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The American Civil War – Is Love Dead?

As a historian, writing historical fiction and romance is fantastic! To agents and editors, it can be a problem. I’m drawn to the past, to Rome, to England during the Regency, to Victorian England in the late 19th century and to the American Civil War. I’ve been told I write in too many eras, that I need one and to stay there.

Nah…<shaking head>

I’ve been discussing pirates and vampires in 1800 England and last week, a journey back further to the times of gladiators in Ancient Rome. Today, I’ll take you to another era I love – The Civil War

150 years ago, this nation was nightmare, wrapped in the claws of the American Civil War. Officially, the War is called The War of the Rebellion. Unofficially, it has a slew of names – Civil War, War of Northern Aggression, War for Southern Independence, War for the Union and many more. Regardless of its title, this conflict is the pivotal point of American History. It defined us as a nation. Point being, we were a new country, a republic in a time where the “civilized world” was still run by monarchies, ie Western Europe, and the all hoped we failed to survive this calamity.

Lincoln understood this concept but it was intangible idea to the American public. We all know this is a War of friends against friends and brother fight brother.

Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, John Jakes North & South and the movie Cold Mountain have drawn attention of the turmoil but none of these are romances by any means. There is no happy-ever-after. Romance during the War is dead.

Selling a story of the American Civil War is hard. They say nothing new can be done and no body is interested. They also claim Regency is dying and the vampire thrill is gone. Ha! But I believe stories of that are so deep, so mind-bending – the tension, the drama, all the emotions – that there still is the fertile ground to write about and readers who will embrace them.

Therefore, let me introduce you to the opening of my upcoming Civil War novel, The Wicked North and so you how romance during the War of the Rebellion lived on!

The Wicked North

Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can, and strike him as hard as you can. And keep moving on!

General U.S. Grant

Virginia, June 1862

Emma Silvers was not afraid to shoot Yankees.

She leveled the .57 caliber Enfield rifle toward the line of blue coats standing before her porch at Rose Hill that evening. She counted ten men, fully-armed and wielding torches. They reeked of wet wool, sweat and gun powder – a noxious mixture with the pink roses surrounding the house. Bile rose in her throat. She swallowed hard.

The officer took a step forward. In the dim light, she couldn’t discern his face though she saw him flinch as she pointed the muzzle at him.

“I want you off my land now,” she demanded, her voice remarkably even despite her pounding heart. At twenty two years and virtually alone, she knew one able-bodied man could easily overwhelm her. With no able men and few slaves remaining, she only had bravado left.

“Now, ma’am,” the Union officer began. He spoke like a gentleman but dressed in blue, he was a farce as far as she was concerned.

Jeremiah, just behind her right shoulder, cocked the hammer on his rifle- a welcomed noise to her ears. Good boy, Emma thought. If the Yankees didn’t believe she was a threat, she hoped the armed slave boy next to her got the message across. She wasn’t allowing any soldiers on her property again.

The rifle felt heavier by the minute, making her muscles ache and she feared she’d drop it. The weapon was foreign to her hands but as the war raged closer to her home, she learned to use it. She wasn’t very good at it but as close as the Yankees were, she was bound to hit one of them. She didn’t want to pull the trigger. The gun’s recoil would knock her off her feet, throwing her aim off. With so few bullets left, she’d hate to lose the shot.

The light streamed out of the open front door across the officer as he stepped onto the porch. She saw his face and the nose of the gun slipped. Jack Fontaine, that good-for-nothing traitor. How dare he come here, especially after what happened last summer. Rage took control and gave her the added strength to pull the muzzle up to his chest as she cocked the trigger.

“Emma, please,” he said softly. He looked at her the same way he had that night months ago, his green eyes glowed like emeralds in the light. She remembered those eyes, those mesmerizing emerald eyes. They were all hers the night she had lost her heart to him. The night he had betrayed her. Her anger flared. No. Not this time. Not again, she vowed. Gritting her teeth, Emma narrowed her gaze.

“Get away from me, Jack, or I swear to God, I’ll blow a hole through you and send you straight to hell!”

Inside the house, a scream of a babe wailed. Emma instinctively turned. Jack reached for her and she panicked, squeezing the trigger. The rifle exploded, throwing her backwards, pain shot into her shoulder. But instead of hitting the floor, she found herself in Jack’s arms as they wrapped around her, shielding her back from the impact on the wood floor.

The patrol stormed onto the porch, past them and into the house. Lying in his embrace, his body a shield over hers as his troops marched past them, Emma couldn’t breathe. Her eyes wide open. She felt the heat of him around her. The scent of him invaded her senses. Warm, masculine, and spice rolled up into one. She fought the heat in her belly but it was hard as his eyes locked onto hers and his lips only inches away.

She closed her eyes. Behind her, the wailing continued and she heard the thud of soldier boots inside. Her jaw tightened as she opened her eyes and glared at him. “Get off me, Jack.”




  1. Daryl Devore says:

    No era is dead – someone will always want to read and someone will always want to write. Write what works for you.

    1. Gina Danna says:

      I sooo agree 🙂

  2. Love this excerpt, Gina! I’ve been writing Civil War romances for years and also hit that brick wall with the NY publishers. Luckily, I found The Wild Rose Press, a small electronic and print publisher, open to Civil War romances. All of my stories have happy endings and not one of them is the same as far a characters and situations.

    Here’s an excerpt from my award winning Civil War romance, Confederate Rose.

    Alex watched Mrs. O’Reilly’s retreating back. She disappeared into the kitchen to look for a bottle of syrup. The dress enhanced her already pleasing appearance, although he preferred his women a bit rounder in the hips and bosom. His thoughts drifted to Annabelle. Hair the color of wheat, blue-green eyes, full bosom and hips accented by a tiny waist, Annabelle was the epitome of genteel womanhood in the South.

    Growing up together, they became engaged before he’d gone north to further his education. But when he’d returned, rumors of war had started circulating. She’d called off their engagement when he’d refused to enlist in the Confederate Army. Called him an abolitionist and worse.

    Although Annabelle had been adamant he fight for ‘the Cause’, would she have fought beside the men as Mrs. O’Reilly did? He couldn’t imagine it. Annabelle’s idea of patriotic duty was attending military balls and soirées, or teas with the ladies where they discussed what hardships their men endured or bemoaned the lack of male companionship. He couldn’t imagine her setting her dainty feet in an army camp.

    Mrs. O’Reilly swept back into the room, interrupting his thoughts. She set a small glass bottle on the table. “‘Tis all I can find.”

    Alex eyed the clear bottle half-filled with amber-colored syrup.

    When he didn’t move, she said, “Eat. Ye’ll be needing yer strength.”

    “Pardon me?” He reached for the bottle.

    “Ye’ve not looked outside, I take it.”

    “Outside?” He glanced at the gauze-covered window.

    The sky appeared dark. After glancing at her, he rose to investigate. When he pulled back the curtain, the sight before him sent his stomach plummeting. Snow covered everything as far as he could see and continued to fall from the lead-colored sky with furious resolve. “This can’t be. I have to get out of here today.”

    He thought of the dispatch in his pack. He had to get to the Federal camp five miles east of here. How could he do that now? Then there was the matter of Mrs. O’Reilly’s mailbag, still hidden in the stall with the horses.

    He turned from the window.

    She seemed to read the look on his face. “Ye’ll not be leaving here today.”

    He pushed a hand through his hair. What was he to do now? He was trapped in this cabin in the middle of nowhere with a lovely Irish Rebel. Meanwhile, he had a Federal dispatch in his pack he’d be unable to deliver but would certainly incriminate him if it fell into Rebel hands.

    The woman picked up her knife and fork but continued to look at him. She pointed to his plate. “You should eat. Ye’ll feel better.”

    “I don’t think so.” He took the seat across from her. He stared at his meal, unable to summon back his appetite.

    “Starving yerself won’t make it go away,” she said between bites.

    “You’re right.” He picked up the utensils she’d set for him. “It does smell mighty good.”

    “Go ahead,” she urged. “Fill yer stomach.”

    When she smiled at him, all thoughts of the blizzard outside were forgotten. He lifted his fork and shoved a hunk of syrup-coated hoecake into his mouth. Chewing slowly, he savored the sweet, hot morsel and quickly shoved in another mouthful. He murmured in satisfaction. If nothing else, the woman could cook.

    “When yer finished,” she said, “I’ll be cleaning up here, and you can be seeing to the horses.”

    He nodded. Good, he didn’t want her near there. If she found the mailbag… They finished their meal in silence, then he trudged through the knee-deep snow to the stable.

    1. Gina Danna says:

      Very nice Susan! And thank you for stopping by 🙂

  3. Ella Quinn says:

    Thought provoking post. I only hear one blogger say Regency is dead. NY is still buy them. Also I know that at lest my publisher is interested in other time periods. Almost every thing is cyclical, it’s like fashion, wait long enough and it will come back in style. Though I really don’t want to be wearing tight corsets and huge skirts.

    1. Gina Danna says:

      I did hear it at Nationals…not that I believed them. As to style, hoops, etc did make a comeback in a way – reenacting! LOL Thank you Ella!

  4. As you know I love history and stories around any era of old are fascinating to me. To me, reading and re-reading the same billionaire playboy with a collection of toys doesn’t hold my interest. I think if the book is well written they will read it. Keep writing your wonderful books!

    1. Gina Danna says:

      So true! Thank you Nancy!!

  5. Great post! You know I’m right there with you! LOL All of NY said my Civil War era wouldn’t sell — even with the Golden Heart attached to it — but it sells tons everyday on Amazon!! Readers know what they want. NY doesn’t. 🙂
    Loved the excerpt! Can’t wait for the book to be out!

  6. Sharla Rae says:

    Loved your blog and the excerpt. Traditional publishers have been saying for years now that American set historicals are dead, very dead. Personally, I believe if they are dead it’s because “they” simply won’t publish them! They seem to be doing well in e-book form. I think many of the very young editors these days don’t like history and don’t know it and there fore it’s dead to them. Sad, really. If they read a book like yours, I don’t see how they could help but change their minds. 🙂

  7. Lani says:

    I literally had an editor ask if I could write my finished manuscript as a Regency. Not only would that mean that I’d have to switch to England as my setting, but the era too, which is American Revolution. But she was kind enough to tell me why was because she loved my writing. She actually said she love, love, LOVE[d] my voice. I’d won a contest and she read my manuscript, knowing full well that her house, a big NY one, would never pick it up because of the setting and era. But the fact that she went out of her way to tell me as much was one of the most disappointing yet thrilling experiences of my life.

    I couldn’t change my story that much, so I stuck to my guns, and struck out on my own. But thank God for that editor, if it weren’t for her telling me how much she appreciated my writing, I really might have given up. Well, given up the dream of being published. I doubt I could ever give up writing.

    1. Gina Danna says:

      Lani – That’s insane! I thought it was bad my first 2 agents rejected it outright but won my current one. Go figure!

  8. Kirsten says:

    I write historical western romance, and get the “it’s dead” comment a lot. But it can’t be dead, because the stories live in me and I know if I still enjoy them someone else out there does, too. My theory, write what you love and eventually it’ll come back around.

    Loved the excerpt, Gina! I’d definitely read this!

    1. Gina Danna says:

      Thank you Kirsten 🙂

  9. Kary Rader says:


    Great stories will find their way into the hands of readers…one way or another. I never believe anything I hear about what is or isn’t publishable. Two years ago I went with my New Adult story to a writer’s conference and all the agents and editors said, “It’s a fluke.” “We can’t sell it.” “Not a real genre.” Ha – it’s the best selling genre there is now. So hot every major publisher is looking for stories. **shrugs** Who knew?

    1. Gina Danna says:

      Thanks Kary – but you know I write what I want to anyway. 🙂

  10. It’s definitely not dead. One of my good friends has a Civil War Romance series out…and those books sell better than her Regeny Romances. Go figure! So I’d say, this era is definitely not dead!

    1. Gina Danna says:

      I love that! Thanks Marie! 🙂

  11. Becky Lower says:

    My “beat” for USA Today’s Happy Ever After column is from the colonial period through the Civil War. There isn’t an overwhelming number of new books coming out during this time period, but romance was alive and well even in the midst of war, and I love the books I’ve been able to feature. Send me your new release info, everyone!

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