Celebrating Women’s History Month at Read-A-Romance!
Since some of my favorite books are set in a variety of historical time-periods, I thought it would be fun to check in with some great authors in romance and women’s historical fiction, and explore their connection to history. Since the female perspective in history and fiction has been ignored so often, for so long, I find it heartening to see so many books representing romance and/or women’s history, telling such mesmerizing stories against the backdrop of some of the most intriguing and pivotal moments in time. I hope you find these essays as fascinating and fun as I do. You can find the full author calendar here.
Strong Women, Inspiring History
A lot of the romance writers featured in this wonderful Women’s History month have featured lovely ladies who wear long dresses and their handsome titled mates who own acres of land without a money care in the world. As a writer and a reader, I tend to prefer a different approach when I read historical romance. I want to see that heroine matched with a hero who wants to help her with her crusade and who doesn’t seek to crush her spirit. A number of my heroines posses this quality. So when I made my return to fiction writing back in 2011, that’s the kind of woman in history I wanted to read about. And I wanted to see her find love.
So I created Ruby Bledsoe. A Virtuous Ruby is the first book in the Migrations of the Heart series and features a heroine, Ruby Bledsoe, who used purposeful political tactics to force the head honcho of the town mill to treat his workers better. Ruby was partially based upon incidents in Glenda Gilmore’s book, Defying Dixie, where Gilmore posits that the stirrings of the Civil Rights movement started in the aftermath of World War One, when Black soldiers returned home and wanted better treatment.
Ruby also reflects another example that existed in history, that of Callie House. In 1899 House said, “We are organizing ourselves together as a race of people who feels that they have been wronged.” Elected as an officer of The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association, House was a widowed washerwoman mother of five children who dared to believe that the labor of the enslaved was critical to the economic fortunes of the United Slaves and that the formerly enslaved population should be compensated for it. She even spoke in public about her cause and went to jail for a year for her trouble. The esteemed historian Mary Frances Berry wrote about House in My Face is Black is True.
A Virtuous Ruby takes place in 1915 Georgia, a few years after House’s efforts in Tennessee. It made sense to me to have a heroine who was inspired by House’s efforts of having workers be fairly compensated for their labor. So, I created Ruby Bledsoe, who, like Callie House, took up a fruitless cause and fought for it—because she believed she was right. And like House, Ruby pays a heavy price for her defiance, in time. History has forgotten about her, but at least Callie House stood up, and for that, I remain grateful.
I’m enjoying reading Rhys Bowen’s – rhysbowen.com – early 20th century detective heroine Molly Murphy Sullivan. Her series is in the realm of historical mystery (hey, I see Ruby doing this one day), but she’s that kind of ordinary heroine I like who finds herself in extraordinary circumstances. The series, with sixteen books so far, follows Molly’s romance with a police offer who doesn’t approve of her detective work. They eventually get married, but that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. The tension between them is real and that’s something I enjoy, because they always end up together in the end.
Another historical mystery heroine I love is Blanche from Barbara Neely’s series. There’s a good dose of the ordinary heroine here, since Blanche is a domestic worker. She takes you into the particulars of her job and solves crimes along the way. I love that the reader gets the rarely told history from the “other side.” There are four books in the series. I hope Neely writes more some day.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment when you felt a deep connection to history.
I love taking historical trips and seeing the places where history occurred. However I do have to say that I have a deep connection to history when I write my stories. My mother called me on the phone once when I was writing and I picked it up (since I always did whenever she called). She told me that I had cobwebs in my voice, so I think there are some writing sessions when I get really connected to history.
Do you have a specific place or sound that makes you feel connected to history? Why?
Virginia. It seems as if everything is historical there. I would love to live there. The entire state makes me feel as if history is not that far away.
What is your (or a) favorite historical era or event?
The Great Migration. The largest internal migration in United States history lasted from 1915 to 1970 and forms the historical backdrop for my “Migrations of the Heart” series. The movement of African Americans from a predominately rural to urban status in this country is every bit as important as the influx of immigrants into the United States or the movement of the population westward. It should be discussed more often, which is why I wrote the series.
Is there a moment in your research when some specific historical moment or event came to life for you? Tell us about it.
When my mother-in-law was still alive, we would go back to her old hometown in Alabama every year and visit her family. The old family home there was a house just like where my Bledsoe family lived, with a large courting porch added on to prevent Ruby and her sisters from getting into trouble. Making those annual visits was crucial in helping me to get a feel for how the Bledsoe sisters might have grown up.
And for fun ~ Tell us about your Favorite Historical Crush. ;o) (This can be either a historical or fictional crush.) Why?
Ruby had a crush on Frederick Douglass, and even if he frustrates me, I guess I do too. Whenever I teach some of his speeches, students always ask me how he got away with saying the things he said. I tell them that the man was hot, hot, hot, and slayed everyone with his oratorical style. They laugh, but it was true. That man embodied rock stardom before it even existed!
Piper is generously giving away an e-copy of any one of her titles on Amazon (US readers only, apologies to international friends). To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST April 2, 2016. Good luck!
Piper G Huguley, named 2015 Debut Author of the Year by Romance Slam Jam and Breakout Author of the Year by AAMBC, is a two-time Golden Heart ®finalist and is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters, published by Samhain Publishing. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and was a Golden Heart® finalist in 2014. Book four, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart® finalist in 2013.
Huguley is also the author of the “Home to Milford College” series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. On release, the prequel novella to the “Home to Milford College” series, The Lawyer’s Luck, reached #1 Amazon Bestseller status on the African American Christian Fiction charts. Book #1 in the series, The Preacher’s Promise was named a top ten Historical Romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author Beverly Jenkins and received Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Contest of Self-Published e-books in 2015.
She blogs about the history behind her novels at piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.
Buy Piper’s books:
*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to an affiliate portal that supports Read-A-Romance. Thanks so much for your help!