Welcome, Susanna Fraser!
by Susanna Fraser
Available Aug 23rd from Carina!
Highborn Anna Arrington has been "following the drum," obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington's army in Spain behind her and go home to her family's castle in Scotland.
Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.
As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives—together. The attraction between them is strong—but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount's daughter and an innkeeper's son?
Q: The Sergeant’s Lady is set in 1811-12. Is there a particular
reason you chose that year?
Most of the story’s action takes place with Wellington’s army during
the Peninsular War. The summer of 1811 was a relatively quiet time in
the conflict, so I felt free to invent such skirmishes and troop
movements as I needed to drive my hero and heroine together.
The final act of the story, by contrast, hinges on the storming of
Badajoz in April 1812, which gave me the opportunity to involve my
hero in a Big Real Event. I ended up taking a book on the battle and
highlighting everything Will’s regiment played a role in--which
happened to be the bloodiest part of arguably the worst battle the
British endured pre-Waterloo.
So I got the best of both worlds--getting to invent incidents from
whole cloth AND show off my research!
Q: How did you become interested in the military side of the Regency
era? What you love about it?
The same year I started kindergarten, my youngest older brother, who’s
13 years my senior, entered West Point, and I spent a good part of my
childhood dreaming of following in his footsteps. He left his cadet
dress sword with our parents after he graduated, and I used to take it
down and pose with it.
I changed my mind about West Point long before I was old enough to
apply for college, but retained a latent interest in military history.
I’ve been reading Regencies since high school, and when I discovered
Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian, something clicked for me. I
started researching the history behind their fiction and was instantly
Q: What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained
you or that you had to plot carefully around?
To make my ending work, I needed to get Will out of the army well
before Waterloo, and there just weren’t that many options for getting
an enlisted man an honorable discharge back then. I found a way to do
it, which I won’t reveal here to avoid spoilers, but it wasn’t my
Q: Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?
There’s an early scene where Will and Anna sneak a dance together,
just the two of them, when at that time all either would’ve known were
group dances with lines or sets of partners. I fudged because I had
them out in the darkness listening to music that would make their feet
itch, so I decided to make them creative enough to improvise a private
The scene was just too good to resist writing--it’s practically the
first time they touch, the first time they consciously break the rules
separating aristocratic lady from lowborn common sergeant, and let’s
just say sparks fly from more than just that nearby campfire.
Q: Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get
their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the
book has gone to press. *sigh*
Anna attends her first husband’s burial, and I swear someone posted on
the Beau Monde loop about how women didn’t go to funerals mere DAYS
after my final copyedits. The same for nightrail. I used it as a
synonym for nightshirt, learning from the Hoydens’ own Kalen that it
actually meant a wrapper just a little bit too late to change it.
Q: Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite
childhood pet, or his first kiss.
In my head, Will looks like Firefly-era Nathan Fillion. THAT’s fun, amiright?
As for his first kiss...well, he had a childhood sweetheart back in
his home village. When they were 15 or 16, they started sneaking off
to make out (only they would’ve called it something
period-appropriate, maybe “kiss and play”), feeling very naughty and
sure their parents would KILL them if they ever got caught.
Then one day Will overheard his father and the girl’s father
congratulating each other on the dear children having paired off, just
as they’d always hoped and intended, but it wouldn’t do to say
anything just yet, because the youngsters DO like to think it’s all
their own idea.
This freaked teenaged Will out so much that the very next day he let a
recruiting sergeant get him drunk and took the king’s shilling.
Q: What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A
scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?
Anna was a secondary character in the first book I ever wrote, during
which she and the heroine started out as rivals for the affections of
Sebastian Arrington (Anna’s first husband, who dies in the opening
chapters of The Sergeant’s Lady). Originally I’d intended Sebastian
as a sort of Edmund Bertram type, serious and moralistic but basically
decent, while Anna was sweet but lightweight. But the more I wrote
and revised, the more Anna revealed herself to have a core of steel
beneath her pretty, pampered exterior, and the more Sebastian became
cruel and misogynistic. By the time I finished, I knew Anna deserved
a better fate, and that I owed it to her to kill Sebastian and give
her someone worthy of her.
Fortunately, since I’d already established that he was an army
officer, that was easily done! And Will came to me the instant I
started to think about what kind of man Anna really belonged with.
I’d been wanting to write an unabashedly common hero or heroine for
awhile--when you’re so common yourself that none of your grandparents
even finished high school, it’s hard to completely identify with the
aristocracy. And with my background and interests, a level-headed,
experienced sergeant with a quixotic romantic streak was only natural.
Q: Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you
stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already
When I first got the idea for the book, I knew little about the
Peninsular War or life in the British Army of the era, so, yes, I did
a TON of research--and enjoyed every bit of it.
As for interesting facts...here’s one that had no bearing on TSL but
that stuck in my mind nonetheless: While researching childbirth
practices, not long after the birth of my own daughter in a difficult,
four-day labor following six weeks of bedrest for gestational
hypertension, I learned that someone like me might’ve survived
pregnancy and childbirth 200 years ago...but probably only if my
physician had bled me regularly. Because I had the one complication
of pregnancy bleeding helps rather than worsens.
Q: What/Who do you like to read?
Broadly speaking, romance, mystery, and fantasy, preferring historical
settings for all three (in the case of fantasy, either alternative
history or set in worlds obviously based on our own). A few of my
many favorite authors are Loretta Chase, Rose Lerner, and Jo Beverley
for romance, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Lindsey Davis, and Dorothy Sayers
for mystery, and Naomi Novik, Jacqueline Carey, and Lois McMaster
Bujold for fantasy.
Q: Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser
or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?
I’m in between, but closer to a pantser. I don’t do detailed outlines
or character bios or anything like that, but the writing goes better
if I give a new story time to percolate in my brain before setting
fingers to keyboard.
Q: What are you planning to work on next?
I’m working on a desert isle novella with a French hero and English
heroine in 1813. And to further complicate their relationship, she
thinks he murdered her first husband.