Jo here, with a story to tell that travels from June 1815 to September 2011, though as often with stories it's hard to know where to start.
To me, the story starts in January 1991, during the Gulf War. We've become accustomed to real-time, round-the-clock reporting from wars, but January 1991 was the beginning. A reminder — this is before the World Wide Web, so no going on line to catch the latest, and certainly no Twitter! The Web came into existence in prototype in August 1991, and the first image was put there in 1992. The Web as we know it can probably be dated to about 1995.
So, back in early 1991, I like many, sat darkly enthralled watching missiles hit buildings in flares of bright light, trying to remind myself that they were real buildings containing real people because it did look all too much like a video game.
In January 1991 I was particularly struck by the immediacy, because I was then writing An Unwilling Bride, the second in my Company of Rogues books, which takes place during the time of Napoleon's return to France and the Battle of Waterloo.
I'd previously given no thought to war reporting, but as I searched out records of when news of Waterloo reached England, and what that news was, the time lag was striking. When in the book the first news of battle reaches London, Nicholas Delaney says, "It's all happened, of course. Somewhere the living are rejoicing, the dead are dead, and the wounded are suffering under the knife. And mayby tomorrow or the next day we'll find out about it."
(The picture is a photograph taken by author Karen Harbaugh at a re-enactment at Waterloo.)
Yet each night I switched on the TV to see battle raging. I do believe that the presence of war on the TV gave depth to my writing about Waterloo as seen from those waiting helplessly in London.
Those waiting could not have anticipated the huge numbers who died at Waterloo. One site estimates it at 6,000 an hour, to a total of over 20,000, with many more wounded.Wellington famously said, "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won."
There's a list of the officers killed, wounded, and missing on June 18th, at the main battle, here. There are lists of the dead here. Go back to this page for more.
The Reaction back in England.
The news trickled across the Channel, some of it wrong, and jubilation at news of victory was muted by rumors about the high casualty rate. When the casualty lists finally arrive, the Rogues who have gathered in London learn that a Rogue is listed among the dead. Not one of the military men who'd returned to fight Napoleon, but Lord Darius Debenham, who'd pulled strings as a duke's son to be taken on as a courier. The lightest, brightest, merriest of them all.
It is then that Nicholas makes a toast. "To all the fallen: may they be forever young in heaven. To all the wounded: may they have strength and heal. To all the bereaved: may they feel joy again. And please God, may there one day be an end to war."
An Unwilling Bride was published in 1992 and sold very well.
It created (and still does create) controversy because the hero, Lucien, hits his wife, Beth, and lives to learn from it, but that is a true part of the book because it's about a private war between two strong, intelligent, proud people forced into a marriage they each find intolerable. (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are to discuss it as their Sizzling Book Club for September, which should be interesting!)
It won a RITA award, the Golden Leaf award, and Best Historical from Romantic Times.
And that seemed to be that. I moved on to write the next Rogues book, the last of my trad regencies, and begin to write historicals in the medieval and Georgian period.
The next part of the story.
We move on a decade to September 11th, 2001, when we all watched in real time as people died and buildings fell. A few days later, I received an e-mail from a reader, Suzanne Elliott . She'd been working on an entry for a quilt show but given the events she wanted to make a quilt to acknowledge 9/11 and she wanted permission to include Nicholas's words. Of course I gave it; it was an honor. Visit her web site here.
Here's the quilt. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)
A few years later, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still claiming the lives of soldiers from many countries I was touched to find the quote being used as a sig line on a blog for military wives.
The Final Stage.
And now, completely coincidentally, An Unwilling Bride is being reissued almost exactly on the anniversary of September 11th 2001. (With a modern bride running away, but well…. there you go! The original cover above reflects the book much better.)
It's not a book about Waterloo. As I said, it's mostly about a private war and it was only the time sequence of the Rogues books that put it in Spring 1815.
Any connection to 9/11 in only in threads through time.
As I've explained in this blog, there a synchronicity that reminds that as we weave our writer's magic from our imagination we gather in the threads of the world around us, a world that now comes into our living room with full colour immediacy every hour of every day. These threads connect like a web to all we can imagine to produce our novels, each surely shaped by the time in which they're written, no matter the time period of the story.
If it hadn't been for the Gulf War, and CNN's new way of reporting on war, I might not have decided that the truth of war demanded that the dreadful death toll at Waterloo had to include a Rogue.
Because my mind plays a strong part, too, I couldn't leave Dare dead, but I his existence years later needed an explanation that satisfied my internal truth and so he was revealed to be a victim of drug addiction and a compulsion honour would not let him break. To my surprise, his situation wove back to the beginning of the Rogue's series, written in 1977, when Nicholas Delaney was persuaded to use his amorous skills to obtain a list of secret Napoleonic supporters in Britain. Our creative minds are very complex webs.
There's more about An Unwilling Bride here.
I have no questions to pose on this blog, but I welcome your comments and thoughts, and I will send a copy of the new edition of An Unwilling Bride to a random pick from among them.
May there one day be an end to war,