From an early age I’ve been fascinated by the Middle Ages. I grew up watching Ladyhawke and The Princess Bride long before I came across Jane Austen. York has Regency assembly rooms and Viking remains, but the medieval city I walked round almost daily slipped into my consciousness a lot deeper. If I had the choice of visiting a castle or a stately home I’d always choose the opportunity to rampage along the ramparts, and as a tomboy my games of choice were invariably swordfights not dancing with the Ton.
It’s no wonder that when I started writing my first historical romance I had a lot to think about in terms of characters, settings, plot and so forth, but the one thing I didn’t have to consider was the time period.
On a recent trip to Bath I was more captivated by the Roman baths than the Royal Crescent and while I was in the exhibition there something in particular caught my eye. It was a scene of a Roman blacksmith at his forge, which looked remarkably similar to the ones in later centuries. This was only a month or so since The Blacksmith’s Wife had been released and it got me wondering if my stories could have fitted into other eras.
My first book was set in a fictional country in the high middle ages but wasn’t dated to any real life events or places.
I’ve often fantasised about re-writing Falling for Her Captor set in the 1920s between warring gangster families involved in power struggles and territory grabs, with the villain’s second in command torn between loyalty to a criminal mastermind and doing the right thing.
Rival Greek city states might have been fun, with a bit of island hopping by boat replacing the horse and cart. It would have to be a time where transport wasn’t too fast or I’d lose the journey aspect that was key to Aline and Hugh’s developing love story. I’d also hate to lose the wolf scene too because it is still one of my favourites.
A Wager for the Widow is the book I think would translate best to another period. I first pitched it as a medieval workplace romance but re-reading it (I can do that after long enough has past to get some distance) it struck me that it had a bit of an Austen-ish feel to it.
Set in a nobleman’s establishment, the hero and heroine are thrown together to organise a midwinter ball. It has a ne’er do well brother who involves the hero in a scheme against his better judgment, a pushy mother obsessed with marrying off her daughters to rich suitors and deals with class distinction and social climbing. I can see it time travelling quite well to the Regency period, with covert glances in the drawing room between the independently wealthy, bluestocking-ish Eleanor and rakish, ambitious household steward Will.
Regency fans should give the book a go and let me know what you think.
The Blacksmith’s Wife, which got me thinking about this in the first place, was set a decade or so after the Great Pestilence (or Black Death to modern readers) in 1349 had ravaged the country because I wanted Joanna to have been orphaned by something that had a wide reaching effect on Yorkshire and in turn had impacted on the prosperity of the lands owned by Hal’s father.
It was also the golden age for tournaments with knights being the sporting heroes of the day. Every era had the blacksmith as an essential member of the community so I had more fun speculating which other time period would be a good setting for Roger, the less than chivalric knight who captured Joanna’s unwise heart. Perhaps the early days of motor racing with Hal as the humble mechanic and his brother the glamorous driver would make a dramatic setting?
This brings me to my December release. The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge deals with the impact of the Norman invasion of England on the native population of the country.
The hero Aelric is deprived of his lands and title and forced to build a new life as a refugee in Wales then as an outlaw in the wilds of Cheshire. The heroine, Constance is torn between loyalty to her people, her love for Aelric and the personal hatred she bears for the man responsible for both their hardship.
I toyed with setting this in the aftermath of the Roman invasion of Britain and I can think of any number of situations where one nation has marched into another causing devastation (up to and including the 21st Century), however my job is to entertain and provide escapism without becoming too political, so firmly in the past it stays.
Changing the time period of a story isn’t a new thing. Wagon Train in Space was the genius idea that created the original Star Trek series and The Seven Samurai was remade as The Magnificent Seven. Then of course there are the Jane Austen and Shakespeare updates for Bridget Jones, Clueless, Ten Things I Hate About You and so on. I had fun thinking of alternatives for my books.
Which story would you love to see reworked in a new time period?
A passion forged from fire
Rejected by her favoured knight, Joanna Sollers knows she will never love again. Especially when the man she’s now forced to marry is none other than her beloved’s half-brother!
For blacksmith Hal Danby, marrying Joanna makes his life-long dream of entering the Smiths’ Guild possible, even if the secrets in his past mean he’ll forever keep his distance. But everything changes with one stolen night, and in the arms of his new bride, Hal wonders if this loveless arrangement could transform into something real…