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