Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Toppless Dueling and other triggers of the imagination

After my confession last month about how much I was floundering in my revised-forever-WIP, I took the advice and encouragement to generously offered here and set sail after a shiny new story.

I’m happy to say I found it, and its everything I remembered a passionate first-draft to be. I’m finding ideas and inspiration everywhere. Little things that ping my imagination and suddenly fit as a plot point or character or story line.

I saw something recently that set off all my little imagination sensors, but it doesn’t at all fit in my present-day dark and gloomy thriller set in rural France.

I came across this on facebook. Did anyone else see it? It’s a report of a topless, all-female duel during the Victorian period in Europe.

That’s right. The women did the dueling, and they did with style.

For whatever reason, I found this story hysterically funny. And there’s a story in here. There are probably lots and lots of stories in here. I love Regency romances, and Victorian and Georgian romances too, and this just spoke to everything I love about 19th Century aristocrats.

Here’s the story (the full, exceptional article can be found at:

At the start of an 1892 duel in Liechtenstein between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg, Baroness Lubinska, who presided over the duel, insisted that the women remove their clothing above their waists to avoid infection in the event that a sword pushed clothing into the wound it caused. The baroness had seen many instances of septic infection in soldiers for this very reason throughout her years of medical training.

And this quote is the best part:

At the dueling ground on the fateful day, all formalities were carried out to the letter including an attempt at and refusal of reconciliation. The ladies engaged and, after a few trifling feints and thrusts, a wild slash from the princess brought about a light flow of blood from the countess’ nose. Seeing the injury she caused, the shocked princess, in a stereotypical feminine gesture, threw both hands up to her cheeks. Just then, the countess lunged and pierced the princess through her right forearm. The sight of the ensuing blood caused the respective seconds to faint. The footmen and coachmen, who had been ordered to stand some distance away with their backs toward the action, heard the cries and ran toward the women to render aid. Baroness Lubinska, however, decided the male servants had more salacious motives and attacked them with her umbrella, shouting, “Avert your eyes, avert your eyes — you lustful wretches!”
Does this send anyone else's imagination into overdrive? Isn't Baroness Lubinska AMAZING? And not only were the two duelers women, but their seconds were women too! 

So if you were to write a Victorian romance, which of these characters would you choose? The hapless footman? Baronnes Lubinska? One of the fainting seconds?  What else sets your imagination off?


Maureen said...

That is a great story...maybe one of the footmen, who is secretly in love with the Baronnes...and really a pirate!

Marnee Bailey said...

I want to know what they were fighting about. LOL!!

I think I'd write one of the seconds. What woman would agree to do that? Any friend who's standing beside one of these women all, "I'll finish this for you" must have some strong motivation.

Great stuff. Is this what inspired your new story? If so, I'd LOVE to hear what this is about. LOL!!

haleigh said...

Mo, a pirate footman! I love it. Can you imagine if the whole topless duel took place on a pirate ship? Not only are they half naked and trying to avoid each other's swipes, but they're on a swaying deck too!

haleigh said...

Marn, that's the best part of the story and I forgot! Apparently, the women were planning an upcoming musicale, and the duel was over the flower arrangements!!!!!

I love the seconds in this story. Not only were they there and willing, but they also fainted :) They must have had some serious passion about those flowers.

My new story feels great so far. It opens with a woman finding out from the police that her husband has been killed, and being questioned. She tells this beautiful story about their life on a rural French farm, identifies the body, gathers his personal possessions, and leaves. Then the man's brother comes to the police station to identify the body, and says "what wife? he was never married." So now they have to figure out who this woman was and why she was there and what the hell she was doing.

I've started writing with absolutely no outline, which I never do. I'm not even 100% sure if this woman is the heroine or the antagonist. How crazy is that??

haleigh said...

Oh crap, I was going to ask one of you guys to read the first chapter before I let on that the wife wasn't real, to see if ti all held together.

Oh well, the cat's out of the bag now :)

Terri Osburn said...

This is fantastic! Though I must know if either woman bled to death while the crazy woman was swinging her parasol. LOL!

I'm with Marn. I'd write about one of the Seconds. I can almost see it now. This dual would obviously be the opening scene of the book. And perhaps my Second only pretended to faint because she had no intention of picking up a sword. :)

Over flowers. Bwahahahaha! Love it.

Now, your story sounds awesome. I'll get in line to read that first chapter, knowing the spoiler or not. Let me at it!

haleigh said...

This dual would obviously be the opening scene of the book. And perhaps my Second only pretended to faint because she had no intention of picking up a sword. :)

Yes! This is awesome.

Terri Osburn said...

I don't write historical, but this is damn tempting. Bah!

haleigh said...

Later, in the book, maybe the hero accuses her of being a coward for pretend-fainting (he figures it out, of course :) or questions her fencing abilities. Unable to admit she really just didn't want to take her corset off, she has to pretend she can't fence at all (even though she's masterful at it). Finally, after a series of challenges, the hero and heroine end up having their own topless duel :)

haleigh said...

Or maybe it's the other way - she tells him she just didn't want to take her top off, but he thinks it's because she can't really fence as well as she says she can . . . so she has to prove it to him . . . topless, of course

Terri Osburn said...

I think it would be much more scandalous. Meaning, she really didn't care about the flowers!

haleigh said...

Hmmm, scandalous . . .

MsHellion said...

Hilarious! I have heard of this duel but forgot about the parties. I'd want to tell it from the one of duelists POV--and the Baroness would be the character a la Lady Whistledown.

I could see this scene in a book...I'm trying to imagine what LEADS to this though. That's the funny part.

MsHellion said...

Apparently, the women were planning an upcoming musicale, and the duel was over the flower arrangements!

ROTFLMAO Awesome!!

MsHellion said...

I'm in line to read that opening chapter...I love that with the fake wife. Hilarious and mysterious!

And my duel would happen towards the end...not the beginning. It would be the Black Moment...and it would not be about flower arrangements.

Maureen said...

Maybe it all depends on how you define 'flowers'.

And yeah, that new story sounds great!

I know...wasn't it the historical pirate, Mary something, who won a duel by exposing her breasts, stunning the pirate she was fighting because up till then, everyone thought she was a man?

Maybe one of the women who wouldn't take part in the flower duel wouldn't wasn't a woman?

That would be a twist!

haleigh said...

A duel toward the end would also be awesome as a black moment, Hellie. And it's a historical, so you know someone's about to be ruined!

Mo, that's perfect. A secret man who can't take his top off to duel because he doesn't have breasts! So much fun