Whence the ideas for writing historical romances
Both “Lord Waring's Quest" and "An Angel for St. Clair” evolved from my interest in the Napoleonic War. It was a time of turmoil throughout Europe and England. The wars raged for many years, affected millions of people and brought sweeping change to many nations. Histories about the period—and there are many— tell us about the battles, politics, economical impacts, and prominent figures of the age, and all of it most interesting. But it’s the more ordinary people and the parts they may have played that catch my imagination and start the ‘what if’ buzz in my head. And from such a story grows. For instance--
Years ago, in the course of some research, I stumbled upon a brief account of Napoleon’s edict to arrest all Englishmen between the ages of 18 and 80 found on French soil, in May of 1803. This was his response to the English Parliament’s declaration of war when the terms of the Treaty of Amiens failed. During the short-lived truce, many of the English aristocracy and upper classes had flocked to the continent, particularly France, after being pent up in England by the long war. For all their centuries of war and contention, France and England had many ties—property ownership, trade, and family relationships. Few in England had expected the treaty to last. It was more of a breathing space on both sides. England knew there would be no peace in Europe as long as Napoleon was in power, and of course, Napoleon had made no secret of his determination to invade England. Knowing all this, the government officials whose responsibilities included obtaining information about the French government and military organization, had a limited time to arrange for funding ‘agents-in-place’ within France. That said, and resting on the fact that England truly did have a network of informants, who can say that an effort to fund that network was not made? And hence, St. Clair’s mission to France was born. Of course, he had to have a lovely lady to complicate matters, and Angel’s half-French parentage seemed a helpful circumstance.
The Peninsular War in particular had a huge impact on me. This desperately fought conflict, so often bloody and cruel, was an enormous test of England’s armies, and the peers, gentry and the common men bound together under Lord Wellington rose to the challenge—and in doing so, greatly changed the style and method of warfare that had existed for centuries. But it was not the English countryside that suffered these assaults. The long battle against the French invaders was devastating to Spain, and the Spanish guerrillas fought fiercely for their homeland. What affect would it have on a young woman living through it, losing loved ones, and seeing the cost of warfare to her home? Might she have known and interacted with the English soldiers fighting against the French? It seemed entirely possible to me that given the role that Lord Wellington’s cadre of explorers played on the Peninsula, a brave young woman like Jessica might have worked with them to free her homeland from the invaders.
And then, The societal side
I freely admit I’m hooked on history, so there was never any question in my mind that I would go on writing historical fiction. The differences in the culture, language and way of life people experienced during other ages continue to fascinate and delight. Imagination can take you to so many different times and places. Every story involves you in the lives of men and women of another world who have their own problems to resolve. And yet they aren’t unlike you and me. Women in bygone times had to cope with husbands, children, illness, and loss just as we do today. Men struggled to provide for and protect their loved ones. Indeed, some things haven’t changed at all—a truly sad commentary on our civilization. Society still has to deal with stalkers, abusive spouses, crippled and orphaned children, misuse of the environment, and men’s greedy exploitation of those less able or fortunate.
Although still set in the Regency-era, “An Inconvenient Wife” reflects a shift away from the war to more societal issues. Impoverished and haunted by a stalker, Anne nevertheless befriends two orphans, and ultimately takes Nickolas’ crippled daughter into her heart. She puts her own needs and dreams aside to care for these children, and fights tirelessly to heal the emotionally wounded man who offers her refuge.
In “A Love Laid Bare” Frances struggles with the deep gulf between her desire to act, and be viewed, as a confident, intelligent adult, and the role her husband—and society expect her to play. Her life experiences make it difficult for her to be content with tending house, subservient to her husband’s wishes. She fought to survive and the self-confidence so hard-won is now a vital part of her. Yet she loves Richard, and their little daughter. It’s up to her to forge a new kind of relationship between a man rooted in the hide-bound mores of the times and an independent woman.
Spousal abuse is a frequent topic in today's world, for unfortunately it is something that occurs all too frequently, as it has throughout recorded history. It is not a subject I consciously set out to write about, however. In fact, my musings began with a thought from the other end of such a situation. Is it possible for a woman who has suffered abuse to ever heal, and what factors would enable her to do so? It is this question that laid the foundation for "Trusting Lord Summerton". A complex query that presents Colin with the most important challenge in his life—convincing Mary that with patience, care and the gentle touch of a lover, she can overcome her fear.
Isn't imagination just wonderful?