The Real Women Behind Heather Snow’s Historical Heroines

One of the most fascinating things about historical romances isn't always the stories themselves, but the history that inspires them. Regency romance author Heather Snow's Veiled Seduction series features women who are strong, brave and go against societal norms. Today she shares which historical figures influenced her historical heroines, and shares how she's using profits from her latest release, Sweet Madness, to help real life heroes.

Until very recently, science has been considered an inherently masculine realm, with some men going so far as to say that women were incapable of high order thought or that science and mathematics were ‘at odds’ with true femininity (boo, hiss!). Despite that prejudice, history is filled with women who went against convention and stayed true to their analytical, experimental, brilliant selves. In fact, the first woman scientist on record is Merit Ptah, a physician from 2700 B.C. (around the time of Imhotep, for you Mummy enthusiasts!). And in the early 5th century, Greek philosopher, Hypatia, was the first well-known female mathematician. She also headed up the Platonist School at Alexandria. Thankfully, they are just two of many.

When the idea for my debut novel, Sweet Enemy, came to me, it started with the mystery — a mystery that required one of the main players in the story to be a scientist. Enlightened female that I am, there was no question in my mind that my scientist would be the heroine, rather than the hero. I am happy to report that readers loved it, and asked for more heroines like Liliana. And so the Veiled Seduction series was born.

It was a lot of fun creating these very unconventional women and placing them in Regency England. Today, as the third and final book in the series, Sweet Madness, releases, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the real life inspirations for my characters.

Liliana Claremont, the Lady Chemist from Sweet Enemy

Once I knew Liliana needed to be a scientist, making her a chemist was a natural choice, given I have a degree in chemistry myself. As for historical inspiration, I would say that Liliana would be a mixture of Anna Atkins, a Regency-era botanist, and Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, the wife of famed French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier.

Like Liliana, Anna Atkins’ mother died young and so Anna was very close to her scientist father, assisting him with his work. And like Liliana, Anna received “an unusually scientific education for a woman of her time”¹. Both were also very interested in plants and herbs. But whereas Anna Atkins’ love was in photographing and classifying plants, Liliana combined herbology with chemistry, which brings us to Marie-Anne Pierette Paulze.

Marie-Anne influenced Liliana’s character in several ways. Marie-Anne began assisting her husband, Antoine Lavoisier (also known as the Father of the Chemical Revolution), in his laboratory from a very early age. She also received formal training in chemistry from two of his colleagues (as Liliana does from colleagues of her father’s). After Lavoisier’s tragic death by guillotine during the French Revolution, Marie-Anne worked tirelessly to carry on and “secure her husband’s legacy in the field of chemistry”², much as Liliana struggles to carry on her father’s work after his tragic and untimely death.

Emma Wallingford, the Lady Criminologist from Sweet Deception

Emma was a fantastically fun character to write. While her modern day inspiration came from a mixture of Temperance Brennan from Bones and Charlie Epps from NUMB3RS, her historical inspiration came from Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Maria was a late 18th century Italian linguist, mathematician and philosopher. Like Emma, Maria’s father was a mathematician, and she showed her genius at an early age. By 13, she spoke seven languages. Agnesi is also “credited with writing the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus.”³ Also like Emma, Maria preferred a quiet life away from society, devoted to her work.

While I chose to have Emma use her mathematical genius to pursue moral statistics in an effort to stem crime (work inspired by a French mathematician working at the time. Alas, he was male), I certainly think Emma and Maria would have gotten along famously!

Penelope Bridgeman, the Lady Counselor from Sweet Madness

And now we come to Penelope, the heroine of my latest novel. Penelope is a mental philosopher, or as we would call it now, a psychologist. I don’t have a specific historical inspiration for Penelope, however. While psychology as a science tended to admit women into its ranks more easily than others, it wasn’t until the late 19th century and early 20th century. Also, I was coming at Penelope’s character from a different angle than Liliana’s and Emma’s. You see, while both Liliana and Emma knew they were brilliant and reveled in pushing society’s boundaries, Penelope considered herself happily average, content to live the privileged life she’d been born to until the tragic death of her husband drove her to study the maladies of the mind … and led her to a traumatized soldier who needed her help, and her love. She had to rely on her instincts and her own drive to seek out the education and experience she needed to release her inner genius. As one reviewer put it, “No, Pen isn’t a chemical whiz or mathematical genius; she possesses a different intelligence, one of the soul.”

And in that, I am certain I could find scores and scores of historical women for inspiration — women who possessed goodness of heart and soul, who would stop at nothing to save the man they loved.

Sweet Madness is a story of the healing power of love, and just as important, of hope. My hero, Gabriel, is a fictional war hero but there are many real life heroes and their families suffering today. Therefore, my husband and I have decided to donate a portion of all royalties earned from the sale of Sweet Madness to Hope For the Warriors®, an organization dedicated to “restoring a sense of self, restoring the family unit, and restoring hope for our service members and our military families.” You can find out more about this wonderful charity here.

- Heather Snow

You can pick up a copy of Sweet Madness, available in stores now. For more historical heroines, visit our Everything Romance Page.