Saoirse & Badu

I came across this while researching Love & Peace. There is apocryphal literature on “Irish slaves” and forced breeding. While trying to find more accurate historical info I came across “Irish Nell”. Though I’m writing a version of it, I’d love to see this love story made into a movie.

From Wikipedia:

 

Butler, who was of Irish origin, was an indentured servant to Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore.[1] At around 16 years of age, she announced her intention to marry a man referred to only as “Negro Charles”.[2] A 1664[b] Maryland law outlined the legal status of a free woman who voluntarily married a slave: she would serve the master of her husband until his death, and any offspring of their union would be born into slavery.[3][c] Despite this, Butler was determined to be wed.[1] The thought of a white woman becoming a slave apparently distressed Lord Baltimore somewhat, and he warned against the union for that reason.[1]

Lord Baltimore petitioned Maryland’s provincial assembly to change the 1664 law, and in 1681 key provisions of the law were in fact repealed.[2][4] The new law additionally outlawed marriages between female servants and slaves and provided for huge punitive fines to be levied on the master of any slave thus wed.[4]

Despite this, Butler and Charles apparently married in 1681, but before the law went into effect.[3] Because the new law did not apply retroactively, and perhaps also because Lord Baltimore left Maryland indefinitely in 1684,[5] Butler and Charles lived out the rest of their lives as the slaves of William Boarman, Eleanor Butler’s husband’s owner.[1][4] They had seven or eight children, all born after the repeal of the 1664 law, but these were nonetheless born slaves. One son, Jack, apparently escaped and later bought his freedom from the Boarman family.[1] The rest remained chattel.[6]

In October 1770, two of their descendants, William and Mary Butler, still enslaved, filed suit for their freedom on the basis they were descendants of a white woman.[1][4] Mary Butler was Nell Butler’s great-granddaughter, but the provincial court ruled against them, noting that “many of these people if turned loose, cannot mix with us and become members of society.”[4] Other suits from other descendants followed in the 1780s.[1] In 1787, the daughter of William and Mary Butler – also named Mary – successfully sued for her freedom, but hers was a procedural victory devoid of any particular precedent.[4] While her attorney hoped that the court would decide that any descendant of a white woman could not be a slave, such a decision and the far-reaching effects it would have brought were not forthcoming.[4] Instead, the court ruled that as no evidence existed of a legal union between Nell Butler and Negro Charles, the provisions of the 1664 law that condemned her and her offspring to slavery should not have applied in her case.[4] This compromise ruling allowed Mary Butler her freedom without having any significant effect on property rights in the state.[4]

Change in Focus

My original intent for Love & Peace was to create a historical novel with hot steamy romance with Persons of Color as main characters. While the core of my mission has not changed, the focus has shifted.

Pax and Ami were to be the central story.  Pax is a French Huguenot escaping religious persecution under King Louis XIV of France. He arrives in the New World as an indentured slave and struggles toward freedom. As he does, his world collides violently with Ami, a maroon, who was born free. When her freedom is threatened, Pax becomes her most unlikely ally.  As they make peace with each other, they find love.

However, at the beginning of the story, Pax and Ami are children and are not fully formed. By the second part, they were to become lovers and partners in a great adventure. That turns out to be a long story, as well as the machinations of the antagonist, Smith, uses to entangle Pax inextricably.

Despite being new at this whole historical romance novel writing thing, I used to be (and still am when the right one comes along) an avid reader of the genre.  I understand the need to build sexual tension and have it culminate in the big pay-off.  After covering their back story, Ami and Pax would not get there in there. Or they would, but much too late in a very long book.

So, at page 450, I realized that this story needs to be cut in half. I would rather keep the story intact as it is but I’m no big name author with some big-time publisher backing me. Printing long books, I have learned, is expensive and the return in investment is not assured, especially in small presses. So, they tend to discourage my epic stories which tend to be the case with every book I’ve written to date.

Cutting Love & Peace would mean rushing Ami and Pax’s consummation of their romance.  I don’t want to do that.  I want them to grow up first. There are things they must go through.

I do have secondary characters involved in romance. Pax’s brother Ivan take a male lover and a pretty mulatta falls in love with a Chinese pirate. Also, I had hoped to do a separate timeline with Ami’s grandmother, who was raped by a slavemaster and explore the difficult dynamics of love and power and coercion, not to mention forgiveness.

Since I have been following Ivan separately and have written in sparks and sexy time with his interest, I want to shift the focus of Love and Peace to a same-sex couple. However, I am worried about how the book will be marketed and received. 

In the end, my book–all my books–are about characters and how they love, hate, and need each other.  It’s not about black or white or gay or straight or any kind of labels because people and the way I intend my characters are much more than that one attribute.  I can deal with labeling books according to genre although there’s little accuracy in that too. However, I fear my books will be marginalized because the characters come from marginalized backgrounds when the book is about so much more.