Who doesn't love a good duel?

August 30, 2015

 

It's one of the staples of historical romance -- the duel. And unfortunately, most writers get it wrong. (Including me on the first draft of DUKES ARE FOREVER, only to have to rewrite to make it more historically accurate. And even then...well--do you want historically accurate or do you want exciting?) We know a lot about the process of calling someone out for a duel--the Code Duello, which were the accepted code of conduct among gentlemen wishing to kill each other for a wrong to their honor) goes into lengthy--and I do mean LENGTHY--detail about 1) who has the right to ask for a duel, 2) the proper procedures for asking for a duel and the amount of time between the committed wrong, asking for the duel, and the duel itself, 3) how to give and accept an apology to call off the duel, and 4) the complicated roles of the seconds. What is missing is how the actual duel itself was conducted.

 

So, what you have are lots of letters going back and forth about choosing weapons, deciding place and paces, how many shots, etc. etc. etc. But NO actual information on what happened once the two men reached the field. We do know that duels were illegal (hence why they were held so early in the morning and NOT in the middle of Hyde Park) and that most duels never occurred because of all those rules regarding whose honor was offended and how. But the actually duel itself...well, for that we have to look at descriptions of actual historical duels which took place. And they are nothing like the duels we know from movies and TV shows, of gloves slapped across faces, pistols instantly drawn, and Ready, Aim, Fire called out. Nope.

 

Because of plot constraints--and because the characters couldn't spend a fortnight sending letters back and forth to agree on the rules or garner an apology--I had to take some creative license with The duel between Edward and Litchfield in DUKES ARE FOREVER. The actual duel itself follows the commands given in the historical duel between Hamilton and Burr...paces, ready, present, etc., the lead up was not historically accurate. They meet on a field (in the park--egads!) only hours after Edward's honor is called into question, not the fortnight it would have been, and the men have agreed to delope--which would not have happened. Although few duels were actually carried out after all the back-and-forth of negotiations and apologies, a gentleman would never besmirch his honor further by deloping. 

 

And so, what you have in DUKES ARE FOREVER is an attempt to make the actual duel itself as historically accurate as possible given the constraints of the plot. And I think it comes off as pretty darn exciting anyway! Who wins? Does Edward's honor remain unblemished? And whose blood is spilled? You'll have to read the novel to find out. :) 

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