What kind of research did you do to write Discovery of Desire? What was the most interesting thing you discovered?
ORIGINALLY POSTED ON LORI'S READING CORNER, 5 September, 2016
Seth and Mina’s story begins in 1850’s Bombay (now called Mumbai) before returning to London, so I had a fascinating (and dark) history to research. In 1850, India was under British rule, a colonization made possible by the first forays into the territory by the East India Company, an organization that came into existence modestly-enough in the late 16th century and grew into a powerful, militarized, multi-national corporation.
The East India Company was the British government’s agent in India until 1857, and because of its long history of trade and foreign competition, the company had formed enormous security forces, and a vast administrative network. That meant English men in India, hundreds of soldiers and civil servants, with the means and desire to marry.
I had a really basic knowledge of India’s history, but somewhere along the way, I saw an article about a book by Anne de Courcy, titled The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj. De Courcy had written a fascinating book about women in the late-19th and early-20th century who had travelled to India to marry the English civil servants, soldiers and businessmen living and making their fortunes in India.
But in reading that book, I learned that English women had been traveling to wed men in India for far longer than that. A couple centuries longer, in fact. These venture girls, as they were called, left their homes—prepared to leave them forever—in hope of marriage.
The prospect of life and marriage in India frightened some of the women, and thrilled others. Some regretted their choice, others found contentment. The reality of living in India for many meant living an isolated existence on remote plantations, or losing their children to illness, or sending them back to England to be educated and not seeing them for years on end.
As the daughter of an Okinawan woman who married a white American, and adopted a new country as her home, I was moved by the courage and struggles these women faced. While my mother flies to Okinawa from Chicago, via Tokyo, in about 15 hours, these women sailed for three months, over a dangerous ocean. When I think of all that they left, all the comforts of fluency in their native language, the easy understanding of their culture and humor and slang, the sense of acceptance and belonging living among your countrymen, I can’t help but mourn their lives a little.
Sending my heroine, Wilhelmina Adams, along with her sister, Emma, across that ocean to India, tearing them away from their five sisters in Chesterfield, England, to wed, to survive, I was reminded of those Venture Girls. Adventurous or desperate, their lives are endless fascinating and poignant.