One of the questions readers often ask me when they know I write romantic historical fiction, is ‘Which is the most important to you, the romance or the history?’ It’s a very interesting question and my usual answer is that both are equally important, though not necessarily at the same time.
I write the kind of emotionally intense novels I like to read, that is, with a powerful love story as its beating heart but in a realistic and accurate historical setting with a dash of mystery. Generally I write about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations at times of dramatic change in their world. The injustice of the strong preying on the weak makes me angry and this theme is often visited in various ways in my writing.
I’ve written about both the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the French Revolution a hundred years later and disasters such as the plague and the Great Fire of London in1666. My latest novel, The House in Quill Court, is set in London and explores the growing criminal underworld of the Regency era.
I pay a great deal of attention to researching the details of these events and then weave my own fictional heroes and heroines through the bones of the historical facts. Sometimes I’ll give a real historical figure a cameo role. I never bend history to suit my story and I make my characters ‘grow’ out of their own particular era. They must think and act in ways that are appropriate for that point in history and may have a different perspective, coloured by political and social attitudes of the day. This can be challenging, especially when it comes to subjects such as capital punishment, slavery or religion. It’s necessary to portray these in a way that is true to their time but doesn’t alienate the modern reader.
My heroine may not be perfect, in fact it’s easier for me and for readers to identify with her if she isn’t, and she must be tested to her absolute limits so that she can discover her hidden strengths. She will be brave and proactive and will take control of her life when all around her is falling to pieces. It’s quite possible that she isn’t looking for love at all since she’s so busy achieving other goals in her life.
It’s essential for me to fall in love with my hero. After all, if I don’t find him sexy and attractive it’s unlikely that my heroine will. One of the perks of being an author of romantic fiction is that I can design my own perfect hero! Again, he won’t be nauseatingly perfect and may make terrible mistakes of judgement and be full of self-doubt but he must be brave and put the heroine’s life before his own when the chips are down. I like my hero and heroine to work together to solve a seemingly insurmountable conflict and they may have to contend with violent criminal attacks, carriage chases and escapes from dungeons or burning buildings.
The path to romantic fulfilment for my hero and heroine will be exceedingly rocky but when they finally commit to each other the reader is left in no doubt that theirs is a very special, once in a lifetime love.