In the latest novel from Lisa T. Bergren, an heiress travels to the West Indies and finds she has a lot to learn…
In Lisa T. Bergren’s latest historical novel, Keturah (Bethany House), a group of sisters leave their home in England for the West Indies to save what’s left of their heritage. Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and find the healing and love awaiting her? In this interview, Lisa shares with us what inspired her to set her new series in this historical period, the essential qualities of a heroine and leading man, and how God gives us the strength to keep going even in hard times…
This interview is from the Collector’s Edition Christian Romance Special. Download the issue FREE!
Lisa, your brand-new series is the “Sugar Baron’s Daughters.” What can readers expect from this new series?
From what I can recollect of the market, a fresh setting—the West Indies/Caribbean—which provides a new locale to wrestle with an age-old problem: declining family fortunes. And then you add in my trademark—strong female heroines doing things they really ought not be doing—and you have an interesting recipe for a novel.
What is it about this time and setting—the 1770s on a sugar plantation in the West Indies—that made you want to set a series there?
I love historical periods of transition. I’ve written medievals that were pre-Renaissance, pre-Reformation—before what most people think of as “medieval.” I wrote the Grand Tour series of Europe set just after the Titanic sank and before World War I. To me, those times of transition for a region are symbolic of change for everyone who lived there.
And in the West Indies, it’s a similar time. The sugar boom has apexed and fortunes across the Caribbean are in decline; the Revolutionary War is brewing to their north; Britain is having a hard time keeping control across the Empire.
And the British-held islands in the West Indies—like Nevis, where my novel is set—are caught between their English foundations/protectors and the North American colonies who feed/supply them.
What can you tell us about Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson? She’s dealing with the loss of her father, and now she’s traveled to this strange place to deal with family business and fend off questionable suitors…
She’s really in no mood to entertain any suitor, because her first, arranged marriage was to an awful man who looked like the prince on the outside, but was horrible inside. She’s returned home to her sisters when word reaches of them of her father’s death as well as the very dire circumstances of their English estate…and the Nevisian plantation, Table Top.
She’s weary of being the victim of men’s actions, so she takes action of her own, electing to travel to the West Indies to save the plantation. Not that she’s perfect. She figures since she’s gifted at gardening, she can run a plantation. There’s a steep learning curve ahead for her. Happily for her, a childhood friend, Gray Covington, is also embarking on the same journey.
What do you consider the essential qualities of a heroine?
My favorite heroines embody characteristics I want to emulate—courage, compassion, humility (sometimes it takes a while to forge), faith, inner strength, willingness to learn from mistakes, passion for life and love.
What about the essential qualities of a leading man?
That’s interesting to answer that on the heels of the last…because they’re many of the same characteristics. But I would also add a fierce, protective love of his woman. Because, c’mon. That gets me every time.
Click to find out the research Lisa did to capture the world of Caribbean sugar plantations in the 1700s…