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FENELLA DOOR, ELIZABETHAN ENTREPRENEUR
by Barbara Kyle
Guest Post for "HF Book Muse -News" Blog
HFVBT June-July 2014
When I'm writing a novel a character can sometimes surprise me. This time the surprise was Fenella Doorn.
Fenella is the heroine of my new historical thriller, The Queen's Exiles. She's a savvy Scottish-born entrepreneur who salvages ships. She played a small but crucial role in a previous book of mine, The Queen's Gamble, and then I kind of forgot about her. She didn't appear in the next book, Blood Between Queens, but when I was planning the one after that Fenella sneaked up me.
She's a determined, passionate, courageous woman, and rather cheeky—she insisted that I include her in the new story. She reminded me that she had past connections with two exciting men in the series, Adam Thornleigh and Carlos Valverde, which promised some dramatic sparks.
So, I did more than include her in the new book. I made her its star. Fenella offered me an opportunity to create a complex, admirable woman who doesn't fit the ingénue heroine so common in historical fiction.
She's not a young thing; she's thirty. She's not a pampered lady; she rolls up her sleeves running her business of refitting ships. She's attractive but not a smooth-faced beauty; her cheek is scarred from a brute's attack with a bottle years ago. And she's not a virgin; she was once the mistress of the commander of the Edinburgh garrison (he of the bottle attack).
In other words, Fenella is my kind of woman.
She had been a beauty at eighteen, relying on men to support her, but when her cut face marred her attractiveness she realized that it was now up to her to put bread on the table and clothes on her back. I made her aware, even grateful, that the scar freed her from the bonds of beauty; it made her independent. And she became a successful businesswoman.
Fenella is a fictional character; I invented her. But successful, independent women were not as uncommon in the 16th and 17th centuries as some might think. Often they were widows who inherited their husband's businesses. There were female tailors and cloth merchants, brewers and bakers, stationers and booksellers. Hannah Allen, for example, was born into a family of bookbinders and she married a bookseller when she was in her early teens. After his death she inherited his business. In the mid-1600s Hannah's name appears on her imprints as the proprietor.
In Queen Elizabeth's time Irishwoman Grace O'Malley inherited her father's busy international shipping trade and became very wealthy. She was a hands-on manager, commanding the loyalty of so many clansmen that many followed her to Clare Island, where she moved her headquarters. She became known as the "Pirate Queen."
Fenella Doorn, my new novel's heroine, follows in the footsteps of spirited, independent women like Grace O'Malley. Before the story opens, Fenella ran a small marine chandlery with her husband. When he was killed she escaped to Sark, one of the Channel Islands, and built a ship refitting business. Five years later, when the book opens, she has become successful and self-sufficient.
Until, one day, Baron Adam Thornleigh sails into her bay in his shot-up ship and changes her life.
I hope you'll enjoy Fenella's adventure.
Thank you Barbara for this amazing post!!!!