My fascination with the past and those who have gone before us is the ongoing inspiration behind my work. With my first English historical romance, Into the Lion’s Heart, I more deeply explored my British heritage. Set in 1789 England, the storyopens with the hero, Captain Dalton Evans (fought in the American Revolution) journeying to Dover to meet the ship carrying a distant cousin, Mademoiselle Sophia Devereux, who’s fleeing the French Revolution.
My research into the explosion across the English Channel in 1789 made me aware of how many French émigrésfled the country in waves during the initial year of the revolution.
A number of aristocrats, including the king’s own brothers, fled along with members of the clergy. Most all the nobility who did not flee while they still could were later guillotined during the reign of terror, along with a LOT of commoners.
The blood lust that consumed France during that horrific time was ever hungry for victims, and there were a lot more commoners than aristocrats. All one had to do to fall prey to the guillotine was to appear in any way in opposition to the glorious revolution. Even to criticize the price of bread was suspect. I set Into the Lion’s Heart during that first year while there’s a great deal erupting in France but before it gets utterly grim. Though the thought of a sequel set during that later time has crossed my mind.
Among the key events in 1789 that caused émigrés to flee France: July 17, the beginning of the Great Fear, the peasantry revolt against feudalism and a number of urban disturbances and revolts. Insurrection and the spirit of popular sovereignty spread throughout France. In rural areas, many went beyond this: some burned title-deeds and no small number of châteaux. *Not to forget the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th which had to be unsettling.
And then there’s the Women’s March on Versailles, one of the earliest and most significant events of the French Revolution. “The march began among women in the marketplaces of Paris who, on the morning of 5 October 1789, were near rioting over the high price and scarcity of bread. Their demonstrations quickly became intertwined with the activities of revolutionaries who were seeking liberal political reforms and a constitutional monarchy for France. The market women and their various allies grew into a mob of thousands and, encouraged by revolutionary agitators, they ransacked the city armory for weapons and marched to the royal palace at Versailles. The crowd besieged the palace and in a violent confrontation successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI. The next day, the crowd compelled the king, his family, and the entire French Assembly to return with them to Paris.”
King Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinettenever successfully escaped Paris and were later imprisoned and beheaded. From Women’s History: “Reportedly planned by Marie Antoinette, the escape of the royal couple from Paris was stopped at Varennes on October 21, 1791. Imprisoned with the king, Marie Antoinette continued to plot. She hoped for foreign intervention to end the revolution and free the royal family. She urged her brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, to intervene, and supported a declaration of war against Austria in April, 1792, which she hoped would result in the defeat of France.”
But it didn’t.
Blurb for Into the Lion’s Heart:
As the French Revolution rages, the English nobility offer sanctuary to many a refugee. Captain Dalton Evans arrives in Dover to meet a distant cousin, expecting to see a spoiled aristocrat. Instead, he’s conquered by the simplicity of his new charge. And his best friend Thomas Archer isn’t immune to her artless charm, either.
Cecile Beaumont didn’t choose to travel across the Channel. And she certainly didn’t expect that impersonating her own mistress would introduce her to a most mesmerizing man. Now she must play out the masquerade, or risk life, freedom – and her heart
Choking on the brine, she thrashed to right herself. Dalton spat saltwater from his mouth and fought to regain his seat while pulling her up with him. Not his most dignified effort. She was the devil to get hold of—kept slipping away. He grabbed her again, only to be knocked back down and rolled with her in the swill on the bottom of the boat.
Damn and blast! Tom and another man hoisted them upright in the prow.
“Thanks,” Dalton grunted, biting his tongue in the presence of a lady. “All right?” he shouted at her, and shifted her securely onto the seat beside him.
“Oui!” she sputtered when she’d recovered her breath.
She shook all over—must be chilled to the bone. They’d be fortunate if she didn’t catch her death, probably bruised too from tossing about in the skiff. The sooner she was safely housed indoors by a toasty hearth, the better.
Keeping an arm around the sodden woman, he peered into a striking pair of charcoal-gray eyes set above a pert nose and framed by fine dark brows.
She parted trembling, bluish lips. “Merci Monsieur—Que Dieu vous bénisse—Les saints nous bénis en préservent,” she stammered, thanking, blessing him, and calling on the saints.
Dalton was tempted to call on them himself, but her outpouring took him by surprise.
Not content with acknowledging his aid, she turned to Tom, crouched on her other side, and blurted similar gratitude—nearly incoherent in the tumult raging around them.
Tom gave a nod through gritted teeth then bent his head over the boat and heaved the contents of his volatile stomach.
She tilted her head at Dalton, eyes crinkled in sympathy. “Mal de mer,” she said, using the French for seasick.~
*INTO THE LION’S HEART is available from The Wild Rose Press in various digital formats to suit any reader you might have, or whatever else you read ebooks on.