Archive for the ‘Fictional Romance’ Category

PostHeaderIcon American Georgians: Novels in the time of George III and George Washington

Geo Washington BostonReaders prefer Regencies. I write American Georgians.                                                                                                                        (An open letter to author Jo Beverley)

Dear Readers,

Recently I read an interview with an author of Medieval romances. She spoke of the era as lawless, and that the lack of social rules made some readers shy away from that genre, but she liked writing in a period that allowed a man and a woman to be discovered in a room together without scandal or forced marriage. That was just one of many reasons she liked this relatively chaotic world where the only law was the King’s word and he and his armies were largely absent. I agree that such times open up areas of romance and relationships to an author, that the rigid rules of the Regency cannot allow.

A few years ago I began writing about another chaotic, lawless era. Not lawless because the law was absent, though often it was, but because the known world was changing so quickly that rules seemed suspended. This is a short essay on how I began writing my Edge of Empire / World Turned Upside Down Series or the American Georgians, if you will. (George III and George Washington.) The novels take place during the American Revolution 1773-1780 plus or minus a plot point.

It all began when Jo Beverley’s Rothgar, mentioned ‘trouble in the colonies’ in conversation with his younger brother. Being an American historian with a deep love for, not only British history, but British historical romances, my antennae went up and I matched the “trouble” to the stamp crisis in Boston. Then Chastity discovered Cyn’s tomahawk-scar from an attack during in the Seven Years War in Canada or perhaps Massachusetts or New York. That is a war we in America call the French and Indian War. For us, this war began with Indian attack in 1675 and didn’t end until the treaty of Paris in 1765. Even then, there were attacks from Canada into western New York for another year. In those years, Americans were British, and army and militia fought together against the French and the Canadian Indians.

No non-fictional family explains the emotional conflict the American Revolution presented to the British aristocracy better than the Howes. Cousins of King George III, (their mother was an avowed illegitimate daughter of George I), three Howe brothers served in America during the French and Indian War. The oldest, General George Howe, led forces in New York, and died at Ticonderoga in 1758. He is buried near Albany, New York. George was greatly adored on both sides of the Atlantic and after his death the Province of Massachusetts paid for a commemorative plaque in his honor to be placed in Westminster Abbey.

In 1774, as the next crisis in the colonies heated up, George III asked General William and Admiral Richard Howe to go back to America to lead the Army and the Naval forces there. They agreed to go only if they would be allowed to seek reconciliation with the colonies. The King agreed, but he and his secretaries gave them no support.

With the inspiration of Ms. Beverley’s Malloren novels, and the fighting of the pro and anti Americanists in Parliament as background, I constructed a fictional aristocratic family, and the fictional Duchy of Chardon. The FitzSimmons are a large loving family with too many sons, two of whom I quite rudely remove from Britain, and place in America at the time of this conflict. One is a merchant seaman who lands in Boston the week of the “Tea Party” the other is a lieutenant on General Howe’s staff. There is a younger brother who will come to visit as soon as he finishes school.

Their mother, Elizabeth FitzSimmon, Duchess of Chardon, is an energetic redhead who has been involved in the raising of her children from their birth, and running all aspects of her household. She argues politics with anyone who will listen, and writes to the newspapers as Queen Bess. She visited family in America, some time in the past, and loved the land and its people. She is a cousin of General John Burgoyne. The same John Burgoyne who landed in Boston with William Howe in the spring of 1775. Elizabeth and her ilk are not shy in telling him he is a buffoon when he does not believe the Americans on the frontier will fight hard and well. She is proved correct.

The  two oldest brothers, Robert and Stephan sit in Parliament. Robert takes his father’s seat in Lords, because the Duke won’t travel anymore, and Stephan was elected as an MP for the district. Both men are sympathetic to the American cause, as were many others to greater and lesser degrees. Historian, David Hackett Fischer refers to this as the King in Parliament Whigs, (the British), vs. the no King in Parliament Whigs, (the Americans), the two sides agreed on almost everything except that one thing, and it was insurmountable!

In my stories, three family members: Stephan; Thomas, the third brother; and the husband of their older sister, Elizabeth, own a shipping company named after the family. Jason, the fourth son, has been in the employ of this company as first mate on the Chardon. Cardinal Points begins as Jason makes landfall at Boston, Massachusetts, in December 1773, simultaneous to the treasonous events of the night. He decides to leave his brothers’ employ and strike out on his own.

John’s story In Fate and Fair Winds, begins during his travels. He had been tasked by General William Howe to come to an understanding of the Americans. This was part of the efforts of the Howes, William and Admiral Richard, at reconciliation with the Americans. John lands in Philadelphia at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He is fiercely loyal to the King and the notion of nationhood, but he grows to believe that Parliament has betrayed the English ideal of representative government with their intransigence toward the Americans.

So, mine are the stories of the extra sons as a new world unfolds before them. Each man meets an American girl. Each eventually finds love in a topsy-turvy world.

What I have tried to do in these books, beside giving the reader a fun story with adventure and romance, is to complicate the narrative of the American Revolution. To tell stories, not through military victories and losses, but through the eyes men and women finding love in the midst of rhetoric and revolution.

When General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in October 1781, he had his band play a tune called “World Turned Upside Down.” For an Enlightenment Englishman of that time, losing the colonies was not simply the loss of valuable real-estate, but an alteration of the way things should be in an ordered world. Quite literally, the known world had ended.

As I say on my book covers: In a world turned upside down, the only right – may be love.

Most Humble, &c.

PostHeaderIcon Ice and Snow in 1773

In December 1773, John Rowe wrote in his diary:
Dec 26. Exceeding windy & stormy – it Blown down many Turrets & done Damage among the Shipping at Long Wharff & Tillstons & Blown off the Tiles from my house.

Many New England diaries include weather notations as a matter of course, but in this diary either Mr. Rowe did not include weather notes, or the editor took them out. That this notation made it into the edition published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1903, makes it doubly interesting.

Boston snowBelow is the section from Cardinal Points I wrote using Rowe’s diary:

Oona had walked to the Common to watch the sun set over the marshes of the Back Bay. The walk back over Fort Hill was made treacherous and plodding by a harsh storm that started just as she turned toward home. She pushed back the hood of her cloak so she could see against the driving sleet. She was happy for the warm fisherman’s cap and sweater Jason had left, the thick lanolin soaked wool was warm and waterproof against the cold and wet. She lifted her face to the stinging ice and steadily increasing gusts, loving the howling wind and the energy of the storm. Hours later, alone in her room after the long day, she looked out the attic window, the wind had picked up and was roaring now. The reflected light from the thick clouds and white ground showed that ice had begun to stick and accumulate on every tree limb, roof, and mast.

The Nor’easter raged all night and all of the next day. It was Sunday, but no one ventured out for church. The ground was a solid sheet of ice, too treacherous for horses’ hooves, or a walker on anything but the most important errand. With each gust of wind, another heavy, ice coated limb crashed to the ground, making the world even more treacherous. Someday, Oona thought while staring out the window, when the sun came out again, this dull gray world will be changed by the ice, snow and freezing rain into a shiny, sparkling otherworld.

And so it was Monday morning that people emerged from their hearths to get on with their week. Frozen mud and brick walks, coated with a day’s worth of accumulated ice greeted them. Oona, like other brave souls ready to face such a day, held tight to her stout walking stick as she maneuvered through town. Like everyone she stepped gingerly, but it was the sight overhead that captivated her. The clouds had cleared away for bright winter light that caught the ice on every surface and brought it to an unearthly life. Nothing looked as it had before. Things like tree limbs, window shutters, shop and tavern signs – glittered in the bright light, moved unnaturally in the wind, broke loose from their anchors and simply shattered when they hit the ground. As the morning progressed and no heat could be coaxed from the sun to melt the layers of accumulated ice, a new wind arrived from the harsh north. Gusts from this frigid wind took the ice covered trees and ships’ masts and snapped them like twigs.

Oona headed home with bread, eggs and stew beef for dinner. She was pleased to have made it home and not slipped and fallen on Mrs. Channings fresh eggs. Back in the warm kitchen on Oliver Street, she put down her bundles and pulled off her cloak and warm undergarments. “Mrs. Prince, it’s bad down at the harbor. Masts broken, ships on their sides. I didn’t see the Catherine, but I don’t see how she could’a come through with nothing. Leastways, not completely. None of them did.”
“Don’t tell the master.”
“Don’t tell? Why not?”
“If he goes out now and gets hurt on a fall, mistress will blame you. I think she is quite angry enough over Peter Church.”
“Really? Did something new happen?”

Mrs. Prince poured two cups of chocolate and sat Oona down for a chat. Nothing had happened. But there was no reason to upset Anne Goodiel, or make Matthew run out before the streets were cleared. The cook was absolutely right.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Rowe’s Wharf Today:Rowes-Wharf-Arch-January-2013-Photo-by-Matt-Conti

PostHeaderIcon Nina considers her day while sitting in a rose garden.

rosesThe day had been hot and long, certainly she was not used to dancing, not used to being touched. Nina assumed that in most places dancers were gloved even on hot days, but for the last three years no one had bought new gloves. There were simply none available since the non-importation agreements – made with such passion in town meeting. Now here they were at a wedding — bare-handed. Non-importation agreements were fine until there was something one needed, like gloves.

Nina slipped back out of the long windows toward the rose garden. She found a bench in the flowers and gratefully sat. Her legs felt weak, she felt flushed and her heart was beating in a most uncomfortable manner. She blamed the dancing, but sitting there in the warm June sun, she grudgingly admitted that Alex, her intrepid rescuer, was the culprit. She had sworn off men so many years ago. Vowed never to marry again. She assured herself she was safe because of her short marriage, and that there was no time or room in her life for such discomfort – physical or emotional. It was good she would leave, and that he would go back to Cambridge. Chances were, this time she really would never see him again.

She concentrated on the beautiful garden. In the warm dry weather the flowers had bloomed early and now waited, suspended in glorious splendor, their petals so far open they nearly drooped. A few had already stopped trying to hold on, and masses of color littered the nearby ground. It was clear from the empty stems, that those flowers that had been fresh and pretty this morning, had been cut for the ceremony, or the party here at the house. She scooped a handful of pale purple and yellow petals into her hands and breathed in the heady scent.

Roses reminded her of that day John and his sisters had taken them all out to hear the latest preacher, a red Indian with a booming voice. They had sat near the host’s house and their rose garden, facing into the field – along with hundreds of other people. It was so unlike her father’s church. There had been no mention of theology, or of readings or careful translation of the bible, such as he and other ministers did. No this man preached of finding Jesus through one’s heart not one’s head. It had seemed alien at the time, but spoke to her now with so many changes whirling around her.

She had been proud that day when her young husband left to fight for Great Britain and the King against their Catholic enemy, the French. She realized after his death that she had never really understood, her heart had not understood that he should go and fight in a war which had ended in Europe and for which the treaty had already been signed.

It was different this time. This unnatural civil war, as the newspapers called it, seemed inevitable. Just as she had moved from her parent’s home; forge her own life, with marriage, child, and an early widowhood, so America was ready to be accepted as a full member of the Empire with rights equal to all Englishmen. That Parliament did not agree, would not grant them membership or a vote, even though the colonies were important members of the mercantile world and consumers of British made goods, rankled.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about Alex flirting with her, making her feel things she would rather ignore, but she could not help be proud that someone who was a friend of sorts, was engaged in routing the British Army out of Boston.

PostHeaderIcon Delicious History

Doryshistoricals bookmark copy

This is a letter I wrote explaining how the Edge of Empire books came to be.

Dear Reader:

Cardinal Points, and the other Edge of Empire novels, were born when, as a Park Guide for Boston National Historical Park on the Freedom Trail, I began to wonder what it might have been like to be a young woman in Boston during and after the Destruction of the Tea on December 16, 1773.

I would walk from the North End back to the Visitor Center on Devonshire St, seeing Boston of the Eighteenth Century and contemplating the changes that occurred at the imposition of the Parliamentary Acts we call the Insufferable Acts. For my heroine Oona, a young woman who cannot leave the town as so many others have done, these are immediate and personal.

Using my academic background, and my love of adventure and romance novels, I set out to create what one reader has called: “delicious history.”

Remember: in a world turned upside down, the only thing right – may be love.