The first romance I ever read was a historical, when I was about 11. It made perfect sense, since I love history. I even remember what it was, a fictionalized account of how Martin Luther’s wife, Catherine, left the Catholic church and married him. We were studying the Reformation in school, homeschool that is, and I loved reading novels to bring the time periods to life. I also got credit for writing book reports on what I read.
From that day on, I devoured historical romance. I expanded some into romantic suspense and the occasional contemporary, but historical romance was my favorite. I loved seeing history come to life, reading descriptions of houses and clothes, and seeing a long-lost world live once more.
I then landed a Southern history nerd’s dream job—docent/tour guide at a plantation! Because of my love of history, I worked my way up to head tour guide, rewrote the plantation’s tour, and moved into the job of archivist. I got paid to research pre-Civil War Louisiana history. It was nothing short of heaven. It’s no surprise I set my first novel on a French Creole cotton plantation in 1857, patterned on Kent Plantation where I worked. The novel isn’t published, though.
While working there, I did a lot of reenacting and made both Empire/Regency and early Victorian clothing. I have no idea what’s on trend for fashion in 2015, but I can date a Victorian gown in thirty seconds, and tell you if it’s for morning, afternoon, walking, tea, or evening.
So when I dreamed of an alien walking through the woods, saying “Loks Mé” over and over and over, you could’ve knocked me over with a cucumber sandwich. I’ve always believed in following my muse, so follow I did. The A’yen’s Legacy futuristic series was born.
In short, the series is about an enslaved alien species trying to get their freedom back. They’ve been slaves for so long that they don’t believe they were ever free, or that they had a homeworld of their own. In My Name Is A’yen, the first book, A’yen is purchased by an archaeologist to protect her on an expedition to a planet no one has ever lived on. Except she thinks A’yen’s people once lived there and is willing to die trying to prove it.
Archaeologist heroine, long-lost civilization. You see where I’m going, I’m sure. I had to create the history of an ENTIRE species. And then scatter it through the novel for A’yen and Fae to discover.
I had so. Much. Fun. I’d spent so long immersed in antebellum slave codes and plantation history that writing about slavery in the future wasn’t hard at all. I used that knowledge to build what happened to A’yen’s people, and map out how they’d get their freedom back.
As I’ve moved through the series, I’ve learned more about Lokmane history, and ended up creating an empire of people who left Earth to get the freedom to practice a revived version of ancient Egyptian religion. See, I’ve always had a fascination with ancient Egypt. Creating that civilizations history was also great fun.
The skills needed to write a futuristic romance (or science fiction romance, though there are some differences) aren’t that different from writing a historical romance. The historical novelist must be able to recreate a world no one alive remembers, and make the reader believe it’s real. The futuristic novelist must do the same with a world that’s never existed and never will.
My knowledge of history has been, and continues to be, immensely helpful as I build my imaginary worlds. It’s a background I wouldn’t trade for anything.
The excerpt I’m including is from the newest addition to A’yen’s Legacy, Freedom’s Embrace. The hero, Taran, grew up in the Egyptian-based empire, while the heroine grew up on a breeding farm. It’s a second chance romance, and like all romances with my name on them, it’s all about the hero.
Freedom’s Embrace, A’yen’s Legacy #4
They made the wrong choice. Putting it right requires going into a war.
A’yen’s Reign: Year Two
Taran has served Nicco, prince of Marcase, for twenty-three years. While on a fact-finding mission to Corsica–a planet annexed by the empire thirteen years ago–Taran and Nicco are kidnapped by the Freedom Alliance and taken deep into the Corsican hardwood forests.
Da’Renna, sister to King A’yen’s linked bodyguard, has loved Taran since the moment he saw her. Leaving him behind wasn’t easy, but her brother needed her more. Hearing about Taran’s kidnapping makes her wonder if she made the right choice.
With the help of a friend from Corsica, Da’Renna and her brother sneak in to find Taran. When mercenaries take her hostage, Taran must make the choice he dreads most: his master, or his soul-mate.
If Taran loses his girl, he’ll never find his way to freedom.
Note: This novel stands alone and is a great entry point into the A’yen’s Legacy futuristic romance series.
“Do you have two months’ worth of your meds?”
“I do. Though I still think it’s ridiculous to take so much.”
“Humor me.” Nic’s body tightened. He turned and headed through the sitting room joining Taran’s bedroom to his. Taran followed to make sure he didn’t forget anything.
Nic’s wife, Honor, leaped into his arms, clinging to his neck. “I wish you wouldn’t go. It’s still so dangerous.”
“We’ll be fine. Security is a PSF squad.”
Instead of watching Nic kissing his wife goodbye, Taran went to the window to look at the gardens one last time. He hadn’t kissed Ren in eleven months—an Earth year. Or felt her touch on his skin, her hair tickling his nose, or taken a shower with her. Once again, his obligations to a man he’d sworn his life to came between them. And she refused to understand.
Saving her brother—the Lokmane king’s linked bodyguard—hadn’t been enough. Taran had stood there and lied to Anthony, and the court, to keep Ro from going to prison. The young man had done his time in hell, and deserved to be free of his tormentors. Even if he had to commit murder to do it.
Then Ren chose her brother over her lover; over the man she said she loved. She left him and went to Lok’ma to make her dream family with Ro—as if oblivious to the family she had here in Karnak, in the palace. With Taran.
She’d taken his heart with her. He moved through his days in a haze, half a person, half a brain, half a soul. What would it take to convince her they were meant to be together?
They said goodbye to Nic’s kids and headed for the Imperial landing pad. If he’d made a different decision, he’d be leaving for Lok’ma instead of Corsica today. But he hadn’t. Duty and promises won over love. Maybe she was right. Maybe, if he really did love her, leaving Nic wouldn’t be so hard.
No. Leaving Nic would always be hard. The man had walked through hell for him.
Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. There may also be Netflix binging…
She’s a member of Romance Writers of America.