Keep Calm and Read This: Forged in Fire from the Never Too Late Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

Keep Calm and Read This: Forged in Fire from the Never Too Late Collection by the Bluestocking Belles

I love it when Jude Knight stops by for a visit. There’s sure to be fascinating historical research woven into a romantic tale that keeps me spellbound. Forged in Fire, from the new Bluestocking Belles holiday collection, Never Too Late, looks to be another must-read for me! This time Jude is giving us a deeper glimpse into her heroine.

Lives of Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau

This quote set me in mind of many of my heroines. Thoreau was writing about men who do work that doesn’t bring them joy, simply because it was expected of them. Throughout history, women—even more than men—have lived lives of quiet desperation, stuck in circumstances not of their choosing, doing their best to survive each day with a minimum of pain and destruction.

Lottie in Forged in Fire is typical of the women I like to write. She retains hope of something better, while doing what she must in the meantime.

Once, long ago, she made a mistake, though not the mistake she was accused of. She lost everything: her home, her family, her chances of marriage or an independent future. For many years, she has been the unpaid companion of a bullying cousin. And she endures.

I don’t write heroines who sit around waiting to be rescued. I’ll have no Perils of Pauline plot arcs, thank you. Often, they can see no way out of their current circumstances, but they are making the best of them, finding humour in small things, counting their blessings, and waiting for an opportunity to escape. Quiet desperation, but not without a small measure of hope.

And my heroes have their own problems, usually from earlier emotional wounds. Any rescuing is going to be completely mutual. My Tad in Forged in Fire was exiled from home as a teenager, also because of a lie. He, too, has lost his home and his family. But men had more options than women in the nineteenth century British colonies. He has built a new, independent life; one he could never have had without his disgrace. He is doing what he loves, and now faces the prospect of giving it up in order to do his duty.

So if my heroes don’t rescue my heroines, what do they do? They offer the motive for the heroine to seize the opportunity, they help her with whatever action she chooses, and they love her for her quiet strength. That’s enough, surely? I like my heroines to reach the point where marrying the hero is a choice they make for love, not simply the better of two unsatisfactory options.

So a lot is going on in the story. My heroine is moving from quiet desperation to hope, inspiring the hero to make the same journey. At the same time, they’re getting to know one another in extreme circumstances because the emotional journey they make is set against a rather dramatic background. In 1886, Mount Tarawera in New Zealand’s Rotorua region erupted along a thirteen kilometre rift, shooting ash, rock and fire thousands of feet in the air, to settle on the surrounding ground and bury villages and people under metres of ash and mud.

Lottie and Tad have survived their families and their society. The volcano could be a bit more of a challenge.

They both fell silent when an explosion attracted their attention to a large inky black cloud that welled up above the mountain beyond the ridge between them and the lake, lit by constant flashes of lighting. Lottie sat up and edged closer to Mr. Berry.

“It’s Tarawera,” he said, leaning in close and shouting to be heard. “It has erupted.”

The shakes continued, as they watched the mountain in awe.

Several men started up the hill from the hotel. Lottie was relieved they followed a path further along than the one she and Mr. Berry had taken. Mr. Berry watched them until they went out of sight around a curve in the path.

“They’ll be going to the old mission station. They’ll get a good view from there.”

A sudden explosive roar, louder than she had ever heard, brought her surging to her knees. A great curtain of fire rose heavenward from three points along the mountain. Another earthquake shook the ground, and Lottie clutched Mr. Berry’s hand as the billowing cloud began to shoot fireballs like rockets, showering down on the lake and the mountain side.

The explosions continued, battering their ears for several minutes at a time, dying to distant rumbles for a long moment, then returning to full force as the earthquakes kept coming. The cloud, now thousands of yards high, began to spread out from the column of fire, rapidly approaching across the sky towards Te Wairoa.

“We need to take cover,” Mr. Berry said. He grabbed her hand, and she followed where he led, stumbling over snags on the bush floor and pushing between ferns. A sudden vicious wind snarled into them, and stones and great dollops of mud began to fall, battering at the arms they held up to protect their heads.

Then, suddenly, they were in a dark space, and just in time, as the deluge thickened, drumming onto whatever protected them from above. When Mr. Berry wrapped his arms around her, Lottie did not object but leant into his comfort.

“It’s an abandoned house,” Mr. Berry said into her ear so he didn’t have to shout to be heard over the racket of the deluge of airborne missiles. “It’s still solid. I hope it’s strong enough to keep us safe.”

As the barrage continued, so did the same pattern of explosions and shakes: periods of sound and fury followed by brief lulls in which they could speak, raising their voices to be heard over the noise of the downfall.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Thompson. I am taking liberties.” Mr. Berry was apologising, but not, Lottie noted, letting go.

“I appreciate the comfort of being held, Mr. Berry. Do you not think you should call me Lottie, since you are taking liberties?”

She could hear the smile in his voice when he replied. “Lottie, then. For Charlotte? And I am Tad.”

Lottie shook her head. “For Otillie. At school, they used to call me Tillie, and I hated it. Is Tad short for Thaddeus?”

Forged in Fire is a novella in Never Too Late, the 2017 box set of the Bluestocking Belles. Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t. Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.

It’s Never Too Late to find love ~ 25% of proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.

1181
The Piper’s Lady by Sherry Ewing
True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?

1354
Her Wounded Heart by Nicole Zoltack
A solitary widow, a landless knight, and a crumbling castle.

1645
A Year Without Christmas by Jessica Cale
An earl and his housekeeper face their feelings for one another in the midst of the English Civil War.

1795
The Night of the Feast by Elizabeth Ellen Carter
One night to risk it all in the midst of the French Revolution.

1814
The Umbrella Chronicles: George & Dorothea’s Story by Amy Quinton
The Umbrella Strikes Again: St. Vincent’s downfall (aka betrothal) is assured.

1814
A Malicious Rumor by Susana Ellis
A harmonious duo is better than two lonely solos for a violinist and a lady gardener.

1886
Forged in Fire by Jude Knight
Forged in volcanic fire, their love will create them anew.

1916
Roses in Picardy by Caroline Warfield
In the darkness of war, hope flickers. In the gardens of Picardy, love catches fire.

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Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything. She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

You can connect with Jude at her website or newsletter, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

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