Today we hear from Nicholas Kenleigh, my hero from Ride the Fire. For very personal reasons, Ride the Fire remains very special to me. I don’t know that I can say it’s my favorite book, because that’s like being asked to choose which is my favorite child. But I do know that I’ve never felt as satisfied — or as devastated — when I finished a book as I did when I finished this one. When I finished writing, I started sobbing and cried for six weeks!
This book was the first that was written and published with no interference. The last book (to date) in the Kenleigh-Blakewell Family trilogy, it’s very historical, in that I used real soldiers’ diaries from Fort Pitt to recreate the siege of Fort Pitt that took place during the summer of 1763. And it’s on Kristie J’s all-time favorite romance novel list, which means a lot to me!
A warning to those of you who haven’t read this story: you might run into spoilers.
Without further ado, I give you Nicholas Kenleigh:
Q: Nicholas, you’re one of my all-time favorite heroes, partly because what you went through was so terrible. Are your dreams still haunted by what happened to Eben and Josiah?
I speak little of this, for it brings back my darkest hours. Aye, at times I can hear them screaming and cursing my name, though the dreams are few and far between. When I awake, I find Bethie beside me. Were it not for her love…
I will always wonder if I there was something I have said or done to save them. Could I have warned them of the peril sooner and kept them from being taken? Should I have attempted escape? Should I have slain them in their sleep?
I cannot fathom why Providence spared me and not them, yet I find some peace in believing that I survived so that I might one day find Bethie and be there for her at her time of greatest need. Had I not come across her when I did, Belle most certainly would have perished at birth and perhaps Bethie with her.
Father Owen, the priest my nephew, Jamie, brought from England, says that Eben and Josiah, who died innocent and in so horrible a fashion, were brought straight to the gates of Heaven and know now that I did not forsake them but sought with all my strength to spare them. I am not Catholic, but I pray with all my heart that what he says is true. If I could have died that day — not knowing what lay ahead of me — I would have gladly leapt into the flames to spare them.
I can speak of this no more.
Q: During your long years living in the forest, did you ever imagine you would return home again, take a wife or have children?
[Laughs] Nay. I wanted only to die. I never dreamed nor even hoped to return to my family. I kept chasing death, but it kept evading me. It wasn’t until I had reached Philadelphia and could not bring myself to leave Bethie that I began to consider returning home to Virginia.
Q: Have you forgiven yourself for turning your back on your mother and riding away?
She has forgiven me, and that is enough.
Q: What do you to do try to make up for the time you lost with your parents, your brothers and your sisters and nieces and nephews.
I strive ever to be of service to them, to withhold from them no aid nor any affection that is within my power to give.
Q: What is your favorite season and why?
I love autumn when the harvest is in and the hard labors of spring and summer give way to feasting and celebration. ’Tis a joy to sit before the fire with the larder full, a tankard of cider in one’s hand, and my lovely wife at my side. There is no greater blessing in life than that.
Q: What did you do with the necklace Atsan gave you? Do you know what became of him? Do you think of him?
Atsan and I reached a peace man to man before I left Fort Pitt. We each took lives; we each did what we had to do. He saw, as I did, that there was no future for his people if they did not learn to live with Europeans, but I do not think that peace was in his heart. I do not know what became of him, nor do I think of him except when my mind turns to the past. You ask about the talisman? That I gave to Takotah. For her, it holds strong medicine. For me, it holds only sorrowful memories of a past I have left long behind.
Q: Do you ever miss the frontier and want to visit the wilderness again?
[Laughs] Nay! Are you quite daft? I’ve had quite enough of the frontier to last me till the end of my days. I love the forest, but there is forest aplenty on my own lands. I doubt not but that Bethie much prefers civilization and its comforts to the rough-hewn life of the frontier. Wherever she is content, I am also.
Q: What do you think of the way you got your name?
[Smiles] ’Tis a bit strange is it not? I'm named after a convict whose place my father took after he was beaten and spirited away on a ship bound for the Colonies. I never understood the tales my mother and father told me of the time they fell in love and were married until after I'd met Bethie and understood what love was. Why my mother chose that name, I cannot say for certain, though I think it must represent to her the man my father was when she fell in love with him.
Mistress Kristie — I thank you for all you have done on my behalf. I hear that you are the most generous and kind of women. You are right that the thought of being bound and held against my will in such a fashion is repugnant to me. When I awoke tied to Bethie's bed, the panic it ignited inside me... I did not know her then. But when I offered myself to her later at Fort Pitt... ’Tis the truth that I understood Bethie's fears better than she knew, and so I knew what I could do to lessen them. And somehow giving myself to her by my own choice and helping her to heal also healed me.
Mistress Stephanie — Or do you prefer "mademoiselle"? I felt such joy at being home again and having my bride beside me that the confusion of so many new faces troubled me little. Still, I must admit that each sister- or brother-by-marriage I did not know, each nephew and niece, served to remind me of what i'd lost in my exile. To pick up a child and see your brother or sisters eyes and smile on his little face but to be a stranger to him... Aye, ’twas the price I paid for my selfishness. And yet I cannot condemn myself for having left. Though I regret the hurt it caused my mother and Elizabeth, who blamed herself, I would not have found Bethie, would not have been there at Belle's birth, would not have my own precious children, had I not. ’Tis enough to make one wonder what your countryman Candide truly thought of such matters. Is this the best of all possible worlds? I am content in my life, blessed with a wife and children whom I hold dearer than life itself.
You ask about my hair. ’Tis a matter of great debate still. Although Bethie cuts it at time to keep it from becoming too long, my hair is still as it was she met me — much to my father's consternation.
Feel free to jump in and ask Nicholas additional questions.
Only four days till Untamed is released!
Next up: The MacKinnon brothers. Due to the nature of your questions and the fact that they all think they have something to say, we're going to have to interview them as a group. I hope you don't mind.
And contests galore!