Hi, I’m Laura Ashwood and I’m honored to be guest blogging here today. I write sweet historical western romance, contemporary small town romance and women’s fiction. Something for everyone, LOL. Today though, I’d like to talk about one of my historical western romances.
One of my favorite things about being an author is having a reason to research and a place to use that information. But that doesn’t come without its own challenges either. Too little research will upset readers familiar with a time period, and too much research can take readers out of your story. It’s a delicate balance.
So, where does one start? When I write a story, I generally have a location in mind. It might be a specific location or it might be as general as simply knowing what state I want it to be set in. Once I know that, I’ll spend some time looking at the location. The topography, the average weather – if it’s a historical book, I’ll look at the averages and topography from the year I am setting the story.
Courting Danger is a historical western suspense that starts in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1873. I knew my character, Clarissa, came from a wealthy family, that she was an only child, and that her parents (her mother in particular) wanted her to marry “up” to help further cement their place in society. Very common practices during that time period. Clarissa didn’t want to have anything to do with it though. My research told me that the suffragette movement was strong at that time and she was a well-read young lady. She wanted to make her own way.
During that time frame, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was in its prime – solving crimes across the nation and had even started taking on female agents. The first official female Pinkerton agent was Kate Warne. So I did come research about Kate and some of the cases she worked on. So, I had Clarissa find an advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency in the newspaper – looking for female agents. She immediately replied and was chosen to work a case in St. Louis, Missouri. This case was modeled after one of Kate Warne’s cases. I used several of the details of the actual case, but added my own twists to make it original.
So because a great deal of the story was set in St. Louis, I wanted to incorporate as much “fact” into it as I could. The first thing I looked for was a City Directory. Think of it as a phone book before there were phones. The City Directory gave me names of stores, hotels, even characters. The names of the nurse, the undertaker, and the Chief of Police in my story were taken from this directory as the actual undertaker, nurse and Chief of Police in St. Louis in 1873.
The hotel Clarissa stays in while she’s in St. Louis, The Planter’s House Hotel, was an actual hotel in 1873. Because it actually existed in 1873, I was able to find photographs of it and that helped me describe it as though I was actually there, including the famed Turkish Lounge.
St. Louis is famous for its Eads Bridge and Gateway Arch, but through my research, I discovered that the construction on the Eads Bridge wasn’t completed until 1874 and the Arch wasn’t constructed until the 1960s. So, when Clarissa saw the bridge at one point in her adventure, I made sure to mention it was under construction. I also consulted a city map of St. Louis when determining what to name my streets and neighborhoods my characters visited. They were all authentic to that time.
How important is all of this? Will my readers know this? The answer to both of those questions is probably no. Those details will not make or break my story. But they’re Easter Eggs I’ve sprinkled throughout and they make the story come alive for me because I know Clarissa is seeing the actual things she’d see if she were alive and in St. Louis in 1873. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
If you’d like to read about Clarissa’s adventure as a Pinkerton Detective in training, you can find it on Amazon, both in paperback and ebook. (buy link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09TJTSVFZ?tag=pettpist-20) It’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
I’d also love to give away three copies (ebook only) of Courting Danger – Just answer the question “how much does historical accuracy and detail mean to you when reading a book?” in the comments below. Three random winners will be announced on Sunday.
Laura is giving away 3 e-book copies of Courting Danger
She thought the biggest danger would be to her reputation. She didn’t realize it would be to her life and her heart.
Clarissa Ferguson craves a life of adventure. The last thing she wants is to become a socialite and marry a curmudgeon to appease her mother. When she sees an advertisement for female Pinkerton Agents, she leaves on the next available train to Denver Colorado. What she doesn’t expect is the handsome man she meets on the train to be her new trainer.
Noah Harding, recovering from the loss of his wife and family, vows never to marry again. Throwing himself into his work as a Pinkerton agent, he has finally found a sense of purpose. He prides himself on being able to read people, until he observes a peculiar woman on a train headed west. He soon discovers she’s his new trainee, and he must temporarily wed her while they solve a murder, or he’ll jeopardize his career.
Will Noah be able to stay focused on the case with Clarissa distracting him? When the case forces them to pretend to be something they aren’t, what happens when their feelings become real?
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Laura and her husband live in northeast Minnesota. She works a full time day job, and in her spare time, she likes to read, cook and spend time with her husband. She is a devoted grandmother and chihuahua lover.
In her novels, Laura brings to life characters and relationships that will warm your heart and fill you with hope. Her stories often have themes involving redemption, forgiveness, and family.
Laura’s website: https://www.lauraashwood.com