Two hundred ten years ago, just about this time of year, American Betsy Patterson met Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s youngest brother. You would think that would be one event the historical record of Betsy’s life would be clear on, but in fact, it’s one of the murkiest. No less than three different stories about their meeting exist.
They met at the races; they met at a dinner party; they met at a ball. Which one was it? One of my first tasks as a historical novelist was to sort through these accounts and figure out which to use for my story. A biographer can say, “There are conflicting reports about their meeting, and here are the stories,” but a novelist can’t do that. A novelist has to weave a seamless tale that makes sense for the characters and the time period in which they lived.
So which story did I choose and how did I portray it? Ah, you’ll have to wait until the book is published to find out.