As part of our series about Escape titles nominated for the ARRA awards, Frances Housden talks about her book Chieftain in the Making, nominated for Favourite Historical Romance.
I was surprised and delighted when Chieftain in the Making, book four in my Chieftain series, was nominated for an ARRA award.
By the time I finished writing The Chieftain’s Curse I knew telling Rob and Nhaimeth’s story was inevitable. I simply had to wait until they grew up. Rob was the secret baby in that first book—the curse breaker—but Nhaimeth simply appeared as if he knew he was needed in the book before I did.
You might have gathered that I don’t plot. My stories evolve, as did the friendship between the two lads, one the lovechild of a chieftain, the other a dwarf whose inheritance was stripped away after his father disowned him. Two friends, different in stature, yet alike in the hurdles they had to climb. As the romance of the Euan and Morag developed in The Chieftain’s Curse, so did the secondary characters’ story; Rob, the secret son of a chieftain, who was looking for an heir, and Nhaimeth, a legal heir barred from claiming his birthright.
As always, before I begin writing I do my research into the history of the period. For book four, I discovered that King Malcolm, Rob’s father’s friend, was killed in the battle of Alnwick, which made Rob the perfect age to want to prove he could live up to his father as heir. As my readers will have discovered by now, I like secret babies [ED: this is true – look out for Frances’ ‘Secret Baby’ post in our series on romance tropes!]; this meant Rob had to have been in an earlier battle in the same area two years before, where I had him captured and held for ransom.
The babies in Chieftain in the Making were twins. My mother-in-law had twins and I used her experience as the basis for Melinda, our heroine—the first birth was easy, the second a breach birth. Some readers weren’t too happy that Melinda had an aversion to the second twin, but as an author I try to get into character’s head and Melinda is young and inexperienced—deserted by her lover, with no mother to advise her. She believed her second twin’s birth would kill her. Don’t forget she lived at the beginning of the 12th century. And is it any wonder she wasn’t too happy about being abducted by Rob—a man determined to marry her, determined his sons won’t go through life labelled bastards, the way he had been. On a lighter note, I also used the way my twin sisters-in-law interacted with one another as toddlers to show Rob’s sons love each other.
I couldn’t have written this book without giving Nhaimeth his own well-deserved happy ending. And aye, I had to have gypsies, requiring a lot more research, but then finding Rowena with the gypsies added much more depth to the plot as well as masses of complications—well, she is psychic.
Before I finish, let me tell anyone who read Chieftain by Command that Brodwyn reappears in this book, just in time for the evil genius to redeem herself. Satisfying, but that isn’t the end. The Chieftain’s Daughter is already available online, and Chieftain’s Rebel will be released on March 5.
The award-winning Chieftain series continues in a novel about duty, determination and the power of love to heal all wounds.