I'll be taking a few months off from my series on titles and forms of address for the British aristocracy to celebrate my July 29 novella release, A Dream Defiant. Isn't the cover beautiful?
While this book is set in 1813 in the aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria, a cursory glance at the cover will tell you this isn't your typical Regency romance. Like most of my heroes, Elijah Cameron is a British soldier, one who's been in the army since his early youth and knows its ways well. But rather than leaving a village in England or Scotland as a lad, he grew up with his regiment. His parents, born in Virginia as slaves, ran away to the British lines during the American Revolution and spent the next twenty-five years as servants--free and fairly paid--of a senior officer in the regiment.
Growing up as he did, it's hardly surprising that Elijah became first a drummer boy and then a soldier. When his story opens he's content with his life, only to have it turned upside down when a dying comrade in arms entrusts him with a treasure to give to his soon-to-be-widow--a beautiful and quietly brave women Elijah has admired from afar for years.
So, what compelled me to write the story of a black redcoat in the Napoleonic Wars? Well, it started a few years ago, when I was reading about black Union soldiers in the Civil War on Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog. (See one such post HERE.)
I briefly considered writing my own Civil War story--it's an era I know almost as well as the Napoleonic Wars, after all. But I just couldn't get over the feeling that it was presumptuous of me to write a black Union soldier as a hero, given that I'm not only a white woman, I'm a white woman born and raised in Alabama and the great-great-granddaughter of a Confederate soldier from that same state. Put simply, I felt like I had no right to cloak myself in the mantle of the right side of a war where my ancestors were unequivocally on the wrong side.
(It's not that I feel guilty about my ancestry--I hardly chose it myself, after all--nor do I think my great-great-grandfather was a bad person. I don't know much about him, really, beyond that he was extremely fertile, fathering seventeen children with three wives in succession. He didn't own slaves--my family were poor Appalachian farmers right up through the Depression. He wasn't a moral giant enough to have challenged the values of his state and his culture, but how many of us are? Still, none of that changes the fact that the Civil War was one of those few conflicts with a clear right and wrong side, and my ancestor fought for the latter.)
So I decided to write about a black soldier in my era. I knew such soldiers existed, in both the French and British armies. They're mentioned in Swords Around a Throne, John Elting's encyclopedic book on Napoleon's army, and I'd run across occasional references in my research on the British army. While a black man in the British army was more likely to be in a West Indian regiment or to be part of a regimental band (that stereotype already existed, evidently), I never found any evidence that someone like my Elijah wouldn't have been permitted to enlist in a regular redcoat infantry regiment, so I gave my muse free rein. As for how well it turned out, in a little less than two months you can be the judge of that!
A Dream Defiant is already available for preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google, and the iTunes store, and will be available on the Carina site and other e-tailers as the release date draws closer.