This month we are taking our blog subjects from the headlines: attention-grabbing statements usually touting terrible news, and providing fodder for authors who must take their characters through the depths of darkness, before redeeming them by the end of their books. For authors who write contemporary stories, this is a great source of ideas.
For someone who writes historical tomes, that's not always so. So much that happens in the 21st century that would be impossible in the settings I write ~ high speed car chases, internet fraud, celebrity mug shots. On the other hand, some things never change:
March 31, 1822
Candidate Hansen Embroiled in Paternity Dispute
(The following article appeared in the Saint Louis Enquirer in "A Matter of Principle"…)
Legislative candidate, Nicolas R. Hansen, has fathered a child out of wedlock according to Lady Lily Atherton Kensington of Raleigh, North Carolina, formerly of Cheltenham. Mrs. Kensington expects to be confined in August with a child she says the candidate fathered.
Mr. Hansen’s wife, Siobhan Sydney Hansen, practices midwifery. Her assistant is one of Mrs. Kensington’s own house slaves, whom Mrs. Hansen is training to deliver Negro women of their infants. Mrs. Kensington, who has been visiting her brother on their shared estate, graciously made the slave girl available to Mrs. Hansen, and transported her on demand to the Hansen estate, nearly two miles distant.
It was often Mrs. Kensington’s practice to await their return at the Hansen estate, at which time she could transport the girl home on top of her carriage. These are the opportunities ~ when she and Mr. Hansen were alone in his manor ~ that Mr. Hansen pressed his full advantage and claimed her affections.
Sir Ezra Warpold Kensington, husband of Lady Kensington, has stated that he will accept Hansen’s child, and raise it as his own heir, once the couple has returned to Raleigh. Mrs. Kensington indicates that they intend to return as soon as she is able to liquidate her half of the Cheltenham estate she shares with her brother.
In this book, one of the antagonists is a newspaper reporter who has an unpleasant history with hero Nicolas and heroine Sydney. When Nicolas decides to run for state senate, using the reporter's articles to provoke my couple allowed me to both amp up their conflict, and provide an outside perspective of what was happening to them in the story. Especially as things get worse:
May 5, 1822
Candidate’s Wife Arrested for Murder
Mrs. Siobhan Sydney Hansen, wife of Legislative Candidate Nicolas Hansen, was arrested at her husband’s home on Saturday. She has been charged with murder in the death of Lady Lily Jane Atherton Kensington on Monday, April 29. Mrs. Hansen, a practicing midwife, used a hunting knife on Lady Kensington to deliver her of her son. Lady Kensington died as a result.
Mrs. Hansen’s assumed motive would stem from Lady Kensington’s claim that her husband, Mr. Nicolas Hansen, was the father of the child. Lady Kensington maintained that she and Mr. Hansen had several trysts after her return to Cheltenham in the autumn. She also maintained that these trysts were an extension of the relationship they enjoyed before Mr. Hansen wed his current wife.
There is speculation that Mrs. Hansen intended to harm the child as well as the mother. However, the baby, a boy, did survive the early birth and has been removed to Raleigh, North Carolina, by Sir Ezra Kensington, the grieving widower.
In a related story, the attack on the Hansens and resultant killing of two highwaymen, as reported in this publication on February 28 of this year, alluded to the possibility that it was Mrs. Hansen who shot the second man, lending weight to the idea that she is capable of committing the act with which she is charged.
Mrs. Hansen is currently resting in the Cheltenham jail, and will be brought to St. Louis for trial, possibly as early as next week.
There's nothing like a great black moment - or two or three, for that matter - to keep a reader turning pages. And what's making it worse: publishing the lies and innuendo for all to see.
And how do the characters react? That depends on the amount of truth, and the possible consequences the characters are facing. In Nicolas's case, the attempted ruination of his and Sydney's reputations will change the direction of their future.
I'm not going to tell you how it ends.
You can read it in the newspaper.