Thursday, February 17, 2011

Romance through Conflict - the Civil War in Romance

I'm pleased to welcome fellow Wild Rose Press author Susan Macatee today. She's here to discuss her Civil War-inspired romances. Welcome, Susan!

Thanks, Victoria, for having me on your blog today.

When I first started writing toward publication—after my youngest son started school—I wrote stories for children and young adults. But when I discovered there wasn’t much of a market for that type of story, I decided I wanted to move away from writing for young people and try writing romance. The first step was to immerse myself in the genre and I was instantly drawn to reading time travels. 

During this period, I was also drawn into the American Civil War period and became a Civil War civilian reenactor. My husband had joined the military side and they welcomed family members to join as well, so after being immersed in the period—right down to the clothing, accouterments  and food—it felt natural for my first manuscript to be a Civil War time travel.

It made sense to use the knowledge I’d already gained as a reenactor to show readers what it might feel like for a modern-day woman to be transplanted to a Civil War army camp. And of course she meets the man of her dreams, a real-life Civil War soldier. Watching the men in their uniforms at a battle reenactment can be a stirring sight. There’s just something about a man in uniform. Sigh.

Thus came my first full-length romance release, Erin’s Rebel.

But, my Civil War romances didn’t stop there. I used my knowledge of reenactors to write a novella for the Civil War anthology, Northern Roses and Southern Belles. In my story, Angel of My Dreams, the hero is a reenactor who meets the ghost of a Civil War nurse on a reenactment battlefield and learns a secret about himself in the process.

My next foray into the American Civil War came from my fascination with women who disguised themselves as men in order to join the army and fight. This occurred on both sides. I also read about immigrants to the United States who fought in the war for both North and South. So the heroine in my second novel, Confederate Rose, is an Irish immigrant who has a grudge against soldiers of the North for killing her husband and father-in-law, as well as causing the death of her unborn child. Although fiction, my heroine, Katie O’Reilly, is patterned after those real-life women soldiers who fought, often undetected until injured or killed. Many were never discovered at all, except many years later through letters sent home or journals.

The hero of Confederate Rose is a Southerner who’s driven from his home after refusing to fight for the Confederacy. He goes north and joins the Union Army to work as a spy.

The Civil War affords so much variety for heroes and heroines of all types. No two stories need be alike. And stories of romance possibilities are seemingly endless.

In the American historical Christmas anthology, An American Rose Christmas, I visit the woman soldier situation again. In my story, The Christmas Ball, the heroine is a Union soldier who falls for the camp surgeon. She’s a farm girl, while he’s a society man. Once he discovers the soldier he thought of as a boy is a woman, he shows her what it’s like to live in high society, taking her to a Christmas Ball in Philadelphia where his family lives. I partially patterned the heroine of this story after the true life heroine, Sarah Emma Edmonds, who grew up on a farm, joined the Union army disguised as a man and served as a mail carrier. She developed a close friendship with a medical steward in camp, and fell in love, but couldn’t reveal she was a woman, so, sadly, nothing came of it. In fact, she learned he became engaged to marry another woman.

I even foray into the supernatural with my Civil War vampire novella, Sweet Redemption. My hero is a fallen priest, now a Union army captain, who encounters a vampire. The heroine is a Southern woman whose husband was killed in the war.

Learning about this period in American history brings to mind all sorts of stories of romance, passion and danger. Reading first hand accounts and other non-fiction books about the people—both soldiers and civilians—who lived through the war, brings to mind tons of story ideas. Although the stories I’m working on currently all take place years after the war ended, I’ll never run out of ideas for Civil War set romances. I’m passionate about the period.

To learn more about me and all my stories, visit my website,


  1. Susan, lovely post. You are so knowledgable about the era and your love for it comes through.

  2. Thanks, Caroline! It's easier to add in the small details that give readers a sense of really being in the story when you immerse yourself in the everyday life of real people who lived during the period you're writing.

  3. Susan,
    Enjoyed your post. You're so right about all the different stories and characters there are to write about from the Civil War era. I've enjoyed your stories so much. I'm in awe of you taking part in the history and immersing yourself in it.

  4. Hi Susan!

    I've read all your stories and loved them! I really admire the realism you bring to your setting and characters, it's those little things that really put the reader in the time and place of your stories.

    Victoria, I just finished reading Angel in my Arms and really enjoyed it.


  5. Thanks, Jeanmarie and Nicole! I'm so glad I've been able to write stories that bring the readers right into it. Those are the types of stories I've always enjoyed reading myself.