Highlighting Historical Romance with Laura Strickland’s research into hiring fairs.
I first became aware of the occurrence of hiring fairs in Britain years ago, through a folk song of the same name. The English folk band, Fairport Convention has long been a favorite of mine, and The Hiring Fair is a wistful tune that tells of a young man’s yearning for the lass who works beside him in his master’s fields. Gathering in the harvest gives him the opportunity for which he’s longed—to be near her.
When my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, put out a submission call for their Help Wanted series, my mind returned to the song. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen if a woman went to the fair to hire a husband. Because I wanted to set my story in Scotland, I needed to chase down details of just how hiring fairs operated there.
I discovered that hiring fairs have been common in Britain since the 1300s. Traditionally, they were large annual gatherings where farm workers and landholders met so workers might be taken on for the season. The rate of wage was often set ahead of time and a worker would agree to stay till the next fair. Dates of the gatherings varied by district. In England, they were held after the harvest in late October or early November. My research indicated that in Scotland, hiring fairs were often held on or around March 10th, so I set my story accordingly, in March of 1810.
Though my story has nothing else in common with the song by the same name, it’s an example of how inspiration for a romance story can be found in unexpected places, allowing us to capture pieces of a world we might otherwise never know.
About the Book
Brutally dispossessed during the Highland Clearances, Tam Sutherland comes to the hiring fair at Oban, Scotland hoping to find a job for the season. But his maimed right hand, inflicted by the same cruel factor responsible for his parents’ deaths, means he’s one of few men available when the beautiful woman makes her surprising announcement: she’s looking not for a hand but a husband, not just for the season but forever.
Annie MacCallum is under threat from a brutal factor also, back at her home farm—one who preys on unmarried women. If she’s to protect all those who rely on her, including her beloved animals, she must have a husband, if only in name. Secretly glad when the attractive Tam takes up her proposition, she doesn’t realize she’s dragging him into a situation that will trigger old demons. Nor does she expect to give him her heart.
About the Author
Multi-published and multi-award winning author, Laura Strickland writes stories that span several Romance genres. Her Scottish Romances have been compared to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and her American Historicals echo the work of authors such as Susan Wiggs and Kristin Hannah. Her award-winning Buffalo Steampunk series has broken new ground both for its setting and its portrayal of automaton characters pursuing their rights. Currently, she is at home in Western New York and at work on her next book.