Saturday 24 February 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Sarah Mallory

On Hist fic Saturday I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

Historical Fiction Writer

Why I write historical fiction

Writing historical fiction is not an option for me, it is a necessity. I get withdrawal symptoms if I am away from my writing for more than a week or two! I fell in love with history when I was at school, thanks to a wonderful teacher who used to draw us into the subject with "gossip" about the period, putting flesh on the bare bones or dates and events. I became fascinated by the way people lived, how their lives were shaped by the times in which they lived. 

As a teenager I read Jane Austen and loved the language and manners of the late 18th/early 19th century, which we now tend to call the Regency (although in fact the future George IV of England was only Regent from 1811 to 1820). After that it was a natural progression to Georgette Heyer. I immersed myself in her Regency world and by the time she died in 1974 I had read every book she had written, and decided that the only way to get my Regency "fix" was to write the darn things myself! My first three novels were published in the early 1980's, under the pen name of Melinda Hammond. A dozen or so more books followed, albeit slowly (my writing career severely curtailed by having a family and several animals to look after!) then in 2008 I sold my first historical to Harlequin Mills & Boon, writing as Sarah Mallory.

It might be helpful if I digress a little here and explain why I write under two names. I chose Melinda Hammond as a pen name when I started writing, and use it for my traditional "sweet" Regencies (which go no further than a kiss) as well as a varied selection of historicals, ranging from a World War Two short story to a dual-time book set during the Crusades (more about that one later). When I began my career with Harlequin Mills & Boon, I decided that a separate name would be better, because these historical romances are a little hotter, that is, they go beyond the bedroom door, and it is important for the reader to know just what they are getting! 

I now have more than 25 books published as Sarah Mallory, all Georgian or Regency romances. This is my favourite period and I have been researching it ever since reading Austen and Heyer all those years ago. There is so much I love about the period, the costumes, manners and the characters, like Lady Hester Stanhope. She started out keeping house for her uncle, the British Prime minister William Pitt the Younger, and in 1810 left England to travel abroad. She was shipwrecked on the island of Rhodes but continued her travels in the near and Middle East. She crossed the desert dressed as a Bedouin and became something of a celebrity. She ended her days almost as a monarch of a small territory in what is now Lebanon.

I first came across Lady Hester when I was researching The Earl's Runaway Bride. The book opens in Corunna, Spain, during the Peninsular War, and I was reading up about Sir John Moore, who led the retreat to Corunna, chased by Napoleon's troops and managed to save the British Army from total annihilation. He is buried on the heights above Corunna and has a large tomb in the town, where he is revered as a great soldier and saviour of Spain. He and Lady Hester were great friends and it was rumoured they planned to marry.

Sir John Moore's Tomb
© by kind permission

It was after Sir John's death at the Battle of Corunna that Lady Hester set off on her adventures, and reading about her life gave me the inspiration for a more recent book, The Duke's Secret Heir, where my hero and heroine meet in the Egyptian desert.

Britain was at war for most of the Regency period, so battles play a major part in the background to my stories. I really enjoy battlefield tours. My first was a superb tour through Spain looking at the battles in the early part of the Peninsular War, culminating in the Battle of Corunna and I have been lucky enough to go to Waterloo twice, the second time in 2015 to see a fantastic re-enactment of the battle on its bicentenary. There is so much to learn from these re-enactments, from wandering about the camps and seeing how the soldiers lived (albeit the re-enactors's living conditions are probably a little cleaner and more hygienic than the original) to watching the battle commence, and realising just how high the corn was – plenty of room for riflemen to hide! 

© by kind permission

I have tried writing contemporary fiction, I really have, but somehow it always comes back to the history. My first attempt at a contemporary turned into a dual time novel – this was Moonshadows (writing as Melinda Hammond), which starts out with a young marketing graduate falling in love with a rich entrepreneur, but life becomes complicated when she thinks she is being haunted by an 18th century nobleman! My next – again writing as Melinda Hammond – was Casting Samson (which I describe as the Vicar of Dibley meets Ivanhoe). It is set in a quintessential English village and revolves around finding someone to play Samson in a pageant for the local church. Again, history plays a big part, and alongside the modern-day romance I found myself writing the story of a crusader and his lost love.

My latest book, The Ton's Most Notorious Rake, was inspired by what I have learned over the years about the plight of "fallen women" during the Regency. Very few women had any security during that period. They were reliant upon their fathers to look after them until they married when they became the property of their husbands. If the son of a household seduced a serving maid, she was most likely to lose her job and be cast out without a reference. If she became pregnant, her chances of finding employment (other than as a prostitute) were almost non-existent. It was not much better for those women from wealthier families. Very few had money of their own, and if they did not wish to marry, about the only "respectable" way to support themselves was as a governess or a companion. A man might be as "rakish" as he pleased, but once a young woman lost her reputation she was ruined.

Mills & Boon
22 February 2018

I wanted to redress the balance a bit, so I decided that my heroine, Molly, would do something about this sad state of affairs. She sets up a house to help some of these poor women. Naturally, she is very concerned when a notorious rake arrives in the area, and this sets the scene for some very lively encounters.

It is impossible to ignore some of the darker aspects of the past, but as a historical novelist my priority is to entertain. However, if I can whet the reader's appetite to go on and learn more about a particular period in history then that is a bonus. It is, after all, the way I started!


Sarah Mallory was born in the West Country and grew up with a love of books and history. She has had over 40 historical novels published and won the Rona Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013.

You can find her on Twitter @SarahMRomance, Facebook as Melinda SarahMallory Hammond or on her website,

Sarah Mallory Books on Amazon UK 

The Ton's Most Notorious Rake was published yesterday by Harlequin Mills and Boon.

A huge thank you to Sarah for being such a lovely guest today 

and for sharing with us her love of historical fiction.



  1. Thank you for inviting me, Jo. I am delighted to be here, and I shall pop by to read and answer any comments. Sarah

    1. Thank you for being a great guest, Sarah and for sharing your love of historical fiction with us. Come back and see us again soon.


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