The Regency romance author outlines the challenges of writing a love story set against the fossil-hunting mania of 1800s England.
A longtime fan of Regency romance, Carolyn Miller’s witty and fun novels deal with such issues as forgiveness and actual love versus ‘true love.’ Her latest novel is A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh (Kregel Publications), the first book in her new series Regency Brides: Daughters of Aynsley. In this interview, Carolyn shares how all the elements of science and crime came to be included in her new Regency romance; explains what makes her latest leading lady and man special; and reveals whether she took liberties with the historical record…
Carolyn, your new Regency romance is A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh. The novel includes history, romance, scandal, smugglers, and questions raised about faith in a world increasingly ruled by science. What inspired you to put all these elements together?
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Mary Anning, a poor, poorly educated, early 19th century fossil hunter, of whom it’s reputed the tongue twister “she sells sea shells by the sea shore” is based on. In spite of Miss Anning’s humble beginnings, she was eventually accorded great respect for her discovery of the first ichthyosaur skeleton in 1811, the first plesiosaur skeletons ever found, and her discoveries of a pterosaur skeleton and fish fossils.
Yet despite her achievements, as a woman she was not admitted to join the Geological Society of London, and did not always receive proper credit for her discoveries. But I didn’t want to write her story; Tracy Chevalier has already done that in the excellent Remarkable Creatures.
So, I wanted to reference her and something of the fossil-hunting mania of early 1800s England, while asking how a science-minded Bible-believing man would feel about some of these new discoveries. It was nice to weave some of these elements into a story set in England’s south coast—which of course lends itself to hints of smugglers as well! And with two sons who have loved dinosaurs, it was fun to write a story that might appeal to them.
Tell us about Caroline Hatherleigh and Gideon Kirby. What about these two made you want to build a story around them?
Gideon Kirby is a man struggling to balance his faith with his science, which is something I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of in Christian fiction, so I felt his story would be an interesting one. I love his protective commitment to his sister, and thought toying with the idea of ‘love at first sight’ would humanize his tendency to logic and reason, and add further challenge to his personal goals.
As the daughter of the very rich Lord Aynsley, the very proper Caroline Hatherleigh has been brought up to expect to marry for social connections, and ascribes to her mother’s notion that romantic love is beneath her. Meeting Gideon challenges these preconceptions and her prideful self-assurance, as she realizes what she really needs is that which her parents have long denied as important.
I like how these two very individual characters are brought together by Gideon’s sister, a relationship that’s further cemented by near tragedy.
Which character (or characters) surprised you the most as the story unfolded?
Gideon’s sister, Emma Kirby, possesses an interesting backstory that leads to more than a few secrets. Her medical condition (an autoimmune disease not unlike lupus) adds to her challenges, and would have been hard to diagnose, let alone treat with Regency-era medical knowledge.
I hope to ‘write real’ and I believe her response to these difficulties reflects some of the turmoil believers can face with uncertainty. I think she (and Gideon’s Irish friend) prove excellent foils to the drama faced by Caroline and Gideon.
Click through to discover how Carolyn got all the historical and scientific details right…