Thursday, November 17, 2005


Three years ago about this time of year I'd just been reading about a lady who got away with being in the Russian cavalry disguised as a man for ten years (1806-1816) - Nadezhda Durova. Hers is an amazing story of determination and courage and it got me thinking about whether there had ever been a lady soldier in the British Army in Regency times... and the idea for a novel was born.

I was an unpublished writer but I'd come to the end of a novel which had some interest from a publisher. I'd really raced to get it done, dusted and sent off, and I wanted a break. My critique partner, Michelle Styles, was in the same boat, and, partly for fun, we thought we'd try out writing a story together. I suggested 'the lady soldier'.

Writing The Lady Soldier was fun. Michelle sketched out a plot but we changed and developed much along the way (to surprise each other I think). It was finished in early in 2003, and then followed six months of doing the rounds with the script among publishers and agents. There was some intertest, which kept our spirits up, but we got many rejections before Robert Hale finally picked it off the slush pile. We chose the pen name 'Jennifer Lindsay' as Jennifer is my middle name, and Lindsay is Michelle's.

It was published in May this year in hardcover in the UK and in August in US/Canada. It's been my first book in print and every time I hear that someone has read it and enjoyed it I get such a thrill to think that a story I've co-written has captured other people's imaginations and given them pleasure. Especially when men read it and love it! Just as soldiering should not be left to the boys to have all the fun, historical romance is not just for girls!

Kate Allan


Pat Henshaw said...

I know it's not PC to say so, but even though I wear pants to work (I'm a composition teacher), I hate to see the lines between the sexes blurred. It's my impression that people read Regencies because there was such a rigid line between what men and women were expected to be and the roles they were to play in society. Sometimes when I see my female students come in looking more like men than the men do, I wonder where we're going. And, of course, when the guys come in wearing the baggy pants and sloppy looks, I wonder if the species is going to procreate or not. LOL I certainly wouldn't want one of these men!

Laura V said...

But Pat, a lot of the fun in Regencies and other historicals is how often the heroines demonstrate qualities such as courage, intelligence, determination. The heroines aren't 'typical' young women of their time. They're usually 'originals', 'hoydens', 'blue-stockings' etc. The Grand Sophy may only have gone as far as to wear extremely dashing riding habits, but she could shoot better than many men. Heroines like that walk right across any 'rigid line' that society might have tried to construct between the genders.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say I disagree with Pat because I'm just not a girly girl and I really admire girls like Jem Risely and the real-life Nadheza Durova for living such unconventional lives. I'd like to think that I would have done so if I'd lived in that era. The feisty heroine who disguises herself as a man in order to get what she wants is one of my favourite characters in historical novels, romance or general.

Gabriele C. said...

I really have to get Lady Soldier. It's on my To Buy list, but sadly, that list and my bank account are not a love match right now. I really want to find out how the authors avoided her different anatomy being deiscovered while wearing those tight fitting uniforms. :)

Too bad German books don't get translated; there's an author, Iny Lorentz (actually, she works with her husband but the books sell under her name) who has done the disguise thing several times. My favourite is the book about the girl feigning to be a castrate singer, and the guy who feels an attraction to the "boy" in a time where homosexuality was condemned.

Kate Allan said...

Gabriele - the answer is bandages!

Found this out from Deborah Sampson, female cross-dresser who fought in the American civil war, who bound her breasts with bandages.

Laura V said...

Presumably, though, binding wouldn't disguise a very large bust, and there are still the heroine's hips to disguise. So presumably it's going to be easier for some women than others. I was thinking that urination and menstruation might have been problematic, but apparently there were ways round that too: (hope it's OK to post the link).

Gabriele C. said...

Well, should I introduce the motive of a disguised woman, it'll be in my pirate novel plot bunny. With late 14th century clothes, there were ways to cover a few things.

Ragnhild Hrolfsdottir av Rondane, one of the characters from my Mediaeval saga, is a woman who can fight and sometimes dresses in men's clothes, but never as disguise.