With the spring season, Mother’s Day, proms, and Memorial Day, many of us on North America are celebrating events or decorating locations with flowers. Many of us don’t think about the uses of plants beyond beauty or a small home garden, but plants were essential to human survival in a much more tangible way until very recent history. I know plants play a valuable role in saving lives or creating a livelihood in at least two of my books, and they are symbolically or literally important in many of the Love Historicals authors’ works.
PLANT-BASED FABRICS and DYES – Back in the 800s people had only the materials and chemicals the natural world gave them to create anything they needed or wanted. In Vain, the heroine is the daughter of a tailor and must often weave and dye her own fabrics. One of the few fabrics available at that time was linen, made from collecting, spinning, and weaving the fibers of the flax plant. Natural linen’s color ranges from ivory to gray, so people who wanted a more exciting color had to find something in the nature to create it, plus have the time and energy to bother. The colors that can be achieved using leaves, roots, bark, nuts, and fruits fill a rainbow! Even lichen can be used as a dye, though different species result in a different color. In the course of the story, Lily uses sorrel root for green and dogwood bark for blue. Women would first have to collect the plants they wanted, then endure the arduous, smelly process of preparing and dying fabric, involving hot urine or a boiling vinegar water blend. All of this just to add a little color to a wardrobe.
You can find out more about the author of Vain and her other books at Jill Hughey’s page.
AS A GIFT – In Cynthia Woolf’s latest book, Cora, The Brides of San Francisco, Book 3, roses are used as a ploy. The villain brings the heroine a dozen roses so he can get her to let him in to her shop. It works and, well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out the rest. All of us like getting flowers and not just women. Men like it too, probably because it is so unexpected. So the next time you want to make someone’s day give them flowers or a plant.
Check out Cora’s story on
You can find out more about the Cora author and her other books on Cynthia Woolf’s page
MEDICINAL PLANTS – Plants were an integral part of medieval medicines. In here research, Anna Markland found this recipe for Dwale, a home remedy widely used to render people insensitive to pain. It appears in her book Heart and Crowns. As you can imagine, too much henbane or hemlock, both highly toxic, could be fatal.
Three spoonfuls of the gall of a sow (bile)
3 sp. hemlock juice
3 sp wild neep (bryony)
3 sp dried juice of wild lettuce
3 sp pape (opium)
3 sp henbane
3 sp eysyl (vinegar)
Mix and boil ingredients. Put in potel (2.2 L)
Put 3 sp into wine and administer.
You may have noticed the size of the spoon isn’t specified, nor how much wine to dilute it with! Please don’t try this at home!
You can find Hearts and Crowns at
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ER9SWSW
For more about this author, please visit Anna Markland’s page
MORE ABOUT MEDIEVAL HEALING – RESTORED VIRGINITY? – In Lana Williams’ medieval romance, A Vow To Keep, Lady Alyna becomes a gifted healer with the help of her mother’s herbal journey. When researching the uses of herbs, it was fascinating to read the combination of practical advice (some of which is still relevant today) with the more interesting advice, such as bathing in comfrey to restore virginity or using mugwort to protect oneself from bad visions.
A Vow To Keep, Book I of The Vengeance Trilogy, can be found at:
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/13J3RCi
To learn more about this author and A Vow To Keep, visit Lana William’s page.
HEALING IN THE AMERICAS – Plants continued to be used as the main source for medicines into the 1800s, in every human civilization, and the Indians of the Great Plains were no exception. In Winter Wind, Nancy Morse’s latest release, the hero, a Lakota warrior, is gravely wounded by a bullet from a soldier’s gun. He is nursed back to health by a Cheyenne girl who uses native perennials – Curly Dock (known to the Indians as red medicine) to help heal the wound and Silverleaf Scurf Pea (to-make-cold medicine) to bring down his fever – with unintended and far-reaching consequences.
Find out where it all leads on
And soon to be available at Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Google Play.
To find out more about Winter Wind and this author, visit Nancy Morse’s page.
PERFUMES AND COSMETICS – People have tapped the beauty of flowers to create perfumes and cosmetics for thousands of years. Fragrant plants, like roses, were often used in cosmetics and perfumed oils. Catherine Kean personally loves roses, which are traditionally associated with romantic love. When writing her Knight’s series , though, she decided to put her own twist on that time-honored tradition by creating a beautiful, ambitious villainess whose signature scent is rosewater. She’s first introduced in A Knight’s Vengeance and is a pivotal figure in the rest of the series books. Whenever a character smells roses, the reader knows Veronique is near and something bad is going to happen. The fun of being an author!
To find out more about A Knight’s Vengeance and the author, visit Catherine Kean’s page.
I find it really interesting that none of us chose to highlight the importance of plants as food, and also as almost the only source of heat available for thousands of years, with wood and peat being the most widely used fuels I know of prior to the growth of coal mining. (Coal is also plant-based if you want to get technical, which we don’t.)
In any case, you can see that flowers play a much wider role in historical romance than just as something pretty. Plants were—and are—necessary for daily survival and help bring the above authors’ stories alive.