When I sat down to write this blog about my historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove, I asked myself this question. My answer was ‘not much’, but would you agree with me? As I see it, historical fiction is a broad genre, stretching from serious to action-filled to romantic. Sometimes the plots of lighter historical fiction seem less about transporting the reader to another era than about telling a modern story in an exotic setting. But you could say the same about any kind of mainstream fiction: some is light or fantastic, some is action-filled or romantic, some makes you think.
So where would my three novels fit in? Told as a memoir, my heroine’s tale is both a coming of age story and a contemplation of one of the most violent times in history. In it you can learn how history comes back to haunt us. We only need to look at the troubles right now between Ukraine and Russia or Russia and Western European countries: their seeds were planted centuries ago because of the Mongol invasions, which happen to be the setting for my first novel. So I’d place the trilogy into the serious fiction category but leave some wiggle room for romance, since people of every century do seek love.
Why mostly serious? Well, you can’t read about the thirteenth century and feel light hearted. In the first volume, The Grip of God, Princess Sofia of Kievan Rus’, is captured and enslaved by a Mongol war captain. The Mongols were among the most successful conquerors in history, their empire second in size only to the British Empire. Think violent, primitive, superstitious, and ruthless, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of people Sofia faces in her struggle to survive. And yet people of all sorts befriend her, and at the end help her escape.
In the second novel, Solomon’s Bride, having fled into Iran, Sofia encounters a much more sophisticated culture also devastated by Mongols, but now she must extricate herself from a feared branch of Islam known today as the Assassins. They are bent on overthrowing the Islamic establishment and the Mongol juggernaut through public political murders—that’s how the word assassination came to be. While Sofia does find her way west into Crusader lands, her journey is far from over. And though the serious, contemplative aspect of Sofia’s story continues, this novel will satisfy the most romance-loving reader and offer some surprises as well.
In the final novel, Consolamentum, Sofia might just find love and home, but with the shadow both of a ‘holy war’ and of the French Inquisition looming over her, merely being a foreigner can get her into trouble. The conclusion of the trilogy might well leave you thinking not just about a character, a distant time, and a compelling plot but also about what Sofia’s life might have to say about our modern era.
A final note: one of the challenges of writing this saga was that of crossing two genres, the serious and the romantic. While it has been done, it isn’t easy; some readers want a hot story and others want both plot and history, and some want history and enough plot to carry them along. I sought to offer satisfy all three by
offering a dark romance, an allegory of our own times, and accurate history brought to life by a dramatic story.