Today I’m sharing a look at the making of my historical romance, Dangerous Indenture.
As most readers know, I write romances in nearly every genre: contemporary, historical, fantasy, gay, and paranormal. When I write historical romances I never know where (or when) my story will take me. The Viking’s Witch is set in Scotland in 803, Lies, Love & Redemption is a western set in 1877 Nebraska, and Dangerous Indenture is a spicy historical/mystery set in Pennsylvania Colony in the early 1700s.
Here’s the summary:
Eager to escape her past in Ireland, Shauna Farrow signs on to become an indentured servant to Joshua Stewart, a wealthy man in Pennsylvania Colony.
But a life of servitude quickly turns to drudgery, and her hopes for starting over and creating a better life for herself are waning—until she meets her master’s roguish son, Ashton.
Shauna fights her growing attraction to Ashton, torn between propriety and acting on her emotions. But amidst their flirting, something dark stirs. Shauna soon discovers why no other servants will work for the strange Stewart family.
Stewart House has an unsavory reputation: a previous servant died there under mysterious circumstances. When another servant goes missing in the middle of the night, Shauna is convinced that a member of the family is responsible.
When Shauna’s investigation leads her too close to the truth, it’s up to Ashton to save her before time runs out.
So, how did the novel come about? Dangerous Indenture is one of those books that just jumped into my head. (Yes, every so often that happens to writers.) One day, I overheard the name Shawna Farrell, but I thought I’d heard "Shauna Farrow." The name stuck with me and I wrote it down.
A few minutes later, I knew all about her: she was an Irish indentured servant who came to Pennsylvania Colony and worked at a house where a previous servant was murdered. Once I knew that, I started outlining the book.
Before I wrote a word, I did a lot of research. I was starting from a good place with the book—I knew where I wanted to set the story and in approximately what timeframe it should take place.
From there, I spent time in the library going through history books, reading up on Colonial times (What life was like, what people wore, ate, etc.) and indentured servants (Where did they come from? Why did they leave their home country?).
As I wrote, I incorporated my research as background information. This gives the book a rich historical feel without going overboard with details that slow down a scene or are of no interest to readers.
When I’m writing historical romances, I include details and descriptions that are integral to the story. I don’t bog down the plot with a step-by-step procedure for churning butter or how to saddle a horse, and I don’t go into an endless description of how to unfasten a corset (unless it’s befuddling a hero who is eager to remove it!)
Just because historical romances are set in time periods before cars, the Internet, and cell phones, that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make them boring. My historicals include plenty of action, adventure, intrigue, danger, comedy, and sensual love scenes.
When I wrote Dangerous Indenture, I especially enjoyed creating the characters and setting the stage for the drama that’s about to unfold. Right from the start, we’re told that Stewart House is haunted, and then we (and Shauna) meet the master of the house, Joshua Stewart, and his strange family.
Our hero, Ashton Bailey, is flawed and has a lot of problems to overcome. For starters, he’s known as the black sheep of the family and has been sent home in disgrace. He has a reputation as a drunkard and a womanizer, and tends to get himself into troubling situations. By giving Ashton all this “baggage” I made him vulnerable and provided him with lofty goals to reach.
Shauna has come to the Colonies to start over and make a new life for herself. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with anyone—and then she meets Ashton. Shauna is headstrong and independent, and not your typical heroine. She’s brash and opinionated and falls in love with Ashton despite all of his socially unacceptable flaws. Ashton gives her the strength and encouragement she needs to keep going when things look bleak, and he stands up for her at a critical plot point in the story.
When I developed the secondary characters, I made sure to give them all interesting backstories and unusual quirks. Joshua comes off as a mean bear of a man, Minerva just might be crazy (and a murderer), Colin is… a villain in many senses of the word, and Lila thought she had everything going for her—for a while. Not everyone in Stewart House is as they seem, however, and this adds another level of mystery and intrigue to the book.
I love the characters and the fact that Dangerous Indenture is a romance blended with mystery. I had never written a romance set in Colonial times before, and combining all these elements into this Gothic-type story was a lot of fun.
I hope you’ll check it out.
Here’s an excerpt from Dangerous Indenture:
Ashton rolled over and winced. His head ached as if a spike had been driven into his skull. He blinked a few times. Where the hell was he? The air smelled stale. The scent of sweat combined with rum and perfume made his stomach lurch. He looked at the woman sleeping next to him. He was naked in a bed but where? He couldn’t tell one place from another anymore.
Hazy memories from the previous night flashed back to him. He had gotten into a fight and lost the last of his money in a card game. This came on the heels of last week’s fight that had landed him three nights in jail. His father had used his influence to spare him a public flogging for drunken and indecent behavior, but then two days later, he had caused the incident at Mr. Campbell’s house.
He studied the fair-haired girl half covered with a green quilt. In the dim morning light, she appeared ordinary and featureless. Why had he been attracted to her? What was her name? He searched his fuzzy memory. Jane? Joan? It didn’t matter. He had nothing to pay her with.
Now what? He closed his eyes. The letter. Father’s scathing letter had arrived yesterday, ordering him to return to Stewart House at once, before he “disgraced the family’s reputation further.” He had no choice but to go back to the Stewart madhouse for a while. He would endure the torment for a month or two or perhaps the entire summer if he could stand it. Then what? Repeat the pattern again?
Last night he’d been tempted to go down to the docks and sign on to a ship leaving for England or Ireland. In his drunken state, he had reasoned that if he left the colonies, he could start over and begin a new life.
But all the liquor in Boston couldn’t help him take such a bold step. Eventually, he’d admitted the truth to himself. It was easier to crawl into a bottle and ignore the world than to face reality. Besides, what did he have to look forward to?
He sat up and grimaced as a sharp pain shot through his head. Who cared about the future? Right now, he needed food and headache powder. Everything else could wait. He pulled his rumpled breeches from a pile of clothing on the floor and dressed quickly.
As he buttoned his vest, he felt something hard tucked into an inside pocket. A coin! He fished it out and ran his thumb over the edge. It was enough to buy a morning meal.
He glanced at the still-sleeping girl and felt a tug at his heart. Lord knew she deserved it for what she put herself through every night. He placed the coin on the edge of the dresser and slipped from the room, ignoring the rumbling in his stomach...
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I hope you enjoyed this inside look at the making of Dangerous Indenture. I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media!
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