Since Mary Jo is writing about the War of 1812, and my early Americans are being re-released this month, I thought it might be fun to take a little jog back to our elementary school history classes.
Before you turn up your noses, consider this: The American Revolution took place during the Georgian era we so fondly write about in our historical romances, and the War of 1812 was smack dab in the midst of our favorite Regency era. The Americans participating in these confrontations were on the whole, Europeans and mostly English, or descendants thereof. We are essentially talking about the same characters we’re reading about in English Regencies, except they’re on a different continent. My westerns go further and deeper than those early years, delving into the Victorian era—at that point, the cultural dividing line between the US and England is a little more marked, but quite often, the attitudes are the same.
If you’re into astrology, I think 1812 had to be under the planet of change and upheaval. Aside from impoverished Russia stemming Napoleon’s disastrous invasion, the infant US also challenged the world-powerhouse British army to war. We had earthquakes that sent the Mississippi River running backward. American Robert Fulton spent most of his adult life in Europe learning how to build steam engines, and that year, he happened to sail the first steamboat from Pittsburgh to New Orleans—during the earthquake. (the image is of the Clermont, his first successful endeavor in 1807) The U.S. acquired the enormous Louisiana Purchase—impacting large numbers of French and Spanish citizens as well as British and American. All these changed history and affected people on both sides of the Atlantic. Political history may be divided by country, but social history is too connected to specify American or English.
I often hear the arguments that readers prefer the luxury of wealthy English nobility for their romantic fantasies, but in LORD ROGUE, my hero is a wealthy English viscount, as well as a bad boy rebelling against his heritage. My heroine is a Philadelphia heiress who wears the same lovely gowns as her English counterparts. They have wealth. They have luxury. The fun is when you throw these people out of their elements. Survival is a much more interesting conflict than marrying the wrong duke, in my humble opinion. (OK, the American fashion plate is from 1849, but I couldn't resist it.)
I freely admit that I often find the Regency world as we write it just a little claustrophobic—certainly that is one of the reasons I write the MAGIC series. I love humor and I’m not as much into conflict as I was in those early days, so I understand the relaxation of a good comedy among dukes and heiresses. But now that BIRTH OF A NATION is about to hit the movie scene, wouldn’t you like to see just a little more about the history of the US and how we became what we are today?
If the answer is a big yawn, I’ll cease and desist with the fun (to me!) facts I’ve been rummaging through in an effort to brush up my memory of our founding fathers. Having only recently learned that my paternal ancestors were French Huguenots as well as minor British nobility, and that the Dutch Reformed Church my father belonged to was actually Calvinist, I’m off down my next rabbit hole. Stop me if you don’t want to hear the results!