Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Friday, March 13, 2009

National Women’s History Month – a salute to the American frontier woman.

Welcome to the Seduced by History blog. I was seduced by history as a young child. I was lucky enough to grow up in a Midwest extended family with a rich oral tradition. As a child I heard stories of my ancestors’ life and times as they settled in what was at one time a wilderness along with their adventures with wild animals, weather and each other. These stories of who we are and where we come from have always fascinated me. So naturally I gravitated to the study of history, eventually earning a BA in History, a MA in History and a BA in European Studies (Yeah, over educated!), and taught at the college level.

Now a good history teacher is nothing if not a good story teller, and as I taught everyone said you know all these ‘stories’, you should write a book. Which is a lot of fun (doing the research) and a lot of work (actually writing the book). Even though my history degrees mostly focus on British and European history, when it came time to write, I went back to my roots. The American frontier – the place where men and women work together to make a home and a civilization.

Since this is National Women’s History month, I was trying to think of a specific woman to blog about. But I think I’ll go with the ‘every woman’ who left the home she grew up in and went with the man she loved and set out to make a new home. These are the women I write about, the women who were our grandmothers, and great grandmothers, and beyond. The women who made us what we are today.

Before the 20th Century and the gaining of legal rights, women had to get along in a narrower world, and they did by courage and pride and commitment to their ideals. These are the women (and men) whose story I want to tell. The fictional people who might have lived down the road from my ancestors.

I set my first story in Kentucky in 1794. April Williamson was born in the frontier in Boonesboro, but with the death of her father her mother took her back to Philadelphia. Now a widow, April wants to return home to Kentucky where she can make her living as a seamstress.

Because she’s a widow, she has control over her life.
An excerpt from the text: "I seem to have started in the middle. Let me explain. My name is April Williamson and I need transportation to Oak Point."
Mr. Murray looked intrigued. April chanced a glance at Mr. McKenzie. If anything, his frown had deepened. With a prickle of annoyance, she turned to him and asked, "Is something wrong?"
"Where are your menfolk?" His voice held a tone of manufactured civility.
Meaning of course, April thought tartly, where is the man who takes care of you? He would, of course, expect a young woman to be attached to some man. A measure of her self-confidence returned. She had the perfect, irrefutable answer. "I have no menfolk. My husband died last November."
With satisfaction she noted Mr. McKenzie's surprise and discomfort. "I've inherited property near Oak Point. I appreciate it's unusual for your company to take passengers, but there's no other means of getting to Kentucky."

An excerpt from a review: April is presented as sensible and intelligent. Her character tone was set early on with her reaction to Dan's initial refusal to take her along. She doesn't whine, cry, or beg prettily. Instead, she acts with dignity, simply asking Dan (McKenzie) and his partner, Scotty (Murray), to please think about it and reconsider. The letter to General Wayne is no female machination to force Dan's hand; it's a move made before she met him. And her actions on the trail are just as adult. The result of this was that by the time they reached Kentucky, I really did believe that April would make it on her own, an idea I didn't entirely embrace at the beginning of the story. (see http://www.theromancereader.com/blain-kentucky.html review)

Because the time frame of 1794 is not exactly main stream, I blogged about this story on Unusual Historicals http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2008/10/guest-author-terry-blain.html

Of course, because KENTUCKY GREEN is a romance the hero and heroine have obstacles to overcome. April refuses to let her fear of Indians or the disapproval of Dan McKenzie, the civilian army scout she coerces into escorting her, to deter her. Despite her resolve to keep the independence of widowhood, and Dan's belief the frontier is no place for a woman, they fall in love amid the dangers and hazards of the journey. But Dan knows April cannot be his. He was present at the Indian massacre that killed April’s father – not as a settler, but as one of the Indians.

For my next story, COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD, I went further west and forward in time to the 1880s.

Masquerading as a widow, socialite Juliette Lawson flees Philadelphia to ‘visit’ her uncle in Durango, Colorado. At a train stop she literally bumps into a handsome man before continuing on to Durango. For Julie, family is all important and her visit hides a secret to protect her pregnant sister back east. Here is a young woman who determined enough to set out on her own and carry the burden of a secret for what is important to her. Throughout the course of the story, Julie’s independence and self assurance grows stronger.

While family is all important for Julie, it means nothing to Wes Westmoreland. An undercover agent for Wells Fargo, Wes grew up in the saloons and brothels of San Francisco. For Wes, his job is all important as he see it as the only redeeming feature of his life. But as Wes and Julie fall in love, both have secrets to conceal. Secrets that could drive them apart forever.

I’m proud that this story received a 4 Spur review at Love Western Romance. http://www.lovewesternromances.com/coloradosilvercoloradogold.html

Currently, I’ve created a town in central Texas in the 1870s where my hero Texas Rangers are falling in love with more American frontier women. Charity Simmons has run away from a utopian community in the east, and plans to open a restaurant and be independent. Abbie Sinclair (like April Williamson above) returns to Texas from Chicago to claim the ranch she grew up on as a child. Spinster Kate Rocklin is content to run a boarding house until her childhood love returns to town.

As you can tell, I have a real respect for the American women who helped civilize the frontier. And the romance element is the universality of any story. Regardless of time or setting, social customs, economic conditions, politics, wars, crusades or whatever, there is always the relationship between men and women to be explored.

Also, I think knowing the past in important. You know Koko the gorilla who learned sign language? When she signs "the past" she motions in front of her, when she signs "the future" she motions behind her, as we can see what in front (the past) but can't see behind us (the future). So how can we know where we want to go in the future unless we have some idea of our past?

Since I was lucky enough to grow up with a sense of community and history from the stories I heard my family tell writing historical romance gives me the opportunity pass on stories of who we are and where we come from while exploring the relationship between men and women. What could be more fun than that?

Both KENTUCKY GREEN and COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD are available on Amazon – just search for author ‘Terry Blain’. You can also purchase the books directly from the publisher at Wings http://wings-press.com/ as either a paperback or electronic edition by author.

Terry Irene Blain
Escape to the past with a romantic adventure


Diana Cosby said...

Fabulous blog. I loved, "Now a good history teacher is nothing if not a good story teller." I'd never thought of a history teacher as a good story teller, but you're right. :) Neat. Enjoy your weekend!


Kathryn Albright said...

Hi Terry,
I enjoyed the synopsis of both of your stories. And the covers are lovely. Although I read regencies and medieval stories and enjoy them, I admit I love the American set stories best. You are so lucky to have such a strong background in history.

Terry Blain said...

Kathryn, thanks for the comment. The one thing I really have to research is the clothing, as since it's a romance, there is a good chance someones clothes are coming off.


Terry Blain said...

Thanks, Diana. I always though of teaching history as telling a story where the students already know the end (at least I hoped they know who won the American Civil War, instance).

I found they remember better if the 'story' was tied to a person and an event.

once a teacher, always a teacher

Merline said...

Hi, Terry -

Great plot lines and super covers. I love the frontier period in Kentucky Green. I researched that time frame extensively for one of my books, too -- A SAVAGE BEAUTY.

Have fun blogging!

Laurie Schnebly Campbell said...

Terry, congratulations on launching your blog -- seems very daring to choose a Friday-the-13th kickoff date, but that shows you've got the confidence to make it work!

Bess McBride said...

Your covers are fabulous, Terry! A lovely post!

Bess McBride

Linda Wisdom said...

A wonderful post, Terry! It's a time period I've always enjoyed too.


Roxanne St. Claire said...

Had to stop by and congralate one of my favorite writers on a great new blog! Love the stories and can't wait to be seduced by history and your wonderful voice!


Terry Blain said...


Thanks for the comment. I read and enjoyed Savage Beauty. And the one about the Spanish American war - can't remember the title.

Always love a good historical.

Terry Blain said...

Thanks for dropping by. I used 13 as it's the number my son always had on his soccer jersey all those years.

Just FYI, all those Texas stories I'm writing benefited from you ennegrams workshop. Thanks.

Terry Blain said...

Hi, Roxanne! When I do my Setting as Character workshop, I use examples from your first three Bullet Catcher series as good examples.

One, becasue they are very good, and two becasue I know how you got the information on Balboa Park :)

Nancy said...

Wonderful post, Terry! I'm not currently writing historicals, but oh how I love to read them! Your books sound marvelous!

Nancy Haddock

Vanessa Kelly said...

Great blog, Terry! I really enjoyed reading about your characters, and the different time periods you place them in.

Kris Kennedy said...

Terry ~
Great job on your first ever blog! :-)
I often think of the 'frontier' women and how truly impressive they were. Your post was a great reminder. Thanks!!

Rae Monet said...

Great blog, Terry!

Gerri Bowe said...

Great blog, Terry. I'm so glad to see COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD published! :D