Every historical I write allows me to follow fluffy white rabbits down research rabbit holes. I've discovered the most intriguing and amazing tidbits of history in my historical research Wonderland. Losing myself in research is one of my ‘happy places’. It’s important to me to have the details in my stories as historically accurate as possible. I’m not perfect in this endeavor, nor am I a ‘professional’ researcher, but I conscientiously work at achieving accuracy, so it’s my hope that upon the rare occasion my history, geography, or dialogue is off, readers will forgive the faux pas.
Reason 2—Living vicariously in the past
While I’m writing a story set in the past, I get to travel to a different place and time and live in someone else's shoes, so-to-speak. I’m like Anthony Marston in Quigley Down Under: “…Some men [women] are born in the wrong century.” All my life I’ve felt out-of-place living in our ‘modern’ world. So when I transport myself to the time in which my characters are living, I’m in another one of my ‘happy places’.
Reason 3—Challenge of overcoming inconveniences
I like writing stories that lack modern day conveniences. Without the amenities we’re accustomed to nowadays, there are so many juicy complications for the characters to face, deal with, and overcome that otherwise could be written away with a call on the cell phone or by hopping an airplane to get where they're going in a jiffy. Just imagine the possibilities…
Communication: When the hero and heroine have to depend upon letter writing and telegraph messages, both of which were slow (relatively speaking) and could more easily be intercepted or even lost, the villain has the opportunity to weasel his way into the heroine’s life and console her because she thinks the hero has jilted her at the altar when he doesn’t show up for their wedding when actually the villain has intercepted the telegram that explains the legitimate reason for the hero’s delay.
Transportation: Transportation wasn’t necessarily convenient or terribly comfortable. Horseback riding was functional, but for long periods of time over great distances is exhausting and full of plot-enhancing dangers and challenges. Stagecoach travel was cramped, dirty/dusty, really hot/really cold, and could be dangerous. It lacked privacy that women need. Obtaining a decent meal could be an on-going problem. Generally, stage travel was a grueling test of endurance. Traveling by train was limited to where the tracks were laid, and it shared many of the same drawbacks as stage travel, plus it had the additional discomfort of soot and cinders coming into the passenger cars. Any or all of these situations make for interesting reading.
When the heroine is traveling--by herself, of course--she might be kidnapped by a drop-dead handsome train robber or (egads!) find herself stranded on the Texas prairie with nothing but a scoundrel of a gambler as her companion and the one surviving horse from the stagecoach team after the Comanche attack.
Contraception: Without our modern-day contraceptives, the possibility of pregnancy looms in historical stories as an ever-present consequence of a romantic dalliance. This is a great plot device for building the sexual tension between the hero and heroine. Fear of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the real threat of dying in childbirth both add another layer of anxiety to the romantic relationship that isn’t as much of an issue in contemporary stories.
Medicine: Sophisticated antibiotics as we know them were virtually nonexistent back in the ‘olden days’, which makes the recovery difficult and, sometimes, the character’s very survival tenuous given the physical torture/wounds/injuries we, as authors, inflict upon them. Lack of antibiotics makes the situation all that more dire for the hero when the lady doctor extracts the arrow from his thigh.
The scenarios are endless, and I'm sure you've either read them or written them.
So, with that, here’s a teaser from my newest story, A Permanent Bride, which is one of the stories in the Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride anthology.
The hero has ninety days in which to find a wife or he’ll lose the opportunity to gain custody of his grandchildren. By the time he places an advertisement in the Matrimony Courier for a mail-order bride, he’s squandered thirty days. There’s no time for courtship. The heroine needs a new identity and a place out west in which to hide and, since she has no time to be choosy about how that happens, becoming a mail-order bride is as good of a solution as any. They don’t know it yet, but they’re a perfect match made in a mail-order magazine heaven.
Isn’t this a deliciously convoluted plot? ;-) And it works because it’s set over 100 years in the past.
Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride is available in print and digital format at these online booksellers: