Beacon Hill, Boston. 1832.
“You are innocent. You are loved. You are mine.”
After surviving the brutal attack and barely escaping death at Lancaster Castle, Beatrice Mason attempts to build a new life with her husband Joshua across the Atlantic in Beacon Hill. But, as Beatrice struggles to cope with the pregnancy and vivid nightmares, she questions whether she is worthy of redemption.
Determined to put the past behind her after the birth of her daughter Grace, Bea embraces her newfound roles of motherhood and being a wife. Nevertheless, when she meets Sarah Bateman, their friendship draws Bea towards the underground railroad and the hidden abolitionist movement, despite the dangerous secrets it poses. Whilst concealed in the shadows, Captain Victor Hanley returns, obsessed with revenge and the desire to lay claim to what is his, exposes deceptions and doubts as he threatens their newly established happiness.
Now, Beatrice must find the strength to fight once more and save Grace, even if it costs her life.
The inspiration behind Saving Grace
I would like to thank author Mercedes Rochelle for inviting me back to guest post for The Historical Fiction Blog and discuss the inspiration behind book 2 in the Ropewalk series.
When talking about inspiration for a sequel, it needs to feel like an extension of book 1. There are many sequels out there where suddenly in book 2 there is a huge time jump, or the story shifts on itself or its merely a copy of book 1. As an avid reader of historical fiction, I wanted to avoid these pitfalls and bring additional elements but also follow the principal characters on their journey. As I started to write Saving Grace in October 2019, I became to be inspired by the new challenges the characters now faced but researching this new alien landscape, especially to Bea. As the story develops and leads on to book 3.
Saving Grace takes place six months after the ending of Ropewalk and deals with the consequences left behind by Beatrice and Joshua’s actions and on the run. I choose to set Saving Grace in Beacon Hill, because it was a natural fit for the characters. With Joshua’s previous work and his family business around shipping, Joshua would try to use his already established connections to gain employment. During the early 1800s, a lot of British families were making their mark in Boston, in particular Beacon Hill. It is a small area of Boston that feels insular, like a small-town community similar to that of Ulverston. And yet a contrast with it brimming with a variety of different cultures.
The story behind book two developed and change as it shifted away from what I initially had planned, to what it is now. Once I got a feeling of the place, the history of Beacon Hill, walking along the streets and actually how it was the amalgamation of what was happening in America with the various churches, and different small communities of black, Asian, Irish, the slums and ship labourers all on this hill. With the addition of the class division between North and South, it became a natural progression from Ulverston without it alienating the readers.
“Tiredness engraved in the lines across her face and a dull ache in her bones. She breathed deeply, in and out, rubbing her distended belly in a repetitive motion. Pulling tighter the shawl around her shoulders, her Da had given her at home however many Christmases past. How much she missed him. She stared out of the large window and down to the street below. The gas street-lamps filled Boston with a warm golden glow all night long, seeping into the house and creating shadows in the corners. She missed the stars, a simplicity she had taken for granted back in Ulverston, and instead of the soothing noise of the swelling waves and the night-time birds, the city was brimming with voices, with bodies, with the hustle and bustle. It didn’t stop for the night; it never stopped.”
(Saving Grace; Chapter 1.)
As Book Two opens, Bea is dealing with the consequences of everything and going through a form of PTSD. I wanted the aftershocks of what happened to her to feel natural, and the trauma that she was feeling. I didn’t want book 2 to open and suddenly she was okay and that she had dealt with it, that’s not natural, it’s not realistic to how a human being deals with such trauma that she went through. I was also aware of the obligation to anyone who has dealt with similar trauma and give it the respect and honesty that it deserves. So as the character finds out that she is pregnant because of the attack brings another dimension to how she was going to cope whilst also being truthful to the character’s personality.
“You are my child; you are not his – you are innocent – you are loved – you are mine. Bea rubbed the protruding foot stretching outward from the under the swollen skin of her belly.”
(Saving Grace opening line.)
As I researched the area of Beacon Hill, I came across the African Meeting House and the fact in January 1832, William Lloyd Garrison began the anti-slavery newsletter and publicised the group in the open. I fell into the rabbit hole of research and became inspired by the connections I was making. How the fact because of the Reformer’s bill succeeding in parliament back in the UK created change for a new government to form, which allowed the bill to illegalise the owning of slaves across the empire in 1833. We saw in Ropewalk how Bea wanted to be a part of the Reformer’s and yet her Da wouldn’t allow it. She sat outside the pub and listened to change happening without her. But now she had the chance to take control and help, defying anyone who might tell her otherwise.
Which led me on to Joshua hiring a housekeeper to give Bea time to look after herself and the baby, bringing in an additional character, Sarah Bateman. She is a black character with a hidden past. Bea unnatural at being a mistress, wants to help with the cooking and wants to treat Sarah as an equal in the house, starts a knock-on effect in her relationship with Sarah. In Ulverston Lancashire, it hasn’t got a diverse culture and therefore Bea sees the racial injustice happening across America, including the rules formed in Beacon Hill with fresh eyes. Because she’s got her father’s fighting spirit in her, in the way of an activist, she becomes awaken to the discriminations of the South. And yet, helping her new friend and forming a bond helps to find empowerment to deal with her own trauma. But secretly, knowing that they could be consequences for her actions. An additional element I wanted to investigate was the relationship between Bea and Joshua. The characters found love, but so much had happened around them. When Saving Grace starts, Bea and Joshua had only known each other for a year and still finding their way. I didn’t want a perfect fairy-tale relationship; they are discovering what it is like to be in a couple to be in love, and the sacrifices and the changes that occur. I like it to be natural and realistic, and to discuss the things that other writers don’t discuss in their writing.
However, with Captain Hanley controlling in the shadows like a puppet master, knowing that he could make it all come tumbling down will an explosive consequence. As Bea finds herself fighting once more for herself, as well as the family, as leads her down an unforeseen path towards book 3.
Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival (The Ropewalk Series, Book 1) is only 0.99 on ebook during the tour. Here are the buy links:
Meet H D Coulter
Hayley was born and raised in the lake district and across Cumbria. From a young age, Hayley loved learning about history, visiting castles and discovering local stories from the past. Hayley and her partner lived in Ulverston for three years and spent her weekends walking along the Ropewalk and down by the old harbour. She became inspired by the spirit of the area and stories that had taken place along the historic streets.
As a teacher, Hayley had loved the art of storytelling by studying drama and theatre. The power of the written word, how it can transport the reader to another world or even another time in history. But it wasn’t until living in Ulverston did she discover a story worth telling. From that point, the characters became alive and she fell in love with the story.