07 June 2009

Guest Author: Sherry Thomas

This week we're welcoming successful new historical author Sherry Thomas as she celebrates the release of her latest romance, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND.

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon--to no one's surprise, not even Bryony Asquith's. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn't possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won't rest until he's delivered an urgent message from her sister--and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them--or their rekindling passion?

Who are you and what are you doing here?

Uhhh, sorry, wrong blog. Wait, wait, hold on a minute. This is the Unusual Historicals blog: I'm at the right place. Look, I even have an invitation. Oh, crap. Where's my invite?

Everybody here writes unusual historicals. Do you?

Well, umm, actually, I mostly write the usual stuff. Double-crossing heiresses, fallen femme fatale cooks, turn-of-the-century time period. You know, stuff that everybody does.

Everybody doesn't. There are very few romances set around the turn of the century.

You are kidding. It's an ab fab period. There were cool technologies: Telegraphy was the 19th century internet and having a private car is like having a private space vehicle today. There was globalization: You wouldn't believe how much international trade went on. (It all screeched to a halt in the first half of the 20th century because of the two wars and took decades to build back up to turn-of-the-century levels). And there were multiplying freedoms for women--they traveled, they worked, they obtained higher education in droves, they enjoyed rights to their own properties even if they are married.

Why aren't more books set in this period?

Beats us. So it says here you've a new book out, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, set in India?

::looks around surreptitiously::

Actually it's set in--::clears throat nervously::--Pakistan.

Of course there was no Pakistan in 1897. It was all Imperial India, or the British Raj, if you will. More specifically, my book is set in the North-West Frontier, a rugged, austere, and beautiful country in the Hindu Kush mountains. It was the frontier not only in the sense of the difficulty of the physical terrain, which is similar to the terrain in Afghanistan that has proved such a headache for NATO (and the USSR in the 80s), but also in the sense that it was the end of the reach of British power. Beyond reared the roof of the world--the Pamirs, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas.

The British had been happy to hold the plains of India and Kashmir. But with Russia's relentless territorial growth in the 19th century, the British were increasingly alarmed that it was going to expand right to the gates of India--perhaps even into India itself. So the British countered by extending its own sphere of influence northward, to hold certain key positions which, if captured by the Russians, would give them strategy footholds for sweeping south into India Proper.

The Pashtun tribes of the frontier, however, did not like foreign overlords. And in the summer of 1897, tensions came to a boil.

An itinerant imam, by the sobriquet of the Mad Fakir, traveled the villages of the Upper Swat Valley. He performed miracles and invited the populace to follow him as he drove out the British from their land. He inspired a fierce rebellion that took the British military encampment in the Swat Valley entirely by surprise. They were surrounded and sieged in for a week, until relief columns arrived from the south.

(And if Swat Valley sounds familiar to anyone, it's because history repeats itself and Swat is again a dangerous place to be: it has been very much in the news in the past year as a fierce battleground between the Pakistan Army and the Taliban.)

Wow, cool! Did you set out to set NOT QUITE A HUSBAND in an in-the-news hot spot?

Nope, completely by chance. I sold my editor a book set somewhere in the deserts--I figured, broiling days, freezing nights, bandits, so romantic. But unfortunately I couldn't find a suitably sandy trouble spot at the end of the 19th century. Searched for colonial conflicts all around the globe and ended up in the North-West Frontier of India in the end.

My editor, however, still refers to "the deserts" even after we'd been going back and forth in revision a while!

And what were your characters doing in the North-West Frontier province to be caught in the cross hairs? Is he an officer in the army?

No, not at all. He is a mathematician. He's traveled all the way to the North-West Frontier to find the woman who used to be his wife--their marriage has been annulled--and to escort her back to England, because her father lies dying in London.

And what follows is a journey both physical and metaphorical. And though there be malaria--have I mentioned malaria yet?--dreadful terrain, and deadly rebellion, there is nothing as perilous as secrets of the heart.

Well, maybe you do belong here then, with other folks who write unusual romances. But sorry lady, your time's up. Good-bye and get moving.

Okay, okay, I'm going. But thanks anyway, for having me. You guys are really nice--and you smell good too!


Thanks, Sherry! I wear Chanel No. 5, if you must know.

Now dear reader, you're frothing at the mouth for this book, aren't you? Let us hear from you! Question? Comment? Sock them to us for your chance to win a copy of NOT QUITE A HUSBAND. I'll draw a winner next Sunday, so good luck!