August 22, 2011

My Obsession and Love for History

I absolutely love learning about history. I’m always watching The History Channel, and I’ve gotten several ideas for stories based on shows I’ve seen.
However the idea for His Fifth Avenue Thief didn’t come from a TV show. I had to do quite a bit of research once I figured out the story was set in New York City. One thing that fascinated me was learning about the history of fashion and the fashionable districts of the city. It certainly didn’t begin with Fashion Week. *g*
London had Regent Street, and NYC had The Ladies Mile and the Garment District. The Ladies Mile, now known as the Flatiron District or Midtown South, stretched from Broadway between 9th and 23rd street, and included Lower Fifth Avenue, where my hero’s mansion’s located. It went up Broadway to Madison Square. The intersection of Broadway, Fifth, and 23rd was synonymous for people-watching. The mile also had theaters, galleries, wholesalers, concert halls, establishments for architects, publishers and interior decorators.
The Ladies Mile didn’t really take off until after the Civil War, but I just had to include it in my book. In the 1850’s, there were shops that sold ready-made clothing for customers, but since Aaron, my hero is wealthy, he wouldn’t want but the best for his Cathlene. That’s one thing I love about writing historical fiction, you can tweek your story to fit your setting.
Here’s part of an excerpt that I loved writing. I wanted to capture and convey, that even during this time, New York was still the in place to be.

They exited a milliners shop, Aaron’s arms brimming with parcels. He handed his load off to Donegal, his main footman, who made room in the already crowded carriage for the packages.
“Now where to?” Aaron asked. “Have you tired of this outing, or do you wish to see the shops on the mile I’ve yet to spend a fortune in?”
Cathlene smiled at Aaron’s playfulness. “You didn’t appear to mind giving me coin. I believe I was the one to call a halt at the shop on the corner, but you insisted on purchasing that dress – and it’s the very one I’ll be wearing to the opera.”
“When I saw the design from afar, I knew it would suit you perfectly.”
A movement across the street drew her attention. A man stood in profile, his face in shadow, but his build resembled that of someone she thought long dead. Her blood chilled as she faltered, bumping into Aaron. Her hand went instinctively to her hip, where she normally kept her dagger.
Panic seized her. Her heartbeat sped up to thunder in her ears. “Where’s my dagger?”
Aaron regarded her with alarm, his hand going to her shoulder to steady her. “Out with the rubbish where it belongs. Why, love, are you so skittish? You’ve no need for a weapon with me at your side.”
The man turned so she could see his face. Her heart rate slowed, her agitation fading. All this worry was making her believe she was seeing the dead brought back to life.
“I-I’m just so used to carrying it with me.”
Aaron wasn’t convinced. “We’ve already established you aren’t a good liar, so out with it. I’ve worked up quite an appetite. I know just the restaurant where we might sit and talk at our leisure. Unless you’d rather return home?”
Food was the last thing she wanted. “I’d rather walk. You’ll lose that appetite if I were to tell you of it.”
He took her arm and guided her down the promenade. They strolled down the bustling street, past servants and their richly dressed employers who took full advantage of the fair weather and the wares arranged attractively in the shop windows.
“You might wish to end our agreement if I mention why seeing that man frightened me so. And I wouldn’t fault you for it.”
“Do you have such little faith in me?”
“I’ve as much faith in you as you me. Earlier…in your chamber…we agreed to start anew. You must understand that by revealing this to you, I take great risk with both our lives.”
“Come, it cannot be that bad. Whatever it is, we’ll work through it together.”
Aaron tucked her close to his side. The crumbled pieces of her heart found their way together as she basked in his warmth. It had been so long since she’d felt taken care of and protected. For a moment, she wanted to rebel against this feeling, but it felt good to rely on someone else rather than herself for a change. To confide in someone who would listen not for any reason but for the fact they cared. And if Aaron didn’t care, he wouldn’t act so concerned.
She took a breath, some of the weight lifting from her shoulders. “That man, the one I saw,” she gestured to where he’d stood, “I thought he was a man I killed. You’re wife’s a murderess.”

Thank you, Anna Kathryn for having me here today. I enjoyed sharing a little of what I learned while writing this book. If you’d like to follow me along on my blog tour, I’ll be at
The Cozy page
Tomorrow and Wednesday. And a little birdie told me I’d come bearing gifts. [Grins]
Abbey MacInnis is a published author of Contemporary Western romance. Along with Contemporary, she writes Historical, Paranormal and erotic romance. Whether she’s being swept off her feet by a Medieval knight, regency rake, or cowboy or cop, her heroes are always strong men who’ll love their women unconditionally.
On most days, Abbey can be found at her computer, penning her latest tale. A tale where love, respect, and passion combine to create a satisfying and happy ending. She invites you to step in to the pages of her romances, to leave your worries behind and get swept up in her world.
His Fifth Avenue Thief blurb:
Two years prior, Irishman Aaron O’Connel took his life from rags to riches. Chance and wits have kept him alive in 1850’S New York City. But no amount of money or success can bring his love Cathlene back from the dead. When a thief sneaks her way into his mansion, the last woman he expects to find absconding with his belongings is his long lost wife.
Abandoned on New York’s shores, a widowed, penniless, and ruined Cathlene O'Connel was left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world. Fear and circumstance drove her to a life of thieving in order to survive, but her heart risks the biggest danger of all when Aaron hands her a scandalous proposition: A son in exchange for her freedom.
Now that he has her back, Aaron doesn't intend to let Cathlene slip between his fingers. He'll do whatever it takes to regain her trust and love. But when an enemy from Cathlene's past resurfaces, Aaron not only faces battling for Cathlene's heart, but also her life.
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Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Abbey. Interesting post. I have a very thick book on the history of New York City, which I haven't read. But I keep it on my bookshelf. Thanks for sharing and for being my guest today.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Abby, New York is a place I've never been and know only from photos, movies, and TV. I do know the Flatiron building and am guessing that's where the Flatiron disstrict got it's name. I loved Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy books and Victoria Thomspon's Sarah Brandt books set in historic New Your, and I'm sure I'll love yours.

marybelle said...

I love history as well & I always enjoy New York City as a setting. One day I hope to visit in person.