Behind The Veil
by Loretta Chase

Zoe Lexham, the heroine of my latest book, DON’T TEMPT ME, has spent twelve years in a harem. The harem was/is by nature a secret place, but here are some things I learned:

1. Brazilian wax a must. According to HAREM: THE WORLD BEHIND THE VEIL, “It was considered a sin to have hair on one’s private parts...The women removed hair not only from their legs and underarms, but from all body crevices, even nostrils and ears.

They spread themselves with a burning paste, which was later scraped off with the sharp edges of mussel shells.” A later version of the paste (still used in some parts of the world today) is made with sugar and lemon. Elsewhere, hot beeswax was used. Tweezing, too, for those tricky spots.

2. Sleep your way up the corporate ladder. A large harem was like a corporation. The CEO would be the top woman (the Sultana, in Turkey), with the equivalents of vice presidents and managers and administrative assistants and so on down the line to the lowest level slaves. With status came jewels and nice clothes, better quarters, more servants, and power (including over the master).

A slave who’d mastered the arts of pleasing men--music and dancing, reciting poetry, and, of course, sex--might be freed and become a pasha’s wife. Or she could become the master’s concubine and work her way up the corporate hierarchy. It definitely paid to develop one’s erotic skills.

3. Eunuchs are complicated. Not everyone realizes that loss of reproductive parts doesn’t necessarily mean loss of desire. This would explain why many eunuchs were moody: Surrounded by beautiful women whose lives are dedicated to sex, these men can feel lust and love while lacking the equipment for the follow-through. But there were different kinds of eunuchs; not all lacked the equipment, and even those who did were able to satisfy women.

Some eunuchs of a great household were simply servants for the men, while others served and guarded the harem. They, too, had a hierarchy. In the harem, the chief eunuch was an extremely powerful man.

4. European girl kidnapped, sold into harem slavery--really? Yes. I found a documented case. Aimee DeBucq de Rivery, a cousin of Josephine de Beauharnais (Napoleon’s first wife) was kidnapped and ended up in a harem. She was 21 at the time, fresh out of convent school.

Here’s one of the less fantastical paintings of a harem. Though it’s later in the 19th Century--and imaginary, since Lewis wouldn’t have been allowed into a harem--the interior corresponds to drawings of early 19th Century Egyptian interiors.

Click Here and you can take a tour of the Topkapi Palace--on whose harem the lesser ones (like my imaginary one in Egypt) are modeled.

And, yes, more is unveiled in my book. Meanwhile...
Is there anything else you’ve ever wanted to know about harems? Is it your idea of heaven or hell? A place to visit or to live in? If you were in Zoe’s or Aimee’s shoes, what do you think you’d do?


Blogger penney said:

I love this book and can't wait to read it, thanks for the pictures too I love them.

1:16 PM  

Blogger Pam P said:

Can't wait to read this, Zoe sounds like a very interesting heroine.

Fun post, Loretta. Now if I ended up in a harem I'd have to stage a takeover and start off as the CEO, lol.

11:38 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Sounds like a very interesting and fun book to read, Loretta. Zoe and her Duke sound like wonderful and fun characters.

To anyone ending up in a harem, it would be a big shock! I think it would be an unhappy and dangerous place to be. Can you imagine waiting for yourself waiting to finally be called into your master's bed. Like Pam P, I think I'd want to stage a takeover and start up at the top. LOL!

3:45 PM  

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