Dangerous Indenture - A Colonial Romance
By Kelli A. Wilkins
Today I’m sharing a look at my historical romance Dangerous Indenture. This full-length novel is set in Pennsylvania Colony blends sensual romance with mystery. Here’s the summary:
Eager to escape her past in Ireland, Shauna Farrow signs on to become an indentured servant to Joshua Stewart, a wealthy man in Pennsylvania Colony.
But a life of servitude quickly turns to drudgery, and her hopes for starting over and creating a better life for herself are waning—until she meets her master’s roguish son, Ashton.
Shauna fights her growing attraction to Ashton, torn between propriety and acting on her emotions. But amidst their flirting, something dark stirs. Shauna soon discovers why no other servants will work for the strange Stewart family.
Stewart House has an unsavory reputation: a previous servant died there under mysterious circumstances. When another servant goes missing in the middle of the night, Shauna is convinced that a member of the family is responsible.
When Shauna’s investigation leads her too close to the truth, it’s up to Ashton to save her before time runs out.
So, how did the novel come about? Dangerous Indenture is one of those books that just jumped into my head. (Yes, every so often that happens to writers.) One day, I overheard the name Shawna Farrell, but I thought I’d heard Shauna Farrow. The name stuck with me and I wrote it down.
A few minutes later, I knew all about her: she was an Irish indentured servant who came to Pennsylvania Colony and worked at a house where a previous servant was murdered. Once I knew that, I started outlining the book.
Before I wrote a word, I did a lot of research. I was starting from a good place with the book—I knew where I wanted to set the story and in approximately what timeframe it should take place.
From there, I spent time in the library going through history books, reading up on Colonial times (What life was like, what people wore, ate, etc.) and indentured servants (Where did they come from? Why did they leave their home country?).
As I wrote, I incorporated my research as background information. This gives the book a rich historical feel without going overboard with details that slow down a scene or are of no interest to readers.
When I’m writing historical romances, I include details and descriptions that are integral to the story. I don’t bog down the plot with a step-by-step procedure for churning butter or how to saddle a horse, and I don’t go into an endless description of how to unfasten a corset (unless it’s befuddling a hero who is eager to remove it!)
Just because historical romances are set in time periods before cars, the Internet, and cell phones, that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make them boring. My historicals include plenty of action, adventure, intrigue, danger, comedy, and sensual love scenes.
When I wrote Dangerous Indenture, I especially enjoyed creating the characters and setting the stage for the drama that’s about to unfold. Right from the start, we’re told that Stewart House is haunted, and then we (and Shauna) meet the master of the house, Joshua Stewart, and his strange family.
Our hero, Ashton Bailey, is flawed and has a lot of problems to overcome. For starters, he’s known as the black sheep of the family and has been sent home in disgrace. He has a reputation as a drunkard and a womanizer, and tends to get himself into troubling situations. By giving Ashton all this “baggage” I made him vulnerable and provided him with lofty goals to reach.
Shauna has come to the Colonies to start over and make a new life for herself. The last thing she wants is to fall in love with anyone—and then she meets Ashton. Shauna is headstrong and independent, and not your typical heroine. She’s brash and opinionated and falls in love with Ashton despite all of his socially unacceptable flaws. Ashton gives her the strength and encouragement she needs to keep going when things look bleak, and he stands up for her at a critical plot point in the story.
When I developed the secondary characters, I made sure to give them all interesting backstories and unusual quirks. Joshua comes off as a mean bear of a man, Minerva just might be crazy (and/or a murderer), Colin is… a villain in many senses of the word, and Lila thought she had everything going for her—for a while. Not everyone in Stewart House is as they seem, however, and this adds another level of mystery and intrigue to the book.
I had never written a romance set in Colonial times before, and combining all these elements into this Gothic-type story was a lot of fun. I hope you’ll check it out.
Here’s an excerpt from Dangerous Indenture:
“You don’t wanna be goin’ to Stewart House. It’s got more haunts than the Tower of London.”
The carriage driver’s words echoed in Shauna’s mind as she stared at the two-story stone building. The house didn’t look haunted. Why had the driver tried to scare her with tales of murder and madness? She’d come to the colonies to do a job, and she wasn’t about to be put off by a batch of superstitious nonsense.
Shauna walked up the path to the front door, passing her trunk where the driver had dropped it in his haste to flee. She rapped with the brass knocker, waited a moment, then knocked again. There was no answer. Was anyone home? She didn’t fancy waiting outside all day.
She opened the front door and stepped into a tiled entryway. The scent of cherry tobacco filled her nostrils. “Hello? Anyone ’ere?”
Curious, she peeked into the parlor to her left. The room was decorated with a horsehair sofa, an assortment of chairs and tables, and a thick wool carpet. “Oh my,” she muttered. Was everyone in Pennsylvania Colony so well off?
Upon closer inspection, she noticed cobwebs dangling from the ceiling’s open beams, a gray tinge to the lace curtains, and stains on the light blue carpet. She frowned. The coach driver had been right about one thing—the house needed a servant. She recalled the rest of his strange story.
“The Stewarts can’t keep servants, ya know. They tried to hire local girls, but folks in town know better. Nobody stays at Stewart House after dark. Not after what happened to that Purdy girl.”
She hadn’t asked who “that Purdy girl” was, and she didn’t care. Besides, even if the house was haunted, she had no choice but to stay.
“Who are you and what the devil are you doing in my parlor?” a deep voice thundered.
She whirled around. A man with dark hair and a heavy beard towered over her.
“I asked you a question. Who are you?”
“I’m the new servant. Me name’s Shauna Farrow.”
“You were supposed to be here three days ago. Where the hell have you been? I paid the driver a good bit to fetch you. He’d better have done his duty,” the man snapped. “I am your master, Joshua Stewart. You are not allowed to use the front door without permission. You are a servant. Use the servants’ entrance.”
“Aye, but you see—”
“If you wish to speak, beg permission. I will not tolerate insolence. Address me as ‘sir’ or ‘Master Stewart.’ Understand? Do you have your papers?”
“Aye, sir. They’re outside in me trunk.”
She darted into the foyer, then stopped. Was this a trick? She turned back. “Sir, pray I use the front door to fetch ’em? The driver—”
“Are you mocking me?”
She forced herself to sound meek. Joshua Stewart was a big bear of a man, and she didn’t want to make him angrier. “Nay, sir. I wanna be sure I’m doin’ the right thing. Me trunk’s at the edge of the walk.”
He waved her off. “Hurry.”
Shauna rushed outside and opened her battered brown trunk. Her indenture papers were stacked neatly on top of her clothes. She picked up the papers and paused. Having second thoughts now would do her no good; it was too late to turn back. As soon as she handed these documents over to Master Stewart, she would belong to him for five years. It already seemed like an eternity.
Part of her was tempted to march back inside and give her new “master” a piece of her mind, but she couldn’t. A fiery Irish temper and a loose tongue had caused her more problems than she could count. She didn’t need to start any new troubles here. As long as she lived at Stewart House, she would have to do as she was told. Besides, she had nowhere else to go.
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I hope you enjoyed this inside look at the making of Dangerous Indenture. I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books.
Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
Kelli’s writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative guide filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
Visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/ to learn about all of her writings.
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