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The Ideal Location For My Love Story

Susan Rounds Author Interview

The Winds of Autumn follows a young woman newly married who accompanies her husband on the Oregon Trail while realizing her feelings for another man. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

During my childhood, I remember visiting the fairytale castle, Neuschwanstein, and watching the musical fantasy, Cinderella, on television. Both sparked my imagination and inspired the kind of dream world I would later write about. Jane Austen’s influence would too. The prince becomes the consummate gentleman. The castle becomes a grand mansion. But I also wanted to explore those idyllic notions during the difficult events in America’s past and see how love, like the characters, would find a way to survive the hardships. And, since the city of St. Louis was the starting point of America’s westward expansion, I felt it was the ideal location for my love story to begin.

What were some of the emotional and moral guidelines you followed when developing your characters?

My historical romance novel, The Winds of Autumn, takes place in the 19th century during a tumultuous period in America’s history. This setting allowed me to take readers on a narrative journey set against the backdrop of epic events during that time—the Trail of Tears, the War of the Rebellion (Civil War), and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. These external events were also important catalysts for creating emotional conflict in my novel and between the characters. So much of a fictional story relies on creating characters that feel real to the reader. I wanted to make that real connection by immersing myself into the mind of my characters so I could feel every emotion they felt and what might happen if they acted on those emotions. Pain is a key motivator that can morph into resentment, or hope and love. I asked myself, what did my protagonist, Mariah, feel when she lost her sister, or Mariah’s mother when she lost her daughter? Those feelings run deep, and my personal experience growing up played a part in developing those characters. My antagonist, Nathan Lawton, faces a moral decision, one he justifies from a traumatic moment in his childhood that fuels his resentment with far-reaching consequences. It was important to raise the emotional stakes by forcing the characters to make choices, right or wrong. But the marriage customs of the 19th century left Mariah no choice when she realizes, too late, that marrying Nathan was a mistake. She suddenly finds herself trapped in her marriage which made me wonder, how was it even possible for a woman to follow her heart? Mariah’s internal struggles propel the story forward, forcing her into unimaginable situations but ones that ultimately transform her into the woman she was meant to be.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The title of my novel, The Winds of Autumn, uses the word “winds” as a metaphor for change, the main theme throughout the storyline. That transformational change is most evident in Mariah’s character, a refined young lady abruptly turned pioneer woman enduring the harsh plains of the American West. The theme, the sins of the father, was important to convey in Nathan’s character, giving the reader a clear understanding of his motivations. I found this to be a powerful theme because of its consequences to carry over generation to generation. After I finished writing my manuscript, I realized how central the meaning of home was in my novel, and how even a relationship can feel like coming home. And since my novel is about happily ever after, I wanted to exploit the theme of forbidden love as much as the hope that readers yearn for with the possibility of second chances.

What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?

I’m researching the Gilded Age, a fascinating period in America’s history. I like the idea of that setting for a love story.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Instagram

A captivating love story transcending the American West, where secrets hide unknown consequences and true love fights for a second chance.
At the end of the War of the Rebellion, Mariah Renwick is still haunted by the memory of her late sister as she tries to piece together the remnants of an innocent time lost. All she wants is to bring happiness home again. Then dashing Lieutenant Nathan Lawton rushes into her life and becomes her new husband. But Nathan’s dark and tormented past hides revenge and betrayal as he stakes his claim to the Renwick fortune and his future out West.
Railroad magnate, Julian Marquette, has just returned to St. Louis to secure another bank loan from Mariah’s father. A brilliant mastermind, Julian orchestrates the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, not for the sake of his own vanity but for the people of America. He’s a man borne of conviction for what he believes in, a passionate man who’s secretly been in love with Mariah since he first saw her two years ago. But now it’s too late . . . until an intimate moment together takes them by storm.
“It was there again, in that infinitesimal space between them, the subtle tremor of attraction, at once forbidden but about to collide.”
Torn between desire and duty, Mariah is caught in a crossfire as she faces unimaginable struggles on an epic westward journey that shows no mercy. Can Julian fight against impossible odds for the woman he loves, or is all hope lost?
Sweeping landscapes. Passionate characters. The consummate gentleman is back.

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The Winds of Autumn

Winds of Autumn by Susan Rounds is an epic love story set against the backdrop of the construction of the greatest railroad in American history and the fight between the native tribes of America and the white man. After her sister’s death, the story’s heroine Mariah is married to Nathan Lawton, who she hopes will be her true love. The book shows the fragile place of a woman in society. Even though Mariah is born into privilege, her fate is tied to the men in her life. Her husband is living a secret double life. His mother, a Cherokee, was raped by a soldier, and he was the resulting child. This has inflicted a great wound on his psyche, causing his anger and grief to manifest in cruelty, hatred, and violence. Even though it is evident in his own way he loves Mariah, he is incapable of showing her love and building a relationship with her. Instead, he resorts to violence to get what he wants from her and subdue her.  

She meets Julian, an old family friend who harbors an unspoken love for her. Yet, despite her feelings toward him, she remains a dutiful wife as she is made to leave her home and make the journey west on the Oregon Trail toward Nathan’s new army posting. The book explores their fateful journey and the unraveling of her marriage. Julian, led by his love for Mariah, sets out West to find news of her as he fears she is in danger, and the fates of the three become intertwined with deadly consequences.  

I enjoyed this book. It was full of action, twists, and turns into an epic story of heartbreak and love. The characters are well-written and convincing. The writing captures the brutality of the trail west and the hardships emigrants and other travelers suffered as they tried to forge new paths ahead. Nathan’s relationship with Mariah is heartbreakingly portrayed as her innocence is destroyed by her marriage to him when she is still incredibly young.

I liked the historical fiction aspect of the novel. The construction of the transcontinental railroad provides a perfect backdrop for the story. The descriptions of the brutal landscape on the open plains match Mariah’s emotional turmoil as she journeys away from her home for the first time and deals with her husband’s wrath. I liked the story of Julian and Mariah as forbidden lovers. There were enough romantic scenes in the later part of the novel to keep romance lovers interested.  

Winds of Autumn is an emotionally riveting story that captures life during the western expansion days. For those who enjoy a historical romance novel with more than just a love story and will have them guessing about the direction each twist and turn brings, this book delivers.

Pages: 322 | ASIN : B0BQR1BTFQ

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