*Sound of screeching brakes* by Christy K Robinson

Monday, October 21st, 2013 | Uncategorized

That’s right, people. STOP! In your unseemly haste to read as many historical novels on medieval royalty, Renaissance intrigue and war craft, Tudor and Elizabethan gowns, sex, and bastards, and Regency balls with chiseled rakes who abduct sassy heiresses or perform intricate steps of a social morality dance, you have sped past the very century which set you up for civil liberties, scientific discovery, worldwide travel and commerce, modern warfare, and not a little steaminess.

Mary Dyer statue in Boston

“Puritans! Boring!” wrote a commenter on a Daily Mail story about an English Civil War hoard of gold found in a London garden.

He wouldn’t have written that if he knew that the people I write about in the 17th century gave birth to monsters. Or that the greatest earthquake ever to strike New England, a 7.0 in 1638, was blamed on Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson. Or that an attractive young woman was tried as a witch and shot, just for surf-boarding on the River Kennet one hot September day. Or that the terrifying Bugbear solar eclipse sent the wealthy people of London dashing out of the city in carriages (no brakes!), and stopped field laborers from working? Or that the Little Ice Age was at its most extreme in the middle of the century when America was being settled and Europe was plagued by famine, war, and, well, plague?

 

What about the sow who gave birth to a piglet with the face of the man who had buggered her? Or the ship that was lost at sea but appeared in the clouds, in full color, to more than 50 sober, godly people? Or that lobster was so plentiful that it was fed to slaves and used as dog food? And speaking of slaves, that thousands of children were snatched off London streets, kept in internment camps, sold again and again, and shipped to America to work hard labor and risk sexual abuse (assuming they survived the voyage)? What about the tens of thousands of English people who left entire villages empty and emigrated to America in the 1630s?

 

Though there were sumptuary laws in Massachusetts that demanded no adornment or lace for women, back in England the women (even –gasp– Puritans!) were baring most of the bosom for court occasions and portraits. Rulers and their aristocrats had the same proportion of mistresses, bastards (the dangerous-guy kind and the illegitimate child kind), spies, pirates, nefarious plotters, evil politicians and ambitious churchmen, and all the other components of popular historical literature.

 

Want to know what I’m writing about in a novel so big I had to make two volumes of it? Everything I just wrote above. Mmm-hmmm. *nods head affirmatively* All that stuff and much more really happened around my heroine and her husband, Mary and William Dyer. She committed civil disobedience which led to her execution by hanging, to bring attention to the torture and deaths of her friends and fellow believers, the Quakers. Her husband, as America’s first attorney general, was hugely instrumental in creating and passing laws for religious liberty (including the right not to practice religion), and helped secure a royal charter that confirmed it. That Rhode Island charter was a model for the United States constitution 130 years later, which guarantees the human rights of freedom of speech and religion. And those rights have, in turn, been a model for civil rights legislation all over the world.

 

Colin Firth as Vermeer

Still not enough glam for you? I made William Dyer look like Colin Firth. (I knew that would do it for you.)

 

So yes, put the (brake) pedal to the metal, and slide bum-over-teakettle into the 17th century. Don’t stop reading the other eras of history and historical/biographical fiction. Just don’t ignore all the incredibly great events and people of C17. That would be like reading a comic book in the back seat of the station wagon while your parents drove through all the national parks. Or listening to elevator music on your iPod while Sting or Yo Yo Ma is performing three feet away.

 

Want to get started? Right now? I have a book, hot off the press…

 

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Mary Dyer: Illuminated

Description of the novel:

Mary Barrett Dyer, 1611-1660, was comely, dignified, admired for her intellect, and known in the court of King Charles. But how did she become infamous in England and America as a heretic who gave birth to a monster? Was she responsible for curses falling on colonial New England in the form of great earthquakes, signs in the heavens, and plagues? What possessed the ultra-righteous Governor John Winthrop to exhume her baby before one hundred gawkers, revile her in his books, and try to annex Rhode Island to get its exiles back under Boston’s control?  In Mary Dyer Illuminated, follow William and Mary Dyer from the plague streets and royal courts of London to the wilderness of America where they co-founded the first democracy of the New World 135 years before the Declaration of Independence. They were only getting started. In the second of two volumes, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, the Dyers return to war-torn England and lay a foundation for liberty that resonates in the 21st century. Why did beautiful, wealthy Mary Dyer deliberately give up her six children, husband, and privileged lifestyle to suffer prison and death on the gallows?  The two novels are compelling, provocative, and brilliantly written, blending historical fact and fiction to produce a thoroughly beautiful work you won’t want to put down. The author has reconstructed a forgotten world by researching the culture, religions, and politics of England and America, personal relationships, enemies, and even the events of nature, to discover who they were.  ***** “Mary Barrett Dyer is one of very few 17th-century women who are remembered today. She is usually described as a Quaker hanged in the cause of religious freedom, but genealogists and historians know there is much more to her. Christy K Robinson brings the Dyers to vivid life for the rest of us, weaving superb fiction with what is known into a penetrating novel. Robinson’s research is flawless, and her engaging characters invite you into their brilliantly imagined world. Brava!”  – Jo Ann Butler, author of Rebel Puritan trilogy. Key words: Mary Barrett Dyer, Anne Hutchinson, John Winthrop, civil disobedience, Great Migration, 17th century, William Dyre, Boston, Rhode Island, England, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, Reverend John Cotton

*****

 Christy Robinson, author

Christy K Robinson is a freelance copy editor of books, magazines, and websites. She recently published the first of two biographical novels on Mary Dyer, an Englishwoman who committed civil disobedience in the cause of liberty of conscience and separation of church and state. Mary Dyer Illuminated is available in paperback and Kindle editions, worldwide. The next publications are a Kindle-only nonfiction handbook on 17th-century culture of the Dyers called The Dyers of London, Boston and Newport, followed by volume two of the novel, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This.

Christy’s website is http://ChristyKRobinson.com .

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