First of all, thank you so much for organizing this month-long Celebrating-Romance party, Nix! I’m delighted to be part of it!
I grew up in a small town in the Black Forest, which was surrounded by wooded hills and overlooked not just by one, but two ruined castles. Is it any wonder then that I fell in love with history at a very young age?
So imagine my delight when back in 1999 I discovered a whole genre of historical fiction with central love stories and happy endings guaranteed! (No exploding wax babies! No main characters dying on the last page! YAY!!!) Shortly thereafter, I started to write in English and, while I was at it, switched genres, too, and started to write romance. I began where you would expect: in Regency England with pretty country houses and all that.
Oh, and garden follies.
With stone pineapples on top.
In short, I love the slightly weird bits of history, and I find it deeply satisfying to explore the lesser known parts of the past. So you might find my characters venture out to watch the preparations for a medieval tournament in Victorian Britain – as does the hero of The Bride Prize: Allan’s Miscellany 1839:
Charging down the lists towards the wooden dummy on wheels, the noble Knight of the Swan suddenly lost both his balance and the control over his horse. One moment he was a shining star of chivalry, his armor glinting in the sun, and the next he was flying over the head of his horse and landed in the mud in an undignified sprawl.
A groan rippled through the crowd of spectators, then laughter as the Knight of the Swan – the Honorable Mr. Jerningham – heaved himself upright, unhurt, with nary a dent in his fine armor.
Robert Beaton, writer and chief – indeed, only – artist of that hopeful new periodical Allan’s Miscellany scribbled into his notebook, his boyishly round face crunched up in concentration. He added a few lines, a hasty sketch…
Dash it, we need somebody to do satirical illustrations, he thought, glancing up to see how the next knight riding against the wooden dummy would fare.
But for me it’s also fascinating to find the familiar in the past. I’m interested in how friendships are being formed, how family ties are maintained in a world where travel was difficult. In my Roman series, family and stories about family play an important role, so even the grumpy centurion in The Centurion’s Choice finds the time to stay in touch with his loved ones (of course, he doesn’t call them his loved ones!).
That evening, when Lucius came to his centurion’s tent, he found the centurion already present. From somewhere he had got a small table and two stools and was now sitting on one of them, scribbling on a tablet. Several more lay on the table in an untidy heap.
Florius glanced up as he heard Lucius’ approach. “Well met, optio.”
“Well met, centurion. Do you need me to do anything?”
Florius scratched his cheek, which was dark with stubble. “Not today, no. But tomorrow you can find me somebody who’ll bring these north for me.” With a jerk of his chin, he indicated the tablets on the table.
Lucius’ brows rose with surprise. “Letters?” he asked, rather stupidly, because it had not occurred to him the centurion would be a man to write letters to anybody.
Florius gave a grunt of agreement. “Family. To my brother at Vindulum, near the border wall in Britannia, and my father’s sister in the southern part of Britannia.” His mouth briefly twitched. “They should send her against those damned Germanic tribes. She’d have them running home with their tails between their legs in no time at all.” Looking down, he rubbed his thumb over one corner of the tablet he had been working on. “She likes to hear from family from time to time. And with such a campaign before us…” Abruptly his expression sobered and became stern and grim again. “Who knows what the Fates have in store for us.”
As you can see, in the thirteen years since my debut novel was published, I’ve ventured far from the grand aristocratic country houses. After all, there’s a whole exciting world waiting beyond the estate walls.
Do you want to explore it with me?
It’s AD 178, and barbarian tribes once again threaten the borders of the Roman Empire. To make matters worse, Lucius’ promotion in his auxiliary cohort has been denied, and instead the governor has appointed a moody, mean-tempered Roman to become the new centurion of the Septem Gallorum — and, incidentally, to trample all over Lucius’ ambitions.
Tall and burly, Centurion Caius Florius Corvus might be way too good-looking for Lucius’ peace of mind, but the man has also made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t trust Lucius as his second in command. Yet as they are swept into war and each has to shoulder his responsibilities, a reluctant respect begins to grow between them, which soon grows into friendship — and, perhaps, more?
Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now, she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances (some of which she now uses to shamelessly fangirl over Punch, her favorite Victorian magazine).
She holds a PhD in English literature, and in autumn 2015, she appeared on the BBC documentary Great Continental Railway Journeys to talk about another favorite topic of hers, the Grimms’ fairy tales (while walking through a rather muddy stretch of the Black Forest) (there were a lot of slugs, too).
She lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library.
Where you can find Sandra:
Since I write different kinds of romances – m/f, m/m, Regency, Victorian, Roman –, I’m giving away two different prizes. Leave a comment for a chance to win either a signed copy of the paperback edition of my m/f novella The Bride Prize OR digital copies of my three m/m historicals The Centurion’s Choice, The Return of the Earl, and Yuletide Truce. Just let me know which you would prefer!