Basinets and Brassarts—Elin Gregory, Historical Romances, and A Taste of Copper

Hello and a great big thank you to Anna for inviting me here today to talk a bit about my latest release, a historicalish romp called A Taste of Copper.

Now why would an historical author be chatting on a sci fi blog, you may ask? Simple. Both Anna and I face problems with world building. In both science and history one has to use terms that don’t crop up in everyday conversation, nor in contemporary romances. One wants to make the story as appealing and accessible to as many readers as possible but there’s a fine line to tread between giving enough information to go on with and the dreaded info dump.

Take armour for instance. Here’s a picture:

All those bits, all with specific names. If one wants to write a story about men in armour, especially putting it on, taking it off, touching each other in various ways, you need to refer to them. I was challenged several times by my betas – “But what does that mean?” – and clarified where I could, and removed bits I couldn’t, but in the end sometimes I just had to trust my readers to understand what I meant from the context.
For instance:

Maheris grunted and raised his left hand, ungauntleted now, to show it bright with blood. “A lucky stroke,” he said. “Reihershof’s point caught a chink in my brassard.”

This bit between the elbow and shoulder is a brassard. Fingers crossed that a reader who has just read Maheris in a sword fight against a man called Reihershof will assume that brassard refers to armour in the hand/arm region.

In dialogue I couldn’t have a knight, a specialist in his field, refer to his brassard as “my upper arm armour” any more than one could have a racing driver complain to his mechanic about extra play in his “pedal that slows the car down” or a scientist ask his assistant to pass the rack of “long narrow tubular vessels with rounded bottoms that we do tests in”. It may offer a more immediate mental image but it does detract from the character’s status as an expert and the readers who have bought the book because they like the specific terms will wonder what on earth you’re playing at.

On many occasions I’ve read things I didn’t properly understand – “Mongolian barbeque/an EMT/a SIG/a quark” – but have defined the term from context or from the author’s exposition or realised that they are just ‘local flavour’ and not really that important to the plot. As a writer I hope to have the readers’ trust that I’ll explain the things they really need to know about so they can accept the rest as part of the reading experience.

~~~

A Taste of Copper by Elin Gregory

Your master has the field for today, but his name, whatever it might be, is without honour.

Olivier the squire worships the Black Knight and takes a fierce joy in his prowess as he defends a bridge against all comers. Olivier only wishes that his master loved him as much in return instead of treating him as a servant and occasional plaything.

Then word comes that the King desires to cross the bridge. With an army approaching, a bright eyed archer enticing Olivier to desert and the first cracks beginning to show in the Black Knight’s gruff demeanour, Olivier is left wondering if his honour is worth more than a chance for happiness.

Word count: 25,900
Cover Art: Meredith Russell
Editor: Erika Orrick
Copyright: Elin Gregory

Read the whole of the first chapter here.

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5 thoughts on “Basinets and Brassarts—Elin Gregory, Historical Romances, and A Taste of Copper

  1. Elin, I am delighted to host you here today, especially since I get to pore over a suit of armour and find out what the names of the various parts are. I was particularly struck that it’s one of the few things where English, as a language, hasn’t taken over but we’ve stuck with the French. Right and proper, I suppose, as the whole notion of manners and chivalry appears to be something we imported wholesale from the French when they came over here with that William fellow.

    Also, as I’ve said, a wonderful cover! Evocative in how the coppery image of Olivier stands out so well against the silvery grey of the background, and so reflects the title so cleverly!

    • It’s a pleasure to be here, Anna. I have to say that I love the cover to bits. Meredith Russell did the story proud – especially by including Ira, the black horse, who is a character in his own right.

      Thanks for the hospitality 🙂

  2. Armor (or, perhaps more properly … armour) … one of my absolute favorite exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is Arms and Armor. Not only do they have nifty arms and bits/bobs of armor, but they also (drum roll) have a reconstruction of mounted knights (the better to show off the bits and bobs of horse armor, of course)

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