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Friday, March 2, 2012


Today we welcome best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift, a.k.a Suz deMello. Sue has written over fifteen novels in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy, and erotic, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. In addition, she’s both a freelance editor and a senior editor for Etopia Press. Learn more about Sue at her blogSue is offering an e-version of Lord Devere’s Ward to one of our readers who posts a comment. -- AP

Researching Historical Novels
I wrote the first draft of Lord Devere’s Ward by drawing upon my experiences traveling in England, reading other Regency romances, most notably Georgette Heyer, and studying the manners, mores, and art of the time.

I love to write historical romances mostly because of the research. I love history, especially the way people used to live. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not one of those starry-eyed nostalgia freaks who longs for the “good old days.” I know well that the old days were not good. We live in a wonderful period in history and in a great society, (to rip off LBJ). We have antibiotics, clean air, healthful food, and drinkable water. I’m especially grateful because I lived in China, a developing country, for the better part of a year. China’s air pollution is famous, but few Americans seem to be aware that the water isn’t drinkable without boiling it.

That was also the case in Regency England, but people weren’t aware of bacteria—the germ theory of disease wasn’t completely formulated until later in the century. But they knew that foul water was bad, which accounted for the popularity of tea as well as gin and ale.

I placed the book in 1820, toward the end of the Regency period, and on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, so I had a lot of fun researching the clothes and food of the time.

When researching and writing a novel, I like to base plot points on some unique aspect of the era. In Lord Devere’s Ward, the art of the time precipitates a plot twist late in the story. I don’t want to reveal it, because it’s pretty important, but I will say that because few people were literate, the news and events of the day were often communicated via cartoons and broadsides that were pasted to shop windows, walls, and pillars.

I invite you to delve more deeply into this fascinating time and place by looking at some of the resources available online. I particularly like Candice Hern’s website and the Jane Austen’s World blog. Enjoy!

Blurb of Lord Devere’s Ward:

His honor or his passion…

Orphaned Kate Scoville is trapped in a tower prison by her scheming uncle, who plans to wed her to his loathsome son to gain control of her fortune. Plucky and resourceful, Lady Kate escapes to London to beg help from her guardian, the elderly Earl of Devere. But once she arrives, Kate is astounded to find that the Earl has died and his son has inherited–and her new guardian cuts a very dashing figure.

Quinn, the present Earl, remembers Kate from his childhood as an awkward child he loved to tease. But his father’s ward has grown into a beautiful young woman, and when she comes to him in need, he finds his thoughts far from honorable. Duty demands he offer his protection, but their attraction is irresistible, and the temptation of the dark-haired beauty may be too much for even an honorable man to resist…

Badham Abbey, Wiltshire, England
January, 1820

"God, help me!"

Kate Scoville kicked and flailed her feet, struggling to grip the tower wall with her oversized boots. She whispered a hasty prayer in the chance that the Almighty paid attention to her small corner of His world. Wearing clumsy, borrowed gloves, she grasped the rope tied to the attic window and pushed her boots against the side of the tower, seeking purchase on the wall.

At last, her toes found a mortared joint between two massive blocks of stone. She breathed deeply until her racing pulse steadied. The chill air knifed her lungs. She could see her breath, small puffy clouds, when she exhaled.

She looked down and gulped. Three far stories below her, the slate roof of the abbey gleamed, pale and frosty in the moonlight.

She tried not to utter curses damning her wretched uncle, whose treachery had brought her to such desperate straits. First he'd torn her away from her beloved home in Somerset. Then he'd nagged her to marry his beef-witted son, Osborn, until she thought he'd drive her quite out of her mind. Locking her in an icy tower attic until she cooperated had been the proverbial last straw.

She inched her boots down the tower wall. The short sword she wore on her belt beat against her side with every halting step as her cape flapped around her knees. She finally attained her immediate goal: the abbey's second-story roof. Still clasping the rope, she crept across the slippery slates. If she reached the edge of the roof without mishap, she'd climb down to the ground by way of a convenient vine or tree.

At the end of the rope, she released it with a shaky, nervous hand. A few steps later, her feet flew out from under her. Yelping, she fell with a bump to slide down the pitched roof, scrabbling for a hold.

Scant feet from the brink, she plunged into a black gap. Her cape caught on the rough edges and timbers of the roof, breaking her fall. Despite her clinging garb, she plummeted through the hole, too shocked and frightened to scream.

Intrigued? Want to read more? Post a comment, and you could be the winner of an e-copy of Lord Devere’s Ward. -- AP


Sheila W. Boneham said...

Interesting post. The research needed for a historical novel seems absolutely overwhelming to me, but I'm so glad that people like you do it! Nothing better than a good story couched in good historical & cultural material. Thank you for the post, the links, and the teaser - the book sounds great.

Sue Swift said...

Thanks, Sheila! I have an erotic historical coming out that's set in 1748 Scotland, shortly after Culloden Moor. That was also a lot of fun to research :)