Adventures in Fiction

Cara McKinnon

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer, but when I was six years old, it never occurred to me that writing would be hard work. I’ve been plugging away for years now, and have several novel-length manuscripts under my belt, plus an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Although some parts of the process are easier, it’s still a long-distance marathon through mud, canyons, oceans, and deserts.

But I can’t seem to stop doing it.

My latest effort is a series of alternate-history fantasy romances, set in a late Victorian era with magic. The series begins in 1895, with an aging monarch who is only a few years away from her Diamond Jubilee. Magic has been out-of-fashion for the last fifty years or more. The last great magical triumph was Waterloo, where General Lilias Fay led her troop of witches and magicians to hold back the French advance until reinforcements could arrive.

In the absence of a nation-catalyzing despot like Napoleon, the eyes of the empire’s upper classes have turned to more capricious pursuits. The only acceptable use for magic among the ton now is illusion: pretty flights of fancy to amuse and delight. Men may still go into the military and use their magic there, of course. The Second Boer War is in its early stages, and there are always colonial disputes to manage in an Empire where the sun never sets. But for women, there is only decadent deception.

Into this glittering world comes Etta Mae Cook, a backwoods witch from Appalachia, whose ancestress was the Heroine of Waterloo, Lilias Fay. She seeks a teacher for the magical skills she’s inherited, but instead she is embroiled in Victoria’s schemes to reinvigorate British magic before science and technology completely overwhelms it.

Fortunately for Etta, she also finds Lord Malcolm Seward, second son of the Marquess of Hazelby.

Mal has struggled against the restrictions on his magic all of his life. He wants to do something real, something with purpose, beyond the senseless violence that has become military magic. When he meets Etta, he knows that together they can forge that new purpose, and maybe create a new destiny for magic in England.

The first book’s title is Essential Magic. Other books in the series will follow the romances of Mal’s siblings, and then branch out from there. I’ve been having a grand time researching the late Victorian Era, and I’ll be making some research posts in the future, as well as sharing my writing playlists and any other information that seems fun.


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