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Malcolm Campbell

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Oink, Oink

This week, I researched food. Yes, I have been hungry the entire time!  My stomach is growling as I write this post.

In the sequel Through the Mist: Reunion, we spend a lot of time at Malcolm Campbell’s house, Tinberry Hall. He means to impress his guests in everything he does. It follows that he would have a very fine table when he invites people to dine with him.

I found two good books that have helped with my research. Dinner with Mr. Darcy, by Pen Vogler, sprinkles information about dining customs in between recipes of dishes served around the 1800s. It is a very entertaining read. I doubt I will try any of the recipes, though. They don’t seem very appetizing to me. Tastes have changed, which is yet another reason for research.

Tea with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson, provided more information about customs than the other book. It offered a few recipes. I liked the information about Jane Austen herself. Of the two books, this one helped me to better understand the nuances of the dinner and after-dinner tea. We might not feel the slight if someone invited us over only for after-dinner tea. In Austen’s time, it meant that you were not important enough to join the dinner party. Scandalous!

As I have said many times, my books are meant for entertainment. Who says you cannot learn a little something at the same time?

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Benjamin Campbell: Character Insight

When I began writing Through the Mist: Restoration, I wanted the story to have a different spin than the usual time travel novel. (No offense to that type of book.) I wanted my story to be different.

Typically, the male protagonist is a dashing laird who fought for the Jacobite cause. He is a fine Scottish hero, more fantasy than reality. The heroine resists his charms but eventually succumbs to his strong...ahem...personality.

Yeah….no.

For starters, my book is set in 1801. The Jacobite rebellion had long passed, and the title of “laird” would not have been used. The clan system was essentially destroyed after the ’45 Rising. Times were very, very different.

Then, I wanted the character to be a Campbell. That particular clan is quite notorious. In the infamous ’45, they sided with the British and fought at Culloden. To borrow from Outlander, the Campbells would have tried to kill our beloved Jamie. So, how do you craft a hero from someone who did not come from the traditional Scottish hero’s ancestry?

I decided that Benjamin should be the second son. In my research, I discovered that the first son inherited everything. Any progeny that followed would have been left to his/her own devices. In the book, Benjamin alludes to his original plan to become a soldier, a common profession for second sons.

His father Malcolm is a ruthless man. He pinned all his hopes on the first son, Allan, so Benjamin grew up with the MacIvers. Robert MacIver is the Campbell estate’s factor; his son Iain is Benjamin’s best friend and will one day become the estate’s factor, just like his dad.

Benjamin spent more time among “the common folk,” as his father would have called them, and did not have any pretensions about his stature in the family. When he is finally thrust into a powerful role, he feels compassion for and camaraderie with people who attempt to scrape out a meager existence. He does not have his father’s greedy ways. As a man who had a simple upbringing, he can feel shame and remorse for the actions of his grandfather and father. He too has own sins. (In a very moving scene, he reveals them to Tilly.)

His humility serves him well when he interacts with Tilly. As someone with a dark past, he does not judge her as harshly as others might. He does not have the formality that one would expect from men in that time. To put it simply, he was not “raised that way.”

He also does not take the traditional role of protector. In many books, the hero rushes in at the critical moment and saves the damsel in distress. That does not happen in my book. Tilly is a strong woman. She takes action; she is the hero.

In the next book, we will continue to explore Benjamin’s character. We already know that a lot of tension exists between Benjamin and his father. What will Malcolm think when he learns that Benjamin has settled his affections on someone who may not be “the best prospect” for a marriage? What could the man really do? And, most importantly, why doesn’t Benjamin tell him to go to hell? Come on, dude – you love Tilly. Stand up for her!

As you can see, I spent a lot of time crafting the story behind this character. I needed all of this detail in order to understand his motivations and actions. If you have any questions about Benjamin or any other characters/scenes/et cetera, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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