Amused Authors

Guest blog with Letitia Harmon, author of ‘Heatherstone’ by ~ Me ~
May 19, 2009, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Heatherstone+cover+lowresThe inspiration for Heatherstone first came when I was contemplating the idea of arranged marriage. It is a fairly commonplace plot device to set up an arranged marriage and a “forbidden love interest” and make the story turn out beautifully for the forbidden love.

I thought to myself, “What if I flipped that concept around? Would I have a unique story? Would it have meaning and significance? Would it be surprising and interesting?”

The result was a decent outline for a story, but after the outline, you have to fill your story with life. This is the most fun part for me: fleshing out my characters.

I love getting to know the people I write about, and sometimes, against all odds, they surprise even me. What really worked in Heatherstone, is that I chose a central theme – British slavery – and revealed the true integrity of my characters through their reactions to this very pertinent 19th century issue.

We would all like to think that Jane Austen’s world was wholly civilized and peaceful, with no human rights violations occurring anywhere in the world, but the bitter truth of the matter is that the ease and luxury and beauty of those British lifestyles we all love to read about and watch movies about, was a direct result of Parliament’s stubborn refusal to emancipate slaves in the West Indies. England’s wealth and comfort was built on the back of abused and betrayed minorities, who they saw as valuable only in terms of economic gain.

I asked myself, “How do my characters react to this reality? Do they accept it the way most people do? Flout it? Dislike it but manage to live peaceably with their cognitive dissonance?” The result was the three main characters: Alexander Stone, Ariana Blackwell and Rachel Labonne, all of whom deal with this moral issue differently, thus revealing their own values and integrity.

This was a highly relevant theme for me to use. It felt so personal and present, even though the setting is 1820’s England. Slavery still exists in the world, and our country’s economic power has long ridden high on the fruits of it. We are very careful to hide it, deny it, or just shrug it away, but it is surprisingly real. Most people are apalled when I tell them that even chocolate, that oh-so-delicious delight that makes life worth the living, is in fact produced partially by child slave labor, particularly in the Ivory Coast. People don’t want to believe it. They can’t stand the thought they the purchase of a Snickers bar might be perpetuating a system of slavery, but this is the sad and horrible truth.

The question is the same question that Ariana has to deal with in the unraveling of the story of Heatherstone: what do we do with this information? It can be a tought decision to make, but like Heatherstone’s characters, it can reveal who we truly are. Most people refuse to stop eating cheap chocolate in favor of fair trade chocolate. To them, the problem is too far removed from their personal life to matter enough to change their buying habits. This is very common and very accepted in our society. But is it right? We look back at 19th century slavery and wonder, apalled, how people could have treated other human beings that way, or supported any country that did so?

But aren’t we doing the same thing? Aren’t we building a tradition of economic success on the backs of poor and oppressed people that are just far enough out of our line of sight? If we don’t see them, then we are not confronted with the reality of our actions, and then we do not have to deal with the consequences of our ethical decisions. That is the hard question. Does it matter who or where these people are? Does what I do matter? Does what I buy matter? Am I participating, through my lifestyle, in something with which I whole-heartedly disagree? These are the questions that I tried to pose in a subtle way in the writing of Heatherstone. I hope that they challenge thoughts and discussion among my readers.


Letitia Harmon is happy to call three cities home. She divides her
time between Kansas City, (where she grew up) Seattle, (where she went to
undergrad) and New Jersey (where she lives with her husband, brother-in-law, and Mac the min-pin).


In Regency England, where classes are strictly delineated and marriages are business transactions, love is often an inconvenient or even tragic thing. When a young servant named Leah becomes infatuated with her master’s son, Alexander Stone, she knows she has no hope of ever gaining his notice.

Nevertheless she will stop at nothing to coerce him into marriage, even
resorting to a false identity. Her scheming and intrigues may soon be
triumphant, but at what point does love end and rapacious obsession begin?

Trailer for Heatherstone:

Purchase book here.

Visit Letitia Harmon’s website here.

Posted by Dara England.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great article. Good luck with your book.

Comment by Roxanne Smolen

I love reading historicals and love unique themes and I had just recently re-read P&P and I do see that vision of the look inside but not much beyond the home or the darker side such as slavery. Great info and looks too to be a great read!

Comment by Caffey

This looks to be an intriguing concept. The blurb invites me to read more…

Comment by Sue Phillips

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