Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Masquerade Ball

Masquerades are a wonderful tool for historical romance authors to use. They invariably add an air of mystery to the story, allowing the characters to go incognito. Identities can be mistaken as a result - perhaps a rake kisses the wrong woman - or a debutante may engage in activities that would be denied her under normal circumstances, safely assured that no-one will know who she is. There is certainly an element of scandal attached, and if there's one thing historical romance readers love, it's the threat of scandal and the implication it brings with it.
In my most recent novel, His Scandalous Kiss, the story begins at a masquerade ball inspired by the Venetian Carnivale, a traditional festival that ends the celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter. It has become world famous for its elaborate masks and costumes and originally inspired the masquerade balls that became so popular throughout Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Historically, the Venetian Carnivale began in 1162 to honor the victory of the Serenissima Repubblica against the  Patriarch of Aquileia. The festival became official during the Renaissance, increasing in popularity during the seventeenth century as it encouraged licence and pleasure. But it was outlawed by the King of Austria in 1797 and the use of masks to conceal ones identity became strictly forbidden until the practice gradually resurfaced during the nineteenth century, though only at private parties.
In fact, it wasn't until 1979 that the Italian government decided to bring back the traditional carnivale in an effort to bring history and culture back to Venice. The production of masks began again - there are several different styles, including the Bauta mask worn by Richard Heartly and the Columbina mask chosen by Mary Bourneville in His Scandalous Kiss

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