Welcome, Katharine Ashe!
The History Hoydens are thrilled to welcome Katharine Ashe. A professor of European history, Katharine has made her home in California, Italy, France, and the northern US, all excellent training for a debut historical romance that RT Book Reviews awarded a “TOP PICK!” review, calling Swept Away by a Kiss “a page-turner and a keeper.”
Katharine was kind enough to take the time out from her busy round of writing to talk to us today about love and war (in which, as we know, all is fair).
So, without further ado, over to Katharine....
What do love and war have in common? We could easily imagine them polar opposites.
Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary says about passion: “any controlling or overpowering emotion, as desire, hate, fear, etc.; an intense feeling or impulse.” Hmm, I ponder. That sounds about right to me. But here’s the thing—love, even sex, only appears in eighth place upon the list of sub-definitions. “8. Strong affection; love. Sexual desire or impulses.” That’s pretty low down the list.
If you will humor me, now consider: Revolution.
I am a professor of history. Perhaps because I teach courses on conflict, I did not find in the OED what I expected for this word. “Circular movement; the movement of a planet, moon, satellite round another.” Only the second category of definitions mentioned war, under the general heading “Change, upheaval,” and even way down on that list: “8. Overthrow of an established government or social order; rebellion.”
For starters, I like the circular movement notion. Isn’t that how a hero and heroine behave for a time, in the earliest stages, revolving around each another in a dance of attraction and desire that holds them bound by a force as powerful as an interstellar orbit?
But perhaps we ought to move away from the galactic model back to earth. To terrestrial revolution. To war.
Revolution. The word suggests chaos and danger. But it also suggests a struggle for something grand, something powerful, something meaningful that reaches far beyond every day concerns. Doesn’t every great love story do the same?
Here’s the sub-definition that shows up for “passion” right after love and sex: “9. An intense desire or enthusiasm for something; the zealous pursuit of an aim.” My stomach gets all tingly when I read this. Because that marks every great romance I have ever read or seen on screen, as well as every great war story. Revolutionaries carry within themselves a passion that turns things inside out, passion more powerful even than guns (consider Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.). And in most war stories we hear of nobility of character, bravery for honor’s sake, and courage beyond compare.
Possibly because of this, some of my favorite love stories are set in times of war. I discovered historical fiction with John Jakes’s Civil War trilogy. This was family saga at its best, including all the heartache and triumph of love and war intimately combined. And what about Gone With the Wind? (“Oh, Rhett!”) Or my all-time favorite, The Scarlet Pimpernel, in which the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney masquerades as the dashing Pimpernel, saving French aristocrats from the guillotine all for his wife’s sake. War and love often intermingle, I think, because of their common bond: passion.
Passion drives humans to the extremes of emotion, its greatest heights of joy and profoundest depths of despair. The adventure of passion is intoxicating, the risks enormous. When passion ignites action, in both war and love, everything is at stake, everything of any importance—the dignity of the human person, the treasures in the human heart. Because the payoff is unequaled.
The hero and heroine of my debut Regency-era historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, find themselves in the midst of a passionate love that turns their lives inside out. Steven Ashford, black-sheep lord with a noble mission, cannot be distracted from his pursuit of a dangerous villain. After a two-year exile in Boston, scandalous Lady Valerie Monroe has vowed to reform, to mend her wicked ways and reenter London society a proper lady. When they meet, neither Steven nor Valerie understands the extent to which their passions will now take them because of the other.
True love causes a radical alteration of the heart, an upheaval of mammoth proportions. Revolution does the same for a society. I created a radical history for my hero and a scandalous past for my heroine. Coming of age in the French and Haitian Revolutions, Steven lived the passions of his youth through sword and fire. For her part, in her first season in society Valerie played out her young passions in a contest of wills with her cold father. Upheaval and rebellion were Steven and Valerie’s daily bread and water.
But in love they discover a different kind of passion. A transcendent passion. A passion whose desires and impulses overpower only to restore and nourish. A passion whose radical power fuels a monumental change in that greatest of all frontiers—the human heart.
What is your favorite story that mingles love and war?
If you'd like to hear more from Katharine, you can visit her at her website, www.katharineashe.com.