Home Authors Corner Author Interview: Jennifer Hallock - Author of Historical Romance
Thursday, 27 April 2017 09:41

Author Interview: Jennifer Hallock - Author of Historical Romance

Written by Jennifer Porter
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Jennifer HallockToday, Jennifer interviews Jennifer Hallock, an author who writes historical romances set in the Philippines during time of American colonization. There are currently three books in the series: Hotel Oriente, Under the Sugar Sun and Tempting Hymn. She spends her days teaching history and her nights writing historical happily-ever-afters. She has lived and worked in the Philippines, but she currently writes at her little brick house on a New England homestead—kept company by her husband, a growing flock of chickens, and a geriatric border collie mutt.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your Sugar Sun series?

 

The Sugar Sun series of sensual romances are set in the American colonial Philippines. Starting in the cosmopolitan hub of Manila and traveling south to a struggling sugar estate, this series tests the bonds of love, family, and country in the midst of revolution and war.

Why did you decide to set a series in the Philippines?

 

 

In 2007, my husband and I packed up house and moved to the Philippines. In the process we gave away all our print books and started over with shiny, new Sony Readers. This was before Amazon had invented the Kindle, and ebooks were limited to popular titles, like romance, mystery, and science fiction—all of which I had forgotten how much I loved.

 

Inspired, I wrote what became my book in the drawer: a short contemporary sports romance set in the Midwest. I grew up in Ohio, and I coach football, so these were two things I knew. But my husband pointed out that I was also a history teacher surrounded by history. “What if, say, a Boston schoolteacher had come to the islands and fallen in love with a Filipino sugar baron?” he asked. “Doesn’t that sound Jane Austen-y enough for you?” Ambitious—that’s what it sounded like to me.

 

But, fortunately, I had been teaching high schoolers to write research papers for fifteen years, and I knew how to find out stuff. So I went to work: I asked experts, I read memoirs, I combed databases, I scrolled microfiche, and I traveled throughout the islands. It was not easy, but I loved every minute of it. Soon the Sugar Sun series was born—and it’s still growing. My husband came up with all the titles, by the way. And the covers. He’s my real life hero.

 

Tell us a bit about what is happening in the Philippines during the time of your books?

 

At the beginning of the twentieth century, revolutionaries and guerrillas blanketed the Philippine countryside. For the Americans to hold onto their first overseas colony, they had to fight hard—some said too hard. The Army brass called for one rebellious island to be turned into a “howling wilderness,” and accusations of murder and torture ignited fierce debate Stateside.

 

Meanwhile, honest Filipino business owners and farmers—like my hero Javier—were plagued by drought and recession. The United States did not rush to open its borders, or its markets, to help out its new possession. Soon religious warriors arose, drawing the Yanks out in battle frenzies that prolonged the war another decade. Is this starting to sound familiar?

 

There were good things, too. The colonial government established the first secular, coeducational, public school system in Asia. They sent a thousand Americans—like my heroine Georgina—to the farthest reaches of the islands to build free schools from scratch and to train local teachers to run them. In these schools, girls studied the same subjects as boys and played the same sports, like baseball and basketball. And any young Filipino or Filipina was eligible to compete for a free scholarship to an American university.

 

There were controversies—all classes were in English, the original textbooks included poems to snowflakes (in the tropics?), and there was an emphasis on industrial education—but, even so, school benches delivered peace and prosperity faster than battle trenches.

 

Readers who would like to know more can search my website at jenniferhallock.com for an annotated glossary, location notes, and more detailed history.

 

What are some of your favorite historical romances?

 

Clearly, I am drawn to unusual historical settings and conflicts. For example, The Forbidden Rose is my favorite of Joanna Bourne’s Spymasters series. Romance in the middle of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror? Yes, please. Or take Jeannie Lin’s Lotus Palace series, which makes Tang Dynasty China feel fresh and familiar at the same time. Wu Kaifeng, hero of The Jade Temptress, is aloof, intelligent, and just plain dreamy.

 

One of my favorite romances of all time is Flowers from the Storm, by Laura Kinsale. Yes, this is a Regency, but not just any Regency. Kinsale gives her duke hero a cerebral hemorrhage and puts him in an asylum, where he is rescued by a faithful Quaker heroine. It’s achingly sexy.

 

I am also a big fan of Courtney Milan, especially her novellas. I have read and reread The Governess Affair, A Kiss for Midwinter, and This Wicked Gift so many times I’ve lost count. In terms of her longer historicals, Unraveled is my favorite. Because Smite Turner. These books pass over the typical duke heroes to bring the reader a former boxer, a progressive doctor, a desperate clerk, and a tortured magistrate. Swoon.

 

And speaking of tortured—but in a good way—K.J. Charles’s A Seditious Affair mixes radical politics, real history, two gorgeous men, and a little kink. It’s outstanding. And I cannot forget Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker series, which is set in the Gilded Age (the same period as my books). Emmett, from Magnate, is my favorite hero of the trilogy. Argh, I am leaving out many great books and authors, but that’s the problem with us romance readers: we have too many favorites. It’s a great problem to have.

 

The Books:

Hotel Oriente Jennifer HallockHotel Oriente:
The Oriente is the finest hotel in Manila… but that’s not saying much.


Hotel manager Moss North already has his hands full trying to make the Oriente a respectable establishment amidst food shortages, plumbing disasters, and indiscreet guests. So when two VIPs arrive—an American congressman and his granddaughter Della—Moss knows that he needs to pull out all the stops to make their stay a success.


That won’t be easy: the Oriente is a meeting place for all manner of carpetbaggers hoping to profit off the fledgling American colony—and not all of these opportunists’ schemes are strictly on the up-and-up. Moss can manage the demanding congressman, but he will have to keep a close eye on Della—she is a little too nosy about the goings-on of the hotel and its guests. And there is also something very different about her…

This novella is a prequel to Under the Sugar Sun.

 

 

Under the Sugar Sun Jennifer HallockUnder the Sugar Sun:
A schoolmarm, a sugar baron, and a soldier…
It is 1902 and Georgina Potter has followed her fiancé to the Philippines, the most remote outpost of America’s fledgling empire. But Georgina has a purpose in mind beyond marriage: her real mission is to find her brother Ben, who has disappeared into the abyss of the Philippine-American War. 

To navigate the Islands’ troubled waters, Georgina enlists the aid of local sugar baron Javier Altarejos. But nothing is as it seems, and the price of Javier’s help may be more than Georgina can bear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tempting Hymn Jennifer HallockTempting Hymn:
A Missionary and a Sinner
Jonas Vanderburg volunteered his family for mission work in the Philippines, only to lose his wife and daughters in the 1902 cholera epidemic. He wishes his nurse would let him die, too.

Rosa Ramos wants nothing more to do with American men. Her previous Yankee lover left her with a ruined reputation and a child to raise alone. A talented nurse at a provincial hospital, she must now care for another American, this time a missionary whose friends believe her beyond redemption.

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