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Guest: Anthea Lawson

A Posh Trip Around the Mediterranean

We love researching our Victorian-set novels. Both Passionate and All He Desires feature travel around the Mediterranean Sea on the P&O line. In order to get the period details just right, we delved deeply into historical fact—and fiction.

In addition to finding out that sail and steam were in use together on ships, we looked into the origins of the word posh. Still associated with the upper classes, posh is widely used to describe something as fashionable, elegant, or luxurious. It is widely believed that the word came from the acronym Port Out Starboard Home, describing the best cabins given to upper-class passengers traveling with the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company from Britain to India and back. These cabins would have been on the north side of the boat, protected from the fierce sun, and thus most desirable.

However, the acronym was never used officially in the P&O offices or printed on tickets, so the story of posh’s origins may be only a legend. The term has also been variously ascribed to P.G. Wodehouse, as a derivative of the Romany word for money, and to the English gentlemen poet Edward Fitzgerald.

Regardless of its true origins, nothing conjures up the image of genteel Victorians trotting about the world better than the word posh. The next time you travel, pack your trunks well, and don’t forget your parasol!

Leave a comment for a chance to win PASSIONATE, our novel featuring a romantic journey from London to Tunisia aboard a P&O sailing steamer~

Anthea Lawson is the pseudonym for a husband-wife team who write spicy Victorian romance. Their debut novel, PASSIONATE, was nominated for a Best First Book RITA in 2009. Their newest book, ALL HE DESIRES, “deftly combines danger, desire, and a deliciously different Victorian setting into a sexy version of Victoria Holt’s classic gothic romances.” –Booklist Reviews. 

Excerpt from All He Desires:

The cart rolled forward over the rough track, and it did not take long for Caroline to fall into a hazy, pain-filled daze. The night sky, the flaring torches, the jolting ride wove together into a disjointed tapestry. She did not realize they had halted in front of a cottage until Maggie coaxed her upright and helped her from the cart.

Monsieur Legault went to the door. He pounded, and pounded again until at last it was opened by a figure who remained in the shadows. Caroline blinked, her vision still blurred. A tall man, she thought.

“What do you want?” His voice was gruff.

“Mr. Trentham, we require your help.” The Frenchman waved to where Caroline stood, supported by Maggie. “The mademoiselle is injured.”

The man shook his head. “I cannot help you.” He began to close the door, but Monsieur Legault set his foot in the jamb.

“I ask you not to be stubborn. She is hurt—she must be seen.”

The shadow moved closer to the light. He was tall, his hair the color of night. The torchlight painted hollows under his cheekbones and cast his uncompromising nose in sharp relief. He did not look like a doctor, not with his creased clothing and untamed hair, a scowl making his face even more forbidding. When his gaze moved to her, Caroline felt it, a nearly physical sensation, like standing under a storm cloud just before the fury of wind and rain lashed down. She shivered.

He regarded her for several moments, measured by the rapid beat of her heart. His eyes seemed black in the flickering light. That intent gaze moved down to her dusty boots, then returned to her face.

At last he turned to the Frenchman. “The woman is on her feet. She looks well enough. Take her to Rethymno.” He stepped back and made to close his door again.

“You must help us,” Monsieur Legault said, a pleading note in his voice. “Rethymno is too far, and you know how little talent the doctor there has.”

“Enough to care for an injured arm. Good night.”

“Wait!” Maggie stepped forward, bringing Caroline with her. “You cannot refuse—you are English!”

“Oh?” He paused with one hand on the door frame, his lips twisted as though he had tasted something bitter. “I don’t see that it signifies.”

“Of course it does. This is Miss Caroline Huntington, the niece of the Earl of Twickenham. How can you consider yourself a gentleman if you turn her away?”

“Who says I consider myself a gentleman?”

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11 Comments

  1. Isabel Roman says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Anthea! I think traveling on a steamship (OK, not easy) would be really cool. Especially then when if I had the money to travel, I had the money for a maid or three! Course it’s all very romanticized today.

    Traveling bac then is probaby akin to flying today. Soudns good in theory, not so much in practice.

  2. Denise Eagan says:

    Oh I love the idea of a seaboard romance! This sounds great.

  3. I love the idea of dressing in beautiful dresses and strolling the deck of a ship with a handsome man. But like many realities, wealth certainly improves the picture. Being a coal dumping maid wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as the lady of the house! It sounds like a great book…and I love that a husband wife duo wrote it!

  4. Sometimes I miss the dress codes of the past. Other times, not so much. But getting dressed up can turn a plain meal into a lovely dining experience, and it can be fun—until the kids get older and start to complain about it. 😉

    Shipboard romances have always held a special place in our hearts. The confined spaces, the inability to truly escape, the inevitablity of running into the object of desire despite avoidance efforts. Great stuff.

  5. I have to agree with everyone else! I shipboard Victorian romance sounds delicious!

    Great excerpt!!

  6. I find it amazing that they provided such posh rooms for their customers way back then. I always thought the conditions were rough. Glad some of our ancestors had great trips to tell us about.

  7. Thanks for having us here, Isabel!

    We’ve found in our research that there were luxurious accommodations to be had in almost every situation–if you could afford it!

    Danielle- maybe someday we’ll do a rags-to-riches tale about the coal-dumping maid. Wouldn’t that be a fun story? 🙂

    Thanks, everyone, for the comments! Keep them and any questions coming~

  8. Jeannie Lin says:

    What a great bit of historical trivia!

    I visited the Mayflower II last fall in Plymouth and though it was surprisingly small, it did have me thinking of shipboard romance as I took pictures of the captain’s quarters! A steamship would be much nicer though.

    Great excerpt. Love the saucy banter! I wonder if it helps having both the male and female perspective while writing dialogue? Do you ever find conversations you’ve had in RL being transposed onto the page?

  9. […] 13 – Slip into Something Victorian where we talk about the origins of the word […]

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