woman exists in the world. Arie de Voss–Mathilda’s idol, mentor, and soon-to-be lover–is intent on showing her what future awaits…if she’s brave enough.
Arie stood next to an elegant woman in her early forties. She wore an exquisite gown of ice-blue silk and ivory lace trim. Gray-streaked black hair arranged in an elaborate coiffure of spirals and curls accentuated the graceful lines of her neck and slender face. Magnetic black eyes shone from beneath heavy dark lashes. An oblong bruise along her left jaw marred her otherwise flawless olive skin.
Mathilda had never seen such an arresting woman.
“De Voss, there you are,” Haydn said.
“Gute Abend, Kapellmeister. And Frau Heidel. Lovely to see you.” Arie bowed deeply, his air bright and amused. He turned to present the elegant woman. “Allow me to present Frau Regina Schlick.”
“I am honored to meet you both,” the woman said. Her lilting Italian accent created melody out of plain speech. “Herr De Voss has told me you perform exquisitely.”
“Thank you.” Mathilda smiled broadly at the unexpected compliment. That Arie would speak of her in glowing terms to this exotic woman warmed her from top to toes. “The maestro flatters me.”
“Nonsense. He recognizes talent almost as well as he composes.” Frau Schlick turned and touched his arm. Mathilda fought an urge to slap her hand away. “Sir, your violin concerti remain among the most thrilling I know. I must have one of my own. You have promised for years.”
“Quality requires patience, my dear.” His smooth response convinced even Mathilda of his sincerity. He sounded perfectly gracious and even…charming?
Watching the exchange, her uncertainty increased. She never could have imitated the mysterious woman’s air of unquestioned authority, holding the rapt attention of every man within earshot. Arie smiled warmly and with an expression of genuine interest. Despondently, Mathilda wondered if he and the stylish woman had been intimate.
But no–he remained poised and cool, ignoring the fawning guests. Surely a public reunion with a former lover would throw her reticent Dutchman into bashful fits.
As patrons began to find seats, Haydn whisked the intriguing Frau Schlick to the front of Kaisersaal. Mathilda turned to her Dutch compass for direction. “Arie, who is she?”
“Patience. This way.”
They found seats almost halfway back from the tiny ensemble of musicians, away from the most prominent gossips. Mathilda settled her skirts and enjoyed the pleasant thrill of Arie’s thigh pressing against her own. She would not have retreated from his heat for all the world.
Duke Ferdinand took his seat in the center of the front row, while a handful of musicians assumed their appropriate places. Three violinists, two violists and two cellists briefly tuned their instruments in an incomplete double string quartet.
She leaned closer to Arie. “There are but seven musicians. Where is the other violinist?”
To Mathilda’s amazement, Frau Regina Schlick accepted her violin from an assistant and took her place at the head of the ensemble.
When you read historical romances, do you like to read about real people who shared the same time and place as the fictional protagonists? Do they clutter up the romantic fantasy? Which favorite “real life” historical characters have you read in romance?
Tormented by guilt. Haunted by scandal. Freed by love.
Eight years ago, composer Arie De Voss claimed his late mentor’s final symphony as his own and became an icon. But fame has a price: fear of discovery now poisons his attempts to compose a redemptive masterpiece. Until a new muse appears, intoxicating and inspiring him…
Mathilda Heidel renounced her own musical gift to marry, seeking a quiet life to escape the shame surrounding her birth. Sudden widowhood finds her tempted by song once more. An unexpected introduction to her idol, Arie De Voss, renews Mathilda’s passion for the violin–and ignites a passion for the man himself.
But when lust and lies reach a crescendo, Arie will be forced to choose: love or truth?
Thanks to Carrie, we also have a giveaway for Song of Seduction up for grabs! All you need to do is comment below. (Note this is an ebook and not a print book)
The giveaway ends Friday 18th, June at 12 am GMT.
Good Luck and a huge thanks to Carrie Lofty for visiting and for the wonderful giveaway!