Why American Historicals are ‘More Deeply Stirring to my Blood’

In the film,  The Last of the Mohicans, Cora Munro shares her sense of the colonial frontier with Hawkeye: “It is more deeply stirring to my blood than any imagining could possibly have been.”

And Hawkeye says to British Major Ducan Heyward: Someday I think you and I are going to have a serious disagreement.”

Quite the understatement.  But ‘Serious disagreements’ do typify that era.

American historical romances are raw and real.  At least mine are.  Stepping back to this time is second nature to me.  Living in the richly historic Shenandoah Valley–not to mention the Old Dominion–all I need do is gaze out the window at the Alleghenies to envision the high drama, triumphs and tragedies waged in those ridges–and beyond.  The French and Indian War raged in the Virginia  frontier as well as farther north in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York…

Other clashes with Native Americans swiftly followed on the heels of the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s War and Dunmore’s War…the ongoing conflict in the frontier continually shifted farther west until it reached ‘the old west’ we think of now.

At one time the frontier was right here in the wilds of Virginia.  And that’s without even going into Jamestown, a saga in itself, and the subject of earlier posts.

(The Alleghenies in early spring taken by my mom, Pat Churchman)

Eastern Woodland tribes lived in or ranged through Virginia, a vast region that once encompassed entire states, and fought hard to hold onto their ancestral lands.  I grew most intrigued with the Shawnee after learning their warriors struck the greatest terror into the hearts of the settlers.

The more research I did, the more I came to respect this tribe who claim some of the most remarkable chiefs who ever lived, Tecumseh, being the most famous.  Corntalk is another.  I also admire Logan, not Shawnee, but a great Indian leader from that era.  All three were poignantly eloquent.  Profound.  And ultimately defeated but their spirit lives on in those who remember.   Few do.

Though not of Shawnee ancestry, I have forebears taken captive by this tribe and ties to an amazing warrior, Wicomechee, the hero of historical romance novel RED BIRD’S SONG,  a 2012 EPPIC eBOOK FINALIST.  Maybe a winner.  We’ll soon find out.

My ancestry is also heavily invested in The American Revolution. That bloody war summoned men from the valley and surrounding mountains to fight in the Carolinas.  My great-grandfather, six times removed,  Sam Houston, Uncle of the famous Sam, kept a journal of his experience in that war which forms part of the inspiration behind my award-winning historical romance novel Enemy of the King.  There’s heaps more inspiration.

British troops came to our doorstep but the valley itself was never invaded.  A surge of Virginia rifleman held back Banastre Tarleton and his dogs of war at Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I came across an interesting article on that and other events surrounding British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton:  http://fusilier.wordpress.com/banastre-tarleton-article-2000/

If you want to win battles and don’t mind the slaughter–or care about taking prisoners–Tarleton’s your man.   And few Americans have even heard of him.

Onto that most uncivil of wars, The Civil War.  Oh yes, the valley was embroiled.  Literally, in flames when Union troops under General Sheridan (loud boos!) burnt ‘the breadbasket of the Confederacy.’  I’m fortunate our old family home (pictured above) still stands.  A home and barn on my husband’s side of the family were burnt and these were pacifistic Mennonites.  Granted, my ancestors weren’t.  I set my nostalgic romance Somewhere the Bells Ring in the family home place.

My Scots-Irish forebears are among the earliest settlers in the Shenandoah Valley and further back.  Yep, we’re talking The May Flower, both passengers and the ship’s builder, so my absorption with early America is founded in a wealth of research into those who have gone before me.  My ancestors, their contemporaries, friend and foe alike….intriguing, absorbing, and fodder for my stories.

Adventure, mystery, suspense, and above all, romance–the true love kind–fills the pages.  For a taste of my work, try my new short American historical romance, The Lady and The Warrior, cover by my talented daughter Elise.

Blurb: An abused young wife stranded in the Alleghenies in 1783 is rescued from drowning by a rugged frontiersman who shows her kindness and passion. But is he more than he seems?  And can they ever be together?

My novels and short story are available in print and kindle at Amazon.   Nookbook has many of my titles.

*Image from The Last of the Mohicans movie, the old family home place and Alleghenies taken by my mother

23 responses to “Why American Historicals are ‘More Deeply Stirring to my Blood’

  1. Jim Great Elk

    Hi Beth,
    As a fellow author, I am wondering how well your blog is helping your followers to “adopt” your newest books?
    As authors, it seems that we want to gift our friends with a lot of free, and valuable bits of wisdom… and as an additional benefit include the opportunity for them to, as i say “adopt’ or purchase our retail products as well.
    I am queering several of my blogging friends on this aspect of bringing value as well ad opportunity to our followers.
    Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

    BTW: I am in awe of your success as a writer. You are first notch and deserve this boon.

    respectfully, your friend, the elk


    • Hello! Good to hear from you again, my friend. It’s been ages. And thanks so much for your kind words. Much appreciated. My blog is my lifeline to the world and the visitors rise almost daily, but I have made an enormous effort to increase its exposure. I also blog on a wide variety of subjects from (a limited number of) book excerpt/promo features to the history behind the stories, herbal lore and gardening, country life, my beloved pets, the ‘smalls’ in my life…so appeal to a diversity of interests. My stories also run the gamut from the dear to my heart American historicals, to English settings, Time travels back to Old Scotland, written with a spin, and to other eras. It would require far less research and be easier if I’d just stay put, but I can’t seem to. So, what the heck, throw studying the entire French Revolution in there while I’m at it, just one of the areas I covered for my English historical. 🙂 I’m learning a lot, though, good for the mind. This latest venture with writing a short American historical romance (cover by my wonderfully gifted daughter Elise) and offering it for a low price and free for five days, is done in hopes of drawing attention to my other historicals. Red Bird’s Song has been by far my best seller, but I do have more historicals, and two new releases later this year. Getting the word out is a challenge. I suppose I should also write a short paranormal romance and do the same for that genre. As to what works, I’d say a combination of, plus a ‘Never give up, never surrender’ attitude. The kindle world is swamped right now, especially in the romance genre, far too many easy pickins for sated readers, but I think they will realize a story isn’t just a story. It does make a difference who wrote it, and offering a short cheap read is one thing, however, we can’t give away all our work. Nor should authors be expected to. Our stories should at least be worth the cost of a cup of coffee.


      • Beth,
        You are an endless well of energy and inspiration. For any or your followers who have not yet read your marvelously moving and engrossing tomes… today is the day. It doesn’t matter the title, any will do. join the followers of Beth Trissel… get hooked!

        As for my self imposed writers slavery… as we speak, I have the launch of “View from the Medicine Lodge 2012,” and “So your Grandmother was a GENUINE INDIAN PRINCESS, Lets find Out” genealogy books underway
        …as well as 5 more by April 15th.
        I am also offering some of my work as aBooks (audio format).
        Like you my business is mostly moi, therefore I as constantly learning new contact skills and marketing techniques.

        I consider each of my followers as good friends, and want only to provide them with the very best I can. This does make the editing portion lengthy tho (smile).

        Thanks again for bringing light onto the lives of those long forgotten ancestors. Thru your brilliant wordsmithing, they live again.

        Keep creating the dreams… the elk


      • Well articulated. You must be a writer. 🙂 And many thanks for such high praise. I’ve also made friends among my readers and with other authors which greatly enriches my life. Inestimably. Your work is impressive–I know–as I’m sure are your new and upcoming offerings. You have not been idle. Not that I ever expected you would be. 🙂 Yes, preserving the memory of those who have gone before us is a sacred trust and falls, ofttimes, to the story tellers. I thought to the historians, but now, I think it’s the story tellers in each family and our broader peoples, and generation. I tell the stories of my life, and of those who have gone before me, to ‘the smalls’ now, and remind my grown up children. Someday, it will be up to them to carry on. Much is forgotten that should be remembered.



  2. I love, love, LOVE this blog post, Beth. Like you, I adore American history AND my ancestors were on the Mayflower. Bet we’re related!

    Diana Ballew


  3. It’s always great fun finding historic characters on your family tree. Mine were mostly Yankees from Massachusetts. I enjoyed your post, Beth, and love the cover your daughter created!


    • Thanks on behalf of me and Elise! We have one northern branch in the family but for the most part were all Southerners during that war. The northern branch are the ones who have ties to the Mayflower and The Salem Witch Trials–one of my ancestors arrested his neighbor for being a witch, and she was later hung. I’ve since apologized to the descendents of Susannah Martin.


  4. I’ve not managed to do research on my family members who jumped ‘onto’ ship and headed for the great American outdoors! One of these days I will, though,because I loved reading American stories as a kid.


  5. My relatives were thick in Salem, which inspired my current WIP. My poor heroine just stood up before John Hathorne in her examination. I’m afraid it didn’t go well. Easy to joke about it since I know she’s going to have a HEA, but it was definitely a dark period in our history.


    • Yes, it really was dark. My ancestor’s name, the one who arrested his neighbor for being a witch, was Orlando Bagley. Apparently a sheriff. His name sounds straight out of the shire. We are descended from female’s in that line so lost the name. I’m fascinated with the era and setting for your WIP. If you need any feedback please consider me.


  6. I have not background with any Native American tribe but I grew up in the valley summered by Chief Joseph’s band of Nez Perce and I love learning about their culture and writing stories that show that culture to others. So I feel your passion Beth! Great post!


  7. Lovely post, Beth.


  8. I love American set historical romances, Beth! Just wish I had time and finances so I could read them all.

    Congrats on the EPPIC final and good luck in the final round!


  9. Pingback: Jumble Spoiler – 03/08/12 « Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

  10. Tarleton was a Lt. Col., not a general.


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