Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Author Post & Giveaway: Karen Mercury

Why I Write Historicals

When I wrote my first historical, a friend said, “Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you just wrote about Marin County, 2002?” She saw all my research books lying around and the copious notes I was taking for historical background research. At the time, my response was, “Well, that would be too easy! I enjoy the challenge of research.” But now I know I have many more reasons for preferring to write and read highly explicit historicals.

Being transported back into a time and place surrounded by events that your brain tells you feasibly could have occurred is, for me, a much more intense escape than reading about current events. If I am carried into 1872 Zanzibar and can smell the cloves, the vanilla, and the frankincense, and hear the muezzin singing from the highest minaret, I am much more liable to believe that some British adventurer will step off a ship and sweep me away in dramatic fashion. If I’m carried away to 1848 San Francisco during the gold rush, I can more easily believe that the—clean-smelling and freshly-shaven, naturally—soldier mustering out of the army that I run into on the waterfront will fling me onto horseback and take me to the foothills to make our fortune.

It seems more vivid to me because if I — the heroine — am one of the few women courageous enough to venture to these far-flung frontiers, the adventurer will probably take notice of me and treat me with respect. In Gold Rush California the few women who made it that far came overland and from what I’ve read, were pretty much hollow wizened broken-down shells of their former selves after that arduous journey sapped the life from them. So of course the heroine, who came by a much healthier ship, would stand out from the crowd, with her glossy hair and fine complexion. And only the craziest and most innovative female travelers made it anywhere near Africa.

So these few able-bodied desirable women in exotic lands would catch the eye of these bold explorers. It would be much easier to find a hero in lands where you didn’t have to speed-date through two hundred guys who enjoy moonlight walks on the beach, talking deep into the night, and getting their hair messed when they take the top down.

It’s not just the relative ease of discovering dashing leading men that marks what I like about historicals. I also tend to believe more in the ability, sincerity, and willingness of these old-timey heroes. It’s much more realistic to picture an early 19thC mountain man crossing vast ranges against raging elements for the love of a woman than to imagine, say, a modern lawyer going to the store to pick me up some yogurt. Talking to friends who have been forced to date in the past few years, most men want to call you after nine PM because minutes are cheaper then, and think driving more than thirty miles is a long-distance relationship. The bold pioneers of the Victorian decades would slash their way past lions, cannibals, and scuzzy mountebanks, and look much more swashbuckling doing it.

Men of today will Google you some Rod McKuen poem if they think they’ll get laid behind it. Sir Richard Burton in 1856 would write you his own damned poem, in layers of Sufic meaning. And then go speak about eighteen languages, fence with some bashi-bazouks, and translate the Kama Sutra.

Karen Mercury is currently working on an erotic ménage western series set in the California Gold Rush for Siren Publishing. The second in the series, Either Ore, was recently released. She’s writing the third, where she sends Alex O’Loughlin and Shemar Moore back to 1850 and forces them to mine gold, rustle cattle, and shoot Russell Crowe.


They would form no brotherhood of virtue until driven to it by a brotherhood of vice.

1848 San Francisco. Lola Moreno has found a home at last, saved from destitution by businessman Gage Lassen. Gage is a withdrawn bachelor, and the most intimate subject he’s discussed with Lola is his preference in tea. Adventurer Harrison Bancroft arrives fresh from years on the Plains, living with Indians. Gage can only admit affection for another man, and things heat up when Harrison paints his portrait.

Harrison and Lola can find no way to allow Gage to participate in their love, until Harrison unlocks the pain from Gage’s past, allowing him to emerge from his prison of cold restraint.

Corrupt enforcer Fowler threatens the trio with seeming knowledge of their private vices, harassing Harrison with his unwanted attentions, and a night of riots forces them to make a stand.

Three lovers, one destiny.

An Excerpt From: EITHER ORE
Copyright © KAREN MERCURY, 2011


San Francisco

“Did you buy your cow?”

“I have.” After Lola flung her rebozo onto the back of a chair, Harrison could admire the play of dappled sun across her bare shoulders as she worked the dough. Her voice, however, seemed resigned and flat when she said, “I can sell a pint of milk for a dollar to men who haven’t had any in one or two years. And these pies? I can sell fruit pies for a dollar apiece—mince pies for a dollar and a quarter.”

Harrison thought. He supposed it was wonderful that Lola was so enterprising, instead of sinking into the squalor that so many broken frontier women gave in to, but it was also pitiful that Lassen didn’t pay her enough—that a woman of such talents and background had to slave away stoking a fire and chopping apples when she should be…Well, the wife of a dignitary, or some other man of means, such as a lawyer.

However, pie and a glass of milk did sound good. Harrison knew a passel of men who would well-nigh whale into someone for a chance at pie and milk.

“And Lassen lets you keep the income, even though the cow’s on his land?”

“Surprisingly, yes. I use my own money for the ingredients and firewood, and I only make pies when I’ve done all the chores Lassen has set for me.” She suddenly stopped rolling out the dough. Her head sank down on a weak neck as though defeated in something, and Harrison stopped chewing the orange, taking a few steps toward her. When she inhaled a ragged breath, it all came out in a rush. “I get up, make coffee, then I make biscuits, fry potatoes, broil three pounds of steak and as much liver as I can. Then I sweep and set the table, ring the bell at eight, he is eating until nine, I don’t sit until he’s done. After breakfast, I bake six loaves of bread, then four pies or pudding, then it’s lunch, lamb for which I’ve paid nine dollars, beef, pork, turnips, beets, radishes, and that everlasting damned soup every day. For tea he has hash, cold meat, bread and butter, sauce, and some kind of cake. I make his bed every day and do all his washing and ironing, if I didn’t have the constitution of a horse I should have given it all up a long time ago, and he doesn’t even say good day to me.”

Harrison was shocked into silence by this sudden outbreak. He’d known she was disenchanted with Gage Lassen, but he thought she scorned Lassen and trivialized his cold treatment of her. Now it appeared that it upset her greatly. Accustomed to the fluid, warm ways of the Plains Indians, Harrison took Lola by the shoulders and turned her to face him. Yes, a tear dripped down each cheek, and she miserably looked aside at the floor.

“Lola. Meha. Dear heart. I don’t think it has much to do with you individually. Listen to me. He’d be the same cold way if it rained tadpoles and pennywinkles. That’s just Lassen’s way. I’m starting to suspect that it has something to do with that wife who threw him over.”

“I thought so!” she blubbered, finally meeting his gaze, although she shied away from his grip. “But he treats society women with deference.”

“That’s society women, wives of his friends, meha! Of course he has to bow to them on occasion. But have you noticed, as I have, that he virtually ignores every single shopgirl, laundress, every woman who passes on the street? It’s as though he can see right through them. It’s not just you. Lassen is more…interested in the interests of other men.”

The moment Harrison uttered those words, a shudder went up his spine. The interests of other men. Since meeting Gage Lassen, he’d been uncomfortable with the other’s physical closeness, the way he stood just a tad too near, eyes just a tad too heartfelt. True, Harrison was fixated upon the man’s physical presence in a jealous sort of way. He wished his own skin to be that creamy café au lait instead of the blinding white that burned so easily in the sun. And Lassen’s features, so dusky, full, and sensual, not thin and austere as Harrison saw his own face. Yes, that was it. He was merely envious. That was why he tracked the man with his eyes, and felt an ardor spreading through him when they stood close together.

Lola must have perceived his thoughts just then, for she sniffled and asked childishly, “It had occurred to me that perhaps Lassen is…more comfortable around men.”

Thank you Karen for visiting the blog today and congratulations on the release of Either Ore. In celebrating the release of Either Ore, Karen has generously offered an e-book copy to one commenter. If you would like to read a spicier excerpt, you can go here to find that and more information about this sexy historical ménage. If you'd like to know more about Karen and her historical romances, check out her website here.

Everyone who comments on this post by midnight, April 12, will have a chance to win an e-book copy of Either Ore. Winner will be posted on April 13.


  1. LOL That's a great point, Karen, that the sheer life-sapping factor of those times would make a shining, witty heroine stand out in the crowd!

    Historicals ARE a big challenge to write, one I don't tackle all that often. But I confess that they are great fun to write when I do. Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. Hah, that's funny you said "shining," since that's one of those mountain man terms. "She would shine in any kind of crowd," or "those were shining times." Just sort of means "great," I guess!

  3. Oh that was a grrreat post!

    This, this made me laugh out loud:

    It’s much more realistic to picture an early 19thC mountain man crossing vast ranges against raging elements for the love of a woman than to imagine, say, a modern lawyer going to the store to pick me up some yogurt. Too funny and too true!

  4. Sad but true! When my H goes to the store and I ask him to pick me up something since he's there anyway, invariably that will be the ONE item he will 'forget'!