Marcia Gruver: Spellbinding Romance in Old Mississippi
Marcia Gruver continues to deliver romance and adventure with the second volume in her Backwoods Brides series, Bandit’s Hope. Explore the Natchez Trace with a bandit who strives to trade his scandalous past for a respectable future with an innkeeper’s daughter.
Q: Bandit’s Hope is set in the old South of Mississippi. What research did you have to do with this book?
Researching Bandit’s Hope was great fun. My husband and I turned a fact-finding trip to Mississippi into a mini-vacation. I wanted a very clear picture of the Pearl River and a Natchez Trace “stand” -- the historical inns and trading posts along the route -- so we traveled to the Canton area and drove along the Natchez Trace, stopping at historical sites along the way. It’s a wonderful area and an interesting trip for history buffs.
Q: What made you decide to write about bandits and this time period?
As a sequel to Raider’s Heart, the time period for Bandit’s Hope was decided for me. In the story, we discover the fate of Tiller McRae, the runaway who disappears from North Carolina at the end of Raider’s Heart.
While researching the plotline, I learned about the “outlaw years” along the Natchez Trace, an overland trading and postal-rider route. From Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, lawless gangs lurked, preying on the heavy commercial and military traffic. In later years, with the advent of Robinson Road, the Trace fell into disuse and the old stands began to dwindle. I thought it would be interesting to imagine that process and explore what might happen to honest, upright families as well as dishonest, greedy bandits—all depending on the Natchez Trace for their livelihood.
Q: What got you interested in writing historical romances?
I’ve always been interested in historical figures, especially small-town legends, and Barbour has allowed me to bring some of my favorites to life in the pages of my books. The romantic aspect adds a whole new dimension. It’s fun to play matchmaker with characters of your own creation, to develop multifaceted people, initiate an attraction, and then devise every obstacle possible to keep them apart. But just like in real life, true love overcomes in the end. Well ... most of the time.
Q: Are there any recurring characters from the previous book, Raider’s Heart?
I couldn’t tell Tiller’s story without bringing back his rowdy family of misfits, the North Carolina McRaes. Readers will return to Scuffletown and be reunited with Hooper, Dawsey, Ellie, Silas, and the rest of the McRae clan.
Q: Bandit’s Hope has a lot of action and thrills. What are some adventures the characters experience?
Mariah Bell goes to great lengths in a desperate quest to save her ancestral land, risking unsavory boarders, a vile kidnapper with dark motives, and a massive twister barreling toward her belching threats. Trying to flee a life of crime, Tiller has to face the costly wages of dishonest living, and he’s forced to live with a daily reminder of the harm his former lifestyle has wrought. In an effort to prove his change of heart, he renews ties with his former gang, a move that nearly costs him his life.
Q: What are some similarities found between you and the characters in Bandit’s Hope?
On our trip to Mississippi, we came across the site of the Brashears Stand, one of the oldest stands along the Trace. With my maiden name of Breshears and my interest in genealogy, I entertained the possibility that the old establishment may have been run by my ancestors. Imagine my surprise to learn the stand was advertised as “a house of entertainment in the wilderness.” Despite the humorous possibilities this description implies, the similar name association formed a close bond in my mind to the setting. I actually named several characters in Bandit’s Hope after relatives, past and present.
Q: What future projects do you have coming up?
I have several ideas in mind for future stories, but I may be taking a departure from three-book series for a while. I’d like to try my hand at single title historical novels and maybe dabble a little with writing in a contemporary setting. In the meantime, I’ll be focusing on Hunter’s Prize, book three and the last installment of Backwoods Brides.