Firstly, my sister (who is five and a half years older than me) found herself amidst a bunch of classmates whose favourite reading consisted of romance novels. My sister, though she never warmed to them, borrowed several dozen, a couple at a time, and brought them home. We raced through them—how long does it take to read a Barbara Cartland, after all?—and I decided, privately, that while this wasn’t great literature, at least it was no-stress reading.
Secondly, my father’s office library became accessible to us children. Since Papa’s office was in one half of our house, this basically meant that we could pop in just about whenever we liked and borrow whatever we liked. There wasn’t a single romance novel here; the fiction consisted of books by popular writers like Alistair MacLean and Louis L’Amour (I’m sure there were others too, but I remember these two, because they were my favourites)—and there was a lot of non-fiction. Books on history, on war, on animals. The Reader’s Digest book, Mysteries of the Unexplained, which had me so engrossed that I read it from cover to cover several times, even though it was a large, heavy and unwieldy tome.
And there was a book called The World’s Most Fantastic Freaks. This one contained—with accompanying black-and-white photos—biographies of famous ‘freaks’, of people with genetic defects that gave them unique features. Like the man with two faces, back and front. The Elephant Man. And more. Today, I would be appalled that deformed people, probably in great pain (if not physical, at least psychological) could become a source of entertainment for people. It would, I know (I just tried reading ‘the Elephant Man’ Joseph Merrick’s biography on Wikipedia) distress me deeply that someone should have to go through life so.
Back then, I was just plain terrified. The photos were vivid, and they stayed in my head long after I finished reading the book. So long that they haunted me at night, not letting me sleep.
In desperation, to take my mind off the horror of what I’d read, I began thinking up stories—stories far removed from anything distressing. Considering what I’d been reading alongside, these ended up being romances. Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes. Historic settings (yes, even back then, I was fascinated by history). Assured happy endings. I thought up several novels in the course of many years—in fact, the thinking up of romance novels became, till a few years back, a standard practice for me to help go to sleep. Down to dialogues, chapter breaks, everything.
Then, a couple of years back, I thought: why not actually write one? Write it, self-publish it on Kindle, see how it’s received?
So here it is, the first of the War Brides series, about women who get married during times of turmoil. Put Asunder is set during the Peninsular War, and begins just after the Battle of Talavera de la Reina. An orphaned Spanish-Irish girl, Eva is hurriedly married off by her desperate grandmother to an English officer named Michael Rheese, on the condition that Michael will get Eva to safety in England, while Eva’s grandmother provides shelter and care to Michael’s badly wounded fellow soldiers.
But Eva is to be a bride for only a few hours. As they flee for the faraway coast, riding across the countryside, Eva and Michael run into a French patrol and Michael is shot. Eva, a widow before she can even be a wife, winds up in a convent.
… and discovers, six years later, that Michael is not dead after all. When she sets off to find him, Eva must battle her own fears (will he acknowledge her? Will he turn her out?), her own extreme poverty, as well as the fact that she is beginning to find her new friend, Mr Denborough, alarmingly attractive.
Do you read historical romances? If you do, please do buy Put Asunder and read, rate/review it! And even if you don’t read romance novels yourself, but know of someone who does, pass the word around.
Put Asunder can be bought and downloaded on Kindle at Amazon Worldwide, here. It’s also available on Amazon India, here. And, if you have an Amazon site in your country, you should be able to download it in your own currency too: just search for ‘Put Asunder’ and ‘Lynn Bishop’ (that’s the pseudonym I’ve adopted for this series).