Highlighting Historical Romance with Michal Scott
Today Michal sheds light on a little-known part of American history, the migration of African-American men who chose to go West after the Civil War and the women who followed them.
The lives of African Americans in the Post Civil War era is a rich and varied saga. Newly freed slaves traveled North in search of relief from the violence and economic oppression that accompanied their emancipation. Unfortunately, many encountered just as much oppression and violence as they had in the South. Others turned West to fulfill their hopes for a better life. They took advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act that allowed anyone – African-Americans included – to become landowners. My hero, Caesar King, is among this number. My heroine found a different way to fulfill her hopes: as a mail-order bride.
Better To Marry Than To Burn was inspired by the account of African-American mail-order brides coming to Arizona. In Black Women of the Old West, William Loren Katz shares how the married women of Arizona mining camps grew tired of unmarried men fighting over the wrong kind of women, i.e. prostitutes, in their towns. They used churches and newspaper ads back East to find women willing to leave behind “lives of poverty, family problems or personal tragedy” for “the thrill of love, the warmth of family and a new life.” Women and girls responded. So did my heroine, Queen Esther Payne.
But how could I make her motivation believable? Thanks to the amazing sociological study, The Philadelphia Negro by W.E.B. DuBois’ I learned about the forces that both shaped and stifled Queen. Published in 1899, DuBois documented the lives of ex-slave and freeborn African Americans in the city of Brotherly Love. Especially helpful was his final word where he urges “the better class of Negroes to recognize their duty toward the masses.” Although published almost 20 years after my story is set, Du Bois’ statistics and class-conscious conclusions helped me create the perfect heroine for my opposites-attract romance.
About the Book
Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.
Caesar King’s ad for a mail-order bride is an answer to Queen Esther Payne’s prayer. Her family expects her to adhere to society’s traditional conventions of submissive wife and mother, but Queen refuses. She is not the weaker sex and will not allow herself to be used, abused or turned into a baby-making machine under the sanctity of matrimony. Grateful that love is neither required nor sought, she accepts the ex-slave’s offer and heads West for marriage on her terms. Her education and breeding will see to that. However, once she meets Caesar, his unexpected allure and intriguing wit make it hard to keep love at bay. How can she hope to remain her own woman when victory may be synonymous with surrender?
She pulled the wagon to a stop. “Care to take over?”
She held the reins before him. He nodded. She handed over the reins, crossed her arms and stared at him. “Tell me more about Emma.”
He shrugged. That kind of detail hadn’t been part of the bargain, but…
“Not much to tell. She used to teach us slaves in secret, then openly when Union forces secured our town. I was her star pupil. We married and came West for a fresh start. She died giving birth to twin boys soon after we arrived. They followed her within a few hours.”
A soft light shone at him from her eyes. “Sorry for your loss.”
“None needed. Good comes from bad. Death, not slavery, took my boys from me. They never had to live as someone’s property.” He sat a little straighter. “Our children will never have to worry about that.”
“Our children?” She swiveled in her seat. “You made no mention of wanting children, just marital relations as necessary. I understood that to mean intercourse.”
“I wrote I wanted to leave a legacy.”
“A legacy. Not a dynasty.”
“Legacy. Dynasty. Is there really so sharp a distinction?”
“To my mind there is. I understood you meant to affect future generations—endow schools, found churches, create civic associations. I didn’t realize that meant children. I agreed to having sex, not having children.”
“Of course I want children.” His brows grew heavy as he frowned. “Doesn’t having sex lead to having children?”
“Not with the right precautions.”
His frown deepened. “Precautions?”
“There are many ways to prevent your seed from taking root, Mr. King.”
“I want children, Mrs. King.”
Her lips twisted and her brow furrowed, but she kept her silence.
“All right,” she said. “You can have children with any woman you like. I won’t stop you. I free you from any claim to fidelity.”
“Legacy—or dynasty if you will—means legitimacy. No bastard will carry my name, not when I have a wife to bear me children.”
Her tone signaled she didn’t.
Wild Rose Press – http://bit.ly/2DHdb0x
About the Author
Michal Scott writes:
History has been an old passion of mine. Romance a recent one. The opportunity to combine the two came in the 2016 publication of my novella, One Breath Away. Better To Marry Than To Burn has solidified the union.
I’ve been writing professionally since 2008 and belong to the inspirational, gothic and erotic romance chapters of Romance Writers of America. A surprising, but never a boring combination of genres for a retired minister. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my historical world. Please stop by for a chat and bring your friends.