Duchess Regalia!

May 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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I lived with the characters of my first historical novel, Island of the Swans, for the five years it took me to research and write this book (1983-1988), and even used to give lectures about the book and the real-life historical figures of Jane, Alex, and Lt. Fraser dressed in full “Duchess Regalia!”  When I read the Swans in 2009 in preparation to restore some 100 pages a previous publisher of a second edition had taken out, I was amazed (says she modestly…) how immediately caught up I became in the twists and turns of their true-life saga!  I love Jane Maxwell for her courage, for her amazing accomplishments during an era when women were frowned upon for participating in the “public sphere,” and for her struggles to cope with being forced to marry a man she learned to admire—Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon.  I felt her anguish in letters I had unearthed that proved she could never put aside the love and devotion she bore for her childhood love, a man I believed to be Thomas Fraser of Struy.

Now, remember, this novel is based on real historical figures. It debuted twenty years ago, in 1989.  I had to check for any new information regarding these characters since its first publication.

After Swans was published, I began a book that dealt with Lafayette during Colonial times in America and discovered that Jane’s true love and Lafayette may very well have known each other before and after the Battle of Yorktown, and the ultimate surrender of the British troops when the Scottish regiments were forced to lay down their arms.  My portrayal of Jane caused a small amount of controversy among some descendants of the Maxwells and the Gordons who, I suppose, wanted everyone in the family to be portrayed only in the noblest of terms, which, of course, if one is trying to ferret out “truth” from events that took place two hundred years ago, is nigh on impossible.  As with my life as a reporter for ABC in Los Angeles for twenty years, I call it as I see it.  My credo when writing historical novels was never to put anything in the novel that I knew to be untrue, but this is a work of fiction, after all, so I obviously filled in what was not known with what I call “intelligent supposition based on the research and primary documents.”

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