It’s been fascinating to see the posts by the other Wenches on what makes their heroines wicked. My heroine, Lydia Cole, is the landlady of the Silent Wench Inn in a dark and dangerous corner of Wales. It’s the first time I’ve set a story in Wales and I wonder why I’ve waited so long because the setting really appeals to me. It feels wild and lawless, the perfect place for a handsome and rakish hero to be marooned on a winter's night.
It was a co-incidence that I was on holiday on the west coast of Wales around the time that we were discussing ideas for the Wench anthology but I think it must have been serendipity. We were staying in a seaside cottage close to the town of Newport and as soon as I visited it I knew it was the town where my heroine Lydia Cole would hide when she runs away from society to reinvent herself. I won’t give away too many details of Lydia’s “wickedness”; let’s just say that the Silent Wench Inn doesn’t simply offer refreshment to travellers, it runs a fine sideline in other less respectable activities too, some of which are downright illegal. Records show that Newport was a trading port from the 16th century onwards and it's geographical position made it an ideal centre for free trading. Smuggling in Wales continued a lot later into the nineteenth century than it did in many other parts of the British Isles.
I also wanted to bring Newport Castle into the story. The west coast of Wales was fought over for hundreds of years. The Normans established a barony in Newport in the 13th century and the site of their first wooden motte and bailey castle can still be seen. Subsequent stone castles were destroyed when the Welsh fought back under Prince Rhys Ap Gruffydd and later under Owain Glyndwr. The current castle is a seriously spooky looking place, a nineteenth century renovation of a medieval building. I actually saw a bat fly out of the open window!
One little detail that I picked up from the history of Newport and wanted to incorporate into my story was the school. The first school in Newport was established in 1809 funded by and named after Madam Bevan of Laugharne. It was part of a nationwide movement of “Circulating Schools” set up to give children in rural communities the opportunity to receive an education. In my story Lydia may be complicit in some illegal trades but she also teaches at the school and is an important part of the local community.
The other inspiration for my story was Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. This evocative description could have been written to describe Newport:
“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobbled streets silent and the hunched courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.”
I substituted winter for spring and away I went with On A Wicked Winter Night!
Today Wench Pat is offering a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe to one commenter in North America and I am offering a copy to a commenter from "the rest of the world" so you get two Wench giveaways for the price of one!
Where do you stand on stories where the hero or heroine breaks the law? Does it depend on the circumstances or is it just plain wrong no matter the reason? Do you have a favorite book with a law-breaking hero or heroine?