Monday, October 15, 2018

Michelle Styles: A Roman era set book and its author Jenni Fletcher

As long time readers of this blog may recall, my first published book for Harlequin Historical was a Roman set historical The Gladiator’s Honor. It was the first time Harlequin (or indeed any major publisher) had published a romance set in that. I now write other ears, mainly Vikings, but Harlequin has a few intrepid authors who have taken up the baton and started writing in that era. First Greta Gilbert and now Jenni Fletcher.
I asked Jenni to explain about how she came to write her book, The Warrior’s Bride Prize. She also kindly allowed me to read it. A happy evening of reading ensued and if you love historical romances which really capture the time period and make you feel like you are there, read Jenni’s latest.
If you are more interested in other time periods, Jenni writes Victorian and Medieval for HH as well. You can learn more about Jenni by visiting her website. 
Here is what Jenni wrote about how she got the idea:
 The idea for my new book The Warrior's Bride Prize first came to me in the heart of Wordsworth country, wandering around the ruins of a Roman fort on the outskirts of Ambleside in the Lake District. Honestly, it would have been hard not to feel inspired, standing on the shores of Lake Windermere in the autumn sunshine, surrounded by so much history and breathtaking scenery, although at the time I was busy with a Victorian story. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to get distracted briefly, imagining a tale about an aristocratic Roman lady travelling to the edge of the Empire and meeting a Pictish warrior.
     At the time, however, I wasn't ready. So I went home and wrote two other books, but the idea of a Roman-set romance never completely left me. Over time, the particulars of the story changed. I watched King Arthur with Keira Knightley and my heroine turned from an aristocrat into the daughter of a Caledonian former slave, while my hero changed allegiance completely and became Roman. The action shifted inland too, staying on Hadrian's Wall, but moving closer to Corbridge and Chesters Roman fort, where the second half of the story is set. 
     What really inspired me to start writing, however, was a visit to the Eboracum Festival in York in 2017. I loved the enthusiasm of the re-enactors (one of whom turned out to be my son's ukelele teacher) as well as meeting lots of Roman authors, all of whom were so inspired by their subject.So I started to write, but after a while I got bogged down in detail. There was so much research to do, not least in terms of military history, which was more complex than I'd imagined. Eventually I had a rough draft, but something wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on the problem exactly, but I knew it had something to do with the atmosphere. I could see my book, but I couldn't feel it. 
     For me, geography is integral to a story (I often think of locations before characters) but for this book that statement was truer than ever. My husband suggested we take a trip north to Hadrian's Wall and once we reached it, everything fell into place. I stood on the edge of the wall, which was even more impressive than I'd remembered from school trips, and imagined how it might have looked almost two thousand years ago. That was when my characters - Livia and Marius - really made sense to me. I wrote another draft and I was finally happy. Which meant that they could have their happy-ever-after too!
     So that's how this story happened. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written, but in retrospect (now the difficult part is over) that makes it extra special to me. It's my small contribution to the Roman genre and I hope you enjoy it too.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her next Viking Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published on 18 December 2018. To learn more about Michelle and her books, visit

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