What goes into writing a historical romance

Well, that depends on which author you ask. 😉 But, since this is my blog, we’ll be talking about my first historical. I know, so cheeky, right?

I’ve been slowly sneaking a little bit of history into my stories, but after our visit to Newport last year, a true historical story started brewing and would not let go. We left Newport in mid-September, by the end of October I started writing the story unable to wait for November and the start of NaNoWriMo.

I wrote the story and as is my process, did one quick edit then let it sit. That’s when the research began. I took a class through RWA University on how to conduct Historical research led by the wonderful Tessa Dare. Thanks to her, everything blew open after that. As I’m working on edits, almost a year later, I’m amazed at just how much I’ve learned not only about Newport during the 1770’s but also about the Revolutionary War. Most history classes don’t teach you just how lucky we were to win that conflict. If you look at the numbers and wins and losses, the United States really shouldn’t have won the war.

Here are a few pictures from the edits happening this weekend. If I had a true office, these maps would be pinned to the wall while I worked so I could just glance at what I needed instead of having to roll and unroll, but you make it work.

The Price of goods according to the Providence newspaper in 1779. (During the British occupation of Newport, the island’s newspaper shut down)  Drawn in 1777
  One of three sections to the map showing conflict locations during the war for independence.  Reconciling information from a 1777 map with a 1781 and 2015 map of the town of Newport.

Just a few of the books used to find information. These are from the library and I ended up purchasing a few of them for future books.

This is the process I’m using. I decided to keep it as accurate as possible. There are writers who enjoy putting modern characters in historical setting and those stories are fun. I wanted to go this path because I’ve learned quite a bit from the historical romances I’ve read and I hope to continue that tradition for readers. It’s amazes me how much information is left out of the history books. This is my way of bringing some of that information to others who may not be able to take the little history tours offered in these cities that played such a large role in forming our nation.

Here’s an excerpt from For Honor or Love, coming Fall 2015

Hurrying down one of the alleys off Bulls Street, headed toward the Colony House, Ellsbeth rushed to finish her errands. The wind caught the edge of her shawl and she struggled under the weight of the apple bushel she carried. She set the basket down, tucking the frayed ends of her mother’s shawl into the apron tied around her waist in an attempt to hold it in place.

September in Newport was still somewhat pleasant, though the morning air held a crispness that seeped through her threadbare overdress. Her petticoats were practically see-through, as well as her chemise. Her brothers had foraged scraps of cotton and wool where they could find it so she could mend their clothes before the last winter, a bitterly cold affair, had set in on the island though she doubted Geordie’s clothes had been mended recently. He’d lost his housewife kit on a march not long after joining the Continental Army.

Continuing on her way, a soldier rushed in front of her just as she cleared the corner of the building, his coat tails flapping. She stumbled to a stop, almost emptying the contents of the basket in her haste to right it.

“Sorry, miss.” He hastily bowed, then continued on his way.

She walked the short distance to the three-story brick building and halted at the base of the marble stairs. She went around to the front knowing Mrs. Milton would simply tell her to find the captain if she showed up at the back door. The object of her thoughts stood waiting for her at the top of the steps.

“Ah, Miss Greene.” Captain Barrow greeted her. While nice in front of others, he tended to make comments that made her uncomfortable when left alone in his presence. “We feared your father had sold his last crop and not saved any for the garrison.”

The smile she forced hurt her wind-burned cheeks and she hoped the captain couldn’t decipher its falseness.

“No, sir. Father makes sure the garrison is well supplied before selling the remainder of the day’s harvest.”

He nodded in approval. Ellsbeth dropped a curtsy before climbing the stairs.

“Excellent. Your father works you too hard, though I’m sure the men appreciate the measure of joy you bring to their day. How long do you think your father will be able to supply the His Majesty’s Army?”

She tried to keep her face clear of all thoughts. Her father had known Captain Barrow would ask soon. The trees only produced for so long, but Captain Barrow never seemed to appreciate that fact.

“The trees are about half full. Papa says the higher fruit will be ready in a week or so.”

“Good, good.”

She shifted the weight of the basket to her left hip, rocking to the other side to balance the load. As she did, one shiny orb bounced out of the basket and down the marble steps. Captain Barrow watched the glossy fruit as it thumped and plopped to the bottom, eventually being stomped into a mealy mess by a passing horse carriage.

“Tsk, tsk, my dear Miss Greene.”

“I’ll put an extra three apples in the next bushel to make up for that one, Sir.” Ellsbeth hoped the Captain was in a good mood today. If not, her father would be docked a penny, if not two for just the one apple.

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