Blending History with Fantasy by Piper Vaughn

I would like to thank Piper Vaughn for stopping by PBA today to talk about her latest release Love Rising (see my review here) and how she blends history and fantasy so seamlessly.

As I’ve said in other posts, my new release, Love Rising, is at its heart a fairy tale. It takes place on an island called Isla Sagrario, which I (and MJ O’Shea) made up for our interconnected pirate stories in Dreamspinner’s Cross Bones anthology. If Isla Sagrario existed, I envisioned it being off the coast of what is now Colombia. But while Isla Sagrario itself is a fantasy, what I found during my research is that such places actually were around back then. Maybe not as self-sustaining as we imagined our island, but there were communities where homosexual relationships were considered perfectly ordinary and acceptable (as well they should be). Given the time period, I know that seems surprising, especially since we’re still fighting for marriage equality today, but male partnerships between pirates were actually fairly commonplace. It was different in the Royal Navy, of course, but among pirates, men openly built lives together.

Lifelong male partners were called matelots and their relationships matelotage. They shared beds, property, booty, and basically everything any other married couple would. In fact, these marriages were recognized to the point where if one partner was killed during an attack, the remaining partner would still receive that person’s share of the loot, as his right as the surviving spouse.

There’s controversy as to whether all these matelotages were actually gay partnerships, as some of them also shared women along with everything else, but it’s pretty safe to assume that some of these relationships were of a homosexual nature as well. And while there’s a little something called “situational homosexuality,” which you’ll find in instances where people of the same sex are isolated together for long periods of time (i.e., pirate ships, prison, etc.), I think some of these men who shared women together were probably bi too, not just doing each other because it was convenient.

Now, with Love Rising I had a little bit of leeway. First, as with many fairy tales, it took place in an imaginary setting, not somewhere based off a real place. So it could be exactly what I needed it to be, and more than anything I wanted to focus on the relationship between Wick and Francis, not necessarily their surroundings. Despite that, I wanted it to seem legitimate for the time period we’d established in the other stories (and, just FYI for those wondering, Love Rising can be read entirely on its own and is not a direct sequel to the other stories in Cross Bones).

So, even though I always knew this story would be short and more fantastical than historical, I did a fair amount of research. I looked into indentured servitude. I researched the clothing for the period—and, as dashing as Johnny Depp looked in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, his costumes were actually an amalgamation of a bunch of styles over different time periods and not really representative of the years those movies are set in. Actually, a better example of popular clothing for pirates of that period can be seen in Disney’s Peter Pan. As appealing as Jack Sparrow—Captain Jack Sparrow—might have appeared, it was actually Norrington who looked more like a pirate of the time.

A lot of reading happened before I started this little novelette. I even went as far as looking up certain words and when they originated, so they wouldn’t seem totally out of place in the dialogue or the narrative. And, yeah, maybe most of what I did find out didn’t make it into the story in the end, but I’d much rather have the knowledge than not and know that I did my best to do right by the historical time period I was paying homage to.

I think this is the way it happens with most book research, honestly. I usually look at a variety of different sources, both online and in books, before I start delving into the writing. In fact, the contemporary I’m working on now required an entire month’s worth of research before I put one word on the page and I’m still reading books about my subject as I write. I always like to do my best to represent things accurately. Artistic liberties are always taken, of course. That’s why I write fiction, not textbooks. Still, doing my homework is just something I consider part of the experience. And I hope that the people who notice the effort made will appreciate it. I certainly do when I’m reading about a subject I happen to be familiar with. 🙂



Love Rising released from Dreamspinner Press on January 1st. Get it here: or buy it from the book e-tailer of your choice.


In the 1700s on the island of Sagrario, men who love other men find safe haven. For Francis Holland, an escaped indentured servant, Sagrario offers nothing but loneliness. His life begins to change when he finds Wick, a merman, washed ashore.

When Wick awakens under Francis’s care, Francis returns him to the sea at his request. Soon after, they begin to meet in secret, and gradually, Francis blossoms under this new companionship. However, a merman is a difficult creature to entrust one’s heart to. With one trapped on land and the other at sea, the differences in their species threaten to keep them apart forever. It may not be long before Wick is gone, taking Francis’s reason to smile with him.

Where to find Piper

Want to know more about Piper? Visit her at:, where links to all her social media accounts can be found.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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3 thoughts on “Blending History with Fantasy by Piper Vaughn

  1. Interesting research which I was not familiar about pirates. I have the Cross Bones anthology, so I’ll have to pull it out of my huge TBR pile and read Piper’s & MJ’s story. Lovely cover for the book.

  2. Very interesting details about pirates. I’ve not read many m/m novels or romances that depict pirates in them so this will be a nice change.

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