Guest Post: Writing Historical Romance (The Quid Pro Quo) by A.L. Lester

Hello there everyone! Thank you so much to Nell for letting me drop in today. I popped in during the autumn to talk about The Quid Pro Quo when it came out  and I have a bit more about it here for you today! It’s the second in the Bradfield trilogy (although it will stand alone) and is set a few months after the end ofThe Fog of War

It stars ex-army nurse Walter Kennett and Simon Frost, a detective who comes to Bradfield to investigate a murder. It’s a gay, historical, paranormal, romantic murder-mystery with a m/transm couple set in rural England in 1920. This is not a snappy tag-line, I appreciate 😊. 

Rather than tell you more about the story itself (you can scroll down for the blurb!), today I thought I’d talk about my process for writing historical stories. My longer books are mostly set in the Border Magic universe, which is where I get the historical-paranormal combination from. Yes, it’s an alternate universe…but not in the sense that I twist history. 

I like to be very precise in my historical research—part of my historian’s soul I think. I put my characters in a historical situation with all their day-to-day issues and then I think to myself…how best can I freak them out even more?

Recently I’ve written a few more contemporary short stories and novellas; and I’ve realised how complicated I make things for myself. I had a bit of a wobble in December and early January about the third Bradfield book. It seemed overwhelming to put together the history, the paranormal underlay that bleeds through to our world and then on top of that, weave in the actual plot of the novel. I had to step back and put it on the backburner for a while. 

Instead, I’ve amused myself by writing two very different short stories. One is a contemporary gay romance set in the theatre world (Out of Focus, out on 26th March) and the other is for the Naked Gardening Day anthology I am in with four other authors, (including Nell) that will be released on 7th May—Warning! Deep Water! The latter is a historical story, but set in the late 1940s. My Mama can remember what that was like, so my research was basically rocking up to her house, making us a pot of tea and asking her questions. 

It was a surprise to me how much fun I had writing both of these. They are both settings I know quite well—I worked in the theatre industry for a while and I grew up on a horticultural nursery very similar to the one in Warning! Deep Water!, so I didn’t have to stop every five minutes and to check something or look up language usage at The Etymology Dictionary or Green’s Dictionary of Slang. It meant I could focus more on the weaving of the romance. 

It felt different to write and I’m now deciding whether to write something else without paranormal and/or historical shenanigans, or whether I’m ready to plunge back into the Bradfield universe. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy writing historicals—the attention to detail and the research is very absorbing. And I have the story for Bradfield #3 roughed out in my head. It’s just a case of getting it down on paper.

But I’m not sure whether I’m ready for the pace of it. Historicals are definitely slower to write than anything set in a modern context simply because if you want to get it right you have to look things up. I definitely can’t write them in the school holidays because being surrounded by children is a step too far!

On the other hand though, there is something very satisfying about laying out the historical framework…putting Sylvia and Walter down in Bradfield, recovering from their experiences in World War One France, thinking about things like…how would they do the laundry? (the housekeeper does it, mostly, in a copper in the wash-house), would they have a telephone? (yes), would Sylvia know about xyz medical practices? All those everyday questions that in a contemporary one can make assumptions about or fudge a bit from ones general knowledge but in a historical needs to be looked up. 

And then once I’ve got the framework in place and I work out how the characters fit into the world around them, I throw in the paranormal stuff to push them off balance.

I am a terrible person and not a friend to my creations. Please insert your own evil cackle here. 

So there you are! If you like to read lesbian romance, then I recommend starting the series with The Fog of War. But The Quid Pro Quo stands alone—there’s a bit more about it below. And if you want an introduction to Bradfield and my writing you can download a free stand-alone short story, An Irregular Arrangement, when you sign up for my newsletter.

Again, thank you so much to Nell for having me visit!

The Quid Pro Quo

Village nurse Walter Kennett is content with his makeshift found-family in tiny Bradfield. However one midsummer morning a body is found floating in the village duck pond, dead by magical means.

Detective Simon Frost arrives in Bradfield to investigate a inexplicable murder. The evidence seems to point to Lucille Hall-Bridges, who lives with doctor Sylvia Marks and nurse Walter Kennett at Courtfield House. Simon isn’t happy—he doesn’t believe Lucy is a murderer but  he’s sure the three of them are hiding something. In the meantime, the draw he feels toward Walter takes him by surprise.

Walter is in a dilemma, concealing Sylvia and Lucy’s relationship and not knowing how much to tell Frost about the paranormal possibilities of the murder. He isn’t interested in going to bed with anyone—he’s got a complicated life and has to know someone really well before he falls between the sheets. He’s taken aback by his own attraction to Detective Frost and angry when Frost appears to twist the spark between them to something transactional in nature.

Will Walter be satisfied to stay on the periphery of Lucy and Sylvia’s love affair, a welcome friend but never quite included? Or is it time for him to strike out and embark on  a relationship of his own?

The second in the Bradfield trilogy, set in the Border Magic universe. Stands alone. Transm/m couple.

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Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some hens and the duckettes. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.

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