Hi! I’m Lisa Henry, author of Sweetwater! I’m touring the web talking about my inspiration, my writing process, and giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Sweetwater. And of course there’s a giveaway! You could win a title from my back catalogue, as well as a $20 Riptide gift voucher!
Writing Historical Fiction
I love writing historical fiction. I love history. I always think the research is its own reward, which is lucky, because a lot of it never makes it as far as the book.
Elijah, one of my main characters in Sweetwater, is the adopted son of the town doctor. He reads medical books. So it was totally possible he would have heard of Middleton Goldsmith. Goldsmith was a Union army surgeon during the civil war. Gangrene had a 45% mortality rate. Goldsmith’s was 3%, and it was all down to injecting bromine into the affected limbs. In my first draft, this was something Elijah knew, and something he used because I had this whole gangrene subplot happening—it was just as disgusting as it sounds—but I ended up not needing it. Sorry, Middleton Goldsmith. So, that was about a week’s research down the gurgler.
This really was the book where I hoped my collection of old medical textbooks might come in useful. My 1868 Manual of Surgery, which I love for a combination of the unintentionally hilarious and the truly horrifying, has a fantastic section on gunshot wounds. Rounds bullets may split, for example, but conical rarely. Conical bullets also cause more injury to bones, but the track of a round bullet widens as it deepens. Given that I actually had a gunshot victim seeking medical treatment in Sweetwater, you’d think I could have used this. And I tried to shoehorn it in there, but it was just weird and awkward and read too much like an info-dump.
In historical fiction, the trick isn’t to shove all the facts in there just to prove that you did the research. The trick is only to use as much as is necessary to show that it’s a different world.
The same Manual of Surgery also had a great footnote about the difference between moral depravity and moral insanity. I don’t remember the difference now, but I’m pretty sure that by 1868 standards I’m suffering from both.
And to me, it was more important to focus on the difference in attitudes than it was to find a way to mention what sort of fabric their trousers were made from (Nankeen!), or how much a cigar cost (a nickel!). What’s important in Sweetwater is that Elijah is gay, and he believes—he knows—that he’s condemned to hell for it. That’s his truth in his world, and his time, and it shapes every decision that he makes. Everything else is window-dressing.
Sweetwater by Lisa Henry
Author: Lisa Henry
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release: 29th Sept. 2014
Genre: M/M (historical)
Wyoming Territory, 1870.
Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.
Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.
When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.
Wyoming 1870; what was I expecting to read and was it there? Cowboys? ~ yes! Saloons? ~ yes! Wagon trains? ~ yes! Gold miners? ~ yes! Shooting? ~ yes! Rustlers? ~ yes! Sherriffs? ~ yes! Native Americans? ~ mentioned, so yes! So all the ingredients are there for a great western.
So what wasn’t I expecting? Elijah!..... I mean Elijah!…...OMG, Elijah! From the very first chapter Elijah totally stole my heart. Sweet, bullied, kind hearted, hurting, good natured Elijah. I wanted to hold him, hug him, comfort him, adopt him, hold his hand….so I had to make do with my Kindle as a poor substitute instead. This character seriously got under my skin from the very first chapter, stayed there and made his home there, thanks to the powerful writing from Lisa Henry.
Hard times and death was only a hair’s breadth away. Elijah was orphaned due to his family contracting scarlet fever while journeying on a wagon train. He survived but it left him all but deaf at a very young age. He was taken in by Dr. Carter by a loving and caring man who treated Elijah like a son, he too had lost his wife and daughter. Due to this he can’t talk clearly and obviously sounds a little afflicted or funny. This was a time when it was hard to have a disability of any sort. So people assume he is simple, stupid, shy or all three and treat him cruelly. Especially Dawson the butcher who he works for. Bullied and shunned except for Dr. Carter who is patient and loving and teaches him to cope to the best of his ability. This poor boy, I just so wanted to comfort him, but he isn’t as innocent as it may first appear. He knows that he is different and this puts him in a total emotional conflict that just ripped my heart out! Coping with a disability all his life has somewhat knocked all the confidence out of the boy, but on the other hand there is a much deeper and darker secret lurking in him that he is keeping only to himself.
Dawson slaughters the cattle that a band of cowboys, the Mullins boys all cousins, bring to him during the night. Why? Well, I think you can guess. It is here that Grady notices Elijah first but doesn’t approach him until much later.
Now we get to the bad guys, Dawson is absolutely objectionable, but Harlan Cane the owner of the Empire Saloon just made my skin crawl. He practically owns half the town by fair or foul means, more foul than anything I reckon and money without end due to his Saloon and whores who work there. Elijah first makes contact with him after he is given a letter after work one night to deliver to Harlan Cane. Even though Elijah knows he shouldn’t go, he goes anyway and then the worst happens, or is it? I was so not ready for what came next………
Cane can read Elijah like a book, manipulative bastard that he is and knows he can get Elijah to do what he wants. Well, this led to the first sex scene and I must admit when I first started I wasn’t very sure at all. It felt at first like Cane was sexually abusing Elijah, forcing him to have sex against his will, certainly pushed my boundaries for a while until you get into Elijah’s head and realises he actually wants it. I started screaming at my Kindle, “Nooooo….Elijah, don’t do this!!! Get out! The man is just detestable pond life!” However, I guess power and money talks and Elijah does his beckoning. But Elijah, poor Elijah, he is so broken he sees the sex with Cane as a form of punishment for all his failings, but enjoys it all the same. Now we have the contradiction and realise, oh…. maybe he isn’t as innocent as first thought. The boy is seriously mixed up in more ways than I can go into, but the only way he knows how to get what he needs is to let Cane do with him what he wants. Here have the darker side of a Sub / Dom relationship, the DOM (Cane) not caring one bit about Elijah’s feelings or well being, but Elijah needy all the same. Lisa writes perfectly, emotionally and so vividly she personally took me to a limit that was uncomfortable but still bearable. There’s a thin line between what could be classed today as rape, what Cane did with Elijah the first time, but it isn’t once you understand how Elijah wants and needs this. How he feeds his pain and hurt in a masochistic way through letting Cane treat him badly. Exceptionally powerful writing at a psychological level that really took me to places I had never been. For someone expecting a nice little flowery, vanilla romance ~ then forget it! This book is dark, raw and gritty, especially where this relationship is concerned.
“You’ll hurt me, and I’ll let you. I’ll like it. I’ll show my belly, you’ll rip me apart, and I’ll want more. Always more. Elijah didn’t know if he should be afraid or not. He wasn’t. Crane would punish him, would hurt him, and Elijah would love it. These were the roles they played in this strange game.”
Then there comes the hurt, guilt and turmoil in Elijah. He is ashamed of this because he feels he isn’t worthy of Dr. Carter’s love as a son, he feels this is his only lot in life. So hurt and guilt turn into self-hate and disillusion, which in turn leads to one very damaged character that I just wanted to hold and say there is a better world. Elijah reduced me to tears so often I was beyond consolable. Oh and how I HATED Cane and Dawson.
Elijah wasn’t the son that Dr. Carter had wished for. He wasn’t a son anyone would wish for.
Well, when Grady does come on the scene and they find each other it is as though Grady senses all this anger, hurt, guilt and is the comfort blanket that Elijah needs. Grady, what a wonderful person, caring and patient with Elijah. He just fell in love with Elijah hook, line and sinker. OK, Grady is a rough and tough cowboy and the words I love you are never spoken, this would not be quite appropriate for this time. But Lisa builds in other expressions that don’t take away the nature of the characters and the time, but leaves the reader in doubt how much these two really do come to love each other. You may be wondering what Dr. Carter might be thinking of all this, well he never really gets to knows and something happens that broke my heart for Elijah totally. I was left with tears running down my face and blubbing into my Kindle.
“His old self was gone, and his dream-self – laughing, confident, clever – was nothing but a lie. Somewhere in the gap between the two was this Elijah, the new Elijah.”
Grady and Elijah find an appropriate HEA for the time which for those who know me and my reviews, the final solution of the relationship always needs to be in keeping historically and this was again definitely the case. I have mainly concentrated in this review on the emotional level as I can’t describe enough how this book made me feel. There is, however, a carefully developed plot, nicely paced and keeps the reader interested from the word go too. Packed full of western style scenes and behaviour, I could almost smell the sawdust on the floor in The Empire, along with the whiskey and smoke. Cane gave me the creeps and made me want to throw up, totally detestable character. Dawson made me livid and angry the way he treats Elijah. Grady? I wanted to hug him for basically rescuing my Elijah, a young man about to go totally off the rails due to his experiences and the way he is treated. He was on a one way collision course to oblivion, but Grady manages to pulls him back from the edge and for that alone I could have kissed the man.
“Elijah closed his eyes as tears stung them. Wasn’t supposed to go like this. He wasn’t supposed to be undone by kindness.”
Lisa took me on an emotional journey of discovery with this book that will stay with me for quite a while. A roller-coaster ride of emotions. I LOVED Elijah, I’ve never experienced so many emotions in one character. One character that I will not be forgetting for a long time, stole my heart completely and will be keeping it for quite a while.
But it Here
About The Author
I like to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters. But they've gotta work for it! No free lunches on my watch.
I live in tropical North Queensland, Australia. I don't know why, because I hate the heat, but I suspect I'm too lazy to move. I spend half my time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting my escape.
I attended university at sixteen, not because I was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. I studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
I share my house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how I imagined life as a grown-up.
Thanks for following the tour! To celebrate the release, I’m giving away an ebook from my back catalogue, as well as a $20 Riptide gift voucher.
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for me to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because I won’t be able to see it otherwise! On October 8, I’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win the prize!