As the title suggests, gypsies play an important part in “Gypsy Charm.” In fact, if not for the old gypsy woman, Mrs. Lee, there’d be no story at all. It’s she who engineers and choreographs the entire event, though she only appears at the beginning and the end.

So who are these people we always associate tambourines, golden earrings, and crystal balls…violins and exuberant dancing…and “Cross my palm with silver”? Where did they originate? And where do they now live?

Originally, they were thought to come from Egypt (Egyptians…Gypsies…get it?) and were supposedly exiled for giving refuge to the infant Jesus when He was brought to Egypt to escape King Herod’s wrath. Now, they’re believed to have come from India, perhaps the province of Rajasthan, migrating to northwest India around 250 BC, before beginning a westward trek in 500 AD. In 1322, they’re mentioned in writings as Atsinganoi (Untouchable) living in Crete; in 1360, a fiefdom in Corfu is mentioned as having only Romany serfs. By the 14th century, they were in the Balkans, where they were enslaved until around 1856; by the 16th century, they’d reached Scotland and Ireland, and by the 1860s, large-scale immigrations to the United States had occurred. Correctly, Gypsies are called Romany, from the word “Rom” meaning “Man.” Someone who isn’t gypsy but associates with them and speaks their language is called a Romany Rye (Ri).

In Europe, the Romany were subjected to ethnic cleansings and herded into concentration camps. In a process called the Porajmos, they were killed on sight or sentenced to forced labor. An estimated 1,500,000 Romany died during World War II. Though they were treated more fairly in Tsarist Russia, during the Communist Regine, they once again were labeled a “socially degraded stratum.”

Traditional Romanies place a high value on family life and the strict regulation of social behavior as ordered by the Marhime or Hindu purity laws. There is a rom baro (tribal leader), who rules over each extended family. Most Eastern Romany are Catholic or Orthodox Christian or Muslin, while Western Romany are Catholic or Protestant. They speak Romani, an Indo-Aryan language but because the people are so widespread now, many are forgetting the language and speak a mixture called Calo or Angolormani. There are attempts now to standardize the language.

Even today, there is extreme prejudice and discrimination against Romanies, in Central and Western Europe, where they are considered the “nomad emergency” and responsible for high crime rates. Even as late as 2004, they are actually considered a high security risk in some places and gypsy women in some countries could be legally sterilized without their consent.

Gypsy names are divides into two groups: Trade and common. There are only two trade names –Cooper and Smith—which have been translated from the Rom language. Common names for gypsies are Lee, Grey, Boswell, Herne, Lovell, Marshall, Stanley. A name may have been adopted because it was similar to a Romani one, it resembled a town from which they originally came, or it was the name of the noble under whose protection they lives.

Mrs. Lee is the gypsy matriarch in Gypsy Charm; her grandsons David, Isaac, and Tomas are all Grays. Unlike their real-life counterparts, the Romany of Gypsy Charm lead a fairly uneventful and safe life, though Grandma Lee appears to keep things lively enough.

Gypsy Charm is available from Class Act Books,


  1. Nightingale // March 24, 2011 at 1:06 PM  

    Another super trailer! And I found the information on the gypsies very interesting. One of my favorite old movies is Golden Earrings.

    The story is intriguing. I wonder about that beautiful black cat!

  2. Mary Marvella // March 24, 2011 at 4:48 PM  

    I didn't remember much of the origin of the gypsies. Thanks, Icy. As usual, the trailer rocks! Good job.

  3. Mary Ricksen // March 24, 2011 at 5:44 PM  

    You are so good at these trailers!
    Great blog, late getting up, blogger hates me! But finally up and as usual very informative!!

  4. Judy // March 25, 2011 at 8:35 AM  

    Fascinating, Toni! I've read of the abuse to the Romanies and wondered how they came to be treated that way... You always have such interesting tidbits to share! Thanks!

  5. Barbara Monajem // March 25, 2011 at 10:39 AM  

    Thank you for the history lesson, Icy! I found the last names particularly interesting...

  6. Joanne // March 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM  

    All three of my romantic historicals are set in Tudor England and feature either a Rom hero or heroine. Gypsies are such fun to write, as they have such an interesting culture.