Last of the Mohicans and Colonial Romance

A few weekends ago I was inspired to pull out the DVD of a movie that I love and watch often – Michael Mann’s 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans. Though it barely resembles James Fenimore Cooper’s original, the basic premise is present, plus it’s a much better rendition in my opinion.  For me, the movie is a comfort video, even though it’s probably classified as action/adventure with romance.   Set in the New York frontier in 1757 in the middle of the French and Indian War, it portrays the struggle by the British to keep its American Colonies out of the hands of the French and the people caught in the middle.

In the movie, actress Madeleine Stowe is Cora Munroe, the daughter of the British Officer in command of Ft. William Henry. She and her sister, Alice, travel with a company of soldiers, a guide named Magua, and Major Heyward (a man who has feelings for Cora) to the fort commanded by her father.  Along the way, they are attacked by a Huron war party that practically slaughters the entire company before rescue arrives in the form of colonial trappers – Nathaniel Poe, or Hawkeye, played by the incredible Daniel Day-Lewis, and two Mohawks, Chingachgook and Uncas.  From that point on, the focal point is the love that grows between Cora and Nathaniel and the threats they face.

As the movie continues there are themes revolving around a love-triangle, betrayal, a subtle secondary love story, real conflict, survival, tragedy, and then a HEA – of sorts. In the background, yet as much a character as the actors themselves is the beautiful, lush wilderness setting of the Smokey Mountains around Asheville, North Carolina, where the movie was filmed.  Linking all of these elements together is a beautiful musical score by Hans Zimmer, which is a perfect match for the romance/adventure.    

I watched the movie again because I had just finished reading Pamela Clare’s latest American Historical Untamed.  Like so many other times when I’ve watched a great American historical movie or read a novel, I have to wonder, yet again, why more publishers of romance don’t market, buy, or print more American set historicals – especially Colonial.  The possibilities for settings, conflict, and a variety of heroes and heroines are endless.  With Colonial romance, writers can combine elements of British, French, Dutch, Native American, African, even Spanish, with the Colonial spirit of ruggedness, survival, and individualism of self-made heroes and heroines.  There is a struggle built into the setting without it necessarily being a struggle between the hero and heroine.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s just me, but I want more.  

-AAR Heather 

16 thoughts on “Last of the Mohicans and Colonial Romance

  1. Many quotes stand out from this movie in my mind, especially:

    “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”

    My brother-in-law loves this movie too, for the action. Every once in awhile, he will ask, “Why do you hate the Grey Hair?” to spice up conversation.

    It’s so violent in parts, though! The massacre I cannot watch. And the end is pretty bleak for everyone but Hawkeye and Cora. Love the soundtrack, though.

  2. I once tried to read the book, and even though I love long, complex, wordy novels, it was just too much for me. Romance novelists may be accused of purple prose, but Fenimore Cooper has them beat. In addition, his portrayal of women and, to some extent, the Indians was beyond stereotyped (people criticize Dickens for this but FC is far worse). However, the plot and characters and at times the dialogue are so compelling that you understand why this book has stood the test of time. It also explains why it makes a much better movie than a novel. Of course, just about any book would be improved by the inclusion of Daniel Day Lewis.

  3. I was happily surprised to see this article b/c I stayed up all night last night starting, and finishing, Pamela Clare’s Ride the Fire (another of her Colonial stories, but my first of hers). And all day today I was thinking about Last of the Mohicans. I think I had conversations with 2 different people today about how awesome that movie is! It really made me want to own it and watch it again on a nice new hd tv. The scenery is beautiful, and the score is hauntingly beautiful. Oh and Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t half-bad. ; ) I totally agree about the underrepresentation of Colonial America in romance, maybe Clare will start a resurgence. Here’s hoping!

  4. I wonder why there is such an underrepresentation of Colonial American romance, or American historical romance in general? Is it just that there is not a big enough market for it or does it deal more with the actual history?

    AAR Heather

  5. I have great difficulty reading colonial romance. Given the barbarity on the sides of the Indians and the French and English, I simply can’t get around it. Reading the fate of the Jesuit missionaries Jean de Brebruf and Isaac Jogues scarred me for life I fear.

  6. I’m happy to see someone ask about the same question I’ve been pondering for years. Why are there so view romance novels set in Colonial America? My most beloved novels are from this period. Perhaps it’s a harder setting for novelist to write about? Does it require more research and knowledge than a European Historical setting? Not being a novelist, I can only guess that the answer is yes, and that this may be part of the reason. Anyway, I would love to see more stories set in the time period. BTW, my favorite movie is the one you wrote about, Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans. I have watched this movie more than any other. It’s combination of action, romance, scenery, music and casting (everything you mentioned) can’t be beat. It’s a great cross over movie as my husband enjoys it as well.

  7. Plynn: Does it require more research and knowledge than a European Historical setting?
    I would say every setting and period requires the same amount of knowledge and research. However, I think most authors – and readers – stem from North America so
    a) maybe authors think most readers would rather read about European countries/periods, eg. Regency, than stories set in their own backyard
    b) maybe authors are afraid that most readers – being American – know enough about American history to pick up on mistakes whereas they may get away with mistakes in stories set in eg England or Italy. Being born in Europe I certainly know more about European history than American or Australian or African etc history

  8. Ellen: I do understand why some readers would avoid the Colonial period as it was extremely brutal. I read Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Diaries a while back and found them a heartbreaking and terrifying portrait of frontier life during the Colonial period. I wouldn’t want to read about scenes similar to the examples you mentioned or Rowlandson’s accounts in romance.

    Plynn: LOTM is one of my favorites that I watch far too often probably. My husband watches too, but I think he may be a little jealous of Daniel Day-Lewis:)

    Marcella & Plynn: Maybe familiarity with the history and the reader’s ability to pick up on mistakes does play a role. But to me, I think it would be easier to write because there may be a deeper knowledge base for American writers and research would probably easier to conduct. But then again, that could be me arguing my case since I’d like to read more from that sub-genre.

    AAR Heather

  9. I read Lois Swann’s “Mists of Manittoo” and “Torn Covenants” (taking place in the mid 1700′s) and loved them both. There was supposed to be a 3rd, but apparently “publishers” axed the idea. Which goes to show the idiocy of the publishing world. I’ve always wondered what happened to the characters. Ms. Swann never revealed more.

  10. Ladies, you may be the experts I need. My sister-in-law has been re-reading romance novels she originally read several decades ago, and as you will understand does not always remember author and title, and therefore sometimes has a hard time finding them (she also no lives abroad, which doesn’t make the quest easier). I am now trying to help her identify a colonial romance novel (not by Fenimore Cooper); although she recalls the plot and the names of several characters, so far I have been unable to identify it.

    Her summary:

    Two cousins are sailing to America from England so the richer one will marry a Lucien Rutledge. She is pregnant and persuades her cousin, Linnet, to take her place. Linnet finds Lucien rude and crude, so sells herself as a bond servant. She is nearly raped by the son of her new owner and is being brought back to Jamestown when Tuscarora Indians attack and kill the owner. Linnet is made a captive along with a pregnant white woman. The woman has her baby and dies. Linnet takes care of it and , when Lucien rescues her, passes the child off as her own. She is sent back to England, meets an old codger on board ship, and marries him out of despair. Somehow she learns that her father, who was presumed dead, is alive and rich and her cousin is pretending to be his daughter. The truth emerges, the baby is presented to Queen Anne, and eventually the old husband dies. Father and daughter sail back to the American colonies and Linnet at last marries Lucien Rutledge.

    Can anyone supply author & title?

    Thanks for your attention,

    Oldtimer

  11. I am currently writing a romance story, concerning a bond woman and her master. It centers on a farm in colonial New York, and a man whose first marriage, though of short duration, was miserable. When his wife died he swore he’d never marry again.

    Every home needs a woman to make soap, candles, to cook & bake and clean. To tend to a kitchen garden and make clothing, so the hero of the story buys a bond woman, but the town folks don’t like the idea of an umarried man and an unmarried woman living under the same roof without the bonds of marriage. The hero knows he needs the towns good will to sell his crops and to receive credit but he doesn’t want to marry anyone.

    The towns folk start parading their unmarried daughters in front of him. Some good some not so good. The church fathers have given him one year to select a wife from among their women. In that year much happens to show him that the wife he needs in right under his nose.

    Does anyone think this story has a chance of being published? Would it be of interest to any of you? If you had this brief explaination on a book jacket would you pay your hard earned money to own it?

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