I’ve always wanted to write a back-from-the-dead book, which is one of my favourite tropes in romance.
A Prior Engagement wasn’t supposed to be it.
But through the writing of the first two books in my Special Forces series I’d become intrigued by Lee Davis – outgoing, fearless and larger than life – killed when an IED exploded under the patrol vehicle in Here Comes The Groom.
I’d originally intended that his fiancee Juliet Browne would find a new love through his army buddies’ matchmaking except I couldn’t come up with a character as interesting as Lee. So I thought, Can this man be saved?
One of the problems of resurrection is that, in the absence of a body, the legal process of being declared dead can take seven years (twenty in
However if the person has been in "imminent peril" – a plane crash, battle, a passenger on the Titanic - and fails to return “courts will generally assume the person was killed even though the usual presumptive death period hasn't elapsed.”
By filling in more details in Bring Him Home - Lee was thrown clear by the IED blast, and ‘lost’ in confusion of battle - my circumstantial evidence was in place.
Except I had another challenge. The military make every effort to retrieve their fallen and Lee was in a Special Forces Unit - the NZ SAS - ruled by the maxim, “No man left behind.”
Clearly, I needed a body.
So I got to thinking, What if his captors – aware they’d be hunted down - dressed another body in Lee’s uniform and strapped it with explosives, which were detonated by a trip wire when the retrieval crew approached? This would all but destroy the corpse, create more carnage and make identification nigh on impossible.
Disclaimer: In real life writers are sensitive and care passionately for all living creatures. When it comes to solving plot problems we’re up there with Freddy Krueger. Apologies to the squeamish.
Certain I’d cracked the case, I ran this scenario by a doctor who helps writers with forensic questions and got this:
“Though the blast might harm some tissues and make them unusable as far as
analysis is concerned there would be plenty of material left to do the proper
testing. There is no way that an explosion would completely destroy a body so
that there were no tissues left at all.”
So how do you solve a problem like
After much head-scratching, I decided a Taliban insurgent infiltrated the local allies militia. Not only did he provide a sample – a fingertip - for
DNA, he was responsible for the insider information that
led to the original ambush. And finally the circle is neatly closed.
Will you be able to suspend disbelief reading A Prior Engagement? I think so. Did I labor on this constantly in the book? All this research probably resulted in two paragraphs! But because I've answered my plausibility questions, hopefully I've answered yours and we can all relax and enjoy the romance.
I went to so much trouble because I wanted my hero to come home and discover his estate has been distributed and spent by the woman wearing his engagement ring. The woman who'd also rejected his proposal on the eve of deployment. And I wanted him to be ambivalent toward the army buddies who unwittingly ‘left him behind.’ The same guys who, believing their dead buddy would want his ‘fiancée’ to be happy, introduced her to her new boyfriend.
Disclaimer: No heroes were (permanently) harmed in the writing of this novel.
So how about you? Love, hate or back-from-the-dead romances? If you love them, I’d really appreciate recommended reads/movies. At the end of March I’m doing a draw for backlist books on my website. Visit firstname.lastname@example.org to enter.