I haven’t run out of story ideas, but naming characters has gotten to be a challenge. After fourteen books, I’ve used up all my favorites. My husband and sons are Mike, Joe and David, so those names are out. For heroes, I’ve used Jake, Ethan, John, Rafe, William, Dylan, Beau, Gabe, Josh, Matt and J.T. aka Jonah Taylor. There’s also a Zebulun in there for the book I wrote for the “After the Storm” series. I didn’t think that one up. He came as Zeb and I picked Zebulun over Zebediah because it’s a little easier to say.
When I started Marrying the Major, I was blank when it came to the hero. This book is the fourth in the “Women of Swan’s Nest” series, so I had the heroine firmly in mind. Caroline Bradley was already a real person to me. But the hero? Where to start? Because of the three prior books, my favorite hero occupations were already crossed off the list. He couldn’t be a preacher, a lawman or an outlaw.
So what were the choices? School teacher? No, not for Caroline. She needed someone with an edge. A newspaper man with a cause? Maybe, but the idea didn’t catch fire. A railroad detective? That was in the lead until things came together I ended up with a hero unlike any of I’ve written before. Why not go with a man who’s a stranger to the Wild West? Given the history of Wyoming, it made perfect sense to give Caroline an English aristocrat.
That’s how the hero for Marrying the Major became a retired British Army officer. He’s also the third son of a duke, a widower with two children, and a man coping with malaria.
Okay, so what to name him?
I needed something English and adventurous. Something romantic. The “ding-ding-ding” moment came when I rewatched Legends of the Fall. Anyone else see it? It’s an awesome movie about three brothers with very unique personalities. Brad Pitt’s character is named Tristan, and he’s definitely adventurous and romantic.
“Tristan . . . “ I said it out loud a few times. “Tristan Willoughby Smith . . .” It stuck.
So that’s how I found the name for the hero of Marrying the Major. Apart from being “Tristan,” he isn’t at all like the wild and carefree brother in Legends of the Fall. My Tristan is done seeing the world. With two kids to worry about it, he’s become cautious. He wants only to stay in Wyoming and raise his family, but he’s got some problems. For one thing, malaria is threatening his life. He also has family ties to England that are threatening his son. Things get even more complicated when he meets Caroline and falls in love with her.
Here’s the back cover blurb . . .
He hired a governess, but what retired officer Tristan Willoughby Smith needs is a wife. Not on his behalf, but to protect little Dora and Freddie. When Caroline Bradley arrives at his Wyoming ranch, she seems perfectly suited–capable, efficient, intelligent . . . if a trifle too appealing.
Caroline knows what a real union of heart should be, and the major’s polite, non-nonsense offer hardly qualifies. Still, she accepts for the children’s sake, little knowing the complications the marriage will bring to test her confidence and her faith. Yet in this unusual match, Caroline starts to see a glimmer of something strong and true–the makings of the family she never thought she’d find…