Historical romance author Linda Carroll-Bradd has widespread interests ranging from baking and crocheting to watching dog agility matches and reading thrillers by Swedish authors. Today she joins us to talk about a holiday story that almost went awry. Learn more about her and her books at her blog.
Holiday Story Almost Gone Awry
I love writing romances set in the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition to the simpler lifestyle with fewer possessions and people needing to work together to put food on the table and clothes on back, new innovations happened every day. American society was an unobstructed melting pot during those decades. People from so many different countries comprised the citizens of towns of all sizes. (As has been traced by family genealogists, my ancestors on both paternal and maternal side arrived from Scandinavian and Ireland in the early 1800s. But I like to include some creature comforts so my stories usually occur after the Civil War.) The majority of the historical romances I write are set in small towns and usually one of the characters is first or second generation from a European country. I then delve into the ethnic customs of that country so I can include an interesting tidbit.
In A Vow for Christmas, my most recent novella, set in 1872 Gunnison City, Colorado, the only requirements were that the story takes place at Christmas time and that the heroine be a spinster mail-order bride. I made her of Scottish descent and researched foods, wedding customs, literature, songs, the plaid associated with her last name, etc. To build on the fish-out-of-water trope, I wrote her as introducing foods to the hero sheep rancher, like neeps (turnips), mince and tatties (seasoned beef and potatoes), and clootie dumpling (steamed pudding).
More than halfway through writing my story (with a looming preorder deadline), the plot approached preparations for the Christmas holiday. So I switched gears and went into research mode. Only to discover (to my great embarrassment) that the Scots hadn’t celebrated what they called Christ’s Mass since 1647. In Oliver Cromwell’s rule, Parliament in the United Kingdom had placed a ban against the celebration. Although the ban lasted only 15 years in Britain, the Scots maintained it until the late 1950s. Yikes!
Thankfully, I’ve been a writer long enough not to waste time in too long of a panic, and I pivoted. Instead of her bringing her holiday traditions to the family, she turned to the widower and his two small children. They share their traditions, and she finally learns about what she had always felt left out of while growing up around other children who celebrated the holiday. A save! Definitely I learned the lesson of making sure to do research on the critical elements before writing. Still, I’m very pleased with how the story turned out. I hope readers agree.
A Vow for Christmas
Spinster Mail-Order Brides, Book 7
Vika Carmichael hopes a mail-order marriage to a Colorado rancher with small children will provide much-needed security. What she yearns for is a love match. But her new husband Chad seems set in his ways, including his devotion to his late wife. Will this family of three embrace her, or has she made the worse choice possible?