Friday, August 7, 2015

Grace Burrowes had a Little Lamb.... by Grace Burrowes

"Write the books only you can write."

That's one among many gems of advice authors are given as their fingers hover over the keyboard. Last summer, the result for me was The Captive Hearts, a Regency trilogy that touched on wartime violence, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress, and the ability of childhood trauma to affect us in adulthood. Not exactly fluffy fare, but because of my experience as a child welfare attorney, those were among the books I felt uniquely able to write.

Much to my relief, they were well received by the readers. (Thank you forever, readers!). Nonetheless, those are hardly themes I want to clutch close to my heart for 300,000 words at a time.

Turns out, there are other stories I am uniquely able to write. In my long ago youth, I spent a lot of time on a wonderful farm, and one summer I was expected to take a few shifts minding a flock of sheep. I can probably count on my thumbs the number of romance authors who've had experience as a shepherd. (Waves to Jane Ashford!)  

When I sat down to write Tremaine's True Love, the first of the True Gentlemen trilogy, I heard the sheep calling me. "BAAAA!"

Sheep are often called "the dumbest domestic animals." They lack a predator's fangs and claws, they're soft and wooly, quiet, social, and harmless.

Right--Until the ram thinks you're a hazard to his ewes, in which case you WILL end up on your backside. Don't try to sneak up on a sheep either. They're alert, and have an excellent sense of self-preservation. Sheep stick together in times of trouble, they endure extremes of heat and cold easily, they subsist on little sustenance, and are infernally nimble.

Do NOT underestimate the lowly sheep, or the amazing properties of the wool she produces.

Tremaine St. Michael is one of the wealthiest wool merchants in Regency England. He's squeezing in a visit to the Earl of Bellefonte, hoping to wangle a quick, lucrative deal involving the earl's prize herd of merino sheep. The earl's sister, Lady Nita, catches Tremaine's eye.

Like a placid, fluffy sheep, Nita is often underestimated by those around her. She's nimble of wit, calm of eye, resourceful--also surprisingly cuddly--and everything Tremaine admires. And yet, when he tries to corral her, he ends up on his figurative backside.

I had fun with all kinds of metaphors in this book--the shepherd, the lamb, the big handsome wolf, the ram. In the next book, Daniel's True Desire, a batch of toads somehow gets loose on the hero's watch, and in the third book, Will's True Wish, we meet Will Dorning, the Regency dog whisperer.

These stories pass the "only I could write them" test, mostly because in each one, animals carry metaphoric weight, nobody gets to take themselves too seriously, and even the beasts (two legged and four legged) live happily ever after.  

Do you have a favorite animal story? To one commenter, I'll send a copy of James Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small," AND a signed copy of Tremaine's True Love.


  1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London :)
    Termaine's True Love cover is wonderful!
    Thanks for the lovely post,I enjoyed reading :)

    1. I liked most of the Call of the Wild series, but not that little "To Build a Fire." Nope, nope, nope.

  2. It was Christmas Eve - I was in my attic, which I had claimed as my office. My brother always dressed as Santa and visited everyone, so he and my hubby came up to find me. All of a sudden, a bat appeared, and began frantically flying around. The two big strong men were cowering. I grabbed a tennis racket (not intending to whack him - just to guide him to the open window. I am speaking of the bat here, not my hubby.) At that time I had waist length hair, and my brother was yelling not to let the bat get in my hair, so he grabbed me a towel, which I wrapped around my head. Then with Santa and my hubby slinking in a corner, I was running around with a towel on my head, chasing a bat with a tennis racket. I did finally chase the bat out the window, and thanked my heroes for being so brave. bonnieblue at wowway dot com

    1. There's a scene in Daniel's book I should have dedicated to you... bats hibernate because they don't have enough bugs to eat in the winter. Daniel is hibernating too... until Kirsten wakes him up. Great minds, bonnieblue, great minds...

  3. I always love animals in stories but if I have to pick one it would be Ayla and her Lion in Cave of the Clan Bear (one of my favorite series).For myself I have tons but bottle raising a baby kitten that was covered in motor oil is one of my favorites. Absolutely love all your books!!

  4. I like all The Cat Who books by Cleveland Amory.

  5. It's nothing so interesting as a story about farm animals...But I do remember having one particularly demanding cat when I was a child. We had several cats in the family and we fed them altogether on a large piece of newspaper, with food spread out so all could eat. My cat, Stripe, didn't like to share. He would stand on the paper, in the food, eating and growling at the same time. Of course since the other cats were well-acquainted with his dinner tactics, they just ate around him. Just like a real family!

  6. no, I don't

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  7. I think that the first book I read about animals that stayed with me was Where the Red Fern Grows.

  8. Honestly, love animals and most books that include animals. I grew up reading glasses and rereading James Herriot'so books. I admit that if I know an animal is going to die, I won't read the book or watch the movie.

    ƌ love the bunny scene in WHAT A LADY NEEDS FOR CHRISTMAS! It is hilarious. šŸ˜

    A personal cat story that almost always makes me laugh is when my father was eating a steak in his LazyBoy and my male cat jump up and stole his steak off his plate. Dad eventually caught up with the cat and the piece of meat that used to be a steak.

  9. I haven't read a whole lot of animal stories, but I love stories with animals in them. A recent favorite was the story A Knight Before Christmas in the anthology Christmas in the Duke's Arms, which you just happened to write. I loved the rabbits, especially Franklin, who played a big part in the story. :D

  10. I loved the Herriot tales as well as Black Beauty, the Albert Payson Terhune and the Chincoteague novels!