by Kristi Ann Hunter
When I started researching Newmarket, English horseracing and the famous Heath on which so much history was created, I came across an idea that really shaped the Hearts on the Heath series for me. In Regency England, the class structure was a well-defined ladder and connecting oneself too closely with someone on a lower rung could be detrimental.
It was different on the Heath, though. Joined by a fascination with horses and a love of winning, the social lines blurred on those long stretches of green grass. Men of all sorts worked with the animals, placed bets and celebrated success. Of course, that didn’t commonly extend into the drawing rooms of the neighboring manor houses, but what if it did? So often those what if questions lead me down the path to a fabulous story and the Hearts on the Heath series was no different.
That concept comes to a head in my latest novel, Enchanting the Heiress, when a relationship formed within the small group of friends begins to bloom into something that cannot be hidden. Everyone had to choose what was more important: love or social opinion.
I started writing this book while the world was in lockdown and my personal world had been narrowed without warning. Instead of having the people I talked to dictated by the events on my calendar, all of my conversations and meetings were deliberately chosen and planned. When I wasn’t faced with living up to the expectations of those I would randomly encounter, I found a freedom to grow and be myself that I didn’t realize had been missing.
Because of this freedom, I came out of that intense period of isolation with more close friendships than before. When my calendar began to fill, I felt less of a need to portray a particular image to those I saw only occasionally. That peace even translated to social media.
One of the difficulties for Harriet, the heiress enchanted by her friend’s working-class brother, is that she has worked so hard to be what everyone else needs her to be that she’s nearly lost herself in the process. It’s easy to do. When we begin to define ourselves by our relationships and who we are to other people, it can be easy to forget that our first loyalty should be to the person God made us to become.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve had to face that reality in the past two years. You had those superficial curtains stripped away and you didn’t know what to do with what was exposed. What I discovered, and by extension what my characters learned as well, was that it’s much easier to fit into a smaller world.
I didn’t cut anyone out of my life or permanently remove activities from my calendar. In fact, I may be busier now than I was three years ago. What I did was narrow the scope through which I saw myself. I reprioritized whose opinions and impressions were the most important. I reconsidered what qualified as success. I took time to define what it meant to be myself and determine my priorities.
Have I lost a bit of position or prestige in an area? To be honest, I don’t know because I haven’t noticed. It isn’t where I’m looking. This book, perhaps more than any other I’ve written, was a journey I went on with the characters. On the other side of it, I can say that I’m just as happy with how it turned out as Jonas and Harriet are.
About the Author
Kristi Ann Hunter is the award-winning author of the Hawthorne House and Haven Manor series and a three-time Christy Award finalist. Kristi graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science but always knew she wanted to write. She’s since spun chocolate, faith, and diet lemonade into more than a dozen Christian Fiction Regency romances. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia. Find out more about her books, her speaking and her world at KristiAnnHunter.com and on her podcast, A Rough Draft Life.
About the Book
Miss Harriet Hancock enjoys playing the role of eccentric heiress, using her wealth and influence to cleverly and anonymously better the lives of those in Newmarket. The last thing stable hand Jonas Fitzroy expects is for Miss Hancock to request his help in writing a book. As they work together, an unexpected friendship forms.