Five Reasons I set my Historical Fiction in Dorset
- History runs through the county – from the Jurassic coast through the bronze age and on to much more modern times. Everywhere you turn you see the past infusing the present whether burial mounds, ancient earthworks or tiny churches, each with their own story to tell, making it the perfect place to set my own stories. For example, Thomas Davenport has no idea as to his future, wanting just the freedom to roam the fields and woods of his native North Dorset. By chance he gets involved with the building of the bridge at Sturminster Newton in A New Lease on Freedom (Book 1). He never looks back. It’s a practical occupation that allows for travel. Hence in All to the Sword (Book 5) he’s invited up to the north east of Scotland to design a magnificent new country house. On their travels, they get hopelessly tied up in the infamous Glen Coe Massacre.
- The Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis on 11th June 1685 on his daring but doomed-to-fail mission to steal the crown from his uncle, James II. It could never succeed because of Monmouth’s personality, the makings of disaster literally built into his character. Yet he evokes a certain type of nobility in a strange way; more so because he loses his head soon after. The picture I hold onto is of Monmouth hiding in a ditch after fleeing from the Battle of Sedgemoor, detailed in A New Lease on Freedom. I imagine him being dragged out by farmworkers and prodded to nearby soldiers with pitchforks. That’s part of the reason I find history so enthralling; people carry within them their destiny and often drag thousands down with them. Luke Davenport, famous preacher, is one of them. Although fictitious, he too carries the seeds of destiny within his fragile character and you just know he won’t survive.
- Dorset manages to run both with the modern world and in defiance of it. It’s full of contrasts. From the hustle and congestion of the urban south to the tractor domination of the north, much the same in the 17th It’s one of only a few counties in Britain without any motorways. It’s a pass-through place (on the way to Devon and Cornwall) and a holiday destination in its own right. It’s a county relatively undominated by huge country estates giving leeway to the imagination in creating fictitious landed families who fight and support, hate and love. Yet it’s also sufficiently out of the way for people to get lost in its panoramic landscapes and heavy woods. Thus, Penelope, Duchess of Wiltshire, is able to find the solitude to carry on her lifestyle with her maid-come-lover without fear of exposure. They first discover their love in It Takes a Rogue (Book 2) but then she knows nothing of the equal measures of defiance and sacrifice that will be required of her in One Shot in the Storm (Book 4).
- I came to Dorset as a compromise and now wouldn’t move for all the tea in China. We were looking for an English base while living in America. We couldn’t afford Hampshire and disliked the traffic which has multiplied many times over since my childhood. We chose Dorset thinking it was next door therefore the next best thing. And then we fell in love with the place! Of course, writing about the county produces an extra bond. Every time I drive through Winterbourne Stickland on towards Winterbourne Whitchurch I’m visiting the Great Little estate of the Dorset Chronicles. The name derives from the post-Norman occupiers, the Little family, who, worn down by debt and despair, finally sell to Sir Beatrice and Lady Roakes in 1688, just as the William of Orange was making his bid for the throne that Monmouth had so singularly failed at (It Takes a Rogue). Every time I go to Blandford, I look in on the shop where Simon Taylor based his illicit and highly damaging operations against the Roakes, the Davenports and the Merrimans.
- Finally, I live in North Dorset. I feel I owe something to the county where I’ve found so much happiness. I love writing about Bagber Manor and Dorchester three hundred years ago. My Historical Fiction writing is firmly based in Dorset but from there my characters go out to Ireland (A Simple Mistake – Book 3) for the Siege of Londonderry and again to Ireland in One Shot in the Storm for the Battle of the Boyne, which also sees action in the North American colonies. And now in All to the Sword they journey to Scotland. From Dorset every major event in our development is within easy reach. But the characters keep coming back to Dorset, just like me. Ultimately, that’s why I chose to set my Historical Fiction in Dorset.