Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Story Behind the Story ~ Evelyn Hill ~ The English Lieutenant’s Lady

Please welcome author Evelyn M. Hill as she shares the story behind the writing of The English lieutenant's Lady.


by Evelyn M. Hill

While doing research into Oregon history for my first book, His Forgotten Fiancée, I ran across a reference to British spied being sent to Oregon during the time of the Oregon Border Dispute, when Britain and the United States were thinking of going to war over who had the better claim to the Oregon Territory.

That is what led to my writing The English Lieutenant's Lady. The British didn’t send professional spies on this mission. They picked a pair of ordinary army officers named Lieutenants Vavasour and Warre. One was an engineer and the other had a talent for painting watercolors. The Colonial Office sent them to Oregon from Montreal, with instructions to pass as gentlemen of leisure on a scenic tour. Their mission was to evaluate the territory and its population to determine whether the British should declare war against America to defend their claim to the land.

The two men travelled across the continent to the Pacific coast, where they tried to purchase the aptly named Cape Disappointment. Failing at that, they went up the Columbia River and then the Willamette, evaluating sites for potential forts and even drawing up a plan to occupy the only town of any size in the area, Oregon City.

clip_image004My story focuses on a character based on one of the actual lieutenants, Vavasour, and a fictional woman from the Oregon Territory. At least, I thought she was fictional. But looking through the records, there is evidence that the lieutenant was involved with someone while on his mission.

Looking through the accounts of items purchased by Vavasour at Fort Vancouver, I found evidence that he purchased not only the standard supplies he would need for his stay in the territory, food and such, he also made some intriguing additional purchases. He purchased a pair of ladies shoes and several yards of gauzy material. On a couple occasions he purchased hair ribbons.

(Editor's note: The list is a little blurry, but if you click on it it will enlarge and you can read some of it a little better.)

All these purchases went on the official record. He was given an allowance to buy what he needed for his mission, and he included these items in the list. Therefore, it is logical to assume he was prepared to justify the act of buying ladies shoes and fripperies as being required for his mission.

Hmmmn... supplies for his mission? Ladies shoes and hair ribbons? Even if I weren't a romance novelist I would be starting to suspect that love was in the air.


  1. Thank you, Evelyn, for sharing your story behind the story with us. Many blessings and best wishes for the success of this book.

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book with lots of possibilities for mischief!

    1. Thanks for dropping in, Terri. Good to see you here. That shopping list/receipt is intriguing, isn't it?

  3. Replies
    1. The pleasure is all mine, Evelyn ... despite all the email shenanigans.