Author's Notes for Untamed
One good thing about writing trilogies is that you get to spend more time with characters you love.
That’s what I was looking forward to when I sat down to start Untamed in August 2007. I had just written two contemporary romantic suspense novels back to back and hadn’t touched a historical novel more than 18 months. I was homesick for Iain and Annie, Morgan, Connor, Captain Joseph, Lord William, Killie, Dougie, McHugh, Brandon, and the rest of the Rangers. I needed a big dose of the 18th century — Ranger style.
This time I was telling Morgan’s story. Having to follow in Iain’s footsteps would be a challenge for any alpha male. But I felt that Morgan was up to the task, having served as Iain’s right-hand man for so many years. Every bit as courageous as his older brother, he has an unswerving sense of honor and duty, not to mention loyalty.
What happens to that kind of man when his loyalties are put to the ultimate test? I was determined to find out.
I started the prologue with a key event in Surrender — the Battle of Ticonderoga, which happened 250 years ago this summer. This time, I told the story from the point of view a young French-Métis woman, Amalie Chauvenet. In Surrender, we were outside the fort with Iain and his Rangers. This time, I put us insidethe fort where we could experience the event through Amalie’s eyes.
As readers and history buffs know, the British lost that battle. But, although Amalie experiences a stunning French victory, it comes at a great personal cost.
Raised in a convent, Amalie is the most innocent heroine I've ever written. She’s soinnocent that at times I felt challenged to write her in a believable fashion. Still, I felt she would be utterly and completely innocent, and so I went with it. What would you know about men and sex if you’d spent your entire life from the age of 3 in an 18th-century convent? Would you know exactly what makes a woman pregnant? Would you know that sex is supposed to be pleasurable? Would you understand men’s desires? Not so much.
Amalie came to Fort Carillon — the French name for Ticonderoga — to care for her ailing father, a major in the French army. Now, trapped on the frontier, she is given the task of caring for Major Morgan MacKinnon, leader of the dreaded MacKinnon's Rangers, when he is gravely wounded and taken captive.
Chained to his bed in the little French military hospital, Morgan knows he’s come to the end of his life. When he’s strong enough, he will be interrogated so that the French can pry from his mind the military secrets that make the Rangers such fierce fighters. Whatever is left of him when they’re done is to be turned over to the Abenaki, who have long sought blood vengeance against the MacKinnon brothers and plan to burn him alive. Though he’s determined to stand up against whatever pain they inflict on him, resisting his affection for Amalie is something altogether different.
When Amalie realizes what lies ahead of Morgan, she begins to feel pity for him. It distresses her to think she's saving a man's life so that he can be tortured — and then brutally killed. She tries to find a way to spare his life, not knowing that her actions will have dire consequences for both of them.
I enjoyed playing with the theme of forbidden love and torn loyalties in this story. What happens when Morgan, loyal to his brothers and his men, must choose between that loyalty and his love for a woman? What happens when Amalie, who once hated MacKinnon’s Rangers, finds herself irresistibly drawn to their leader?
The Chevalier de Bourlamaque, who plays an important role in this story, was a real person. Though I initially planned for the Chevalier to be a minor secondary character, he had other ideas. To learn more about him, I read some of the letters he exchanged with the Marquis de Montcalm and came away with the sense that both were very decent men. Stuck in the midst of a terrible, brutal war, they were each doing their best to win it, even if their King Louis back in France didn’t appreciate the importance of what was happening in the Americas. Both missed France and their families and wrote frequently of their children and friends back home.
Bourlamaque survived the war; Montcalm never saw France again.
Now that Morgan and Amalie’s story is written, I’m looking forward to writing Connor’s tale. As the wildest of the three MacKinnon brothers, I expect he’ll be a handful. I can only guess at what kind of woman will capture his heart.
I hope one day to give both Joseph and Lord William their own books, too.
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