Monday, June 13, 2011

Introducing Gretchen Craig

Last month I met Hannah Howell at a conference in Salem (at the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America), and she invited me to introduce myself to her readers. What a gracious and generous offer, Hannah!

While I love to read Highlander romances and Regencies and Victorians set in Britain, I write American historicals. I’m most interested in times of great cultural upheaval, so I put my characters in these periods of division and watch them struggle through it.

My first two novels are set in antebellum Louisiana among the Cajuns, the Creoles, and the African salves. In ALWAYS AND FOREVER Josie and Cleo are mistress and slave. They are also half sisters who share the same father, a Creole cane planter. Growing up together they forge a lasting bond, but oh how it is tested. How can love and friendship survive the injustices their roles force on them? Jealousy and rivalry for their father’s love taints their sisterhood from the start. Jealousy and rivalry for the love of the fascinating Bertrand Chamard nearly destroys their bond. Cruelty, betrayal, and heartache dog their lives until, through an act of great heart and generosity, they find redemption together. If that all sounds a little vague, it’s because the novel is large in scope and characters; sagas are hard to summarize. But as in any historical, romances or ones like mine that have strong romance elements, the book is about relationships, about loving and being loved.

The second Louisiana novel, EVER MY LOVE, takes the families into the next generation. Josie’s and Cleo’s and Bertrand’s offspring are torn between conscience and convention. They are the children of the planter system, dependent on slave labor, yet they are stirred by the abolitionist rhetoric of the North. The choice is to remain complicit in the injustices of slavery by doing nothing, or to act on their abolitionist principles, a dilemma faced all over the South. On the personal level, Marianne chooses to help her father’s own slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. Yves, a dangerous man of uncertain character, risks his life to shepherd slaves to freedom with a bounty on his head. And yes, this is a romance! Marianne is smitten by the mysterious, conflicted Yves, but can she trust him – with her secrets or with her honor? So we have a strong heroine, like Hannah Howell’s Highlander women, and a dangerous alpha hero whose allure is as frightening as it is stimulating.

I have two novels out as e-books. CRIMSON SKY is set in 1598. That’s the year the Spanish marched into the Santa Fe area. Ziwa faces loss and betrayal, love and danger in this time of cultural upheaval. Newly widowed, Ziwa tries to heal her broken heart with the handsome Spanish conquistador captain. Though Diego is outwardly self-sufficient, Ziwa understands that underneath his bluff exterior, he needs her. Alas, the path to happiness is never smooth. Diego’s demand that she abandon her gods and her culture force her to choose between his love and protection and her very identity as a woman of the pueblos. It’s a love story, and a lovely story, about people making difficult choices.

THEENA’S LANDING (also an e-book) takes my readers to the lush, sweltering strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades when Miami was a sleepy fishing village. Think swamps, mosquitoes, gators, unrelenting sun, and for fun, hurricanes. The crux of this story is difficult for some readers, but most find Theena’s dilemma one they can understand and forgive: Theena is in love with her sister’s husband. No, she’s no Jezebel. She is determined to hurt no one, least of all her sister. The story is how she balances her heart’s longing with honor and integrity to at last, after sin and redemption, earn her happy ever after. I love Theena and the sisters and the loves who revolve around her. She’s flawed, she’s sometimes weak, but oh so human.

Next up for me is the third in the Louisiana sagas. Nicolette is Cleo’s daughter (Cleo of the first book), a white-skinned free “woman of color.” When the Yankee army marches into New Orleans in 1862, she mistakenly believes they bring an end to slavery and injustice. Her story is one of grit- she risks herself to collaborate with the Union forces, hoping to hasten the abolition of slavery. And it’s a story of love overcoming prejudice – can her beloved Yankee captain see past her white skin to understand – and accept – that she is the daughter of slaves? She despairs of their ever overcoming the gaping distance between their worlds. But remember, we are romance lovers. Not everyone in EVERMORE earns a happy ever after, but Nicolette and her Captain do. I hope to see this published in 2012.

If you love Hannah’s Highlander heroes, strong, decisive, and yet of tender heart, you’ll love the men in my novels, too. And like Hannah’s women, my heroines know their own minds, have the resourcefulness to find what they want, and yet know their greatest happiness will be found in healing, taming, and claiming their heroes.

To read the first chapters, go to From there you can also access my blog about writing and loving and living. Thanks, Hannah, for letting me show your readers some new stories they might like!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gretchen!

    Crimson Sky was a fascinating story. You amaze me how you can write about such varied time periods. It seems like no matter when it is historically you are able to thrust us into the lives of ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Your heroines find a way to rise to the occasion.
    I'm looking forward to your third book in the New Orleans series.