Whence the ideas for writing historical romances
Along with a deep fondness for the Regency era, my interest in the Napoleonic War provided many of the ideas for my books. 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 numerous nations. Histories about the period tell us about the battles, politics, economical impacts and prominent figures of the age, 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 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 given 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.
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
The differences in the culture, language and way of life people experienced during other ages both fascinates and delights me. 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 were much like 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. 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.
"A Cornish Connection" touches on the environment. Kerra is understandably concerned by the effect of mining on her land. Tin and copper mines damage not only the ground they sit on, and in, but seriously pollute the streams and waters around them. In those days, no laws existed requiring any kind of restoration. Yet people did care about the environment, and I like to think that Kerra and Harry would have used their resources to advocate for regulations as well as educate the population in regards to to a better understanding of how abuse of the land anywhere ultimately affects us all.
Although the subject of the hundreds of abandoned, ill-treated and undernourished children roaming London’s streets is only touched upon in
"Lydia, A Tale of Love and Courage" it certainly was a real and terrible situation. Charities, church organizations, and privately funded orphanages provided some relief. The long-established Foundling Hospital, (1739) was a notably well-intentioned and efficient organization that ran on the premise that whatever their background, children whose early years were spent in a family environment. with adequate food, clothing and education, would be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to live a full and worthwhile life. Still, without any laws or government assistance there was only so much that could be done. It wasn’t until the passing of the New Poor Law in 1834 that the state began to play a role in the residential care of orphaned, neglected or impoverished children.
As a private citizen, Lydia did all she could within the confines of her expected role in society and financial resources. Most likely she knew of the Foundling Hospital and its theories on raising children; her own Belle Haven practiced similar methods. I like to think that in the future she used the influence of her position, and that of the quartet, to work for change. I have no doubt that within a few years she and Montford established a number of schools and sanctuaries filled with well-nourished, happy children.