One of the most common interview questions I’m asked is what superpower I’d like to have. The answer used to be “flight” mostly because I have no patience with cars and airplanes. (Or anything really.) But then I rediscovered Doctor Who, my parents loved that show when I was growing up, and I changed my answer. Given the choice, I’d want time/space powers so I could travel to anytime and anyplace I wanted. Blink and you’re in Woodstock, blink again and you’re hanging out with Charlotte Bronte. How badass would that be? Maybe this wanderlust influenced me to want to write about the Victorian era, or at least an alternative steampunk version of it. But as I was doing my research into the era, I became more and more content with where my existence fell on the space/time continuum because the Victorian, hell any era, was not kind to us women. I am for sure no angel in the house. I am a feminist, loud and proud, and that was not a desirable thing to be under Queen Victoria’s rule.
When first conceived Lady Verity Hart, the main character in my steampunk adventure Verity Hart Vs The Vampyres, she was the toast of London, beloved by family and society alike, and lauded for her keen brain and wondrous inventions. Not only was she far too bland Mary Sue for my liking, my Beta readers correctly pointed out that even in the world of fantasy this was stretching it. In reality, a Victorian woman was meant to be “The Angel in the House.” To love, honor and obey her husband, sacrificing her all for him both physically and mentally. She was meant to be modest, chaste, refined, she could not be educated beyond the womanly arts, and anything she did outside those confines would be met with criticism and downright hostility. Worse, there was precious little recourse for her if she strayed from this path. A woman had no rights. She was mere property passed from father to husband. If she made her own money, it legally belonged to her husband. It wasn’t until just 1853 a husband could legally beat his wife with impunity. And an unmarried woman was just one step up from a fallen woman in the eyes of society.
Well, f**k that.
Others felt this as well, and the suffragette movement sprung up in this era. It would take decades, but women finally got the right to vote, and decades after that, had the right to control their own reproduction choices. It may not have been in time for my Verity, but I thank the universe for those women.
If I lived in the Victorian era, I’d probably be married, had a child or two, or looked down upon and pitied as a spinster. Both probably would have crushed my soul. I am no angel. I don’t like people telling me what to do or who I should be. I don’t like people having control of how I live my life just because they have different anatomy than me. I would have no identity outside the males in my world. This is why I am not ashamed to call myself a feminist, though on occasion it has caused me considerable trouble. Being a feminist isn’t burning bras, hating men, looking down on housewives, or thinking women are better than the other sex. All that feminism is is wanting an equal footing in pay, legal matters, and respect. That’s it. Women still make seventy-five cents on the dollar to men. We still don’t have complete autonomy on what happens to our bodies. We’re still sexualized and told we’re nothing without a man far more than men are told they’re nothing without a woman. We’ve made strides, without question, but we’re not there yet. I would hope when my time travel powers manifest, I’ll be able to travel to the future and see a world where this is true. Time will tell.
KEEP CALM AND STEAMPUNK ON
The whole of Victorian London knows there is something not quite right about the Lady Verity Hart. She may be the daughter of an MP and the sister of famed inventor Lord David Hart, but she is a spinster whose own father threatens to send her to the madhouse every fortnight. Because Society is correct-Verity Hart is no lady. If they suspected how quick with a quip she is, let alone the majority of her brother’s ingenious machines were her design, the sale of fainting couches would double.
Verity requires one herself when her beloved brother is kidnapped by vampyres in the dead of night. With the aid of an aggravating, rude American bounty hunter with a secret of his own, Verity takes to land, sea, and even air to rescue the only person who could ever love and truly accept her. Or is he?
Bio Jennifer Harlow spent her restless childhood fighting with her three brothers and scaring the heck out of herself with horror movies and books. She grew up to earn a degree at the University of Virginia which she put to use as a radio DJ, crisis hotline volunteer, bookseller, lab assistant, wedding coordinator, and government investigator. Currently she calls Northern Virginia home but that restless itch is ever present. In her free time, she continues to scare the beejepers out of herself watching scary movies and opening her credit card bills. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, Midnight Magic Mystery series and The Galilee Falls Trilogy. For the soundtrack to her books and other goodies visit her at www.jenniferharlowbooks.com
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