‘Tis the season for Wenchly book releases! Next week will see publication of books by Loretta and Edith. Both will be delicious.
This week saw the release of A Distant Magic. It is—affordable. <g> Yes, this is the paperback reprint of last summer’s hardcover edition. So not new, but affordable is good.
Though Pat and I didn’t discuss this, her post on slavery Monday was a fine segue into my post since A Distant Magic is set amidst the 18th century British abolition movement. With historical romance, there’s always a balance between the romance and the history. (And in this case, also fantasy.) A powerful romance is always at the core of my stories, but I also like to use interesting history to enhance the story.
As I said, it’s a stunning story—and figuring out how to weave that into a romance over several decades was a major challenge. The solution was time travel, with my hero and heroine being transported through time to protect the fragile beginnings of the abolition movement. In the early days, the death of a single man, particularly Thomas Clarkson or William Wilberforce, would have set the movement back for years, perhaps decades.
But abolition was the result of many people working together, and I didn’t want to lose sight of that. Neither did I want to make it seem as if it was exclusively a white movement. As writers and fighters, blacks worked for their own liberty. The picture at the left is of Olaudah Equiano, who was kidnapped into slavery, eventually bought his freedom, and wrote a bestselling account of his life that helped changed minds in Britain.
One of my three point of view characters in ADM is Adia, an African-born sorceress. I loved Adia, and used her story to illuminate slavery in the 18th century. Captured as a child in Africa, sold into the West Indies, Adia used her intelligence and will to improve her lot, and ultimately escape slavery with her husband and child. In London, she joins with other African sorcerers in a vow to free all of their fellows—a vow that takes her to Jean Macrae and Nikolai Gregorio, my piratical part-African hero.
It was quite a journey the four of us had, and it was certainly one of the most difficult books I’ve written. But despite the history, it’s still a romance. (Booklist,the magazine of the American Library Association, listed it as one of the Top Ten Romances of 2007.)
At the center of the story are two forceful characters. Both are strong, both have magic, both bear the scars of living. Nikolai kidnaps Jean in Marseilles for he has sworn vengeance on the Macrae family because of what he sees as her father’s betrayal.
But once he has her, what is he to do with her? A scene from early in their relationship::
"Nikolai leaped back aboard his ship to find the Scottish witch. He found her at the dinghy, slashing at the lines that secured it to the deck. A thick red braid fell over her shoulder, and her small white hands wielded a corsair blade with unnerving expertise.
“Don’t waste your strength,” he barked. “You’re not leaving this ship.”
She pivoted, sword in hand. It was a lovely nimcha, one he wouldn’t mind owning. She hissed, “Don’t come near me!”
He paused out of her reach, realizing that he was disinclined to move closer. She was using some kind of magical shield. He could overcome it, but he would have to use his own magic to do so.
Reluctantly amused by the blazing red-haired hellion who confronted him with lethal menace, he asked, “Where is that well-bred young lady I kidnapped in Marseilles?”
“She existed mostly in your mind.” Her crisp voice was as different as her demeanor and her garb. “I’m no meek English virgin, captain. I rode to battle against the king’s army in the Rising of Forty-Five. When my lover died, I led our men myself. After Culloden, I guided them home safely across country filled with pillaging English soldiers. You underestimated me, as most men do.” Her eyes narrowed. “I could have killed you. Instead, I saved your life. Surely that is worth my freedom.”
“Why should I be fair when I hold all the power?” Thinking she was unlikely to attack him, he concentrated his power and reached out slowly to take the sword.
She sliced the blade across his wrist with just enough pressure to draw blood, then danced back a step. “Not all the power. There’s a good chance that I can kill you before any of your men observe this little scene.” She showed her teeth. “We shall learn if your power of attack is greater than my ability to shield.”
Needless to say, Jean and Nikolai eventually work things out. <g> (More information and an excerpt at http://maryjoputney.com/ADMmore.htm )
The fun is in the journey. If you haven’t read the book, this is a good time to consider getting a copy. And if you’re feeling lucky—a signed copy of this new mass market edition will go to one of the people who leave a comment between now and midnight Sunday.
Do you avoid stories with dramatic history (like wars) because it gets in way of the romance? Or do you enjoy learning something new, and find that the individuality of real history enhances the reading experience? We Wenches would love to know!