Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Inspiration Behind The Potential for Love by Catherine Kullmann


For over six years, Thomas Ferraunt’s thoughts have been of war. Newly returned to England from occupied Paris, he must ask himself what his place is in this new world and what he wants from it. More and more, his thoughts turn to Arabella Malvin, but would Lord Malvin agree to such a mismatch for his daughter, especially when she is being courted by Lord Henry Danlow?

About to embark on her fourth Season, Arabella is tired of the life of a debutante, waiting in the wings for her real life to begin. She is ready to marry. But which of her suitors has the potential for love, and who will agree to the type of marriage she wants?

As she struggles to make her choice, she is faced with danger from an unexpected quarter while Thomas is stunned by a new challenge. Will these events bring them together or drive them apart?

We are celebrating the release of the special hardback edition of The Potential for Love during this tour. With a beautiful dust jacket over an elegant laminated cover, it will enhance any library and is the perfect gift for lovers of historical women’s fiction and historical romance.

The Inspiration behind The Potential for Love
Catherine Kullmann 

For centuries, marriage was dangerous for English women. The legal principle of coverture meant that, as a leading eighteenth-century jurist, Sir William Blackstone, put it, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during marriage. A wife was at her husband’s mercy. She had no separate legal existence, her husband could deal with her person, her children, and her property as he pleased, and she had no recourse to the law, no matter how badly his treatment of her might be. It was almost impossible for a woman to sue successfully for divorce. If she left her husband, he could legally compel her to return to him. If he divorced her, she lost her reputation, her place in society, and probably her children.

Why, then, did women marry? At the same time, there was really only one career open to women, and that was marriage. From girlhood, they were trained to manage their husband’s home, bring up his children, and support him in his endeavours according to his station in life. If they failed to marry, they remained dependent on their parents, and later on their brothers, unless family circumstances required them to seek a menial, poorly paid position elsewhere.

Wise parents did their best to secure their daughters’ financial security through pre-nuptial marriage settlements. It was vital that these contracts be signed before the marriage—afterwards was too late to escape a fortune-hunter who, through the marriage, had already acquired all his bride owned. In the case of an elopement, or abduction and forced marriage, the most a parent or guardian could do was withhold any promised dowry or future inheritance—a decision unlikely to ensure the future happiness of the bridal couple.

Is it any wonder, then, that when considering matrimony, a sensible woman would give considerable thought to the character of any prospective husband? Was he dependable, kind, considerate, generous, possessed of sufficient means to support her and her children in the style to which she is accustomed? This must be the foundation for any marriage. Not every woman had a choice of suitors. Depending on her family circumstances, she might have to agree to a marriage based less on compatibility or even mutual attraction than on availability coupled with desperation. Think of Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice, who tells Elizabeth, “All I ask is a comfortable home. Considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” This was a fair assessment provided she could ignore the fact that he was a pompous fool, obsequious to a fault towards his social superiors and, in particular, his patroness Lady Catherine.

Today, in western societies, it is customary for the sexes to mix freely at school, university, and in the work-place. People start dating in their teens and may have tested several partnerships before committing themselves to matrimony. Women do not need to marry for security or a comfortable home—they can work to provide this for themselves. And, most importantly, if they feel they have made the wrong choice, not only will the law support them in reaching a fair and equitable divorce, it will also protect them against an abusive spouse. But when writing, or indeed reading, historical fiction, we must put all of this out of our minds.

Arabella, heroine of The Potential for Love, is about to embark on her fourth Season; in today’s terms, we would say she is in her final year of university and ready to graduate. She is ready to marry, eager to move on from her life as a dependent daughter, to manage her own household and start a family. A viscount’s daughter with a good dowry, she can expect to marry into a family whose circumstances are as good as or better than her own. But is that what she wants? What is more important to her, the man, or his position? And what sort of a relationship does she want with him? A distant, more formal one of the sort that is not uncommon among the haut ton or the close, loving companionship she has seen in her own family?

Marry in haste, repent at leisure, the old saying goes. The rest of your life is a very long time to be miserable, Arabella’s mother warns her. Yet, given the restrictive etiquette of the time, how can she get to know any man well enough to be sure she can entrust herself and her future children to him? How can she know that he is the right man for her or if he will agree to the sort of marriage she wants?

As the Season progresses, she finds herself pondering these questions more and more. She is courted by several men, including the eldest son and heir of an Earl, a marquess’s younger brother, and an up-and-coming member of parliament. All are eminently eligible, and, initially, at least, she finds each attractive. And then there is Thomas, the rector’s son, an officer newly home for occupied France. She has known him and his parents all her life. She feels comfortable with him.

Thomas, too, has decisions to make. The long war with France is over, the enemy defeated. He has finally come home, but to a country he hardly knows—he has served abroad all his adult life. He is restless. Does he want to be a peace-time soldier, chiefly occupied in ceremonial display, forever ready for action but rarely called upon? Or does he want to serve abroad, the strong arm of an occupying or colonial power? If he leaves the army, what will he do? If he can support a wife and family, where will he find a wife? He may be on calling terms with the Malvins, but their world is not his.

The internal questions that we all must answer when we come to a crossroads in our lives form the underlying theme of The Potential for Love. The decisions become more complex when we fall in love and are obliged to consider not only our own wishes but those of another, special person. And then there are the curve balls that life throws at us. Thomas and Arabella have their share of these, too.

I enjoyed the challenge of resolving Arabella’s and Thomas’s dilemmas while remaining true to the ethos and mores of their time. I hope you enjoy their story.

©Catherine Kullmann 2020


The Potential for Love is also available in Paperback and as eBook and is free to read with Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Catherine Kullmann

I was born and brought up in Dublin and moved to Germany on my marriage in 1973. Before my marriage, I was an administrative officer at the Department of Finance in Dublin. I worked as an attaché at the Irish Embassy in Bonn until my eldest son was born. Following a twelve-year stint as a full-time mother, I joined the New Zealand Embassy in Bonn, where I was an administration officer. My husband and I returned to Ireland in 1999, and in 2009, following a year’s treatment for breast cancer, I took early retirement from my position as Director of Administration and Human Resources at a large Dublin law firm.

I have always enjoyed writing. I love the fall of words, the shaping of an expressive phrase, the satisfaction when a sentence conveys my meaning exactly. I enjoy plotting and revel in the challenge of evoking a historic era for characters who behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to a modern reader. In addition, I am fanatical about language, especially using the right language as it would have been used during the period about which I am writing. But rewarding as all this craft is, there is nothing to match the moment when a book takes flight when your characters suddenly determine the route of their journey.

The first quarter of the nineteenth century was one of the most significant periods of European and American history, a period whose events still resonate two hundred years later The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland of 1800, the Anglo-American war of 1812 and the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 all still shape our modern world. The aristocracy-led society that drove these events was already under attack from those who saw the need for social and political reform, while the industrial revolution saw the beginning of the transfer of wealth and ultimately power to those who knew how to exploit the new technologies.

I write historical fiction set against this background of off-stage wars, of women frequently left to fend for themselves in a patriarchal world where they have few or no rights but must make the best lives they can for themselves and their families. While real people sometimes have walk-on parts, the protagonists and their stories are pure fiction. As well as meeting their personal challenges, they must also cope with external events and the constraints imposed by society. The main story arc is romantic. I am particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on around the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. 

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